Peter Dutton stands up for our demonised veterans

Newly minted Defence Minister Peter Dutton has proven his worth a mere three weeks into the job.

Yesterday, the Minister launched a much-needed, wide-ranging royal commission into veteran suicides, examining “the human cost” of Defence service, including transition to civilian life, family pressures, welfare services and future employment prospects.

Even more significant however, was his announcement he’d overturn Defence Force Chief, Angus Campbell’s disgraceful decision to strip the Meritorious Unit Citation honour from around 3,000 defence personnel who served in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2013.

Well done Mr Dutton!

How can Australia have any chance of defending itself, when our Defence Force Chief is willing to dismiss and strip some of our most elite soldiers of awards for courageous service to this country?

Why would any young aspiring soldier sign up to fight for his country when he can be so unfairly demonised after returning home by his senior officers, government and the ABC?

And what right does Defence have to sack and shame our soldiers when it’s spent so much time and money criticising Army recruiters for not hitting diversity targets and providing rainbow-coloured Army Pride lapel pins to troops for Mardi Gras?    

It’s safe to say, the CCP’s People’s Liberation Army aren’t following the lead of Angus Campbell.

As former President of the anti-communist Chinese Republic, Chiang Kai-Shek said, “war is not only a matter of equipment, artillery, group troops or air force; it is largely a matter of spirit, or morale.”

Why can’t the Australian Defence Force get their head around this fundamental truth?

Unfortunately, however, it seems the Defence bureaucrats just have different priorities.

For example, not only did the Morrison government give Defence the power to remove unit citations five months before the release of the Brereton Report, but it “advertised in Kabul for witnesses to come forward and incriminate Australian soldiers”.

The final Brereton Report – which was used as justification to strip 3000 soldiers of their Meritorious Unit Citation award and dismiss at least 8 soldiers – was based on evidence which has never been tested in a court of law.

Even worse is how the Brereton Report exonerated the defence force hierarchy of any responsibility for what may have happened in Afghanistan even though the Geneva Convention clearly states that “the highest-ranking officer is accountable for and should be prosecuted and convicted for the crimes of every office under his command”.

As former SAS captain Mark Wales said, “what really bothered me was them saying they were going to remove the citation from units where literally 99 per cent of people have done the right thing, and then say and do nothing about senior officers’ medals… that is an absurd double standard”.

Advance agrees Captain Wales. 

And as if it couldn’t get any worse, Angus Campbell and his closest allies are still defending his decision to shame our troops for unproven crimes in the frenzied theatre of war, with close associate of General Campbell, Australian Defence Association director Neil James, said Mr Dutton is now responsible for:

“Improperly undermining the authority of the Chief of the Defence Force” and failing to recognise that “just as the military should never interfere in politics, ministers and politicians have to think very carefully before they interfere in what are military professional matters.”

Perhaps Mr James should tell his mate Angus Campbell the same thing.

Afterall who can forget when Campbell’s Department of Defence tweeted a photo of a Navy seaman who painted his fingernails pink in solidarity with “gender equality and diversity in the workplace”.

Let’s hope Defence Minister Peter Dutton keeps up the brilliant work.

The last thing our struggling veterans need is Angus Campbell undermining their legacy after all they’ve done for this country and its future.