Pressure is mounting on Australia's Chief of Defence Force Angus Campbell to step down from his position in the wake of the Afghanistan war crimes report, as divided opinions ignite the veteran community.

Calls from politicians for General Campbell and Australia's Chief of Army Rick Burr to step aside due to their leadership roles in the Afghanistan conflict and a major backflip on revoking a meritorious unit citation for special forces, have fuelled support for their resignations.

Senator Jacqui Lambie has claimed a large number of serving ADF members are unhappy with General Campbell and this week publicly called for him to stand down.

 

Chief of Army Lieutenant General Rick Burr.
Chief of Army Lieutenant General Rick Burr.

"Don't you dare say you did not know what was going on that unit," she said.

Ms Lambie said there was "no respect" left for the CDF within Defence.

"I can tell you now if I was Angus I would get out and walk," she said.

General Campbell earlier this week backflipped on his initial acceptance of a recommendation to strip a unit citation from up to 3,000 Australian soldiers in the Special Operations Task Group between 2007 and 2013.

It followed the Brereton report, which found "credible information" 25 special forces soldiers committed 39 murders of Afghan civilians in that time.

General Campbell was responsible for all Australian forces deployed in the Middle East, including Afghanistan, for about a year from 2011 when he was appointed as Commander Joint Task Force 633.

For his command he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

Lieutenant General Burr was also awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his leadership in the Middle East.

Major General Angus Campbell steps off a Black Hawk helicopter to visit troops at a patrol base in Uruzgan Province. Picture: SGT Neil Ruskin
Major General Angus Campbell steps off a Black Hawk helicopter to visit troops at a patrol base in Uruzgan Province. Picture: SGT Neil Ruskin

 

Rick Burr, Peter Gus Gilmore and Duncan Lewis taken at Bagram Airbase Afghanistan in 2002.
Rick Burr, Peter Gus Gilmore and Duncan Lewis taken at Bagram Airbase Afghanistan in 2002.

Throughout the conflict the ADF commanded operations from the United Arab Emirates.

Katter's Australian Party MP Bob Katter has also called for General Campbell's resignation following the meritorious unit citation debacle.

"The leaders should sacrifice himself for his soldiers, not the other way around," he said.

Mr Katter said a number of current and ex-serving men and women in Townsville, a major Australian defence town, wanted General Campbell to go.

But Australian Defence Association executive director Neil James told The Daily Telegraph it was a "myth" to say the chain of command got off "scot-free" or that "making an example" of General Campbell and Lieutenant General Burr it would "solve the problems".

"They're the ones who initiated the inquiry into this in the first place, the idea they've been compromised is wrong," he said.

Major General Angus Campbell with soldiers at Al Minhad Air Base, UAE. Picture: Australian Defence Force
Major General Angus Campbell with soldiers at Al Minhad Air Base, UAE. Picture: Australian Defence Force

"The Brereton report specifically looked at the chain of command at some length."

Mr James said he believed those in middle command positions who were either involved or aware in the "periphery " but didn't speak up were the ones strong agitating to blame General Campbell.

"You'd be punishing the bloke trying to fix it," he said.

Afghanistan veteran Daniel Keighran, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions while serving with the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, said he did not believe it would be "suitable" for any ADF leaders to leave "right now".

"No charges have been laid," he said. 

"I think we need leadership, we have exceptional leaders in place that are dealing with what is happening … it's imperative they stay there."

Mr Keighran said he understood the frustration of those who had served in Afghanistan and done "nothing wrong" yet have had their reputation "tarnished" by the alleged actions of a few. 

Bid for veteran suicide commissioner falls short

Crossbench senators refusing to back a new commissioner to investigate veteran and defence suicides have been criticised as "too bloody minded" as the government is left one vote short.

The Coalition has the support of One Nation but needs at least one more member of the crossbench to vote for its National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide, after Labor decided it would not back the bill.

The Greens, Centre Alliance and independent senators Jacqui Lambie and Rex Patrick have all indicated they will vote against the government amid concerns about the independence and powers of the new commissioner.

One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson told The Daily Telegraph she believed Labor and the cross bench were being "too bloody minded" about the issue.

"This is an opportunity to make a big difference," she said.

"We need to give the Commissioner a chance to do their work for at least 12 months and if there's no positive result, then we can instigate a Royal Commission."

Ms Hanson said establishing the commissioner would attach an "unprecedented" level of "importance, investigative power, and resources" to the prevention of defence and veteran suicides.

"The Commissioner will be independent and publicly accountable, with the power to investigate the causes of a suicide … make recommendations to government, and pursue up recommendations that are not followed up," she said.

"This is the kind of high-level appointment that will have the appropriate clout we need to tackle such a desperate crisis."

Attorney-General Christian Porter said it was not an "either or option" between the Commissioner and a full Royal Commission.

"It beggars belief that Labor is playing political games with such an important issue that reflects support for our defence and veteran community - an issue that has traditionally enjoyed bipartisan support," he said.

Originally published as Pressure mounts on ADF chief to resign

Major General Angus Campbell with Army personnel during their visit to Australia’s main operating base in the Middle East region.
Major General Angus Campbell with Army personnel during their visit to Australia’s main operating base in the Middle East region.

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