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DEFENCE INQUIRY UNCOVERS MURDER AND SHAME
After 4 years of investigation, it’s been recommended that 19 elite soldiers be investigated by police for the murders of up to 39 Afghan prisoners and civilians, and the cruel treatment of two others. That’s the finding of the Inspector-General’s inquiry conducted by NSW Judge Paul Brereton into special forces soldiers’ conduct while serving in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016. In total, it identified 36 incidents that could be classified as war crimes involving 25 Australian soldiers from the Special Air Services (SAS) and 2nd Commando regiments who either committed offences or were accessories to them. And there could be more… Australia’s Chief of Defence General Angus Campbell said he’s accepted all 143 recommendations in the report.
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT WHAT WENT DOWN?
Details on who and what was involved in specific incidents was withheld. But we now know that:
• Junior soldiers were sometimes required by their patrol commanders to shoot prisoners to get their first kill – a practice known as ‘blooding’. And there were attempts to cover some of the killings up. For example, some of the soldiers involved took weapons, radios and grenades that weren’t officially issued to plant next to the bodies of those killed to suggest they were a threat.
• Something has gone terribly wrong with the culture of our special forces regiments. General Campbell yesterday called out the SAS and a “self-centred ‘warrior culture’” that led to a “misplaced focus on prestige, status and power, turning away from the regiment’s heritage of military excellence fused with the quiet humility of service,” he said.
• There are other failures uncovered that will be addressed. That includes the disbandment of one of the 4 SAS squadrons (the one where VC winner Ben Roberts-Smith served) and the removal of citations and medals.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
The process outlined by PM Scott Morrison last week will take over the cases that are referred to it with a view to pursuing criminal prosecutions. That will see an Office of the Special Investigator set up within the Department of Home Affairs with its leader yet to be appointed. General Campbell, meanwhile, has the task of changing the culture within the regiments. He says work has already started but noted there has been some resistance to change. The victims and government of Afghanistan were offered an apology yesterday, but there is a way to go to ensure they receive justice. And the veteran and serving communities were told to look out for each other and use the services on offer if the process is dredging up issues. And finally, General Campbell acknowledged there was work to be done to restore the ADF’s standing. “I would respectfully ask Australians to remember and have faith in the many. I assure you I do,” he said.
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POLICE FAILURES MARK BOURKE ST TRAGEDY
A “perfect storm” of poor planning, weak leadership and inadequate resources within Victoria Police preceded the Bourke Street rampage in 2017, the state’s coroner Jacqui Hawkins said yesterday. James Gargasoulas was convicted of the murders of 6 people and causing injuries to 46 others after he drove his car through the lunchtime crowd in Melbourne’s CBD in January 2017. And yesterday, Hawkins delivered a scathing report. Describing Gargasoulas as a “violent, drug-fuelled, psychotic and delusional criminal,” she said it was “agonising” that “the escalating events of the previous days and the scores of police members actively engaged in attempting to stop him” came to nothing. Still, Hawkins couldn’t say for sure that the attack could have been prevented. The families of the victims have urged police and the government to adopt the coroner’s 9 recommendations for change, saying it would provide “some comfort that our loved ones were not sacrificed in vain.”
NO NEW CASES, BUT SOUTH OZ ON EDGE
The streets of South Australia’s towns and capital looked very different yesterday as the state woke up to day one of its harsh lockdown. But there was some good news from health officials – no new cases were recorded yesterday. That means there are 23 active cases linked to the Parafield cluster and a further 17 suspected cases. Authorities thanked the record 20,000 people who got tested in the preceding 48 hours as the state looks to stop a highly contagious strain of the coronavirus in its tracks. But there are still concerns about what might unfold in the coming days with about 3,200 people in quarantine. Also concerned is Victoria… It closed its border to South Oz for 48 hours ahead of introducing a permit system from midnight on Saturday. Further afield, a new grim milestone was reached in America’s tussle with COVID – it has passed 250,000 deaths since the pandemic began. More than 11.5 million people in the US have recorded a confirmed case of the virus.
ON THE JOBS SLIPPERY DIP
Unemployment = up. But just by a smidge… The latest numbers from the Bureau of Stats yesterday show October’s unemployment rate rose by 0.1% to 7%. That’s down to almost 26,000 people putting their hand up to say they’re out of work as the participation rate lifted by 0.9% to 65.8% in October. But in terms of jobs being created – it’s happening… There were 178,800 jobs created in October across full and part-time roles – a lot of that was down to Melbourne coming out of its lockdown. And NSW and Western Oz both saw their unemployment rate go down in the month. So it’s bumpy and patchy, but not as bad as economists had predicted earlier in the year.
WILLIAM WELCOMES DIANA REVIEW
Lord Dyson, a former Justice of the Supreme Court in the UK, has been appointed by the BBC to “lead the independent investigation into the circumstances around the 1995 Panorama interview with Diana, Princess of Wales.” The news was yesterday welcomed by Prince William who said it was “a step in the right direction”. Interest in how the then largely unknown journalist Martin Bashir scored the scoop of the century (remember, it’s the interview when she opened up about her marriage to Prince Charles and declared “there were three of us in the marriage”) has been revived 25th years after it first aired. Meanwhile, it turns out that Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, did put her side of things to the authors of Finding Freedom, a book on the couple’s departure from royal life. It’s been uncovered as part of her legal action against The Mail on Sunday for breach of privacy and copyright after it published extracts of a letter to her father. She’d previously poo-pooed cooperation as a “conspiracy theory”.
AND THE BOOKER GOES TO...
Dunno – but it’s about to be announced. The shortlist is The New Wilderness by Diane Cook; This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga; Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi; The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste; Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stewart; Real Life by Brandon Taylor.* It’s the Oscars for fiction nerds…
*Buy using these links and The Squiz might receive a little commission.
FRIDAY LITES - THREE THINGS WE LIKED THIS WEEK
Jeans. Like good hair, if you have a pair you love, you can conquer the world. But finding a good fit can be hard. Here’s a good guide for the ladies that might get you thinking…
If you’re a smartypants who’s already watched the latest instalment of The Crown, well good for you… We’re saving it up until Christmas as a gift to ourselves. Yep, we’re going all out… But that hasn’t stopped us from reading everything about it that we can get out hands-on, and this historical fact check is a good one.
We’re hanging out for a delicious chicken salad, and this one came to mind. For a shortcut (a speciality at The Squiz…), shred a BBQ chook. But don’t cheat on the dressing – it makes it yum-scrum.
SQUIZ THE DAY
Findings from the Morrison Government’s Retirement Income Review to be released
A birthday for US President-elect Joe Biden (1942)
• the birthdays of astronomer Edwin Hubble (1889) and Robert F Kennedy (1925)
• the start of the Nuremberg war trials (1945)
• the release of Adele’s third studio album 25 (2015)
• Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip celebrate their 73rd wedding anniversary
7.45pm (AEDT) – Tri-Nations Rugby – Australia v Argentina – Newcastle, NSW
Garage Sale Trail (on until 22 Nov)
Happy birthday to Tweety Bird (1942), Goldie Hawn (1945), Bjork (1965) and Carly Rae Jepsen (1985)
• the premiere of Rocky (1976)
• the release of Pharrell Williams’ Happy single (2013)
Lebanon’s Independence Day
Birthdays for actors Jamie Lee Curtis (1958), Scarlett Johansson (1984) and model Hailey Bieber (1996)
• Middlemarch author George Eliot’s birthday (1819)
• the first interracial kiss on television, between Star Trek’s Captain Kirk and Uhura (1968)
• the release of Toy Story, the first feature-length film created completely using computer-generated imagery (1995)
• Angela Merkel becoming the first female Chancellor of Germany (2005)
• the deaths of authors Aldous Huxley (1963) and CS Lewis (1963), US President John F Kennedy (1963), INXS frontman Michael Hutchence (1997) and author Bryce Courtenay (2012)
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