Motions - Afghanistan

23 August 2021


Like so many of my fellow South Australians, I have struggled to process the images coming out of Afghanistan—images of desperation; of fear; of helplessness; of people clinging to the outside of a departing aircraft, people for whom we know that extremely perilous action represents a better option than staying behind; of the crush of people in Kabul airport desperate for safe passage to a safer future. The most haunting of images are those of children, little boys and girls clutching their parents with looks of grief and confusion on their faces—adult emotions that should never find their way into the hearts of children. Of course, these images tell only one part of the story, the story we can see.

These are devastating scenes. This is devastating for the Afghan people. It is devastating for the Australians who remained there. It is devastating for those who worked with us over many years who are yet to escape, who fear what awaits them if they are left behind. And it is certainly devastating for our veteran community, those who served and sacrificed, and the families who loved them. Today I associate myself with the remarks made by Senator Wong, on behalf of the Australian Labor Party, and the remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition in the other place. Importantly, on behalf of the people of South Australia, who I represent, I want to express our solidarity with the Afghan Australian community in our state, with their friends, family and loved ones who are deeply traumatised by these events.

Much will be said over the days, weeks, months and years ahead about the decisions taken that have led to the scenes we are seeing in Afghanistan. There is much to reflect on, including what this means for human rights, for women and girls especially; for democracy; for our national security; and for the world. Today, as we watch this crisis unfold in real time, I will say this: the Australian government must do absolutely everything in its power to ensure that every friend of Australia who supported us in Afghanistan can get out safely. The government must ensure that the Australians left behind can get home, and it must respond compassionately and generously to those who need a safe, permanent home. The interagency team on the ground in Kabul has an incredibly difficult task before it, a task made harder because of the decisions and the delays of this government. We are grateful for the work of this team so far, and we are watching your efforts anxiously.

I know the people of my state of South Australia would support me in saying we stand by our friends in Afghanistan. We stand by those who helped Australians. We stand by our fellow citizens and by our friends, family and loved ones still there. We stand by our veteran community and the families who loved them, and we honour all of those who made the greatest sacrifice—the 41 Australians fallen.