Peter Khalil: Last week, Senator Molan was condemned for displaying extremely horrible judgement by showing material from the abhorrent Neo-Nazi group Britain First. It was right that he was criticised and held accountable for his poor decisions; it was right to criticise the Prime Minister for not disciplining his most junior backbencher for not apologising, when even President Trump apologised for sharing similar videos. However, the attacks on Senator Molan’s record as a soldier and the imputation that he committed war crimes, by the member for Melbourne, Adam Bandt, and Senator Di Natale, were utterly disgraceful. Either these members of the Greens political party made these statements of moral outrage born of ignorance of Fallujah or, worse, they knew the facts yet still confected a moral outrage in order to launch a base political attack. Either way, the outcome is the same. They not only impugn the record of Senator Molan’s military service to this country but, equally, deride the service of thousands of veterans and current serving men and women in the ADF. They also debase themselves in the process. I have been here a short time but have learned in this place that we have a choice: to use our privilege to genuinely represent our constituency in their best interests and serve the national interest or spend our privilege simply scoring cheap political points to excoriate our opponents for purely short-term political benefit.
In 2004, Fallujah was occupied by the Al Qaeda in Iraq terrorists and Ba’athist insurgents. These terrorist groups killed thousands of Iraqi civilians. They targeted people because of their sectarian or ethnic background, and they targeted innocent women and children. How do I know this? Because I was there. I was in Iraq during 2003 and 2004 serving with the Coalition Provisional Authority. I was there in early 2004 during the first siege of Fallujah in the discussions with Generals Sanchez and Conway and Ambassador Bremer around saving civilian lives and the opening up of humanitarian corridors facilitated by the Red Crescent to allow 70,000 civilians to escape Fallujah.
Let me state it simply for the Greens. There is no moral equivalence between Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Al Qaeda in Iraq, who sat there and planned to maximise the deaths of innocent civilians, deliberately targeting women and children for death, and coalition forces, who were required to act within the international laws of armed conflict and, as I saw firsthand, made all efforts to minimise civilian casualties in all military operational planning.
I fear it goes beyond spurious moral equivalence arguments for the Greens. They have devolved into a moral blindness in the relentless hunt for cheap political points. But this is not new. During the 2016 election campaign, Greens party activists went door to door in my electorate and told constituents that, because I had been in Iraq, I was a war criminal. At first I dismissed this as the pathetic over-exuberance of some Greens extremists, until it was confirmed that it was part of their scripts. Many constituents told me that they were disgusted by the things they were being told. I served in Iraq as a public servant for the Australian Department of Defence, and I worked to rebuild the Iraqi public service and the Iraqi security forces following the removal of Saddam’s regime. While I believed that the Iraq war was a strategic and humanitarian disaster, I did my duty serving my country, and I believed that, once the coalition forces, including Australia, had removed Saddam’s regime, we had a humanitarian and moral responsibility to rebuild that shattered country, which is what I worked towards.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Buchholz): I thank the honourable member for his contribution and his dedication to our nation.