Why this petition matters
General Angus Campbell has lost touch with the troops of the ADF. Almost every soldier surveyed believes he is no longer fit to command the ADF due to various factors including the removal of death symbology, the warcrimes investigation, the ADF retention crisis and his political influence. We have terms for a reason, these are to stop commanders from becoming stale. The Labor government reappointed Angus Campbell as CDF which should never have happened. We need a fresh set of eyes in command.
Mass exodus from the ADF, weakening Australian defence capability
On the 19th of November 2020, on the release of the Brereton report, a certain number of SASR Soldiers were accused of having a toxic culture, a sound bite General Angus Campbell, AO DSC, repeated to the world, accusing Australian special forces non-commissioned officers of attempting to fuse excellence with Ego, Elitism and Entitlement.
The report, written by his subordinate, absolving successive defence force leaders of anything other than ‘moral responsibility,’ CDF included. It wasn’t written in the report, but the message was loud and clear: there was another “E” in the equation, that of Exemption, Exemption for defence force senior leaders.
In contrast, since the IGADF investigation and subsequent media assault clearly endorsed by ADF leadership, we have seen the lesser ranks of those who served Australia as part of the Special Operations Task Force/Group in Afghanistan systematically abused, disempowered, and marginalised, their valuable service denigrated. Many of these men and women have since medically discharged due to poor mental health caused not only by aspects of their active service, but more damagingly, their treatment by defence and the media on returning home, treatment akin to that of a bygone era.
We have seen ADF leaders, recuse themselves from the very laws and standards Australia once demanded of the leadership of our enemy for the crimes committed by their soldiers. Now, these same officers so belligerently demand of our soldiers.
We have seen how during the same time frame as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, failed procurements have far outweighed the cost of both wars, to a factor of three, minimum, and how some of those failed procurements have featured in the devastating loss to defence families, and the serving community.
We have seen veterans abandoned by defence, given no choice but to defend themselves in court without financial, legal, moral, or any other form of support from the same leaders they once served, a situation that demonstrates complete disregard for those who loyally fought the wars of our generation, and of the families who supported them. This ongoing treatment by defence leadership is yet another failure in their duty of care to the people they proclaim to value. And leadership then took their disregard a step further by giving tacit approval to journalists by failing to counter the lies and fabrications they issue.
We saw the CDF and his service chiefs demand that senators questions in relation to the failures of the MRH90 helicopter be considered and respectful due to the families impacted by loss, a stance in complete contradiction to his grandstanding on the release of the Brereton Report, an uncaring act ignorant of the thousands of families impacted, and without consideration of the accuracy of the unproven and untested allegations, or of jurisprudence.
We have seen the victims of mere allegations labelled as perpetrators by their cold and dispassionate leadership, who, when offered the chance to set right the incorrect and damaging slur, doubled down on their authoritarian position with impunity.
We have seen defence leadership use national security as an excuse to cover their lies, mistruths, and omissions. And we have seen the same leaders hide behind the ‘in consideration of the impact on families,’ excuse, effectively treating them as human shields to not only protect their reputations, but to falsely bolster them. These families are strong families, they have supported loved ones through their years of service to this country, they don’t need protection, they deserve truths.
And now, we have seen as senators, voicing the concerns of their constituents, some of whom are veterans, and in what can only be described as prejudicial conduct, labelled as divisive, and bullied by the leader of Australia’s Defence Force. If the civilian overseers, the senators responsible for scrutinising defence force activities and expenditures are not immune from the wrath of our military leaders, is there anyone in Canberra able to hold them to account?
People do not leave bad jobs; they leave bad bosses. Due to current woke agendas pushed to appease minorities and avoid negative media coverage, defence leaders have implemented poorly conceived reforms, while at the same time denigrating its veterans. The ADF’s best assets, its people, are leaving the defence force in droves, weakening Australia’s defence capability and national security, the very thing our leaders assert they are protecting. This exodus of people from the ADF creates a vacuum that cannot be filled, not because of better paid jobs elsewhere, but because the incompetence, failures, double standards, blame shifting, and lack of real support from defence leaders that has been painstakingly witnessed by all.
And what has been defence’s answer to the current recruitment and retention crisis? To appoint yet another general to investigate why those who did, and those who normally would serve our great nation, no longer wish to do so. A weak, box-ticking exercise to avoid leadership accountability, that does not resolve the issues.
If your medals are of such import, keep them, and take ours back; there are more pressing items on the agenda. Over two decades, incompetence in ADF hierarchy more intent on accolades, awards, and the trappings of power, has mismanaged Australia’s defence force into its weakest ever position, and done so at a time when the world is in its most volatile and dangerous state since WW2. These leaders leave us poorly defended, and solely reliant on another nation with a dubious track record for supporting its allies in war. Those of us who have been to war, who have been ‘in action’, don’t relish another war, especially one fought on the home front, that require our children to fight.
On releasing the IGADF report into war crimes allegations, Angus Campbell was reported as saying, “We are a nation that stands up when something goes wrong and deals with it and that is what I intend to do.” Well, as a concerned veteran and father of three Australian sons, this is me standing up, hoping someone in Government will deal with this crisis. Or am I right with the final E? Exemption: Are our Defence Force leaders truly exempt from their failures and above international and domestic laws?
The Royal Commission into veteran suicides, while sorely needed, is a direct reflection of the poor leadership that mismanaged defence over decades. A Royal Commission into ADF leadership, specifically the failures in leadership during the Afghanistan war, and subsequent to it, is now imperative to ensure the same failures are not repeated. The Government fails the nation if it does not.
A concerned father and SOTG Veteran.
Name and address supplied.