Australian soldiers in East Timor during the 1999 intervention (Image: Australian Department of Defence)

The failure to prosecute the alleged perpetrators of war crimes committed during Australia's intervention in East Timor -- and the recognition that there was an active culture of cover-up in the ADF -- further strengthens the case for a proper inquiry into the intervention and its aftermath.

This week the ABC finally wrested from Defence a report from 2003 examining the "lessons learned" from the intervention, following an April Four Corners program that revealed that Australian officers had tortured East Timorese and never been prosecuted. The Lessons Learned document identified "the code of silence which permeates elite units in the ADF" and predicted -- with eerie precision given what the Brereton Inquiry exposed in relation to the conduct of Australian troops in Afghanistan -- "a culture in ADF Special Forces of not telling the truth in such matters".

The culture of not telling the truth extends much more widely than the ADF in relation to the events around the intervention and Australia's role in the establishment of Timor-Leste.