Coming soon: a report on the Q&A with the Australian Sex Party’s Fiona Patten at La Trobe University this week. But first …
This week saw the first Parliamentary debate on Australia’s involvement in Afghanistan. This was one of the key elements in the Labor Party’s agreement with the Greens, and welcomed by Independents Andrew Wilkie and Rob Oakeshott. Thanks to the wonders of technology, anyone who cares to has been able to follow the debate.
Most of the speakers are fairly predictable. This is a ‘just war’, we have to ‘stay the course’, etc. There were a few highlights, though. Julia Gillard kicked off the proceedings by announcing that our troops would be in Afghanistan until at least 2014, and that Australia would likely be ‘engaged’ there for the rest of the decade. Tony Abbott urged us to be careful that we didn’t execute a de facto ‘Western takeover’. Sussan Ley, unexpectedly, called for future military engagements to be subject to a Parliamentary vote. Adam Bandt said we should get our troops out as soon as possible, and Andrew Wilkie nearly broke down while reading the names of every Australian soldier killed while serving in Afghanistan to date.
It can be enlightening to hear what our politicians have to say on the matter – especially when, in effect, they’re committing us to the longest war we have yet participated in, outstripping the Vietnam conflict.
But what about the rest of us? You know, us – the ‘Australian public’, the ones our politicians are supposed to listen to and represent. We’ve heard a lot this week about what ‘Australians want’, mostly from people who, I suspect, neither know nor care what we do want.
So let’s have our own mini-debate. Let’s talk about why we’re in Afghanistan.
What are we hoping to achieve?
Have our objectives changed over the years?
Should we have gone there in the first place?
Are we really ‘denying terrorists a safe haven’?
Do we have the right to impose our political system on another country?
Should we talk to the Taliban and other factional powers in the region, instead of propping up the increasingly shaky and corrupt Karzai government?
What if our actions there are making the situation worse?
And what about next time?
Please, encourage people to add their feelings, engage with each other – get a real discussion going. This may be only one small forum, but it’s a forum that wants to hear what everyone thinks.