I’VE BEEN PUTTING OFF writing about this subject, biting my tongue, however I am tired of the continuing attack on the good name of our Defence Force.
The allegations against the Australian Navy, of them torturing of asylum seekers by forcing these unfortunates to burn their hands on hot pipes, are disturbing and no doubt do our armed forces no favours in the public relations department.
Some may disagree, but we do ‒ by and large ‒ have a noble defence force and that is why it is a shame we are now seeing it being made a mockery of.
The attack I speak of is not the apparent attack the ABC launched by doing its job and reporting something that was and clearly still is in the public interest. Nor is it the follow-up bombing raid by the Fairfax media who did what our government is not willing to do by actually investigating the claims and speaking to witnesses.
The utterly gutless attack I speak of is from Scott Morrison and the Abbott Government.
If Scott Morrison truly believes that these claims are outrageous and false then he would give his blessing to an investigation into the alleged incident. For Morrison to deny the Navy this opportunity to clear its name encourages the public to have an element of doubt over our armed forces and I don’t believe that Scott Morrison has the right to make decisions like that on the military’s behalf.
As we all know, the Coalition have lied to us before on the asylum seeker issue, who could forget the infamous children overboard scandal from the John Howard era?
Morrison's take on this incident is that reporting an allegation made against the military is somehow an attack on Australia’s armed forces … more about that later.
On Friday, Defence Minister Senator David Johnston ‒ whom many thought must have died or resigned and left Morrison in charge of the Defence portfolio ‒ finally resurfaced to fire of a fusillade at the ABC and Fairfax.
Johnston stated several times, when interviewed regarding Operation Sovereign Borders:
“This is a civil public policy issue, it is not a military exercise.”
Not a military exercise?
I thought that was Morrison’s reason for the North Korea style secrecy?
This leaves two possible scenarios, either Johnston has no idea what is going on in his ministerial portfolio, or Scott Morrison is lying every time he tells us this is a military operation.
Scott Morrison also likes to tell us repeatedly that their policy of stopping the boats in working or has worked. But if the boats had indeed stopped then there would be no asylum seekers — and no asylum seekers would surely mean no torture claims.
But alas, the claims remain.
Since the election there have been 45 boats enter Australian waters — that is 45 times the Coalition’s policy of ‘stopping the boats’ has failed.
So rather than let the public be informed, Morrison blocked the media from the information sources ‒ essentially censoring them. He did holds a press conference every Friday, so it missed the week’s media cycle, but last month he has did away with them altogether. Even when media conferences were still held, Morrison refuses to answer many questions saying they related to military “operational” matters — despite the Defence Minister’s recent statements to the contrary.
In North Korea, the news is controlled by the state. In China, if you Google Tiananmen Square you won’t find images of riots or a lone man standing in front of a tank, it’s all very picturesque and postcard perfect. In Australia, the state now attempts to control asylum seeker related news, and publicly condemns the news it doesn’t like on the subject.
But I thought it was Labor and the ABC that were supposed to be Communists?
If Morrison and Abbott have their way, when we Google ‘asylum seeker’, we will find images of people at the immigration desk at the airport; and when we Google ‘boat arrivals’ we will only find images of the QE2 or the Fairstar Funship.
So why are we really seeing the media blackout from the Coalition? Is it really because it is a military operation, despite the Defence Minister’s statements?
Many of us have a vivid memory of the Gulf War. Many of you may even remember that we had Navy warships in the Persian Gulf at the time. We watched the artillery and missile attacks live on TV as it happened.
Most of us will recall hearing the shocking news of an Aussie Diggers death in Afghanistan and the circumstances that led to it. Sadly, this has happened many times.
By the same token, we sometimes hear of a success story regarding our troops efforts in Afghanistan.
These are military exercises, I would assume, unless Scott Morrison classes wars as something different.
As I mentioned earlier, Scott Morrison has also set about attacking those who criticise our military in any manner and those who report anything that may make them look bad, as he has apparently absolute faith in them and seemingly is under the impression they can do no wrong.
This is a surprising conclusion, given the navy vessels involved in Operation Sovereign Borders not having the foggiest idea of where those borders actually are and Morrison needing to make a grovelling apology to Indonesia:
Nevertheless, the notion of Australia's military doing anything wrong is so ludicrous that they have now been given immunity from prosecution for their actions at sea, or as a military spokesman puts it:
''.. . not face individual criminal sanctions under the Act for giving effect to Government policy.''
Fairfax ran a report recently on an investigation that the Defence Force is launching into an online racist group that is allegedly made up of serving members of Australia’s military, including some who serve in Operation Sovereign Borders. Given this news, I’m waiting for Morrison to attack the Defence Force for investigating itself and bringing itself into disrepute.
One of the members of this bunch of bigots, who is allegedly a part of Operation Sovereign Borders, posted the following on his Facebook page regarding asylum seekers:
‘... they come to jump on Centrelink and get free government housing.’
‘I'm about to head out today to deal with these fuckers.’
Doing our nation proud, I’m sure...
(Screenshot from New Matilda)
The online group call themselves the Australian Defence League and are made up of racists who post hate-filled drivel online. Although these allegations are only being looked into now, it is to be noted that the blog site The Anti Bogan has been reporting on this groups online activities for over a year; once again, what is known as the Fifth Estate is well ahead of the news cycle.
In fact, if Morrison thinks calling for an investigation into the military is an attack on them — then they seem to be doing a fine job of attacking themselves.
For instance, the military have also begun investigations into their own security, which was shown to be lacking after an attempted terrorist attack at Holsworthy Army Barracks in 2009.
And even this week, the Air Force are looking into their security after an armed bank robbery at Richmond Air Force base, where an armed bandit got into the base past security, robbed a credit union at gunpoint and then exited the base past security.
I didn’t hear cries of protest from Morrison when a Judicial Inquiry and an Australian Defence Industry Taskforce was set up in 2012 to investigate approximately 775 cases of sexual assault and abuse within the Australian Defence Force.
So, the military aren't totally beyond reproach at all — except when it suits Morrison and the Coalition.
It is absolutely vital that all allegations of torture by our military are properly investigated; vital to public confidence; vital to our international reputation; and vital for our diplomatic relations with other powers. If Morrison and Tony Abbott don't appreciate the importance of this task, then they simply do not measure up to their responsibilities.
Still, we understand that the Navy has a difficult job to do, we are constantly told how difficult it is by both Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison; even Malcolm Turnbull on Q&A last night used the word “difficult” when describing the issue of asylum seekers and how to deal with them.
So what is the Abbott government’s position on torture by the military?
His comment when asked about allegations of torture by the Sri Lankan military were raised at CHOGM earlier this year were interesting [IA emphasis]:
"We accept that sometimes in difficult circumstances, difficult things happen."
And what did he say last week about our Navy [IA emphasis]:
"They are doing a fine job often under difficult circumstances..."
Hmmm… I wonder.
You can follow Peter Wicks on Twitter @madwixxy.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License
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