19 Apr 2021

Australian Defence Minister overturns decision to strip veterans of military decorations

1:02 pm on 19 April 2021

Defence Minister Peter Dutton has overturned a decision to strip honours from a group of Australian soldiers who served in Afghanistan.

Australia's former home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, faces the media at a press conference in Canberra on August 21, 2018.

File photo. Photo: AFP PHOTO / SEAN DAVEY

Last year the Chief of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) General Angus Campbell recommended the meritorious unit citation be revoked for the Special Operations Task Group, in the wake of the Inspector-General of the ADF's Inquiry report into war crimes.

The group served in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2013, and included around 3000 personnel.

General Campbell announced the move while handing down the explosive report which found Australian special forces murdered at least 39 prisoners and civilians during the Afghanistan war.

The decision was met with significant criticism within defence and veterans circles, as well as the government.

As a result, General Campbell walked back the idea earlier this year, saying he did not want to "be at odds" with the government's position on the issue and to avoid "negative public attention".

Today, Dutton told Nine Radio the decision would be reversed given the vast majority of ADF personnel did nothing wrong.

"Those people deserve our recognition, our praise, our honour, because many of them have lost mates," he said.

"Families this Anzac Day should proudly wear that medal in honour of their loved one who passed away in the service of this country."

Dutton did make clear anyone found to have committed a war crime would still lose the honour.

"My judgement was that we shouldn't be punishing the 99 percent for the sins of one percent," he said.

"This says to people very clearly before Anzac Day that we want to reset, that we want to provide support to those people who have served their country and, as I say, who have died in that service."

The citation was awarded to the Task Groups for "sustained and outstanding warlike operational service in Afghanistan from 30 April 2007 to 31 December 2013, through the conduct of counter-insurgency operations in support of the International Security Assistance Force".

In a speech to be delivered today, Chief of Army Lieutenant Rick Burr will argue his organisation needs to "rely on a culture that is aligned with optimal behaviours".

"Good soldiering is who we are. We are individuals of good character and sound ethical grounding," General Burr will tell the Chief of Army Symposium in Brisbane.

"We create strong teams who actively include others and bring people together to be effective and achieve their mission."


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