Remarks to Australian Troops in Afghanistan
SUN 14 OCTOBER 2012
Tarin Kot, Afghanistan
Thank you very much and thank you for gathering like this.
I’ve actually come here from being in Bali for the ten year commemoration of the bombing on 12 October. And I just wanted to talk to you about that because I think it’s so meaningful to what’s happening here in Afghanistan today.
We got families, survivors together to go to Bali for the ten years. And I had the opportunity to meet with people who could tell me a story about how they were dancing at the Sari nightclub, didn’t like the song that came on, left the dance floor, and if they had made a difference decision, if they had kept dancing, then they would be dead today because the people they were dancing with died.
I met people who can show you the scars of the burns that are on their arms and talk about how long they were in the pressure suit to get over it.
I talked to a girl who is 22 years old now. She was 12 in Bali, her sister died and she got separated from her father and was there just rattling around at the hotel they were staying at trying to find someone and trying to work out what was going on.
And when you think about those stories then they really add up to something very powerful about what terrorism is. About how it hits people, people who are just doing everyday things. Hundreds of thousands of people go to Bali each year, I think around 900,000 Australians will go there this year.
And they go, and they go to the beach and they shop and they go the nightclubs and they go to the restaurants, just such an ordinary thing to do. And that in one flash, one second, everything ordinary can be destroyed and people for the rest of their lives are either grieving for someone they’ve lost, or they are recovering from the injuries either physical or psychological, or both.
We know that for the Bali bombing and for the more than 100 Australians who have lost their lives in terrorist attacks since 9/11, that each of those attacks had a link to Afghanistan.
Each of those attacks involved someone who had been trained here; trained in bomb making, trained in the ways of terrorism.
And so it was fighting global terror that brought us here and that global terror had taken Australian lives. And we came here to make sure that never again would we see terrorists trained who came and took Australian lives.
Now it’s one thing to define a mission, it’s another thing to come and do it. And you are the people who come and do it, and it’s really hard to do; really hard to do in every way.
The amount of time you are separated from family, the living conditions, the absence of hot showers, I’ve been briefed on that – I did say I thought that’s a bit harsh, but you know, the Commander is the Commander – the absence of hot showers.
But then the really big things that you confront including the loss of some of your mates, and you’ve had to confront that over the recent period, including losses that have involved insider attacks so difficult emotionally and in every way.
It’s one thing to understand that we need the mission, it’s another thing to be the people who come and do it.
And so one reason I’m here today is just to say a big thank you to you on behalf of the Australian nation for everything that you do.
We understand how hard it is. You understand that better than we do, but I think the Australian nation has an insight into your lives here and has an insight into how tough it is, and they are full of admiration for the way that you’ve kept going even when it’s been really, really tough.
The other reason I’ve come here today, to Afghanistan, both here and to briefings in Kabul, is to make sure that at my level, at the Government level, we are across everything that is happening with the transition and we are thinking about the days beyond.
We are doing the planning now, not only for how transition will roll out, but how our engagement will be here in the days that lie beyond 2014. So I wanted to be in country to do some of that work and that’s very important to our future planning.
You know that the mission is in days of change, that we are moving through the transition process, and that is bringing change. It’s bringing change as we move to a training, advise and assist mission. It will bring more change as we go through 2013 and into 2014.
And we will be thinking and developing those plans for change alongside of course the senior leadership of the ADF. But we also want to be here so we can listen to you about how you think things are going and what insights you’ve got as we go about that planning.