Australia’s first parliamentary debate on its nine year military presence in Afghanistan got underway this afternoon.
It’s set to run for several days and will give all 226 members and senators the chance to speak.
Phoebe Parsons reports.
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The debate led by Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott aims to voice opinions from all sides of politics at a time when public opinion remains divided on troop deployment.
The debate marks a shift in Australian politics whereby minor parties now have the power to push their agenda onto a national level.
Adam Bandt, Greens MP: “We’re putting troops in harms way where there’s no clear exit strategy.”
Helen Kroger, Liberal Senator: “It’s not in Australia’s DNA to cut and run.”
The Greens have long been fighting for a debate appealing the removal of troops despite their leader not having visited Afghanistan alongside Prime Minister Gillard.
Bob Brown, Greens Leader: “I’m a little bit wary about saying you’ve got to go to Afghanistan to be able to take part in the political debate. I don’t think that is so.”
Questions over the country’s ongoing commitment to the war have been raised after three Australian soldiers were charged over a raid in February which killed six civilians.
The Australian Defence Force says it’s gone to unprecedented lengths to provide support.
Angus Houston, Defence Force Chief: “Consistent with the presumption of innocence I assure you that the members charged are receiving the full support of the Australian Defence Force.”
Phoebe Parsons, QUT news.