13 June 2023

Probing the polls: Emissions-free city centre and Ben Roberts-Smith at the AWM

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Painting of Ben Roberts-Smith

The AWM commissioned award-winning artist Michael Zavros to paint two portraits of Mr Roberts-Smith in 2014. Image: AWM.

The centre of Canberra could be an emissions-free zone by 2030 if some members of the Government get their way.

But a zero-emissions zone hasn’t been warmly endorsed by readers, who voted resoundingly against the idea in last week’s poll.

We asked: Do you agree with the proposed zero-emissions ban in the city?

You could choose to vote No, it’s discriminatory and unnecessary. This received 77 per cent of the total, or 1039 votes. Alternatively, you could choose to vote Yes, we need to move to the future and it’s years away. This received 23 per cent of the total, or 317 votes.

This week, we’re wondering whether the Australian War Memorial should make a call on its display of Ben Roberts-Smith’s war memorabilia.

The so-called defamation trial of the century was a disaster for the highly decorated war veteran, who won the Victoria Cross for his actions in Afghanistan. This and several other medals are currently on display at the AWM.

But following Justice Anthony Besanko’s findings that imputations of murder, violence, bullying and domestic violence by the former Special Air Service (SAS) Regiment veteran have largely been proved, there are calls for Mr Roberts-Smith’s uniform and medals to be removed from display.

Greens spokesperson for justice, defence and veterans’ affairs David Shoebridge called the judgment an “important win for fearless journalism” and said “the official silence must now end”, and called for “the entire truth” about Australia’s involvement in Afghanistan to be disclosed.

READ ALSO War Memorial ‘carefully considering’ amending Ben Roberts-Smith exhibits after calls to remove display

Reader reactions were mixed. “People clearly do not understand the difference of proof required for civil defamation and criminal trials. Roberts-Smith merely lost his claim of defamation against the defendants which was always going to be a tough one. This result is not a finding of guilt,” one wrote.

“Australians, the government and the armed forces are worse for this but merely blaming those at the coal face is not the answer. They may have failed us and we may have failed them.”

Another reader said: “I think the memorial just tells the truth – leave it on display (see what happens with his medals). This is the true face of war, it is not all about heroes, it is about real people who are flawed or damaged by their experience. The ‘sainthood’ of soldiers is often not deserved – sure this is not the first time an Australian killed prisoners.”

Our question this week is:

Should the AWM remove Ben Roberts-Smith's uniform and medals from display?

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