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Young Afghanistan veteran's maiden speech to the House of Representatives - what an inspiration

Thanks to Jeff of FNQ for the tip - I'm so pleased you let me know about this extraordinary young man.

This is Phillip Thompson OAM MP with his maiden speech to our parliament.

It's one of the greatest I can recall.

You can read it in full in today's Hansard - appropriately it's Page One!

 

 

Phillip Thompson OAM MP used his his first words in the parliament to thank Australia's current and former defence force members.

He spoke from the heart about "Our brothers who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service of this nation" and remembered our many veterans who have succumbed to their wounds back here on home soil.

Still in his opening lines Mr Thompson spoke of his pride and love for our democratic way of life -  a way of life he defended by putting his own life on the line.

Phillip said the sense of duty he felt as an Australian infantryman has never left him.  The motto of our major infantry formation - The Royal Australian Regiment - is Duty First.   Mr Thompson brings that same infantryman’s ethos to his parliamentary duties.

These are his core values:

  • protecting the Australian way of life, 
  • freedom of speech, 
  • family and 
  • reward for effort

 

What a marvellous list of things to say so early in his speech - particularly when we've come to expect rote recitations of welcome to country and the like from our plastic, cloned MPs.

This bloke is not your average new MP at all. Phillip Thompson is no show-pony.  He had every reason to play up his aboriginal “specialness” - but he didn’t.  Nor did he denigrate or criticise aboriginal people -  or lament special benefits to curry favour with one part of his electorate over another.  

Instead, after first talking about 10 prioritity issues for his work in Parliament - ranging from working for our defence people to freedom-of-speech - he seamlessly moved on to a description of the beauty of his electorate, including gems like Magnetic Island.

Only then did he naturally and seamlessly talk about the iconic aboriginal community on the “Great Palm Island”. He was completely devoid of tokenism - for him talking about the aboriginal communities which are a part of his north Queensland seat was just like talking about everything and everyone else in the electorate.  He promised to ensure those communities - through him - would have a strong voice in Canberra.  And he moved on!

I was so impressed that there was no cheap point scoring, no scrambling for proof of his diversity credentials, no separate history lesson and no pretence about current day guilt for past injustices.  Most importantly there was no promise of singling this group out for special treatment.  Somehow he managed to say we’re all in this together - and we should all expect equal treatment - and he did all that without running anyone down.

It was lovely to see Thompson's realness shine at this point.  His approach cast a big shadow on lesser MPs who spout "safe" priorities promising special treatment, redress for actions taken lifetimes ago, mandated “welcome to (Aboriginal) country” recognition, special acknowledgements of uniqueness, constant apologies and promises of compensation.

And the thing that made Thompson’s inclusiveness for all Australians all the more special came next in his speech.

"(The aboriginal community at) Palm Island is close to my heart—it's the birthplace of my mother-in-law, Florence Burns - Flo!  And my wife, Jenna; and my beautiful daughter, Astin - they are all Aboriginal women who are here in the gallery today. 

As I stand and look at these three remarkable humans, I have no doubt that, as three generations of Aboriginal women, their rights have improved dramatically over the decades.

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He said there was still work to do in recognising our First People’s culture and he’d be working to help do that.

I thought he struck the perfect balance on an issue that so many leaders allow to become tortured, divisive and destructive.

Thompson also told us how important mining is in North Queensland.  And fishing.  And tourism.

I’m proud to say I back the resource sector. I’m from a part of the country where coal isn’t a dirty word and we support opening up the Galilee Basin and welcome the jobs that will come with it. Our community will not be told what projects we can support, what jobs we can have and what industries we can work in by people lacking any sort of local knowledge and understanding.

Then he spoke from the heart for several long minutes about the horror of fighting Islamists in Afghanistan.  He told of many mates killed in action, many more horribly wounded, more yet whose young lives have ended tragically back home after their war service.

Thompson said his role as a soldier in Afghanistan was to close with and kill the enemy.  But this enemy was different - only on limited occasions would the insurgents come out in the open to fight.  Their weapon of choice was Improvised Explosive Devices.  And that’s how they got him.

On 19 October 2009, my life changed forever. Whilst on a dismounted patrol, I was wounded in action by an improvised explosive device. As well as the obvious physical injuries from the blast, I suffered a traumatic brain injury and several other life-changing conditions.

41 great young Australians were killed by Islamists in Afghanistan.

261, including Phillip Thompson himself were wounded in action - and that doesn’t include those suffering from post-action damage.  Thousands of young Australians have served there and seen the horrific realities and violence that’s part and parcel of Taliban Islamist culture.  These young people naturally feel strongly about what they’ve seen and done.

In 2012, violent Islamic mobs rioted in Sydney.  Australians were shocked to see Muslims on Sydney streets calling for beheadings for anyone who “insults” Islam or the prophet Muhammad.  Police were badly wounded, Muslim children encouraged to call for infidels to be killed - and it all played out on prime time TV.

I’m a member of a couple of Facebook groups made up of former soldiers.  Our reactions to what we were seeing ranged from mute shock - to calls to action against the violent threat-makers.

Philip Thompson was a member of at least one of those groups too.  It was not quite 3 years since he was blown apart in an IED. "I saw some extremists on TV protesting, calling for beheadings, and I made some comments".

He's talking about this 2012 Facebook post, “"I know what im (sic) doing this week getting my gun licence" and "give me a M4 and send to Sydney and I'll do the dishes (sic)”.

I can tell you that in the spectrum of immediate reaction to the horrors on Sydney streets Phillip Thompson’s was pretty mainstream.  That doesn’t make it right, but it’s understandable that he’d say (not do) it.

Thompson later said, "I'm ashamed of (it) and something I'm extremely embarrassed about it.  I am very apologetic for any distress I may have caused with my comments."

Fast forward to this year when Thompson’s candidacy for the LNP was announced.  His comments were leaked to the media in a direct and out of context attack on this war hero.

The ABC reported it as an LNP candidate's "tirade threatening to harm Muslims".

A high-profile federal LNP candidate has apologised for a tirade on social media threatening to harm Muslims.

You had to read a fair way down the report to get any understanding of Mr Thompson’s heroic war service, his injuries and the mates he lost at the hands of people whose mantra was being repeated on our own streets.

The ABC report also noted, “Herbert is one of Labor's most marginal seats, having won it by just 37 votes in 2016.”  For the ABC, every little bit helps.

Thompson was dignified in his response, "In 2009 I was wounded in Afghanistan and I went through a very dark time of self-medicating through my post-traumatic stress disorder," he said.

"I saw some extremists on TV protesting, calling for beheadings, and I made some comments that I'm ashamed of and something I'm extremely embarrassed about.

"I am very apologetic for any distress I may have caused with my comments."

The people of Herbert responded enthusiastically with an 8.3% swing to him.

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What a great result for a great young man.

It was grand to listen to Phillip Thompson today.

And wonderful to know that our Parliament has men of his calibre serving in it.

Congratulations on your win Philip.

Thank you for your service.

Duty First.

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