Adam Bandt: My question is to the Minister for Defence. Given that one of the oft-stated rationales for our involvement in Afghanistan is the propping up of the Karzai government, is the government concerned about the reported level of corruption, to the highest levels of the Karzai government, and does the government agree with US General David Petraeus’s reported comment that the Afghan government is a ‘criminal syndicate’?
Stephen Smith: I thank the member for his question. The very clear rationale for Australia’s involvement in Afghanistan is that it is in our national interest to be so involved. It is in our national interest to support a United Nations mandated International Security Assistance Force—a coalition of 47 countries mandated by the United Nations. That coalition, including our alliance partner the United States, seeks to stare down international terrorism. These issues will no doubt be very broadly and widely debated by parliament in the days ahead.
Let me come precisely to the question that the member has raised in respect of the Karzai government. As members of the House might recall, both before and after the recent presidential election which saw President Karzai re-elected, I said very clearly on a number of occasions that Australia, the Australian government, the International Security Assistance Force and the international community expected to see considerable and substantive improvement from whatever Afghan government emerged from that presidential election process, whether it was a re-elected Karzai government or some other government. We expected to see substantial improvement on corruption, on governance and on human rights issues, in particular the treatment of women and girls, especially when it came to matters like education. I said that on behalf of the Australian government and on behalf of Australia, both domestically and internationally. I said that before President Karzai faced the election and after his re-election. The position of Australia and the position of the Australian government has not changed one iota in that respect.