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Troop deployment: HMAS Kanimbla farewell ceremony: transcript of speech.



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LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

TRANSCRIPT 0F SPEECH - HMAS KANIMBLA FAREWELL CEREMONY THURSDAY 23 JANUARY 2003

E & OE - PROOF ONLY

Subjects: Troop Deployment

Governor-General, Prime Minister, Head of Defence Forces, Head of the

Navy, men and women of the Kanimbla and their families who are gathered

here today for us to farewell you and to wish you God speed and a safe and

speedy return.

I don't want to mince my words because I don't believe that you should be

going. I don't think that there should be a deployment of troops to Iraq ahead

of the United Nations determining it. But that's a political decision, that's an

argument that the Prime Minister and I will have, no doubt, over coming

weeks and months.

But having said that I don't support the deployment of our troops in

these circumstance, I do support our troops and always will, and that

distinction is fundamentally important. The men and women of our fighting

forces in a democracy are expected unquestioningly to accept the orders of

the government of the day. You don't have a choice and my argument is with

the government, not with you.

I know that you will give, through service and through your training, to the

best of your ability. You are a magnificent fighting and Defence Force, you

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have been trained for it. You've been trained in circumstances in which you

hope the politicians of the day can avoid, circumstances in which you are

called on to exercise those skills, particularly the combat skills. I also believe

that it’s fundamentally important in this complex world that more and more

we’ve got to resolve these issues through the United Nations collectively.

Understanding the complexity, but fundamentally understanding that no one

country has got the right answer here.

But if in fact the United Nations is capable of getting a unanimous resolution

to get Saddam Hussein to disarm, if that task is being performed through the

Weapons Inspectors, let them finish the task. My point to you is this, I wish

you well and the reason I am here today is to support you. To support you in

your efforts and to signal to the families that while there may be debates

raging in this country as to whether or not it’s appropriate for you to be there,

that argument should be directed to the government of the day not to our

great men and women who are prepared to give of themselves to serve the

country.

I know talking to the families out there that there is a lot of anxiety, this is a

very poignant day. But I know at times we tend to hold emotions and it’s only

through talking to people personally that you understand the fears, the

anxieties, the reservations. Understand this again, and I repeat it, the people

going on our behalf don’t have a choice. But in the circumstances I wish them

Godspeed and I will be doing everything that I can, everything possible to

ensure that they are returned safely and quickly. God bless all of you and to

your families we will share with you the concerns and the anxieties. But we

know that the people that are being sent have been trained to the best of

their ability and we know that they will serve in a professional, outstanding

manner. I wish you well, God speed.