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Monday, 19 March 2012
Page: 3347


Mr SIMPKINS (Cowan) (21:16): I stand here with, I am sure, the vast majority of this House to affirm my support for our mission and our troops in Afghanistan. We know what Afghanistan was like leading up to 2001: the Taliban were running the show and they had invited al-Qaeda to Afghanistan. Whilst we heard from the member for Denison that Afghanistan should be allowed to go back to a natural political level, I am not so sure that, in the broad world interest, we want that country to be the home base for terrorism that it was and stands to become again if we drop the ball on this. Nor do we want Afghanistan to become again the socially and politically crippled and barbaric nation that it was before, when half a million people lived in Kabul and they had a terrible standard of living. Then, fewer than a million boys attended school in Afghanistan and now there are close to seven million Afghan children attending school, a third of whom are girls. That was not allowed under the old regime. We should be very careful about trying to step back from that sort of future. We should have confidence and not be like the member for Melbourne, who denigrates the Afghan people by saying that their troops and their police are just not up to the task.

It is not going to be easy and it has not been easy. As we know, there has been a cost involved with this. But we should be prepared to back those people. We should be prepared to back a developing democratic nation whose soldiers and police are prepared to lay down their lives, as so many do. Whilst there have been aberrations, a handful who have done the wrong thing by committing crimes and betraying their allies and their own people, the reality is that the vast majority—something like 330,000 by 2014—are the people we should stand behind and be prepared to back. They believe in their country and, whilst others in this place may not believe in that country, it is right for the majority of us in this chamber to stand by Afghanistan and believe in a better future for them. We have a duty to every girl in that country who was not able to attend school or have a job outside the home. It is the right thing to do. There are good things in this world, and they are always worth fighting for. We should not be backing away from this. Look at what happened in 2001. It is acknowledged, I suspect, by all people in this House that al-Qaeda based their terrorism in Afghanistan. That is what happened with September 11.

There is a better future and we must never allow the circumstances, the home base, that existed in Afghanistan to exist again. We must never allow a September 11 to exist. Also, we must always be on our guard against terrorism. The fact that it may take generations should not mean we should be scared of that fight. Sometimes we have got to get people out there and fight. That is the reality. We need to do the things that need to be done. Sometimes you just cannot turn the other cheek. Sometimes you have just got to pick up weapons and do what needs to be done. It is not just about the security of this country and the Western world; it is also about a better future for a lot of people in Afghanistan. It might happen in other places in the future. Again, we should be prepared to do what needs to be done in those cases.

There is always the hope that by 2014 we might see even better stability, social development and economic capacity in Afghanistan. That future will be delivered by democratic government supported by the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police, with as much support from friends and allies as is required. We should ensure that the home base for terrorism in Afghanistan is never again allowed to exist, we should be prepared to fight for as long as it is required and, certainly, beyond 2014 we should not be afraid to have our soldiers and our supporters in Afghanistan back a better future for the Afghan people.