Process before Punishment: Too Early to Strip Medals

By Phillip Thompson OAM MP

Two weeks on from revelations that the Minister for Defence Richard Marles instructed the Chief of the Defence Force to initiate stripping military officers of their medals for their service in Afghanistan, veterans are still hurting.

I’m being inundated with the same questions. If those at the command level are being asked to justify why they shouldn’t lose their decorations, how far up (and down) the chain will it go? If no one’s been charged or convicted, why is this happening?

Peter Dutton is right – the allegations of war crimes perpetrated by members of the Australian Defence Force remain just that – allegations. They have not been tested in a court of law. The Office of the Special Investigator has not even concluded its investigations. If it’s just an attack on our diggers, we will fight it tooth and nail.

In the absence of a fair and just judicial process, any action to strip decorations of any member of the ADF in this case is premature and prejudicial. It goes against the key tenet of the presumption of innocence.

I have been contacted by many who believe this should not be happening, at least until investigations and potential court cases have run their course. As an Afghanistan veteran who has seen combat, I am disgusted by the actions of this Defence Minister.

The Defence Minister should order the CDF to stop all processes to remove these decorations and stop treating our nation’s bravest with disdain and contempt.

If tried and convicted – individuals should absolutely be punished. But we cannot put up unnecessary roadblocks and put the punishment before due process.

Leadership starts at the top.

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  • Robert Alexander Kennedy December 14, 2022   Reply →

    Well done Phillip Thompson, none of this debacle should be happening. If anyone is stripped of their medals, it should start with Campbell, the commander of forces in Afghanistan in accordance with the Yamashita? convention signed after the WW11 war crimes trials.

    Reports of this type should never be conducted or compiled by people who have never seen active service. If you haven’t “been there and done that”, you have no idea of the stresses soldiers who have just been in action are under, and NO government should be able to commit the ADF to a war and then tie one arm behind their back with “Rules of Engagement” which are almost impossible to work with. Thankfully, from the soldier’s point of view we had a fairly free hand in Vietnam, as undoubtedly some civvies were killed there. Even after the Mei Lai massacre, some odd casualties would have occurred.

    No matter what the war was or when, some civilians will always unfortunately be killed, and serving members should NEVER be charged with war crimes!!! How many civilians were killed when the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan to end the war, and were the bomber crews charged with any war crimes?

  • Peter Billington December 14, 2022   Reply →

    Are we sure that Defence Minister Marles instructed the CDF to strip medals from Veterans who served in Afganistan.
    The CDF has prior form in this regard, he initiated and pushed for the Brereton Inquiry and the srtiping of SAS Citation.
    My reckoning would be the other way round. On top of all this great publicity for RECRUITING , this guy Angus Campbell is that GREEN and WOKE he is a danger to our national security.
    By the way I am not joking, remember this guy agrees with considering CLIMATE CHANGE in Defence Planing and Procurement.
    He is well past his use by date and should have been moved on with Rick Burr.

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