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Afghanistan? We're against it, sort of

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31 October 2012 16:04

It's not often you hear Australia's combative Opposition Leader Tony Abbott be this generous to the Government:

I rise to support the comprehensive statement of the Prime Minister and I welcome this chance to express the Coalition’s support...

 ...I welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment...

I thank the Prime Minister for the very full account she has given...

It’s to the credit of the Rudd and Gillard governments that they have maintained their predecessors’ commitment and were even prepared to strengthen it...

Those four quotes all come from a single 1500-word speech about Afghanistan, a topic on which the Government and Opposition are in lock-step. The speech was the Opposition Leader's response to the Prime Minister's parliamentary statement on Afghanistan, both delivered to the House of Representatives today.

This fulsome agreement is notable not only because it is so rare across the dispatch box, but also because it comes in the face of resolute opposition from the Australian public. In the 2012 Lowy Institute poll, 65% of Australians said Australia should not continue to be militarily involved in Afghanistan.

But as the graph from the Lowy poll shows, opposition to our involvement in the war has been strong for some years, yet our political leaders have maintained their steadfast support for our military involvement. That's probably because they know something we prefer not to tell ourselves, which is that, although we say we're against the war, we don't really care enough to punish the politicians who choose to ignore the majority view.

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