“Out of respect for the Australians I led overseas I took a position going into this election that I was not going to talk about operational matters … As I have said previously, not everything goes to plan in any aspect of life, let alone in a high-pressure war zone where people are trying to kill you.’ Andrew Hastie, Liberal candidate for Canning
Who is Andrew Hastie? What is he trying to hide? Why is there still no campaign biography of him?
Could it be, as military sources have it that Hastie is still under investigation by the Army for his role in an incident 28 April last year in Zabul, Afghanistan in which an Australian SAS corporal severed the hands of three dead Taliban fighters, claiming that the mutilation was ‘out of military necessity’? SAS troops were instructed to collect fingerprints.
The official version is that the corporal, who is still under investigation, was acting on advice given by an officer from the Australian Defence Force Investigative Service (ADFIS), who lectured a group of SAS soldiers on April 19 during a training session at the Australian base at Tarin Kowt.
The ADFIS officer told them it did not matter how the fingerprints were taken and that it would be acceptable to chop off the hands of the dead and bring them back to base for identification purposes. Although this account appears to be widely and uncritically repeated, it has raises more questions than it answers.
One problem with this version is that such behaviour violates ADF regulations ‘the remains of the dead be respected’ and international law. Article 15 of the Geneva Convention states:
“At all times, and particularly after an engagement, Parties to the conflict shall, without delay, take all possible measures to search for and collect the wounded and sick, to protect them against pillage and ill-treatment, to ensure their adequate care, and to search for the dead and prevent their being despoiled.”
What we do know is that former reactionary PM, military fetishist and US sycophant John Howard joined Tony Abbott to hold Andy’s hand as they tried to con voters that the people of Canning are what matters in the campaign today. Just how successful their help would be is open to question.
Abbott is the greatest promise-breaker Liberal PM in history. Howard is an ultra-conservative who turned back the clock on a raft of social and political issues and who lied about Iraq and invented Tampa to win an election over Keating. Would you buy a used captain from this duo?
What happened to ‘open and transparent government?’ The amazing case of former senior Victorian Liberal Damien Mantach who it seems was helped to allegedly embezzle over a million dollars because he could hide his past should warn the Liberals about the dangers of running a dark horse. Yet with the Canning by election, they seem to be at it again.
Mr Mantach was forced to resign as the Tasmanian Liberal party’s state director in 2008 because he ran up personal expenses of $48,000 on a party credit card. The money was repaid but not disclosed on the party’s annual return.
Mantach not only embezzled money in his role in Tasmania, however, he proceeded to do far more damage to the Liberal brand and their reputation as money managers when he became state director for the Victorian Liberals. Up to 1.5 million is missing. This was not because his past was unknown but because somehow vital information about his past was not communicated. Information, Liberals tell us increasingly is something they have a right to withhold.
From his arrogant comments to The Guardian yesterday the tight-lipped Hastie is the very model of an uncommunicative modern Abbott government Liberal. He refuses to answer the questions that matter in a manner which tells us that he believes he has every right to withhold the truth.
Rather than respond to a fair and reasonable question about his past, the former SAS captain cites operational matters forbid his divulging details of his past.
Hastily parachuted into the electorate in a desperate captain’s pick by a Tony Abbott whose future rides on the result it seems that due diligence has been discarded in the rush to pick a candidate who fits the PM’s fetish for the military. Voters, it is implied, have no right to ask who Hastie is. The young man is a soldier, a superior being, a man of courage and action, for God’s sake. Isn’t that enough?
Michelle Grattan delineates Abbott’s secrecy and quasi-military drill:
‘The Coalition, just because it can, withholds information on the most spurious grounds, excuses the inexcusable, tolerates what it would have vociferously condemned in Labor’s day. Moreover, learning only selectively from the Howard experience, it has compromised the military, using it not just to execute policy but as a political shield.’
Hastie’s introduction to the electorate is profoundly disturbing. He is pulling down the blind of operational secrecy. And he gets his party leader’s backing. It is not good enough for any accountable politician and it is certainly not good enough from a candidate who should be making it clear who he is and why he should be elected. ‘Operational matters’ do not apply. They never have.
The phrase which Scott Morrison lifted from military, is applied to anything that the government does not want to reveal about its inhumane, punitive immigration and detention policy; its preparedness to do whatever it takes including paying of people smugglers or paying 40 million to Cambodia to take four refugees off Nauru, in an abortive scheme which was originally based around resettling a thousand asylum-seekers.
Andrew Hastie needs to explain who he is and why he is a suitable candidate for the Canning of electorate and the parliament of Australia. The government and the people do not need another dud captain’s pick chosen impulsively because his background and his deeply conservative values make him of use to a failing PM desperate to exploit every opportunity he can to survive in power.