Thousands of Australian troops who served in Afghanistan might not have their meritorious unit citations revoked.
Chief of Defence Force Angus Campbell announced earlier this month that more than 3000 special forces soldiers would be stripped of their citations in response to allegations of war crimes.
General Campbell presented the decision as final and declared he would write to the governor-general to request he revoke the awards.
But in response to swift public backlash, Prime Minister Scott Morrison insisted no final decision had been made.
“It will be a difficult process and there will be patience necessary, but I would stress again that the actions of a few, whether in command or those on the ground, do not reflect on the many thousands of others who serve today and who have served before,” he told reporters in Canberra on Monday.
“Our defence forces have earned this, they have earned the rights that they now call upon, and they have earned the respect for which we all rightly afford them, and there can be no taking away from that, and that is certainly my view and the government’s view.”
Tens of thousands of people have signed an online petition demanding only veterans convicted of war crimes have their citations revoked.
Mr Morrison also responded to questions about Governor-General David Hurley deciding whether to revoke unit citations, given he led the Australian Defence Force during the period the alleged war crimes occurred.
“Well, as always, governor generals take advice of their prime ministers,” he said.
“In addition to that, I would simply note the oversight panel that was appointed by the (defence) minister to oversee the actions being taken by the CDF and the ADF in relation to actioning the recommendations that have come out of this report.
“That is the process that we have established to reconcile the issues you have raised.”
An inquiry led by Justice Paul Brereton found Australian special forces unlawfully killed 39 civilians and prisoners in Afghanistan and treated two people with cruelty.