The Defence Minister and CDF with copybook perfection in responding to constituents
Thursday, 31 October 2013
This is the way to respond to people who care enough about an issue to write to a leader - like the Minister for Defence or the Chief of the Defence Force.
The issue raised by our correspondent is the understandably emotion-charged question about what to do with the commemorative wall that records the names of men killed in action by our Islamist enemy in Oruzgan.
Both Senator Johnson and the Chief of the Defence Force engage directly on the correspondent's note with personal touches to prove it. Yes it takes time and if an issue generates a huge volume of correspondence so be it - that's why leaders get paid so much.
When a leader insults people with a chain note that's clumsy and clearly doesn't come close to addressing the note it pretends to reply to, the leader invites closer scrutiny of every bit of his performance.
But these notes today are a pleasure to read and they inspire confidence in the leaders who wrote them.
From: "Horton, Rebecca (Sen D. Johnston)"
Date: 30 October 2013 3:42:13 pm AEDT
Subject: Tarin Kot memorial
Dear Mr xxxxx,
The Minister has just read your email and he has asked me to respond on his behalf. He wanted to send on to you a personal response from General David Hurley, the Chief of the Defence Force, as he has just returned from Tarin Kot with him. General Hurley’s explanation is outlined below and is self-explanatory.
David has also asked me to pass on his very best wishes to you and thanks you for your service to our great nation.
On behalf of Minister Johnston
The wall in question is not Australian property. It bears the names of 112 soldiers KIA from four countries listed chronologically by year of death, and not grouped by country, of which the US is the largest number.
The wall would not represent a uniquely Australian memorial if it was returned to Australia.
It would also be presumptuous of me to believe that I could bring the wall to Australia on my own account and deny the families of the fallen from our allies the opportunity to visit the wall in their own country. We have consulted with the countries involved and all agree that destruction is the appropriate course.
The imagery on the walls, in addition to the names of the fallen, bears the symbols and badges of the armed forces of five countries. Again, it is not in my gift to unilaterally decide to return these items to Australia.
The wall is about 25m wide and consists of 12 reinforced concrete T walls (blast protection walls) weighing several tonnes that are not designed for transportation once cast and positioned.
In conjunction with the AWM, the ADF has already arranged to return to Australia a number of significant memorials or elements of memorials from Tarin Kot and elsewhere, noting that we have memorials in Kabul, Tarin Kot, Kandahar and Al Minhad. Importantly we are bringing back the memorial plinth from Tarin Kot which is normally the focus of memorial ceremonies and where wreaths are laid.
There will be sufficient and appropriate places for our servicemen and women to conduct commemorative services in the future. Earlier this year a National Afghanistan Memorial was opened in North Queensland. The AWM will in time include a permanent display on the Afghanistan War and our fallen are listed in the AWM in line with our tradition. I fully expect that in time a memorial reflecting our participation in the Afghanistan War will be erected on ANZAC Parade and become the focus of memorial services in a manner similar to the Vietnam memorial.
Media Adviser I Senator the Hon David Johnston
Minister for Defence I Senator for Western Australia