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-

[Laughter]

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?

STEPHEN SMITH:     Yes.

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.

[Laughter]

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.

[Laughter]

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.

[Laughter]

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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