Comments from Mark Davis on ABC News Breakfast on Friday, 20/11/2020.
Let’s get back to our top story now, and one of most important interviews of the day, that’s the ADF report about the conduct of Australia’s special forces in Afghanistan. The findings came more than three years after classified documents known as the Afghan files were leaked to the ABC by a former military lawyer, David McBride.
He’s facing prosecution and possible jail time for blowing the whistle. To talk about his case we’re joined by David McBride’s lawyer, Mark Davis. Thanks for coming on the show. Just tell viewers briefly when did this all start for David McBride? Just remind people what happened.
Since about 2014 Mr McBride became concerned about certain behaviours in Afghanistan. He was a lawyer there with special forces. I can’t tell you exactly what he did. I can get to the punchline, what we know he did on the public record, he ultimately gave what became known as the a — as the Afghan files to the ABC, who published them, to their credit, and still have them on the website. They reveal essentially what we saw yesterday in the Brereton report. David McBride had a steely resolve to expose from 2014 what Justice Brereton revealed yesterday, not so much a focus on bad apples, if you like, individual soldiers, but McBride’s consistent message to defence was there was a command structure that created a sense of total impunity in the behaviour of soldiers and commanders in Afghanistan.
And Mark, there’s so many things we can’t say, unfortunately, in this conversation, because of legal reasons. I did want to ask you how David was doing. But he put out a tweet – I just want to show viewers – last night he was tweeting, saying he was really moved by all the amazing messages of support. Huge question marks over his future. Where does it stand at this exact moment?
I can tell you, David is probably – walking about two inches taller today. He’s been in the shadows for the last three years, since he’s been charged. He lived with shame and attacks upon his reputation as if he’s some sort of traitor to the Australian Army, in fact, he’s incredibly proud of it and he’s incredibly proud of Australia. David McBride is facing charges that could see him get a sentence for life. It’s a breach of the defence act, it’s a breach of the criminal code. We’re fighting hard. We’re now assembling a great team around him for his defence. But if he does go down, I can say this from – as of today, if he goes down, he’ll walk a proud man into a jail cell. And I can tell you that means the world to him. And the world to his family.
Who can make the decision right now to drop those charges?
It’s a bit complex. In our view, it’s a government issue, it’s a Attorney-General issue. Mr Porter put out a statement it’s with the Commonwealth CDPP. It was that DPP who dropped the charges against Dan Oakes who was the ABC journalist who revealed the material from David McBride, his charges were dropped three weeks ago in the interests – or because the prosecution would not have served the public interest, naturally. I can’t say too much about it. But naturally our position is that applies equally to David McBride, it would not be in the public interest to prosecute this man. Everything changed as of yesterday. I must really tip my hat to Justice Brereton, what a brave report. You don’t often get people using such direct language in reports like that. So, I think it’s been a real revelation.
Angus Campbell has been asking people to come forward if they have any details that might add to what we learned yesterday. But given what happened to David McBride, who do you think people would respond to that?
I think the answer is in the question, Lisa. Of course, the parallel treatment of David McBride against these comments that are now coming back about the brave whistleblowers, I don’t want to be too harsh today, we’re in a delicate state. We believe the very point you’re making is more than apparent at every level of government in Australia. I hope Mr McBride does not face a court room. Let alone a jail cell. But at the moment, that is exactly what he’s facing. There’s no – we’re getting no whispers, no signs at all, we’re preparing for trial.
Mark Davis, thanks for joining us this morning.