No ‘hall of shame’ at Australian War Memorial
The War Memorial will deal with the Afghan war crimes report in a respectful way and avoid creating a “hall of shame”, the Prime Minister says.
A four-year investigation found evidence of 39 murders by Australian special forces, recommending 19 troops be investigated by the AFP.
War Memorial director Matt Anderson flagged the horrific report would be acknowledged by the institution, describing it as “a place of truth”.
Although the majority of Australians who served in Afghanistan did so honourably, visitors expected the darker side of Australia’s history to be represented, Mr Anderson said.
Curators will be given free reign on how to acknowledge the report.
Critics have claimed the move will create a “hall of shame” that unfairly maligns servicemen who served with distinction.
But Mr Morrison said he trusted the board, which included former prime minister Tony Abbott, to ensure the report was represented fairly.
“I think we should just wait to see how the War Memorial is actually proposing to handle this very sensitive matter,” he told 2Gb Radio.
“We’ve got a board that sits over those decisions, which has a lot of very sensible people. I think (they) have a good understanding of how this issue needs to be sensitively dealt with, respecting our defence forces and upholding the integrity of that process. I’ve got confidence in them.
“(But) this is a very sensitive issue, and we’ve got to be careful how we handle it. I’m not just going to run off half-cocked in giving a response to something that hasn’t even been formulated yet.”
A Meritorious Unit Citation awarded to the Special Operations Task Group has been revoked. ADF chief Angus Campbell said given the citation was rarely awarded, “it is difficult to see any way that a claim to maintain that citation can be sustained … with so many allegations”.
Up to 3000 Australian troops could also be stripped of their accolades, with individual citations to be assessed case by case.
The Prime Minister said he would wait for General Campbell to finalise his set of recommendations but stressed troops were entitled to the presumption of innocence.
“It’s complex. We haven’t seen a report like this before, and there are obviously things that need to be addressed within the ADF,” he said.
“But there is a proper justice process that needs to go through, where you’re always innocent until proven guilty in this country.”
The report largely exculpated the upper echelons of the Defence Force. But General Campbell said “there is a responsibility to know, to be curious, to understand what is going on in your organisation”.
Mr Morrison accepted issues ran deeper than just the nation’s elite special forces.
“Where specific incidents are involved … it’s important that it’s dealt with,” he said.
“But there are issues around chain of command, and they also have to be addressed.
“Where there are reforms that need to take place in the military. then that needs to happen. Defence Force veterans themselves have been saying that.”