| October 16, 2018

Veterans' Acknowledgement Speech

 I've taken the opportunity to talk on this motion primarily because I spent last week in Afghanistan with the Australian Defence Force. I took the opportunity to meet literally hundreds of our finest young men and women in both the Middle East and Afghanistan. It's interesting the member for Herbert puts this motion into the parliament, then gives the government of the day a bit of a bagging, and declares that she needs bipartisanship. That's fair enough, if that's the way it needs to be. However, I think our Defence Force has been one area where we have actually been able to deliver a bipartisan support for our Defence Force members.

If you wanted to get political, you would start talking about the investment that the Labor Party made in the six years that they were in government. You'd talk about the investment that they put into the fixed-wing fighter jets, which was zero; the submarines, which was zero; and the frigates, which was zero. This is not coming from me. This is coming from the leaders from Defence: this enormous differentiation between the coalition and its investment into our armed forces, giving them the assets that they need, versus the record of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years.

Having just spent a week with the troops, it is amazing to see the support that they are given and to see the high quality of the men and women that make up our Defence Forces. I still, right now, am blown away by the high quality of our troops and their respectfulness, their knowledge, their degree of discipline, their commitment to the job and their absolute incredible detail to every aspect of their job. It was something to behold. Certainly, when we were in the Middle East where the average temperature was around 40 degrees, to go through the various exercises with the troops was tough. Justine Keay, the member for Braddon, was also on the trip. It was great to be able to go through that experience with her.

The other aspect that I was taken by was the fact that so many of these young men and women, 22- and 23-year-olds were, in fact, married and had children, but were still totally committed to their country and the battle that we are facing throughout the Middle East. Their sheer commitment to what we are doing over there is unparalleled by anything that one could imagine. It really was an education for me, and I came away with an incredibly high opinion of each and every one of the troops that I spent some time with while we were over there.

I understand that the covenant that is being put forward by the government is going to put in place the structure of how we view the role of our military. If it is not already acknowledged within the Defence Force, that is certainly going to make it clear how important our Defence Force is to the people of Australia. What is going on over in Afghanistan is incredibly complex. It is a country full of turmoil, with the ISIS and the various different iterations of ISIS and also the Taliban effectively trying to blow up the elections which are going to be held this week. The Australian troops are over there in conjunction with the American troops and the Brits trying to do their absolute best to make sure that these elections in Afghanistan go ahead. They're doing enormous work, and if we can come out of next weekend's election with a credible government— (Time expired)

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