On 1 July 2020, at the launch of the 2020 Defence strategic update, the Prime Minister said:
"The enduring responsibility of Government, though, is timeless—to protect Australia's national interest, our sovereignty, our values and the security of the Australian people … we need to also prepare for a post-COVID world that is poorer, that is more dangerous, and that is more disorderly.
"Coercive activities are rife.
"Disinformation and foreign interference have been enabled and accelerated by new and emerging technologies."
It is in this strategic environment that I must address today's front page of The West Australian newspaper, which carried this headline to an opinion piece by Mr Alan Jones: 'The brutal truth is ScoMo gave China opening to attack SAS & he should say sorry to troops'.
I feel very strongly about this. I am a veteran of the Special Air Service Regiment and a member of the Morrison government. I too found the tweet by the People's Republic of China to be a repugnant slur on the serving men and women of the Australian Defence Force.
It was calculated, deliberate and designed to undermine the political and social cohesion of our country at the same time as Australian exporters across a number of sectors are being hit with tariffs designed to hurt their businesses and our national prosperity. This was a toxic mix of economic coercion and political disinformation enabled by Silicon Valley social media oligarchs.
The Prime Minister has stood up for the ADF. He has called for an apology from the People's Republic of China. He has called on Twitter to delete the post itself. Our diggers don't ask for much. They want strong leadership and a boss who has their back, and the Prime Minister has called out this slur. Since the Brereton report was released, the PM has also consistently defended the conduct and integrity of our troops.
Australia is seeking to be honest and accountable for alleged wrongdoing by a small number of individuals entrusted to wear our flag. We are owning our mistakes, and this is in stark contrast to the People's Republic of China. We are yet to receive an apology from them. Twitter has not removed the offensive post. They are happy to censor many things, but they don't have our backs when it counts.
If it wasn't clear already, we Australians are alone responsible for our sovereignty. Authoritarian regimes actively undermine it. Silicon Valley doesn't care about it. It's up to us, it's up to our leadership and it's in weeks like this one that we need to stand together.
We live in an imperfect world. It's full of imperfect people, and the release of the Brereton report has been imperfect. I am angry at the leak of the Crompvoets report two weeks prior to the release of the Brereton report. I am unhappy that the author of the Crompvoets report appeared on 60 Minutes four days prior to the release of the Brereton report. I also disagree with the decision to release the unredacted Crompvoets report alongside the redacted Brereton report.
The Crompvoets report detailed unproven rumours of Australian soldiers murdering Afghan children. It may have prompted the Brereton report, but its evidentiary threshold was far lower. The Brereton report neither rules these rumours in nor rules them out, so why are they out in the open for our adversaries to use against us? It has undermined public confidence in the process and allowed the People's Republic of China to malign our troops.
I believe in accountability and transparency, I believe in the rule of law and I believe in the presumption of innocence. Now is not the time to attack our troops. Now is not the time to attack our Prime Minister, who is standing up for our troops and our sovereignty.
Difficult days lie ahead and Australians, all Australians, must stand together.