Letters-to-the-editor by the Australia Defence Association 01 January 2019 - 31 December 2020
Criticising a CDF (& Minister) for implementing the recommendations of the independent Brereton Inquiry into war crimes in Afghanistan is unhelpful at best. Especially where the attacks are so often incorrect factually or otherwise misunderstand, misinterpret or misrepresent the issues involved. This situation is not helped by frequently inaccurate media coverage (eg. a collectively awarded unit citation means a badge, not a personal medal), grandstanding by some politicians and media commentators, and a general failure to read the Brereton Report before assailing it and the resultant reform plans needed to stop war crimes occurring again.
Why breaches of the Laws of Armed Conflict in Afghanistan by some Australian Special Forces personnel occurred has numerous causes. A major one was high operational tempos for the units concerned, leading to operational exhaustion, and loss of moral and professional focus. The high tempo was a result of governmental preferences to maximise the use of SF troops because of a feared (but probably low) risk of electoral blowback from casualties among conventional forces. While responsibility for what went wrong ranges from those directly carrying out such activities to those commanding or supervising them up the ADF chain-of-command, it also lies with the governments who directed the ADF to use SF troops for tasks that could have been undertaken by conventional forces. And to Australians generally for wrongly assuming that warfighting only involves the ADF (like only fire services fight fires). Instead of acknowledging that Australia as a whole, not just our defence force, is involved in how Australia fights Australia's wars. Acknowledging these contexts is not deflecting due blame from the personnel, units and command chain involved. It is, however, useful for noting the complex causes of the problem, the lessons necessary to avoid a repeat in future wars, and the range of accountabilities for fighting Australia's wars that lie beyond the ADF.
Resurrecting the project to re-equip our Army with self-propelled artillery makes eminent sense. That the project enjoys bipartisan support underlines its necessity.
The National Firearms Agreement has become a shibboleth. Reforms to improve gun laws by eliminating inconsistencies and inequities in their administration are emotively decried as "watering them down", chiefly by those who do not understand the legal, technical and legitimate gun-use facts actually involved. The NFA is not somehow "watered down" if its core principles are unaffected. Reforms to how it is administered actually strengthen our gun control laws by reinforcing these core principles and community support for them.