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Tuesday, 19 February 2019
Page: 13908

Australian Defence Force

National Security

Dr McVEIGH (Groom) (14:57): My question is to the Minister for Defence. Will the minister update the House on the role our Australian Defence Force is playing in operations in the Middle East? How might a different approach to border security impact on the ADF and Australia's national security?

Mr PYNE (SturtMinister for Defence and Leader of the House) (14:57): I thank the member for Groom for his question. One of the great privileges of being the Minister for Defence—or, for that matter, the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition or the shadow minister for defence—is the opportunity to visit the troops of the Australian Defence Force overseas in operations. Over the summer break and before Christmas, I managed to get to Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates and Iraq to visit our troops at bases like Taji and Camp Qargha to talk to them about the great work that they're doing.

Every Australian and every member of this House should be very proud of the work that our ADF are doing overseas in operations. Certainly, some members of this House have served in the military. We acknowledge their service, and we're very proud of that as well. The young men and women, and sometimes not so young men and women—from those who sustain and maintain aircraft right through to those who provide close personal protection and those who are doing the training, advising and assisting in Afghanistan and Iraq—are doing a great job for our country. The government asked them to put themselves in danger and they responded to the call. It hasn't been without cost, as everyone in this House knows. The role of the ADF in operations is a very important one, and it's one of the things that makes Australia an important and good ally to the United States. The United States knows it can call on Australia and we will respond, and we can respond. I'm proud of those young men and women, and I'm sure we all are.

I'm also asked by the member for Groom how changing our border security would impact on the operations of the ADF. It's a good question, because those of us who have been around the House for a long time remember that weak borders meant that the ADF was pulling dead bodies out of the water in northern Australia rather than serving in operations that their government had asked them to undertake—

Mr Champion interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Wakefield!

Mr PYNE: protecting liberty and freedom. Those of us who were in the parliament during the Rudd and Gillard period remember that Labor took a successful policy and changed it, and then we had 50,000 unauthorised arrivals on 800 boats and 1,200 deaths at sea, and Labor—

Mr Champion interjecting

The SPEAKER: Member for Wakefield: that's it.

Mr PYNE: reopened 17 detention centres. That's what a failed border security policy looks like. And it was the ADF who had the very tragic responsibility, in many cases, of having to find those dead people and fish them out of the water. We, on this side of the House, don't want to return to those days. I am mystified that the Labor Party, for a cheap political win last week, would actually weaken our border security policies and put our service men and women of the ADF in the position where they might one day have to do the same thing again. Shame on the Labor Party and shame on those who supported them.