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Sunday 20 Aug 2017 | 20:36 | SYDNEY

Defence Minister's Lowy speech

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16 July 2010 13:30

Defence Minister John Faulkner has just left the Lowy Institute, having delivered a speech about Afghanistan. A transcript will be posted as soon as possible, and there will be audio and video available next week.

Afghanistan has hotted up as a debate topic on The Interpreter just lately (and there is much more to come), so I used the contributions we have received from Soldier Z and Soldier X in my question to Senator Faulkner. In their posts, Z and X both lamented the lack of strategic guidance from Government. These are the lines I quoted back to the Minister. Here's Z:

Curious Australians, however, will not find any substantive written policy statement on Afghanistan in the public domain...Australian policy for Afghanistan has been made by press conference and press release, first by Howard and then mimicked by Rudd in 2009.

And this is X:

We are soldiers, and we are asking to be led. We have chosen this life, and when directed, we shall go willingly to war. We recognise that every time we enter combat we may not be valiantly defending Australian soil. But if we are to stand in the dust; if we are to take life and have it taken from us; and if we are to bury our friends; then all we ask is that our government articulate its strategy and lead us.

I asked the Minister if the Government had any plans to release a comprehensive national strategy statement on Afghanistan. While he never directly answered this question, it is fair to say that his response was passionate. He pointed in particular to his regular Ministerial Statements to the parliament, which he described as 'comprehensive, substantial, detailed and frank'. He also described his commitment to openness and transparency, and argued that, as Defence Minister, he had set standards in this area that were likely to be maintained by the next minister.

There's much more to say about the speech, including on a terse exchange between Faulkner and the Lowy Institute's Whit Mason, regarding this op-ed about the ADF's rules of engagement in Afghanistan. More on that soon.

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