Fostering a better understanding of defence forces

The ADF parliamentary exchange program offers a unique experience for Australian Defence Force members to shadow a member of parliament and for members and senators to have firsthand experience of ADF operations and military bases and to spend time with ADF personnel.

This week in parliament 17 ADF members from Army, Navy and have shadowed parliament to members. We have all seen them around the corridors and in the chambers and we have talked with them at functions this week. I have had Flight Lieutenant Naomi O’Neill, from the Air Force, in my office.

This gives them a behind-the-scenes look at how parliament operates and the role of members and senators. It increases their knowledge of the Australian parliamentary system and of the operation of the House and the Senate and provides an inside view of the workings of our offices, of our roles and responsibilities, of our participation in committees and of the complexities that we have here.

ADF members I have spoken to have told me they believe it is a privilege to be welcomed into the inner hub here in parliament and that the program provides them with an opportunity to see how policy is developed and how procedures happen.

Of course, it allows members of parliament to ask questions of them and for the military to understand what happens. We know that when we as members of parliament make decisions that impact on the lives of ADF members and their families they are the people that are affected by our decisions.

They are extremely proud to wear the uniform and serve our country, whether on fixed bases or deployed on operations. As members of parliament, we are directly aware of the impact of the decisions we make on these people and their lives and of what they put on the line.

They put their lives on the line for our country and our strategic interests. I encourage every member of parliament to take up this opportunity to engage with this valuable program, which has reciprocal benefits for both the parliament and the ADF.

I was at Williamtown air base this year on my program. I recognise and thank Wing Commander Peter Cluff, Group Captain Bernard Grealy and all of those at Williamtown air base, who made me incredibly welcome.

I now have a very good and very sound working knowledge of that base. Particularly with the issue of the JSFs ahead, it was something that I was determined to do.

As always, I am incredibly impressed by the people that we have in our defence forces. I cannot speak highly enough of them and their commitment and the work they do for us as a nation. I commend the Australian Defence Force Parliamentary Exchange Program and the wonderful people who are here with us this week.