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Tuesday, 11 August 2009
Page: 4458

Senator KROGER (3:25 PM) —I would like to agree, for once, with Senator Collins and suggest that our troops do need our support. They need our support in every way possible. I would firstly like to go back to some comments that Senator Bishop made assuring us of the government’s attention to national security and defence and about the development of the white paper and the government’s commitment to military spending and reform. I applaud Senator Bishop’s personal and genuine interest and commitment in this area, but I would have to suggest when he says that they also have an ongoing commitment to border protection he is erring on the side of farce. Since this government has been in place, we have had some 24 boats holding some 1,155 illegal entries enter the waters surrounding Australia. So I would suggest that facts actually speak louder than words.

So it is today in relation to the Holsworthy barracks. This was no mere security concern. This was a significant imminent terrorist threat on our own ground, in our backyard, here in Canberra. We were all horrified when we woke up and heard on the radio what had happened and who had been working in our midst—terrorist cells in our midst in Victoria and in New South Wales. So I ask you to just for a moment imagine the horror of those service personnel at the Holsworthy barracks when they turned on their radios and heard about an imminent threat to their base. These are men and women who have chosen the most honourable, laudable, worthy career: to serve this country and protect the rights, freedoms and liberties that we all enjoy. How doubly appalled would the mothers and fathers amongst them have been when they woke up to hear that news. Many of these people have chosen to place their children in child care on that base. It would be reasonable for them to presume that this would be the safest and most secure place their loved ones could be cared for.

At the Little Diggers Child Care Centre at the Holsworthy barracks there are some 49 little ones who are cared for, from 6.45 in the morning to six o’clock at night. Some of them are babies—19 of them are between a few weeks and three years of age—and the 20 others are between the ages of three and five. How horrified those parents would have been that this childcare centre, which is in the heart of this base, that is caring for their young ones, was also at threat. Amongst the different bases, there are close to 500 children. I raise this because these bases are not only looking after and delivering intensive training for our specialist forces but also caring for the young ones of these families that are dedicating their lives to protecting our rights. Across the bases—and there are some nine bases across the ACT, New South Wales and Victoria—there are close to 500 young children who we have to keep in mind, whose futures and lives are in our hands.

So it is not politicising it, as Senator Collins just said, to question what the security arrangements are on these bases. It is not politicising it to follow up on what Senator Johnston questioned, which was the upgrading of the threat level from Bravo to Charlie. It is not politicising it; it is what these people deserve and should expect. It is what we should be doing, and we should be doing it to protect our own families and our serving men and women. Senator Collins said that there was no evidence that there was anybody within the armed forces who had raised concerns. I would like to direct her to comments to the national president of— (Time expired)

Question agreed to.