8.21am | August 17, 2021



SUBJECTS: Afghanistan.
MATT WORDSWORTH, HOST: Let's bring in our panel, Jenny McAllister and Jason Falinski both join me now. Jason, perhaps WE could start with you. former defence Chief Admiral Chris Barry who led Australia into the war in Afghanistan said Australia was far too slow to evacuate those who helped Australian troops. Is he right?

JASON FALINSKI: No, he's not. And it's really unfortunate that he said that. The fact of the matter is that what we are observing today is that those people who refused to learn from history are doomed to relive it, and I think that what is going on in Afghanistan at the moment is just a tragedy of massive proportions. Particularly, I feel, well, I'm incredibly worried about what this means for women in Afghanistan. One of the things we saw, and it brought tears of joy when then President of Afghanistan was able to open their schools for the first time two girls. All of that is quite potentially lost as of today. This was unnecessary. It was not an active combat zone and let us not forget that Australian troops have been in the Sinai desert for the last 50 years maintaining peace in that region and it was quite possible for the Western allies in the West generally to stay in Afghanistan to ensure that amongst many others, young girls had the same opportunity that men have.

WORDSWORTH: Frightening situation for women and girls in Afghanistan, absolutely. What about the people who helped our forces, men and women, translators, drivers, all of those staff that helped us in the 20 years that we were there, Kevin Rudd has tweeted that it is on the Morrison government's shoulders that they are getting left behind and he has been pleading with Australia to do more for months. Should the Morrison government be doing more and does Australia have a responsibility to do more?
FALINSKI: When will Kevin Rudd ever make a positive contribution to public debate in Australia, that's the real question here. Australia has opened its arms to those people who have assisted us directly and Afghanistan during that time. There were more than 400 translators who as we speak are being transported to Australia and to safety with their families. That's on top of many others we have brought to Australia. Does that mean we have done enough? Who knows the answer to that question, but we have not just outside of Parliament, all sides of parliament are united in making sure as many people who assisted the West in ensuring a better country was built out of the ashes of Afghanistan and out of the ashes of the Taliban 20 years ago was able to maintain that and that those people were brought here to Australia to safety, so that is what this government has been committed to and previous governments have been committed to and that's what we have been executing.

WORDSWORTH: Let's bring in Jenny McAllister. Jenny, the fate of women and girls and Afghanistan obviously is a concern, given what we know about the Taliban, should women and girls be prioritised in the airlifting out of Afghanistan?

SENATOR JENNY MCALLISTER, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR COMMUNITIES AND THE PREVENTION OF FAMILY VIOLENCE: Can I just start by saying how difficult a day this is for many groups in our community. It will be difficult for Afghan Australians, it will be difficult for veterans who served there to see this unfolding and it is a very, very worrying time for women and girls in Afghanistan, there is no doubt about that.

Admiral Barry, I think, is making the point today that there is an immediate crisis and that planning should have been well under way to get the people who worked with our troops in Afghanistan out in the event of an emergency. And frankly these calls have been coming from people like Kevin Rudd but also from the veteran community, from senior military personnel. It is really disappointing that only now are these plans being put into place. I think all Australians hope that it is not too late, that we will be able to help the people who helped us. In terms of women and girls, there are many people, Australian citizens here who have family, dearly loved relatives in Afghanistan, they've been waiting too long in many cases for the applications for family reunion or for partner visas to be granted. It is really time for the Australian government to get stuck into this and to act with some urgency, to bring people to Australia under the humanitarian program who need our protection and are connected with the Afghan Australian community here.

WORDSWORTH: There has been a lot of commentary already obviously today about our role in Afghanistan over the past 20 years, words like futility and defeat. It seems like there is a very kind of sad feeling about the way we've exited the country can get both of you to reflect, perhaps, on what the 20-year war is, in your eyes. Jenny McAllister perhaps they could start with you.

MCALLISTER: The international community sought to do something bigger in Afghanistan, it sought to establish a democratic regime, to establish human rights for women and girls and for minority communities. It's a complex world and not every mission is successful, but it is very, very disappointing to see what is unfolding in the last recent weeks. It will be very disappointing for the Australian servicemen and women who served there, I'm sure.

WORDSWORTH: And Jason, perhaps they could get your reflections?

FALINSKI: Sure, look, the fact of the matter is that human rights are universal. That is that when you are a woman, when you are a man, whether you live in Afghanistan or Australia, you are entitled to the same freedoms, the same fairness, the same hope and opportunity no matter where you are in the Globe. Our mission was driven in Afghanistan around the ideals that those western ideals, the ideals of Western civilisation are universal and that everyone is entitled to access those hopes and those opportunities. The Biden administration's decision to vacate Afghanistan was both unnecessary and has left that country and those people once again under the rule of a vicious and potentially very dangerous group of people. The fact of the matter remains that this was wholly unnecessary and you can criticise as Kevin Rudd has been doing as usual and has helpful way, what Australia has been doing to get people out of the country but the fact is there should not have been any need for people to want to leave the country.

WORDSWORTH: And could I perhaps get you to react to one of the comments by your own current serving parliamentarians, Matt Canavan tweeting, does anyone know whether the Taliban will sign up to net zero?

FALINSKI: Look, I think that’s a moot point, and well, look, he shouldn't have made that comment today, let's be honest, but his point is indeed a broader one and potential could have been left until later.

WORDSWORTH: And Jenny McAllister, can I get your response?

MCALLISTER: I'm actually not going to dignify that comment with a response. It is another exercise in attention seeking and an increasing trend in the Coalition backbench to seek attention by saying outrageous things. I would expect Scott Morrison to make some sort of comment about it at some point.

WORDSWORTH: And just before and let you go, you are obviously both in lockdown, how is the…

FALENSKI: Is at the hair that gives it away?

WORDSWORTH: (LAUGHTER) How has the lockdown experience been?

FALINSKI: Jenny, do you want to go first?

MCALLISTER: Well, Matt, I'm presently on my eighth day of hotel isolation in Canberra waiting for the Parliament to resume, so I have a lot of sympathy for those people who are living alone. It is tough going being by yourself and being inside, but I'm keeping well doing as much yoga as they can and staying on top of my work and that's keeping me busy.

WORDSWORTH: Alright, well I'm glad that are both coping and hopefully can send those good vibes out to everyone in New South Wales and everyone around the country who is in quarantine. Thank you both for your time today.

MCALLISTER: Thanks Matt.