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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 4 Hansard (1 April) . . Page.. 1174 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

This war should not be about oil, money or Rumsfeld's stock portfolio. This war is about people. Soldiers on all sides are dying and being injured; civilians, women and children are being killed and maimed. And to Mr Howard we must say, "There is blood on your hands."

MR PRATT (4.45): Mr Speaker, I rise to speak on behalf of the servicemen and their families who live in this town and across Australia; I rise to speak on behalf of my Iraqi, Kurdish and Arab friends; and I rise to speak on behalf of just-thinking people in this country who know that what has got to be done has to be done.

I respect the Chief Minister's point of view and I respect the fact that this is a fairly complex debate. There are many shades of grey as to what is right and what is wrong. I think it is good that people can talk about peace and the horrors of war, and have the right to march in support of those ideals-and thank God we can. I have no truck with those people, although I do have concerns about the hardcore extremists, the political hacks, who have hijacked the peace movement and its marches for other means. One must question whether those people really have the best interests of the Iraqis at heart.

Mr Speaker, to call for the troops to come home now that they are committed is really to pull the carpet from beneath their feet. To say that the troops must come home is an expression of no confidence in them; it is an expression of no confidence in the motives of the Australian contingent that has been deployed to Iraq; it is an expression of no confidence in the professionalism of those men and women, their practices, and the way they are conducting themselves.

Comments calling for our troops to come home are comments which comfort the Iraqi regime, and the troops know that. Our soldiers scattered throughout the western desert of Iraq and now moving up to the fringes of Baghdad know that the comments they see via email or mail at some stage comfort the Iraqi regime.

Mr Speaker, at the moment our servicemen and women are lucky to get by with two to three hours sleep a night. They have been going flat out for 10 to 12 days. They are operating under severe conditions. They are operating well, they are operating professionally, and they are pursuing this country's intention of absolutely seeking not to cause civilian casualties. They are operating in a very professional and a very ethical way. They do not need the sorts of political pressures that have been espoused in the Chief Minister's ministerial statement. We should not distract them from their duty and they must understand that this country is entirely behind them.

It is illogical to take an extreme anti-war position and to then say that we support our troops. It does not work. The troops know that these are not statements of support for the very difficult duties that they are carrying out. The troops on the ground are also being condemned by the extreme language that is being used to condemn the government and our allies. The maintenance of morale of our people operating in harm's way is extremely important, as is ensuring that as a country and as a community we support the troops' families at home. It is also extremely important that we show respect and support for ADF personnel at home. We must ensure that as high as possible morale is maintained in these difficult times. The sorts of statements we have heard from the Chief Minister do not do that cause any justice.

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