We have a lot to be thankful for this year. It has been a tough year for many but Australia has thus far avoided the worst of the coronavirus, at least compared to other countries.
We can be thankful for our wonderful health authorities.
The CQ Health team, led by Steve Williamson, have been organised, professional and efficient. When an aged care nurse became infected in May, Steve’s team tested over 200 people within days. We should be thankful to all the nurses, doctors and other health workers that have been on the frontline this year.
The retail workers in grocery stores and chemists never got to work from home. They had to deal with abuse from the few that fought over toilet rolls. We should all remember that but for them our food and essential supplies could not make it to our homes.
Some other businesses, however, had to shut for a couple of months. This put enormous pressure on small businesses in hospitality and tourism. I thought we would get a raft of angry complaints at the time that government was not doing enough. But during this real crisis almost all businesses remained stoic and got down to the task of sorting through the mess and doing what they could to keep staff on.
The government assistance of JobKeeper did help, but it was the initial courage with which businesses and workers faced the onslaught that allowed the economy to eventually bounce back. It is now wonderful to see so many of our bars and cafes full and some businesses doing record trade.
We should not forget that some are still doing it tough though, especially those connected to international travel. Just last week the federal government announced new assistance for travel agents. Our farmers and food industry kept going through it all. After years of drought many experienced a better year this year. And they came through with record crops. There were concerning outbreaks at some meatworks. But these were met with fortitude and Australia never seriously faced shortages of essential food items like some other nations.
Our manufacturing industry stepped up to produce enormous amounts of hand sanitiser, masks and ventilators. We now export some of these products that are needed by other countries. Our manufacturing industry has been on the skids for the last decade but this crisis has shown we can still make things when we put our mind to it.
This Christmas we should also say a special thanks to those not directly impacted by coronavirus. We normally reserve Anzac Day and Remembrance Day to honour the sacrifice made by our armed forces.
Many soldiers are hurting this Christmas after the revelations of the Brereton inquiry into allegations of misconduct in Afghanistan.
A great injustice has been done. Many soldiers have had their reputations unfairly tarnished for the alleged sins of a few. The Brereton inquiry found that 25 Australian Defence Force personnel were involved in incidents where there was “credible” evidence that a crime had been committed. More than 26,000 Australians served in Afghanistan. So these incidents involve just 0.09 per cent of serving
A whole unit should not have citations removed just because of the conduct of such a small minority - a decision that has been thankfully reversed. But I am also not sure why a whole unit, 2 Squadron SASR, should be disbanded.
And there is a gross inconsistency here. If it is OK for innocent soldiers to have citations removed for the purposes of collective responsibility, why haven’t senior military officials, in charge of the troops who allegedly committed crimes, been similarly punished?
I support our troops and I hope this Christmas you can too. If you see someone in uniform, go up and thank them for their service. We have much to be thankful this Christmas as we enjoy it with our families living in the best country in the world.