September 26, 2022

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The man who made the call to send Australian troops into the Afghanistan War says some of the locally engaged staff who worked alongside the ADF have been “let down”.

When the Taliban seized control of Kabul a year ago, John Howard said Australia bore a “moral obligation” to help Afghan interpreters and other staff who served for our government, by giving them visas.

At the launch of his new book A Sense of Balance, the former prime minister was asked about a backlog of humanitarian visas and reports some people have been killed in Afghanistan while waiting in the queue.

John Howard visiting troops in Afghanistan in 2005 when he was prime minister.
John Howard visiting troops in Afghanistan in 2005 when he was prime minister. (Andrew Taylor)

“If those facts you’ve cited are true, we have let those people down and we haven’t discharged that obligation,” Howard said.

“To the extent either side hasn’t discharged that responsibility, I criticise them.”

Howard was also asked for his view on a Voice to Parliament, with the Labor government committed to holding a referendum on the potential change to our constitution.

The proposal would see a body established to advise parliament on issues impacting First Nations Australians.

The former prime minister noted he’s still “undecided” on a Voice, but has raised concerns about any possible “coercive” influence on government.

“The prime minister has said… it would be a very brave government to ignore a recommendation from this body,” Howard said.

“I would like to have more information on anything I think has the potential for division, that has the potential for establishing a body seen as exercising coercive influence on the government.”

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