Stephen Smith MP
Minister for Defence
QUESTION: A short time ago I spoke to the Defence Minister Stephen Smith. He told me he didn’t see Kelvin Thompson’s position as breaking party ranks.
STEPHEN SMITH: The Government’s view, and I share it very strongly, is that it is appropriate for the Government of the day to make a judgement about whether troops should be committed on our behalf to war and, of course, the Government of the day is determined in the House of Representatives.
It is always open to the House of Representatives, as it has occurred in the past, to reject that decision or to reject the Government of the day’s handling of a conflict. So that’s just an issue in respect to which the Government disagrees with not just Kelvin, but with other Members of Parliament who have put a similar view.
QUESTION: The Prime Minister has obviously set the tone for this debate. When you hear an MP with a solid military pedigree such as Andrew Wilkie speak from the heart, as he did yesterday, does that make any kind of impression in policy terms?
STEPHEN SMITH: Andrew Wilkie gave a speech which in content terms or in policy terms I disagree with but it was a very fine Parliamentary contribution. Very many of the Members of Parliament have made the point that irrespective of one’s view about the strategy or the policy approach one wears one’s heart on one’s sleeve when we’re dealing with people who have been killed on our behalf and their grieving families.
QUESTION: Minister, we’re reporting that almost one quarter of votes in the Afghan elections have been falsified. It amounts to this, doesn’t it, that if you leave prematurely the country remains unstable, but if you stay indefinitely you’re propping up a fundamentally corrupt Government. That sounds like a no-win situation.
STEPHEN SMITH: Well the Karzai Government has been re-elected but for a fixed term and we hope that at the next Parliamentary and Presidential elections a couple of things will occur. Firstly, that the security circumstances will be better so that we don’t have to rely upon very serious security arrangements to enable people to cast a vote, but secondly, the integrity of the ballot system will be enhanced.
I have made the point both in respect of the parliamentary elections and in respect of the presidential elections that we look very much to, as does the international community, substantial improvements to a whole range of things in governance terms: corruption, narcotics, the rights of people, in particular women and girls in terms of education, also in electoral matters.
So we expect to see substantial improvement but no-one is asserting or suggesting that there aren’t substantial difficulties in Afghanistan at the governance level.
We do not want to be there indefinitely which is why all of our efforts are aimed at transitioning to the Afghan authorities to enable them to manage their own affairs, including governance or electoral matters.
Printer Friendly Version