MEL LITTLE, HOST: Some killings were carried out without the context of soldiers unhappiness with releasing prisoners that they believe were involved with the Taliban. And a whole lot more, we are a military town here in Darwin, in the Northern Territory. And this is going to be a sensitive topic to discuss. So please, if you do need support, make sure you reach out and get that support. We will give you some contact numbers at the end of our conversation. Joining me now is Luke Gosling. Hey Gozzas. How you doing?

LUKE GOSLING OAM, MEMBER FOR SOLOMON: Really well, thanks Mel just out in Palmerston had an early start to the day. More people than ever stopped by the mobile office for a number of reasons. A lot of people want to talk at the moment.

LITTLE: They do indeed. And I’m sure for yourself with your position within the community and also as a retired Australian army soldier, this must be weighing heavy with you as well.

GOSLING: Yeah it is Mel, and yesterday I had a lot of conversations with veterans and family members of veterans, some who have lost their son in Afghanistan, who has been there for a long time since 2001. I worked there a couple of years after September 11, in Southern Afghanistan, and worked closely with some of the special forces troops mainly Americans down in Southern Afghanistan. So I kind of have an understanding of how difficult an operating environment Southern Afghanistan was, where some of the Australian Special Forces were working. And there’s no doubt that too many consecutive tours of duty over there for some of these Special Forces troops led to the development of some of these cultures. So I think that’s got to be taken into account. But the biggest thing that I’ve spoken to people about yesterday, is just reminding people over there that they can be really proud of their service over there in Afghanistan over the last couple of decades, with tens of thousands of service people over in Afghanistan. And their service and sacrifice shouldn’t be tainted by the immoral acts of a small percentage of Australian service people.

LITTLE: Yeah, and I think that’s a really important point to make and shouldn’t get lost while we’re talking about all of this. Can you talk to me about warrior culture and what that term means?

GOSLING: From what I understand through the report, is that it details a culture where some senior patrol commanders, and it’s got to be said, a small percentage of patrol commanders moved into a phase of operations where there they were almost above any laws of armed conflict, above any laws of engagement, where they took it upon themselves to kill Afghanis when they weren’t justified in doing so. But there’s also really disturbing accounts in this report of patrol commanders who then got junior members of their patrols to engage in those acts as well as part of a type of a ‘blooding’, where they were sort of encouraged to get their kill up. Obviously, there’s nothing honourable in killing a person who hasn’t got weapons, when the fight, the contact is over some were taken as a prisoner. They unfortunately make decisions to either murder people themselves or to get their junior people to murder them. That’s obviously unconscionable conduct and not what we want our Australian Defence Force to be doing overseas. Again, I stress, a very small percentage of people in the special forces engaged in this activity. It is right that it is being investigated, called out, because there is going to be a need for a rooting out of those cultures so that we can behave as a responsible and law abiding member of the international community of nations and so we can get back that sort of loss of reputation that we’ve had through these incidents.

LITTLE: Luke, from what you understand has anything been put into place to support returned, serving members and their families? Because I imagine that for some people, whose partners and children are now serving over there, reading these types of reports and hearing this information must be incredibly distressing.

GOSLING: Yeah, I think it’s very distressing for a whole lot of people. And what it also does, is that it re-traumatises people. And that’s why it’s really great Mel that you made that mention right at the start, and we’ll provide those numbers at the end for Open Arms, Lifeline and similar organisations, because their support of members and families is going to be really important. As much for this issue of re-traumatisation that happens, because it takes people’s minds back. I mean, it did to me yesterday. It took my mind back to the times working in Afghanistan, difficult environment, violence, death that has occurred, friends that have either been killed in Afghanistan or been injured, or had difficulties after their service. We know that there’s been a spate recently of suicides of veterans and ex-serving people, which is really disturbing. We need to be doing much more investigation at arm’s length. And that’s why I’ve been consistently pushing for this Royal Commission into veteran suicide. We need to have an outside in look of the services we’re providing. I think that the heart of it Mel, is that unfortunately it now calls into questioning in some people’s minds, a whole range of questions about what they were doing there when it comes to light that some of these atrocities and war crimes. It really begs the question, did we do more harm than good over there? So my message this morning through you, I really appreciate the opportunity is just to say to those who served in Afghanistan, including a lot of people in our Darwin, Palmerston rural area is just to be really proud of the job that you did there on behalf of our country. Some cannot be proud of the work they’ve done. They’re going to go through the investigation process now, which is right and proper. And I’m confident that the Chief of the Defence Force is serious about fixing the failures that have been identified. But I’d stress to the Defence Force all the way through to the Federal Government, Federal Government’s on both sides there are lessons to be learnt in what has happened with Afghanistan, with the deployments, the way that they were managed, the tempo of that burden that was put on some of our troops. The mental health, and the health generally of our serving people could have been managed better. And we all need to learn those lessons for the future.

LITTLE: Absolutely. Now, we know that we have a really tight knit and supportive defence family here in the Northern Territory. So please take a moment today to put your arm around your mate and make sure they’re OK. If you are needing support, you can contact Open Arms. Their number is 1800 011 046. Lifeline is always there, 13 11 14. Luke, Thanks so much for your time this morning. Appreciate it, mate.

GOSLING: No worries, Thank you Mel. Just a message to any of the veterans and their families out there, my office in Casuarina, just feel free to pop in if you just want a yarn or a cup of tea. That’s what we’re there for. And thanks to everyone who pulled over for a chat on the side of the road in Palmerston this morning. It was great to catch up with everyone and have a great weekend.