Page 1079 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 25 March 2015

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World War was not the first time Australian forces, albeit the colonial forces, had been involved in global conflict situations; Australians also served in China, New Zealand and South Africa.

But Gallipoli was the first major conflict, a conflict that took 8,709 Australian lives. Australians in the First World War also served in the Middle East and Africa, in Papua New Guinea and in Europe on the Western Front, in France and in Belgium. In total, 61,522 Australians lost their lives in the First World War; 152,284 were wounded. Allied military losses were around six million in total. Central powers’ military losses were around four million. In total, including civilians, around 16 million people lost their lives and around 20 million people were wounded. Little wonder they called it the war to end all wars. If ever there was a demonstration of the great losses that war brings to a society, a country and to families perhaps that was it.

But surely war is never the preferred outcome when resolving conflict between nations. While governments and leaders throughout the decades and centuries have advocated that war is not their preferred option at any particular point in time, it has not stopped them investing in building up their arsenals or positioning themselves in ways that make slipping into war more inevitable.

Australians have served in a number of conflicts since the First World War: the Second World War, the Korean War, the Malayan emergency, the Indonesian confrontation, the Vietnam War, the first Gulf War, the Iraq War, the Afghanistan War and most recently the military intervention against the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, otherwise known as ISIL. Australia has also had peacekeepers in the field with the United Nations continuously for over 50 years. In Indonesia in 1947 Australians were part of the very first group of UN military observers anywhere in the world. A peacekeeper role can include being military observers, police or being involved in humanitarian operations.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of our service women and men over the past 100 years and beyond for their commitment and the sacrifices they have made and continue to make. I want to say thank you to their families, ADF families, for whom life is at best sometimes disjointed and at worst is full of grief and loss for their loved ones. My colleague Christine Milne said recently:

There is no more grave responsibility governments assume than when they commit troops, young men and women, to war and no greater responsibility when those men and women return, often physically or mentally scarred, than to look after them and their families.

Senator Milne’s comments were made on welcoming home Australian ADF personnel from Afghanistan. Forty-one Australian service personnel lost their lives in Afghanistan—41 people who were loved by someone; 41 people who are missed every day. I support her call to wholeheartedly thank those who served in Afghanistan. As she notes in her press release, the Greens actively campaigned against Australian involvement in Afghanistan, but I do not believe that precludes us from thanking those who served at the behest of their government, even while disagreeing with the government decision that sent them.

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