“… of course full debate should be encouraged, there should be frankness and transparency about our progress in Afghanistan.”

So said Senator John Faulkner this morning at yet another press conference announcing the latest soldier to die in Afghanistan, the third Australian soldier killed in just four days.

Of course, we didn’t have it. The debate, that is. Like so many issues during the election campaign about nothing, this conversation fell off a cliff — except for one day of the campaign, in which both major party candidates attended the funeral of soldier Nathan Bewes.

Post-campaign, we’re quickly learning, it’s a whole new world, and at least one politician agrees with Senator Faulkner on the debate point.

Enter Independent Andrew Wilkie.

Here’s the man almost certainly set to be the new member for Denison, and the fourth independent in our increasingly complicated minor government line-up, this morning:

“We certainly do need a debate about why we’re there … And one of the great lies, one of the big lies of this federal election campaign — a lie told by both the Labor Party and the Liberal Party — is that we have to be there to fight terrorists for Australia’s national security. And that became a lie years ago once the global extremist Islamic threat morphed into a network around the world …

If Western forces — the US in particular — had stayed [in Afghanistan] in 2002 and finished the job we wouldn’t be there now, but instead they raced off to invade Iraq and to prepare to invade Iraq …

… So people are dying now in Afghanistan, including our soldiers, unnecessarily because of the decisions of the Howard government back in 2002.

… Ultimately, we have to get out as quickly as we can and let Afghanistan find its own natural political level. And a lot of people will die in the process.”

One thing’s for sure, Wilkie’s presence on the scene is set to ensure this issue isn’t going away, even if the deaths don’t.


Caretaker government? Deals with independents? Undecided seats? This is complicated. Stay informed on all things Hung (over) 2010 here.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey