Six politicians hit the ground running for a whirlwind tour of the Middle East as part of the 2016 Australian Defence Force Parliamentary Program (ADFPP).
Senator Hon. Jacinta Collins, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, Senator Sue Lines, Ann Sudmalis MP, Andrew Broad MP and Andrew Laming MP travelled to the Middle East region and Afghanistan to spend time with units and meet deployed troops from January 20 to 27.
The ADFPP gives participants a chance to live and work with the men and women of the ADF and gain insight into how Defence capability meets the Government’s strategic aims.
The exposure also helps parliamentarians understand the ADF and enables them to participate in a more informed and constructive debate on Defence issues of national security and budgetary expenditure.
Mrs Sudmalis, Federal Member for Gilmore, said the ADFPP was important for her because she was also a member of the backbench committee for Defence and Veterans Affairs and had a strong affinity for the men and women of the ADF.
“I wanted to gain a better insight into how they work and see if there is anything we can possibly improve,” she said.
The parliamentary team visited the Camp Baird command and logistic base, the Air Task Group’s main operating base and ADF personnel working at several locations in Afghanistan.
Mrs Sudmalis said the trip to Afghanistan was especially informative.
“It was insightful to realise a high level of security we need to maintain for Afghans while being able to increase our humanitarian aid,” she said.
“We can’t have one without the other.
“If the Afghans don’t have good security forces trained to look after themselves, other nations can’t assist them with humanitarian aid because they will be at risk.”
Senator Hanson-Young, from South Australia, said the Afghanistan visit provided a different view of the region to one she had experienced before.
“I have previously visited the Middle East with the United Nations and its partner agencies, particularly in relation to the humanitarian efforts being conducted across the region,” she said.
“The country is still in a fragile state and I don’t think everyone at home realises there is still a war going on or Australia is still involved.
“Although we are not in a combat role, there are still pro and anti-government forces and others in between, which means the situation for civilians is still very dangerous.
“It seems clearer than ever that if we lose focus on Afghanistan and getting the contributions we need from nations across the globe to ensure there is a proper rebuild and humanitarian effort, life will still be difficult there.”