Australia — Stephen Smith on Commando Welfare Trust; Afghanistan; Veterans

  Min­is­ter for Defence Stephen Smith — Tran­script: Inter­view with Triple M, Mel­bourne
EDDIE McGUIRE:      We have the — the chair­man of Aus­tereo, Peter Harvie, stand­ing out the side there. We have John Kir­by the for­mer own­er and, of course, the great man of Aus­tereo and Vil­lage Road­show and the Defence Min­is­ter just hap­pens to walk in as well, the Hon­ourable Stephen Smith.

Stephen, can we get you here for two secs just to say hello? 

MICK MOLLOY:       I’m glad I dressed up now. 

EDDIE McGUIRE:      Yeah. [Laughs]

LUKE DARCY:           I’m feel­ing a bit like Rod­ney Eade, we’re not about to get the plug pulled on us, are we, Ed? What’s hap­pen­ing here? 

EDDIE McGUIRE:      You know it must be big time when the two heav­ies from the organ­i­sa­tion come down and they bring the Defence Min­is­ter with them. Is there any­thing we’ve done wrong, Senator? 

LUKE DARCY:           You’re in trouble. 

EDDIE McGUIRE:      Not Sen­a­tor. Stephen, how are you? 

STEPHEN SMITH:     I’m good, Eddie, yourself? 

EDDIE McGUIRE:      Good, wel­come aboard. 

STEPHEN SMITH:     How are you? Yeah, good to see you. 

MICK MOLLOY:       Minister- 

EDDIE McGUIRE:      Any news for us? 

STEPHEN SMITH:     I’ve just had a ses­sion with John and Peter because they’re very involved in the Com­man­do Wel­fare Trust so we’re just work­ing through what we might be able to do to help the Com­man­do Wel­fare Trust, which is the 2nd Com­man­dos and they spend a lot of time in Afghanistan doing the heavy lift­ing there. So that’s been the rea­son for my vis­it here this morn­ing, but I’m real­ly in the stu­dio because I’m rust­ed on Dockers. 

EDDIE McGUIRE:      Oh real­ly? The Dock­ers? How do you reck­on they’re going? They’ve got a big game this weekend. 

STEPHEN SMITH:     Well, if you’re a long time Dock­ers supporter.…I start­ed with the Eagles because I’m from Perth, but as soon as the Dock­ers were set up I went to the Dock­ers. If you’re a long time Dock­ers sup­port­er you do have pes­simism at the bot­tom of your- 


So I’m wor­ried about get­ting there. I’m wor­ried about- 

LUKE DARCY:           Is it true that our chair­man out there, Peter Harvie, is a for­mer com­man­do himself? 


LUKE DARCY:           Is that correct? 

STEPHEN SMITH:     Yeah, absolutely. 

LUKE DARCY:           He’s got that mad stare about him. 

STEPHEN SMITH:     And he’s got the tie on. He’s got the tie on. 

EDDIE McGUIRE:      Well, Mick’s a com­man­do but it’s a dif­fer­ent connotation. 


He goes commando. 

STEPHEN SMITH:     I’ve got to be care­ful these days because if I say some­thing like I’ve got the cross-hairs on you then peo­ple under­stand that these days I do have assets. 

EDDIE McGUIRE:      Exactly. 


EDDIE McGUIRE:      Just before you go, you men­tioned the com­man­dos. We’ve got so many of our great guys over there in Afghanistan, dif­fer­ent the­atres of war, how are they going when they come back to Aus­tralia, par­tic­u­lar­ly giv­en the fact yes­ter­day was the com­mem­o­ra­tion of the Bat­tle of Long Tan and we did­n’t do the right thing by Viet­nam vet­er­ans, that’s why you’re here today? 

STEPHEN SMITH:     Well, we did­n’t do the right thing by our Viet­nam vet­er­ans when they came home. It took us a long time to come to terms with that. There was social and polit­i­cal divi­sion about Viet­nam. We’ve learnt since then and so when our blokes have come back from Afghanistan or Iraq they’ve been treat­ed well. 

We are just mak­ing sure that we do every­thing we can. We have our wound­ed war­riors who come back, there’s adverse con­se­quences for them, adverse con­se­quences for the fam­i­ly, so we have to be very con­scious of that. 

We’ve still got near­ly 50,000 guys who are Viet­nam vet­er­ans, so and a cou­ple of weeks, or in May of this year, we saw the last of our World War I vet­er­ans die, Claude Choules. We named a ship after him a cou­ple of weeks ago. 

So we’re now mov­ing from World War I and World War II to our Viet­nam vet­er­ans and a grow­ing pool of guys who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq so War­ren Snow­don, our Min­is­ter for Defence Sci­ence and Per­son­nel and Vet­er­ans Affairs Min­is­ter, is work­ing very heav­i­ly on that, but we’ve just got to be ever so con­scious that guys go away, they do the right thing by the coun­try, and Long Tan is just a clas­sic illus­tra­tion of guys doing unbe­liev­able stuff. A hun­dred guys, 20 casu­al­ties, out­num­bered 20 to one. We did­n’t treat them well when they came back and final­ly we’re start­ing to do the right thing. 

MICK MOLLOY:       Min­is­ter, a friend of mine has just got back, he’s a com­man­do, he’s done his third tour and to hear him describe what’s going on over there, it’s very seri­ous busi­ness. On the basis of that I’ve agreed to actu­al­ly go over in Feb­ru­ary and I’ll be going actu­al­ly to Tarin Kot to enter­tain the troops. I fig­ured it’s the least I could do. So that’s just some incen­tive to get your soldiers- 

EDDIE McGUIRE:      No, no, you’re sup­posed to be on here. 

MICK MOLLOY:       An incen­tive to clean this up before Feb­ru­ary, for the troops. 

STEPHEN SMITH:     Can I say I’m aware of your forth­com­ing tour. 

EDDIE McGUIRE:      There you go. 

LUKE DARCY:           There is that file on you, Mick that we thought — from ASIO, yeah. 


EDDIE McGUIRE:      Thanks, Stephen, thanks for drop­ping by, mate. 

STEPHEN SMITH:     Good to see you, Eddie. 

EDDIE McGUIRE:      Stephen Smith, join­ing us, the Defence Min­is­ter. Mick, you’re a son of an old army man. 

MICK MOLLOY:       I am indeed, Wing Com­man­der Kei­th Mol­loy, 34 Squadron. I come from a mil­i­tary fam­i­ly, I’m well aware of every­thing that’s required of every­one who picks up the baton for this coun­try so please keep up the good work and look after all our boys and girls over there in harm’s way. 

STEPHEN SMITH:     Thanks, Mick. Thanks a lot. 

Press release
Min­is­te­r­i­al Sup­port and Pub­lic Affairs,
Depart­ment of Defence,
Can­ber­ra, Australia 

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