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Monday, 26 February 2007
Page: 36

Mr EDWARDS (2:48 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Defence. I refer the minister to his comparison of the battle of Kokoda and Australia’s current engagement in Iraq. Has the minister reflected on his decision to appropriate the memory of Australians who fought and died at Kokoda to underpin the government’s failed Iraq strategy?

Dr NELSON (Minister for Defence) —I thank the member for Cowan for his question and I also thank him for his service to our country, as a former serviceman. In fact, I draw the member for Cowan’s attention to what I actually said, which is on my website. I will repeat some of that for you now.

In 1942 this country was clearly at grave and immediate threat, and a magnificent group of men from a magnificent generation saved this country. And every Australian, whether by birth or by migration, should thank every day those men who fought at Kokoda, as we should also thank the Americans who fought in the Coral Sea, and others amongst our allies who protected and defended our country.

There was not, nor is or should ever be, any comparison in a military sense between our operations in Iraq and what happened in Kokoda. To do so would offend not only the veterans of Kokoda and those who lost their lives but also the men and women who are fighting on Australia’s behalf in Iraq. But in this century, 65 years on, it is much harder to see that our generation and our country as a liberal democracy face threats to our values, freedoms and culture from a global insurgency which is driven by Islamic extremists throughout the world who are doing everything they can to drive a resurgent totalitarianism which is a real threat to our way of life.

There is no comparison, nor should there be, between the battles in Kokoda and Iraq. Iraq and Afghanistan are but two of the theatres in which this struggle is being fought—as it is with counterterrorism through South-East Asia. And as we heard at the weekend, these people are determined to build a caliphate that will extend from Spain through North Africa, through much of the Middle East and into South Asia. So whilst it is understandably very difficult for us, and many Australians, to see that our generation faces very real threats to our way of life—in particular in relation to the Kokoda veterans and those magnificent men who kept our country free—every single Australian, me included, pays nothing but tribute to them and their sacrifices.