SAS exhibits to remain at war memorial, says Veterans Minister, but dark chapter 'inevitable' in $500m expansion

ABC NEWS logo ABC NEWS 23/11/2020 02:14:17 By political reporter Jack Snape and Nour Haydar
a group of people walking in front of Australian War Memorial: The Australian War Memorial describes its mission as "leading remembrance and understanding of Australia's wartime experience". (ABC Radio Canberra: Clarissa Thorpe) © Provided by ABC NEWSThe Australian War Memorial describes its mission as "leading remembrance and understanding of Australia's wartime experience". (ABC Radio Canberra: Clarissa Thorpe)

Veterans Affairs Minister Darren Chester believes it's "inevitable" that future displays at the Australian War Memorial will acknowledge allegations that Australian soldiers committed war crimes in Afghanistan.

A four-year inquiry, completed by New South Wales Justice Paul Brereton earlier this month, found credible information that Australian special forces committed 39 murders in Afghanistan.

Last week, former chief of the Defence Force Chris Barrie called on the Australian War Memorial to remove SAS exhibits from display for now.

Mr Chester, who has ministerial responsibility for the memorial, rejected that suggestion but emphasised it was a place of "truth telling".

"It tells the ugly side of battles and the ugly side of war - it talks about peace keeping," he told RN.

"I think it's inevitable the war memorial will have some references to this particular period in our nation's history."

Director Matt Anderson last week said the Afghanistan conflict had only a "modest presentation" at the memorial at the moment, but he indicated an expanded presence was planned.

"The proposed development project to expand the memorial's galleries will provide us with the space to reflect the breadth of contemporary service in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, the Gulf and in peacekeeping and humanitarian operations," he said.

The war memorial had earlier received $500 million to expand, in part to help ease veterans' trauma, according to previous director Brendan Nelson.

The funding is stretched over seven years and Mr Anderson has pledged to "spend it wisely".

Veterans oppose stripping awards

The inquiry recommended that the Meritorious Unit Citation, a decoration awarded to special forces soldiers, be revoked for those in the SAS serving in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2013.

Army veteran and independent senator Jacqui Lambie has joined hundreds of other members of the defence community to oppose the recommendation.

She said on Twitter that innocent special forces soldiers set to have their citations stripped were "already wearing the consequences" by association to those accused of having done wrong.

"The innocent are copping it along with the guilty, however many there are. That's not fair," she said.

But Mr Chester said the Government would support the recommendation.

"I think it's a tough call, but I think in the circumstances, it is a fair call," Mr Chester said.

"It's a difficult recommendation but it's one we probably have to follow through with."

Australian War Memorial chairman Kerry Stokes, who is also executive chairman of Seven Group Holdings, has vowed to support legal actions for those soldiers involved in war crimes trials.

Mr Chester dismissed the notion that this was inappropriate.

"If Mr Stokes wants to support someone in defending their legal rights, I don't think that's an issue for me or the Government."

23. marraskuuta 2020 4:14:17 Categories: ABC NEWS

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