23 August 2021

Motion relating to Afghanistan

[by video link] I rise in support of this motion on Afghanistan and in doing so I want to speak directly to those Australian service men and women, including members of the Australian Federal Police, who have committed to and sacrificed so much throughout our country’s long engagement in Afghanistan.

I know that many of you may have been wondering over the course of the last week what your sacrifice was for.

Why did you and your comrades suffer the injuries that you suffered? Why did some not come home? After 20 years of conflict, exactly what was achieved?

To those of you who have thought about these questions, your thoughts are understandable. And whilst I can’t pretend to know how to feel watching the scenes which we saw last week as the Taliban marched into Kabul, I can certainly appreciate the despair that must accompany these sights for you.

To those who served, stand tall and let me reassure you that your efforts did indeed make a big and positive difference.

Your work gave girls, boys, women, men and minorities opportunities that they had never before had in that land, freedoms previously unknown to them.

Because of you, schoolyards were the place of children. Because of you, leaving home without a burqa or a male chaperone was acceptable.

Your work gave cities, towns and villages the infrastructure that was so much needed: the bridges, the waterways, the schools and the hospitals just to name a few.

Access to education must be one of the greatest differences made.

All this was your work.

Thanks to you, international terror networks could no longer rely of Afghanistan to be a comfortable home for their hate filled ideologies.

Thanks to you, one of the world’s most brutal regimes, al-Qaeda, was dealt a devastating blow and Osama Bin Laden was brought to justice. Your work has kept Australians safe.

To those 39,000 of you who have served your country in Afghanistan, I say thank you.

To the 41 families who have lost loved ones in this conflict, no words I can say can take away your grief, but know that the cause for which your loved ones gave their lives was a most noble one and that the price they paid was not paid in vain.

It is clear that more needs to be done to support Australia’s veterans and their families following this war—which is why Labor has been calling on the Government to proactively provide additional elements of support.

Veterans are disproportionally afflicted by mental health concerns. We as elected members in this place cannot shirk our responsibility to protect those who have protected our nation, our values and our freedoms.

Australia is not that kind of nation, and iIt is time we spent greater focus on our veterans’ welfare.

As I finish, I say to any veteran who is listening to today’s proceedings or later reads these speeches in Hansard, please, hold your head high and remember, our nation is proud of you, your hard work, your commitment and your sacrifice. And we will never forget the immense sacrifices that you and your fallen mates have made.