NATALIE BARR: Defence Minister Richard Marles will today meet with Senator Jacqui Lambie after she referred senior commanders in the Australian Defence Force to the International Criminal Court. Lambie accused the ADF of hosting a culture of cover up and said they haven't been held accountable for war crimes committed under their watch. She also slammed the Albanese government accusing them of shielding the top brass and others. Let's bring in Home Affairs Minister Clare O'Neil and Shadow Finance Minister Jane Hume Good morning to you, Clare. Is the Albanese Government shielding the top brass of the Defence Force?
CLARE O’NEIL: Well, no, Nat and could I just say I want to acknowledge up front Senator Lambie's amazing advocacy for one of the most important communities in our country, which is this community of veterans and people who've served our defence force. I think she's devoted enormous time and energy to making sure that issues like the one that's being discussed are dealt with appropriately. We've come to government with a real commitment to making sure that the Australian Defence Force addresses the issues that have been raised in various inquiries. And the Deputy Prime Minister's meeting with Senator Lambie today to have that conversation with her. It's really important that we work together on this and address those issues and I'd say the people who are advocating for action on this more than any others are people in the Defence Force themselves. They want to see any wrongdoing properly addressed. So that we can focus on what is an enormously commendable thing that the people involved in Defence are doing for our country.
NATALIE BARR: So Jacqui Lambie says the problem here is our commanders got a free pass while our diggers were thrown under the bus. It was the ultimate boys club. What she's saying is our hard working men and women of this country put their lives on the line and went out there. They have been named in the Brereton report and all the bosses have got off scot free. What do you say to that?
CLARE O’NEIL: Look, I'm very respectful of Senator Lambie's view on this matter and you know, she's a veteran herself, so you know, she's got a point of view about this and she's very much entitled to that. I'd just say that, you know, as a minister in this government, it is incredibly important that we take what has been a really important inquiry into what happened in the Defence Force and properly address those matters, and we're really committed to that. And I say again, like the vast majority of people who join the Defence Force are amazing people, the greatest patriots in our country who put on a uniform to serve us every day. It's really important that we deal with this inquiry properly for them. And that's why the Deputy Prime Minister and Jacqui Lambie will meet today to talk about how we can move this forward.
NATALIE BARR: Jane, the Brereton report was handed down under your watch. What she and the lawyer who prepared this report are saying is that there was no proper investigation of the higher ups. Everyone knew, she said. And our government is silent, which includes you because it was handed down under your watch. What do you say?
JANE HUME: Yeah, the Brereton report had 143 recommendations, the majority of which were agreed with by the previous government and in fact an office of a special investigator was established immediately after the Brereton inquiry to make sure that appropriate evidence is gathered and that those that if they did commit crimes under Australian law, that they are held accountable and justice is served. So there are processes that are already underway, but the Opposition does oppose the referral of Australia's ADF senior military to the International Criminal Court. We'll wait to see what the outcome is of that briefing by the Defence Minister with Senator Lambie, and also would be prepared obviously to offer up a briefing with the Shadow Minister for Defence as well.
NATALIE BARR: Jane people like the now Chief of the Defence, Angus Campbell, who was in the Middle East, you know, head of operations during the time that this report covers in 2011. Should people like him have questions to answer here?
JANE HUME: Well, I think that Australians would rightly expect that should crimes have been committed under Australian law, that those responsible would be held to account and would see justice. But there are processes that are already underway to ensure that is the case. We should let those processes play out. I don't think it's all that helpful to play them out in the media. I think as we've seen very recently, when there is too much media commentary or political commentary on potentially criminal matters, it can in fact influence or even prejudice an investigation.
NATALIE BARR: I guess, Clare, the problem here is if we let them play out and this report, the Brereton report only talks about the guys underneath and the guys on top haven't been named. Is that fair
CLARE O’NEIL: Look, I think the bottom line here is, and I'm sure Jane agrees with this, if people in our country have done the wrong thing, whether you're, you know, the most senior person in the country or a citizen on the street, you're going to be held accountable. And that's something I'm very proud of about our country. I think the Brereton inquiry has occurred. It's demonstrated some wrongdoing and the Deputy Prime Minister and our Government are really concerned to make sure that we deal with that properly and we're trying to do that. I think the things that Senator Lambie has said are absolutely she's entitled to her view. the PM will sit down with her and talk it through. But I have to say unusually, I sort of agree with Jane here. I think these are really difficult and sensitive matters and the thing that we've always got to remember in this is I know that you will agree with this too. Our Defence Force personnel are amazing people who put on a uniform to fight for our country, and this whole conversation has got to be had with them in mind.
NATALIE BARR: Exactly. And she's saying a lot of them were thrown under the bus by the bosses. So, you know, that obviously has to be investigated. And she is a woman on a mission. Thank you both, we’ll see you next week.