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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 04 Hansard (Wednesday, 25 March 2015) . . Page.. 1080 ..

I guess it will not come as a surprise to members here today that, while acknowledging the sacrifices by our Australian Defence Force personnel and the service they have given, I would like to spend some time talking about the making of peace. Indeed, I am sure that many of our service men and women who have seen active service and have witnessed the horrors and the damage that war can bring to people, their countries, their arts and culture and their environment would compel us to always be thinking about how we can make better peace.

At the heart of Greens’ values are four pillars which form the underpinnings of Green parties around the world. One of those four pillars is non-violence, which speaks to the value of rejecting violence as a means to overcoming opponents. In policy terms, the Greens are advocating that we think much more about making peace than avoiding the escalation of violence. Non-violence is necessarily about being passive. It is, at its core, specifically the absence of violence, a choice to do no harm or least harm. It is clear to me that to practise non-violence is a very difficult thing for people to do, and equally difficult for governments. But one lesson to take from the theories of non-violence is that violence rarely resolves conflicts for the better or with a positive outcome.

On that note I would like to take a moment here to thank all those who work hard to make peace. They can be both peace activists and political leaders, and their work often goes unseen. But they are focused on finding a better way besides armed conflict, and for all the conflicts that might have been entered into there must be many that did not eventuate due to the work of those who seek peace. They often have a thankless task as, by arguing for different approaches, often at times of great national tension, they are often painted as cowards by the media and by others who cannot imagine a different outcome. But I believe that, on the contrary, peace activists often show great courage as they speak out.

I would like to make one further point about our commemorations of war and how they impact on our collective understanding and experience of war and peace. This is an issue explored in a discussion paper by Professor Joy Damousi on how our emotional response to war can stop us having a critical and political analysis of war.

It is noticeable in the active and growing commemoration of Anzac Day that, in parallel, a somewhat mythical perspective of our Anzac diggers has developed, yet many of our young people have not been actively exposed close up to the horrors of war or the political context in which they occur. It is noticeable in the United States, where the death toll from the Iraq War was substantial and where the community was affected by family and friends returning with damaged bodies and damaged minds, that the appetite for engagement in further conflict is very much diminished.

Perhaps that was why we saw such protests at the time of the Vietnam War, because those who had lived through the Second World War remembered the grim realities and the extensive impact that war has on a generation of lives. It is very important that, through education and analysis, the decision-makers and the community do not remove themselves from the grim realities, that we are also able to critically assess other options and that those are part of the public debate and part of our public policy.

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