The leader of Tasmania's ex-service community says special forces soldiers in Afghanistan who have been accused of committing war crimes need to "have their day in court", after Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie insisted "there's no appetite for going after our own heroes".
An opinion piece written by Senator Lambie was published in News Ltd's Sunday Telegraph last week. In it, she argues that the 19 current and former defence personnel accused of carrying out war crimes in an explosive report released late last year shouldn't be prosecuted, despite the Inspector General of the Australian Defence Force recommending otherwise.
"Our Australian elite [SAS] don't get the first title 'special' for cuddling teddy bears and, let's be honest, most Australians know that," Senator Lambie wrote. "These are the Diggers that are trained to give them the capabilities to defend the sovereign right of our nation and, if need be, one of those capabilities is to kill the enemy."
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"The political party that is in power will give the orders to the [Chief of the Defence Force] and his military hierarchy pass it down the chain of command. So how does it work when s---hits the fan? They follow the same procedure. That way Diggers are thrown under the bus.
"There's no appetite for going after our own heroes and nor should there be. What will the [Prime Minister] and [the Defence Minister] possibly get out of this exercise? What do they believe the prospects of success are?"
In contrast to Senator Lambie's position, RSL Tasmania state president Robert Dick believes the soldiers identified in the Brereton report do, indeed, need to be prosecuted.
"We have to abide by the rules and if they've been broken, consequences will follow," he said.
“What’s the point” of prosecuting our ADF special forces soldiers for alleged war crimes asks @JacquiLambie in SunTele. It’s because courageous soldiers themselves are not prepared to be part of a culture of indiscriminate (unprofessional) atrocities under cover of war. pic.twitter.com/19ekMamNGA— Quentin Dempster (@QuentinDempster) January 2, 2021
"If these people are guilty of these allegations that have been laid against them, they need to have their day in court and we have to let justice run its natural course.
"And at this stage they are innocent until proven guilty."
Tasmanian Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson noted that it was because of special forces soldiers that the devastating allegations in the Brereton report came to light.
"There are a number of troopers who are not happy about what's happened and they want to see justice," he said.
"They brought this to light because they want this to be sorted out and they don't want this kind of thing to happen again.
If these people are guilty of these allegations that have been laid against them, they need to have their day in court and we have to let justice run its natural course.Robert Dick, RSL Tasmania state president
"The worst thing you could do is say, 'Here's a big disclosure about these shocking allegations of shocking war crimes and criminality and gross human rights violations and we're going to ignore it'.
"The buck stops with the officers so this can't just be aimed at the troops, at the non-commissioned officers. Everyone up the chain of command has got to take responsibility for this."
Tasmanian Labor senator Helen Polley said Senator Lambie's comments were "outrageous" and that there needed to be a "full investigation" of the accused soldiers' alleged conduct.