Hastie: SAS veteran turned Canning MP felt "great shame" over Afghan findings

Soldier turned politician Andrew Hastie wants greater media access to military operations overseas. Photo: File image.
Soldier turned politician Andrew Hastie wants greater media access to military operations overseas. Photo: File image.

Canning MP Andrew Hastie, who spent five years in the SAS, has weighed in on the long-awaited Brereton report into alleged war crimes in Afghanistan.

Last week the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force uncovered credible evidence of 39 unlawful killings and two cases of torture by Australian troops in Afghanistan.

The report recommended 19 soldiers be prosecuted for the killings of Afghan civilians and prisoners.

Mr Hastie, who served in Afghanistan as a troop commander in 2013 before becoming a federal MP, has been inundated with interview requests on the topic since his essay appeared in The Australian.

In the essay, Mr Hastie said he felt "great shame" over the findings in the Brereton report.

"As a former officer of the SASR and someone who believes in Regimental honour, I feel great shame in what has occurred," he wrote.

"We were sent to Afghanistan in a double trust - to defend Australia's values and interests by force, but also to uphold those values in our battlefield conduct."

We should always guard against the reality of people doing bad things when they are left unaccountable

Canning MP Andrew Hastie

Despite the findings, Mr Hastie insisted "good soldiers" outweighed the negative reports.

"Many good soldiers honoured that trust; a small number of soldiers did not," he wrote.

"They never thought themselves bigger than the team or the mission. They were humble. They were committed to truth. They were the ones who blew the whistle and repudiated the dark toxic personalities that have shamed the SASR in Afghanistan.

"History won't record these good deeds the way it will the battlefield criminality of a few."

Offering an explanation for why the alleged war crimes happened, Mr Hastie made mention of the Australian Defence Force stage-managing the media "through a carefully crafted information operation, which stifled public interest reporting".

Speaking from his own experience, Mr Hastie also said there needed to be "proper parliamentary scrutiny" to increase accountability in the Australian Defence Force.

"We should always guard against the reality of people doing bad things when they are left unaccountable," he wrote.

"They need accountability and firm leadership in the degrading cockpit of war. It appears this did not happen from the very top to the bottom of the command chain.

"If we are serious about increased accountability and transparency, then we need proper parliamentary scrutiny of the Department of Defence and the Australian Defence Force. Without it, our parliament can't exercise proper civilian oversight of our military."

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A number of serving members of the Special Air Service Regiment have been asked to show why they should not be sacked following the release of the report.

They have been given 14 days to respond to the action.