I am not an alarmist by nature; but I am a proud Australian veteran with 16 years of service including combat in Afghanistan.
It was insulting enough to suffer the Chief of the Defence Force threatening to write to the Governor General to remove the Meritorious Unit Citation from every special operations soldier who had served in Afghanistan between April 2007 and December 2013.
This threat has done untold psychological and emotional damage to veterans and their families, those living and deceased.
It has inevitably led to a heightened instance of suicide or the contemplation of such a final act within our veteran community.
I have expressed publicly, on the behalf of veterans, my anger and anguish at such a callus response to the Brereton report, which the Prime Minister acknowledged he had not read.
This threat has opened old wounds in a way that politicians, defence hierarchy and civilians may not understand.
However, it is now clear that this threat had been contemplated months before the release of the Brereton Report.
The Letters Patent providing for the award of the Meritorious Unit Citation, not to individuals but to a unit, were issued by Her Majesty the Queen on the 15th of January 1991. They were countersigned by Prime Minister Hawke.
Those Letters Patent did not provide any powers to revoke the citation from a unit – namely any Special Operations Task Group, or Task Force 66.
That will be transparent in the documents attached.
It now transpires that the response by General Campbell to the report via the threat to write the Governor General was not spontaneous.
Sadly, the Prime Minister appears complicit in all of this because, well before the release of the report, and presumably anyone’s ability to read it, changes were made to the Letters Patent, dated July 13, 2020.
The Brereton Report was released on November 19, 2020. That is five months after the Prime Minister’s changes to the Letters Patent giving powers to the Governor General to revoke the Citation from an entire unit, not the revoking of the right to wear, but the total revocation of the Citation, innocent and guilty alike.
And this extreme change, without any public announcement, without any public debate, without any public scrutiny, and I presume without any endorsement from the parliament of Australia, has been countersigned by the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrision – five months before the release of the report.
In other words, the psychological, emotional and traumatic damage to Australia’s service men and women had been planned months in advance of the report’s release, a report that is now still to be investigated and tested.
I have said before, that this goes to the very heart of our constitutional and democratic rights – the constitutional obligation to the proper defence of the nation has been seriously compromised by the threat to the morale of those serving, those who have served and those a government would hope to recruit to serve.
The simple threat to our democratic fabric derives from the denial of the presumption of innocence by so called credible information that has not been tested in a court of law.
I hereby call upon the Prime Minister to explain his actions to change the Letters Patent months prior to the release of the Brereton Report. To explain what recommendations were provided to him and by whom, and to produce these documents for review.
I call upon all parliamentarians, as our elected representatives, to challenge why these actions were allowed to occur.
How and without any accompanying plans or actions to support our veterans and their families who have been gravely impacted by the actions of our Prime Minister and his senior defence leaders.
I further demand, on behalf of all veterans, an apology from the Prime Minister, the Minister for Defence, the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, the Chief of the Defence Force and the Chief of Army, for the reckless and calculated damage that has been done.
The more than 65,000 Australians who have joined our petition to “Maintain the Memory of the Meritorious Many” at voiceofaveteran.org deserve a response.
I suspect that millions of others, if they knew of the background to all of this, would feel similarly.
Former Special Forces Officer
& Founder of Voice Of A Veteran