News National Scott Morrison plays down Afghan ‘wall of shame’ fears

Scott Morrison plays down Afghan ‘wall of shame’ fears

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The Prime Minister has sought to allay fears a “wall of shame” about alleged murders and torture in Afghanistan could be erected at the Australian War Memorial.

The memorial’s director says visitors expect to see alleged war crimes by Australian soldiers acknowledged at the national institution.

Scott Morrison has attempted to calm backlash against the idea.

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves about what’s being proposed here,” he told 2GB radio on Wednesday.

“We haven’t seen anything specific.”

The Prime Minister said people including Tony Abbott, Kerry Stokes and leading military figures sat on the memorial’s board.

Mr Stokes’ position as chairman of the Australian War Memorial (AWM) has been described as “untenable” in the wake of the Brereton report.

Last week, the Australian Financial Review reported that Mr Stokes had promised to help members of the Special Air Service regiment through an existing special fund that could, among other things, cover legal costs.

Brendon Kelson, a director of the AWM in the early 1990s, said it was “totally inappropriate” for the chair of the institution to be supporting anyone embroiled in the alleged war crimes scandal.

However Mr Morrison cautioned against rushing to any conclusions, pointing to the experience of the AWM’s board members.

“There’s a lot of people with a lot of experience on this who of course work closely with the war memorial director,” he said.

“I think we should just wait to see how the war memorial are proposing to handle this very sensitive matter.

“We’ve got a board that sits over those decisions, which has got a lot of very sensible people.”

Former prime minister John Howard last week said the conduct was “totally at odds with the values, beliefs and practices” of Australia’s military forces.

Mr Morrison said people needed to be careful about how to handle the alleged war crimes in Afghanistan.

“I’m not just going to run off half-cocked in giving a response to something that hasn’t even been formulated yet,” he said.

“I don’t think that would be very wise on my part and I trust the war memorial board directors to exercise the appropriate judgement.”

Thousands of veterans may also lose their meritorious unit citations after Justice Paul Brereton uncovered credible evidence of 39 unlawful killings and two cases of torture by Australian troops in Afghanistan.

Mr Morrison said he would let the justice process take its course and trust Chief of Defence Angus Campbell and others to respond to the Brereton report’s many recommendations.

There have been calls for prosecutions after the report alleged 39 murders by Australian soldiers on duty in Afghanistan.

“Decisions haven’t been made yet on these things and so let’s just see how each step unfolds,” he said.

“Where there are reforms that need to take place in the military, then that needs to happen.”

-with AAP