South Coast veterans advocate and lawyer Glenn Kolomeitz says the entire defence force culture needs to change, not just that of the SAS, which is at the centre of allegations of multiple war crimes in Afghanistan.
"This country has had inquiry after inquiry for decades into Defence abuse, Defence maladministration military justice failings. At the end of every inquiry, someone says this could never happen again," Mr Kolomeitz said.
Based at Gerroa on the NSW South Coast, Mr Kolomeitz is a lawyer who represents veterans, often on a pro bono basis. One of his clients is Braden Chapman, the signals intelligence operator turned whistleblower, who helped bring the alleged atrocities to light. He also represented Kevin Frost, another whistleblower who took his own life.
Mr Kolomeitz said he was sickened to the point of nausea reading the Brereton report outlining alleged unlawful killings carried out by Australian soldiers. A lack of transparency, ill defined missions and a failure of leadership and command were, according to him, largely to blame for conduct spiralling so far out of control. The culture, he said, was rife throughout Defence.
"I call Defence the untrainable dog. They won't play by the rules. When they're caught out they conceal it until they can't get out of it. Then they say, 'We're going to change,'" Mr Kolomeitz said.
He works as consulting counsel with former soldier, now lawyer Mick Bainbridge, who specialises in veterans' legal issues.
"We see all these victims of Defence abuse. We've got filing cabinets full of them in Mick's office in Wollongong, where they Inspector General of the ADF looks at them and says, 'Nothing to see here,'" he said.
"We need to look at that lack of transparency and that culture of what I call weaponised administration against its own people."
Mr Kolomeitz urged veterans who feared they might be called as witnesses, a number of whom live on the South Coast, to seek urgent independent legal advice.
"We haven't got any people who are in the frame for direct criminality. We're just worried there might be concealing charges coming around the corner to bite them. So now we're really circling the wagons around these guys," he said.
Mr Kolomeitz praised the courage of those who have stepped forward to shed light on the alleged 39 unlawful killings.
"They're rolling over on an organisation that they were brought up to think was magic."