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Wednesday, 27 October 2010
Page: 916


Senator McGAURAN (2:56 PM) —I join the many speakers over the last few days in this debate on Australia’s commitment to Afghanistan. I first of all note that in this Senate and in the other house, an overwhelming majority—some 90 per cent—are in support of Australia’s commitment to sending troops to Afghanistan. That is a significant number. There are few issues that get the support of both houses in the Australian parliament to that degree. That ought to be noted.

Australia’s mission with its allies has been defined as ‘to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan and to prevent their return to either county in the future.’ It has been a long and protracted engagement—more than eight years—since we first took up the war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Even so, it is significant, as I said, that the great majority of the parliament continues to support our involvement, however long and protracted it has been.

You could not call it ‘popular’ support—of course you could not. No war is ever popular, but the parliament—this house and the lower house—has a steely determination to stay the course. It is also an acknowledgement that this mission is in Australia’s national interest and in each Australian citizen’s greater interest. As previous speakers have said, we have sent our fighting force as Australia’s contribution to the greater cause of the fight against international terrorism and against extreme Islamic terrorism—a brand of terrorism that Australians, whether overseas or at home, are not immune from.

This is a fight for Australia’s secure way of life and for the personal safety of every citizen of Australia, whether they live here in Australia or overseas. This is as much Australia’s fight as it is for any other ally that has taken up the fight against terrorism, be it the United States, the UK, Spain or Holland—all representing liberal Western democracies—or even Islamic democracies such as Indonesia or Malaysia. This is as much their fight as it is Australia’s fight. This is not something we have joined just to tag along with the United States, although that is a factor. It is not just because of the ANZUS treaty. This is a fight Australia is very much involved in for its own national security here onshore and overseas, and for each individual Australian citizen. Australia has suffered from direct hits by these Islamic terrorists. I seek leave to continue my remarks.