Stephen Smith MP
Minister for Defence
I extend my best wishes and season’s greetings to you and your families.
Since becoming Defence Minister in September, I have had the pleasure of meeting a range of Defence personnel, both here and overseas.
Two weeks into my term as Defence Minister, I visited Australian troops serving in Afghanistan. This helped me gain a better understanding of the conditions that our personnel are facing on the ground. We have great pride in the men and women who are working hard every day to help bring about the peace and stability of a country that needs the international community’s assistance.
Australian Defence Force personnel are also playing a significant role in peacekeeping missions in our region and further afield. We have ADF members serving in East Timor, the Solomon Islands and Sudan.
Over the past year, the ADF has also delivered life saving humanitarian and emergency assistance to the people of Haiti, Fiji and Pakistan, building on a proud tradition of humanitarian response to disasters in our region and beyond.
As I travel around bases and sites in Australia, I am impressed by the commitment, focus and professionalism of the men and women who work in Defence, both military and civilian.
In a speech to the House of Representatives on 25 November I placed on record my thanks to the men and women of Defence including the Chief of the Defence Force Angus Houston and the Secretary of the Department Ian Watt for the invaluable work you do in Australia’s national security interests.
For most of us the festive season is a time spent with family and loved ones. At this time, we keep in our thoughts those who are on duty abroad in Afghanistan, the Middle East, Egypt, Iraq, Sudan, the Solomon Islands and East Timor. Australia is thankful for your service, as it is thankful to all those who serve the nation’s defence. You are part of a proud Australian tradition going back more than a century and its importance does not diminish.
Christmas will of course be a very difficult time for 21 families who will be reminded that their loved one – a son, father, husband or partner – is not with them. For 10 families this will be a terrible time because it will be the first Christmas where their loved one will be missing.
We honour and remember the brave young Australians who have lost their lives serving their country. Our eternal gratitude continues and the nation’s thoughts are with their families and friends at this time.
I wish all the members of Defence and their families a peaceful Christmas and a safe and happy new year. I look forward to a productive 2011 and to working with you to meet the challenges of the year ahead.