I join the fine words of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
Many of us in this place 20 years ago remember vividly the debate that took place; the presentation given by Prime Minister Howard after having been in the United States at the time of the strike against America, with those planes going into the World Trade Centre.
Our nation felt it deeply at the time and anybody in this Chamber, and many thousands around the country, can recall where they were at the time of that attack. It was an attack on us, as it was on America, our allies and those that share our values around the world.
Mr Speaker, we took the right decision to go into Afghanistan. We took the right decision over a long period of time to stay in Afghanistan and there are many to whom we owe a very significant debt: Sergeant Andrew Russell, Trooper David Pearce, Sergeant Matthew Locke, Private Luke Worsley, Lance Corporal Jason Marks, Signaller Sean McCarthy, Lieutenant Michael Fussell, Private Gregory Michael Sher, Corporal Mathew Ricky Andrew Hopkins, Sergeant Brett Ian Till, Private Benjamin Ranaudo, Sapper Jacob Daniel Moerland, Sapper Darren James Smith, Private Timothy James Aplin, Private Benjamin Chuck, Private Scott Travis Palmer, Private Nathan Bewes, Trooper Jason Thomas Brown, Private Tomas Dale, Private Grant Walter Kirby, Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney, Corporal Richard Edward Atkinson, Sapper Jamie Ronald Larcombe, Sergeant Brett Wood, Lance Corporal Andrew Jones, Lieutenant Marcus Sean Case, Sapper Rowan Robinson, Sergeant Todd Matthew Langley, Private Matthew Lambert, Captain Bryce Duffy, Corporal Ashley Birt, Lance Corporal Luke Gavin, Sergeant Blaine Diddams, Lance Corporal Stjepan Milosevic, Sapper James Martin, Private Robert Poate, Lance Corporal Mervyn McDonald, Private Nathanael Galagher, Corporal Scott James Smith, Corporal Cameron Stuart Baird, Lance Corporal Todd Chidgey, and the 39,000 who have served in our country's name in Afghanistan deserve our honour.
There is an enormous amount that we've learnt from our battles in Afghanistan. We have learnt to treat the members of the Australian Defence Force better; to recognise the hurt, the pain and the suffering that the loved ones of the names that I've just read endure to this very day, and will for the rest of their lives, but it is important for us to recognise that their sacrifice has made a significant difference to the lives of those in Afghanistan; a generation of young women and girls who otherwise would have faced certain brutality, and there are many other gains that we've recognised.
I want to say thank you very much to the serving men and women of the Australian Defence Force and our other agencies in Afghanistan, in Kabul, right now. The stories of bravery will become obvious to Australians over the coming days and weeks. The stories that have been recounted to me already and the way in which those officers are saving lives now should keep every Australian in the safe knowledge that we are proudly and honourably served by those men and women. Their courage continues, and continue it must.
We took very sage advice from the Chief of the Defence Force only a couple of months ago to withdraw our people from the embassy and from Afghanistan. We were ahead of the game in the sense we were criticised at the time, but it was the right thing to do. And at the same time with the surge of activity we were able to bring out people who had provided support to us, who had saved Australian lives over the course of these two decades and that work continues today and Mr Speaker, we will make sure that we dedicate ourselves to helping those that have helped us.
But we are a better country for the way in which we have adhered, once again, to our values and to our beliefs and we do those a great service who have worn the uniform in our country’s name over many, many generations.
We stand proudly with the United States and our other allies today and every day into the future because we fight for what is good and what is right and that is what is demanded of our country.