PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 22372

Address to Australian Defence Force and Police personnel Camp Phoenix, Dili, East Timor

Photo of Howard, John

Howard, John

Period of Service: 11/03/1996 to 03/12/2007

More information about Howard, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 18/07/2006

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 22372

Well thank you very much Brigadier, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, the Chief of the Defence Force, the men and women of the Australian Defence Force, and the men and women of the Australian Federal Police, and the various state police forces that have contributed so magnificently. I simply want to say to all of you on behalf of your fellow Australians how very proud we are of the way in which you have carried out your task here in East Timor over the last two months.

This was a more hazardous and more strategically dangerous mission than many people wrote it to be. And the uncertainty that surrounded the early days of the operation required not only superb military, and in time policing skills, but also required a combination of things that Australians do so well. We're very good at, in a sensible, prudent way, projecting military power and capability, but we also understand that the essence of a successful military operation is winning the respect and the understanding and the support of the civilian population. And just as I have been, on other occasions, I've been mightily impressed in the time that I have spent here today in being reminded of the great efforts that all of you have undertaken to win the affection and the support, the hearts and minds they call it, of the people of East Timor.

This is a tiny country. There's a long historic bond between the fighting men of Australia in World War II and the people of East Timor and there's a shared sense of affection that has never been forgotten by the successive generations of Australians. And what you've done over the past two months is greatly to your credit. We are all immensely proud of you, we are all greatly in your debt and you brought hope to one million people who don't have the sort of life that we have in Australia, but aspire to have that kind of life and that kind of freedom.

I'd like to pay a particular tribute to the chief commanding officers of the operation. I want to congratulate Brigadier Mick Slater, who I met before, who's been a very, and continues to be, a very distinguished officer who's done a wonderful job in leading the ADF contingent. And I pay a great tribute to you, Mick, for your skill. And can I say, I know a lot of you come from Townsville, I was talking to your local member Peter Lindsay this morning and he asked me to say hello to all the people from Townsville here.

Can I also single out Commander Steve Lancaster. I know there have been some Air Force games played with his name, but I want to congratulate him and the men and women of the police services, the AFP and the state police services. You have really been an integral part of this operation. As the time goes by the role and the importance of police will only grow and once again you've brought that special Australian ability to mix authority with understanding and compassion. That's one of the things that does make us as a people, as a nation different, and it's one of the reasons that we do these kind of operations rather more successfully than many others.

I know that the men and women of the Royal Australian Air Force, will be delighted to know that that F-111 that took off from Amberley and lost a wheel earlier today, has successfully completed, after it had dumped all its fuel, has successfully completed a wheels up landing back at Amberley with no scratches, a few sparks, some sensational footage for the TV networks tonight, but we're all relieved that that has happened and we are all very, very proud of the professionalism and skill of the pilots of the Royal Australian Air Force.

I know that you're missing your wives and sweethearts and children and parents and brothers and mates and friends, and that's not easy. We don't intend to be here forever, and in time there'll be a rebalancing and a scaling down of the operation, but I have been greatly heartened indeed inspired by the enthusiasm that all of you have brought, in the things that you said to me today; all of you brought to this operation.

You are Australia's finest and you make us all feel very proud and on behalf of a grateful nation and a nation that admires the military forces and the police services of our country a great deal, I say thank you for what you've done for the people of East Timor. I say thank you for the credit that you have brought to the name of Australia and the credit that you have brought to your respective services.

Thank you very much.

[ends]

Transcript 22372