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Thursday, 24 June 2010
Page: 6705

Mr HUNT (12:15 PM) —I wish to join with all members of the House in expressing my condolence to the families of the three very brave young Australian soldiers who were lost in the recent helicopter accident in Afghanistan, Private Timothy Aplin, Private Benjamin Chuck and Private Scott Palmer, all of whom lost their lives on 21 June 2010. They were accompanied by seven other Australians, one of whom is from my electorate. Obviously the name of this very brave young man from my electorate, for reasons of both family privacy and national security, remains confidential, but I note that I have spoken with the partner and the father of this brave young soldier.

On behalf of the family, I say to the government: we thank you for your help. The partner will be transported to Germany. There has been some confusion. The family was of the belief that the mother would also be transported. That was confirmed by the government and then that hope was taken away late last night. The family is not in a position to make these travel arrangements without assistance from the government. I realise that there are other issues concerning the government at the moment, but I respectfully ask that all care and immediate action be taken to assist the mother to travel to Germany. There is great distress in the family. There is particularly not just a concern about the son but a double emotion, having been offered the prospect of travel and having had that withdrawn in the last few hours. I have been in contact with the office of the Minister for Defence to this effect and the staff have been very helpful, but we do need a resolution, and I ask that a resolution be put in place today.

More broadly, to the families of these three very brave young men who have been lost: they could not have given a greater sacrifice for Australia and, more significantly still, for the people of Australia and their long-term security. It is a tragic outcome. These are the finest of young people. They have extraordinary training, skill, intelligence and compassion and such a high-functioning nature that their deaths are doubly tragic.

I want to talk briefly about the broader context: the foe. The challenge which is underway in Afghanistan is part of a broader global challenge to deal with a stream, a strand, of extremism which, irrespective of its religion, is aimed at destabilising the modern way of life. It is nihilist in many respects in that it is indiscriminate in its target. It seeks to destroy progress. It seeks to destroy the very freedoms that people on all sides of this House believe in, whether it is freedom of religion, freedom of action, gender freedom, in particular—all of the noble virtues which give people the ability to live their lives in full. These are under attack.

What we see at the moment is the Wahhabi stream of Islamic extremism attempting in its own way to bring down governments. Whether it is the government of Pakistan, the government of Indonesia, the government of Saudi Arabia or the government of Egypt, it wants to destabilise these major Islamic countries and ensure that there is either a fragmentation or a takeover—those are the long-term, millennial objectives—and, in so doing, create and craft a very different world from that in which we live. That is a profound global challenge. It is real, it is important and it manifests itself in forms of terrorism, in acts of violence, first and foremost, within and against the Islamic world itself. The four countries that I have mentioned are all targets of extremist Islamic violence. Secondly, it manifests itself in acts of violence such as those that we saw so tragically close to home in Australia, in Bali, with both Bali bombings, with the attack on our embassy in Jakarta and on the Marriott Hotel and, most prominently, the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon and the four flights.

This insidious strand of terrorism has a strategic goal: to take as a base one of the four large states with a strong Islamic heritage and in so doing bring about a transition through internal destabilisation and violence. That is why it is not just an internal issue in Afghanistan. Afghanistan was the base for the Taliban, Afghanistan has been the hiding place for the senior leadership of al-Qaeda and Afghanistan was a centre for the activity which occurred on September 11 and throughout much of South-East Asia. So it is real and profound and of significance to Australia.

The cause could not be greater in terms of our global responsibilities. The cause for which these Australian soldiers lost their lives could not be greater. Having said that, we have a duty to do everything in our power to ensure that, where our forces are deployed, they are deployed in a way that protects them and their mission and does not in any way lead to them being needlessly exposed. There is a bipartisan commitment to this broader cause. We believe in it because it is profound and important. I recognise, though, that the costs are extraordinary and that it is ever so easy for those of us in this place to make easy gestures which are borne by others. We must never, ever forget the risk and the price and the commitment of those on the front line. The association I have had with the family of this very brave young soldier from my electorate over the last few days reminds me all too clearly that it is the brave young sons and daughters of Australia who are on the front line. We thank them for their commitment. I offer my profound thanks and condolences to the families of these three brave young Australian men: Private Timothy Aplin, Private Benjamin Chuck and Private Scott Palmer.