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Address to Australian troops in Afghanistan, Tarin Kot

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The Hon Julia Gillard, MP

03 October 2010

Prime Minister Address to troops Tarin Kot, Afghanistan

Thank you very much, thank you for the welcome, but can I say I know that the most important event of today is not my visit it's the Grand Final, I understand that. How many Collingwood supporters in the crowd?

Well I was at the MCG last weekend to watch the draw, there were a fair few Collingwood supporters in the crowd then too, but obviously some more successful barracking today. So whilst it's paining me to say, congratulations to Collingwood. As a passionate Western Bulldogs supporter I managed to choke the words out. So, well done to Collingwood and all the Collingwood supporters in the crowd. There are only three, I doubt that.

Can I say more seriously, I did want to make sure that my very first trip as Prime Minister was to here, to come and see you and say hello to you. And I know many of you probably think politicians can talk a fair bit and that's probably right, but there's really one word that I come to say to you and that word is thank you. Thank you for everything that you are doing here, thank you for the bravery you're showing while you do it, thank you for the dedication that you're showing while you do it. I know it has been a really hard period, a really hard year, a really hard few months and we very much value what you are doing here. We very much value it, because the mission is so important to our national interest. The mission is critical to making sure that this place does not again become a training ground, a place that sponsors violence and terrorism that is visited on innocent people around the world, but particularly on innocent Australians. We've lost too many lives in terrorist attacks and what you are doing is making sure that this place does not continue to be part of that cycle of terror that has taken the lives of so many Australians.

And of course critically what you are doing here is training the Afghan National Army so that they can bring security and stability to this place. And that training mission, I'm sure, is stressing, it's got its difficult moments, it's got its days when you can feel the success and progress, it's got its days when you probably feel that progress seems a long time away. But that mission is critical to making sure that for the long term, this place does not again become a safe-haven for terrorists.

And I know as you do that dangerous work of training, that we have to make sure you've got proper force protection and if you are also involved in disrupting what the Taliban does, and making sure that the insurgency doesn't prevent you

going about that training mission.

And I know that that does take guts and determination and bravery, and it particularly takes it after a period of time where you've seen so many of your friends and comrades and colleagues fall victim to death in the battlefield.

And I may not have been Prime Minister for a very long time, but I've certainly attended a large number of funerals. I've have cause to grieve with the families, I've had cause to grieve with some of the people from this place who have returned to Australia for those funerals and I've certainly thought about how that would be impacting on you, what it would be making you think and feel as you've seen that loss of life, as you've seen people wounded.

But one thing that's always come home to me as I've attended the funerals, as I've talked to Angus and to the people back in Australia, and as I've received the briefings this morning, is that despite those losses, your courage and determination to get the job done continues undaunted.

And one thing I can say to you having attended the funerals is the thing that has always seemed so amazing to me is even in the depths of their grief, the families of the soldiers we have lost have spoken about their determination to see this mission done and their determination to make sure that their loved one is best honoured by us continuing the mission here.

So they are remarkable people, the families that I've met back in Australia, and you are remarkable people for choosing to do this work, and I just wanted to say to you on my behalf, on behalf of the Government, but really on behalf of the Australian nation, we value what you're doing and you are in our thoughts.

Can I also say to you many of you would have heard that there is going to be a Parliamentary debate about Afghanistan in this newly created Parliament and some of you might have wondered what that means, what does it mean for the Australian people, does it mean that people are lessening their support for the mission here, and I just want to come today and make it very clear to you that the Parliamentary debate in my view is a very great opportunity, it's a great opportunity to tell the Australian people what you are achieving here. It's a great opportunity to tell them about the mission, it's a great opportunity to tell them about the progress, it's a great opportunity to remind them, though they probably don't need any reminder, of the bravery of the soldiers we have lost and the need to show care and concern for their families, and it is an opportunity to showcase your courage, determination and professionalism on the national stage, and that's certainly what I will be using it for.

So thank you very much for having me here today, and I'm looking forward to talking to people and enjoying lunch together.

Thank you.