Campbell
© AAP
Chief of the Australian Defence Force General Angus Campbell delivers findings from the Afghanistan inquiry
The Australian Defence Force has released a four-year plan to address systemic and cultural failings within the organisation as part of a long-awaited response to the Afghanistan war crimes inquiry. The plan was posted on the website of the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force on Friday, with no public statement or press release acknowledging its publication.

The 36-page document sets out a series of "work packages" to be rolled out until the end of 2025, with a commitment to making changes to organisational arrangements, recruitment processes and performance management.

It says the plan will be divided into five "streams", with focuses on organisational arrangements and command accountability, culture, workforce, information and partnerships. It also notes criminal, disciplinary and administrative action will be taken against individuals found guilty of wrongdoing. The document says by the end of 2021, Defence will have addressed 90 per cent of its responsibilities in relation to "specific allegations of wrongdoing against individuals".

In a foreword to the document, ADF chief Angus Campbell and secretary Greg Moriarty said "serious and systemic organisational and cultural failings" had contributed to the misconduct identified and alleged by the Afghanistan inquiry.
"These failings created an environment which allowed Defence's proud and respected reputation, earned by our professional and ethical personnel over decades, to be damaged by the actions of a few. We accept responsibility for these failings in systems, culture and accountability and are committed both to addressing the failures and wrongdoing of the past and undertaking deep and enduring reform across the organisation."
The plan was released eight months after the publication of the Brereton report, the heavily-redacted findings of the inquiry conducted by Major General Paul Brereton and released in November. The inquiry depicted a harrowing account of allegations of grave misconduct by SAS soldiers in Afghanistan. It detailed allegations of 39 unlawful killings of Afghan nationals and two allegations of "cruel treatment" in 23 separate incidents.

Major General Brereton identified 25 current or former ADF personnel accused of perpetrating one or more war crimes. Some of those allegedly responsible are still serving in Australia's military.

It also found credible evidence of cover-ups, including credible information that junior soldiers were required by their patrol commanders to shoot prisoners, in a practice described as "blooding". The report stated:
"A 'cover story' was created for the purposes of operational reporting and to deflect scrutiny. This was reinforced with a code of silence."
The war crimes inquiry made 191 findings and 143 recommendations.

In its response, Defence said it has
"accepted all Afghanistan Inquiry findings and is addressing all recommendations.

"Addressing allegations of criminal wrongdoing through the Australian legal system is important. It will ensure that Australian law and legal standards apply to ADF personnel (and ex-ADF personnel) who are investigated and prosecuted.

"These include the presumption of innocence, the right to a fair trial, and the evidentiary burden of 'beyond a reasonable doubt'."
Responding himself to the inquiry in November, Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the findings as "disturbing", but said the allegations must be dealt with by the Australian justice system.