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Tuesday, 8 February 2005
Page: 26

Senator HUMPHRIES (2:06 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Defence, Senator Hill. Can the minister update the Senate on the role our service personnel are playing in overseas operations in Iraq, as well as closer to home in the Solomon Islands?

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —The Australian Defence Force is continuing to provide vital support to the Iraqi people through this difficult election period and the transition to full sovereignty. Our personnel have done an outstanding job in helping to establish security and deal with the insurgency in such a dangerous environment. I am pleased to advise the Senate that the three security detachment personnel who were injured when their unit was attacked by a suicide bomber last month have now returned to Australia and are continuing with their treatment. We obviously wish them a full and speedy recovery.

On behalf of the government, I take the opportunity to pass on our condolences to the family and friends of former RAAF officer Flight Lieutenant Paul Pardoel, who was killed in action recently while serving with the Royal Air Force in Iraq. I extend our deepest sympathy to his wife, to his children and to his family and friends for their loss. We join them in mourning the tragic death of such a highly respected fellow Australian. His sacrifice was not in vain. Through the British military he served the coalition in the fight for democracy, for the freedom of the Iraqi people and for an end to the cruelty that they have endured for so long.

The clear majority of Iraqi people have shown their determination for this democratic process to succeed by braving intense intimidation from the insurgents to exercise their right to vote. The turnout for the election exceeded expectations. It is expected to be as high as 60 per cent. It is a big step in the right direction. I congratulate the Iraqi people on their incredible courage in putting their lives on the line to achieve their goals.

I would also, however, like to take this opportunity to extend the condolences of, I am sure, all honourable senators to the family and friends of Australian Federal Police protective service officer Adam Dunning following his tragic death while serving with RAMSI, the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands. The government and all Australians were shocked and saddened to learn of the fatal shooting of this exemplary officer, who served his country with great distinction. We have since boosted our military force to ensure the rule of law is restored in the Solomons and the significant—in fact, extraordinary—progress achieved by RAMSI continues.

Our personnel—Defence, police and other agencies—who are serving in operations have done an outstanding job for our country, for the coalition in Iraq and for our friends in the region. The government is determined to continue the fight against terror in all its forms and to work cooperatively in the region to help our neighbours, and through that to help make Australia a safer place.