Resolution on Afghanistan
45th ALP National Conference, Sydney, 1 August 2009
Thank you, Mr Chairman. I second the resolution, and I'll make some brief remarks.
I underline how strongly I endorse and support every word of Minister Faulkner's contribution.
I focus briefly on the strategic approach which is reflected by the resolution, reflected by Australian Government policy, and also reflected by the approach of the Obama Administration following its review of its engagement and involvement in Afghanistan pursuant to United Nations Security Council Resolutions.
It is quite clear for all the reasons that Minister Faulkner has outlined, that of course there needs to be a substantial military and combat commitment to Afghanistan.
There is a terrorist and extremist force there that needs to be confronted for all of the reasons that the Minister outlined. It is unambiguously in Australia's national interest for us to take part in that.
But a military or combat enforcement role will not of itself be sufficient. That is why, when we came to office, we reviewed our arrangements in Afghanistan. We very quickly came to the conclusion, which we argued in the relevant international forums, that what was also required was a substantial capacity-building, nation-building, development assistance contribution to Afghanistan.
Not just in terms of training of police, training of army, training the security contingents of the Afghanistan state and people, but also to build their capacity in the civilian area: training of their justice and administration system, in education, and in health. This is essential, in addition to the from time to time the urgent humanitarian contributions which are required in parts of Afghanistan, particularly in the food-related area. So the Government has embarked on a substantial development assistance and nation-building contribution. This is absolutely essential as part of our strategy in Afghanistan.
Australia was one of the first countries to argue, and this has been picked up most recently quite forcefully by Foreign Secretary Milliband, that, at some point in the process, at some point in the cycle, there needs to be, started by the Afghanistan Government, a political reconciliation.
There needs to be a political rapprochement in Afghanistan to ensure that the vast bulk of the Afghan people, who want to take part in the political process in a peaceful way, who don't want to pursue their ideas or their ideals through the barrel of a gun, have the full and appropriate opportunity to engage in that process. What is required is political rapprochement, political reconciliation, to ensure there is a long-term political basis for underpinning peace and security in Afghanistan, to achieve the objective that Minister Faulkner, has outlined, to reduce the capacity of international forces in Afghanistan, to use Afghanistan as a basis for international terrorist purposes.
As Minister Faulkner has had to in recent days deal with the death of one of our soldiers in Afghanistan, so in recent days I went to Jakarta to sit down with Australian officials and family members of Australians who had been killed in the most recent terrorist attack in Jakarta. We know from bitter experience that Australians have been on the receiving end of terrorist attacks, not just in Jakarta, but also in Bali, in the World Trade Centre, and in London.
So the strategy to combat the challenge that we face, the difficult and dangerous challenge in Afghanistan has to be a combat and military enforcement approach. But it also has to be a nation-building and capacity-building approach. But it also needs to be a political reconciliation and political rapprochement response from the Afghanistan Government.