The Prime Minister, John Howard, has attended an Anzac Day Dawn Service in Baghdad, joining with about 90 Australian air traffic controllers, 90 Army personnel and 53 soldiers.
As President George W. Bush did on Thanksgiving Day last year, Howard’s trip to Iraq was executed in secret.
He was accompanied by the Minister assisting the Minister for Defence, Mal Brough, and the Chief of the Defence Force, General Peter Cosgrove.
Text of a statement released by the Prime Minister, John Howard.
I am attending the Anzac Day commemoration service today with Australian troops and diplomatic staff in Baghdad.
Together with the Minister assisting the Minister for Defence, Mr Mal Brough and the Chief of the Defence Force, General Peter Cosgrove, I am in Iraq for the dawn service at Baghdad airport.
Before departing for Iraq I met defence personnel in the Middle East engaged in providing military transport services to the region.
The trip to Iraq is in recognition of the great sacrifice and contribution Australian personnel are making there in challenging conditions. They are following in the footsteps of countless other Australians who have served the nation in many other parts of the globe.
I am certain that all Australians will join me in expressing heartfelt thanks for their efforts. They continue a great tradition of commitment and sacrifice by Australian service personnel.
In remembering those who in the past have given their lives defending our freedoms and way of life, we should also honour those who today put their lives at risk in the service of Australia.
Text of a statement released by the Prime Minister, John Howard, on Anzac Day.
Our veteran ranks are diminishing with every passing year but the spirit of Anzac continues to strengthen its hold on the affections of the Australian people.
With courage and tenacity, the young Australians who landed on the shores of Gallipoli eighty-nine years ago came to symbolise the struggle of a hopeful nation starting to make its way in the world.
The honour of their deeds and those who fought in later conflicts helped to shape the destiny of a people who value decency and mateship, who strive for fairness and stand up for what is right, whatever the cost.
We remember the fallen and express our enduring gratitude to those fortunate enough to return home. Their bravery has helped to enshrine Anzac Day as an occasion of remembrance and a time of reflection for all Australians.
Today, our thoughts are also with the men and women of the Australian Defence Forces currently deployed overseas.
Australia’s military personnel are now assisting the cause of peace and freedom in Iraq, the Solomon Islands, East Timor, just as they have played their part in the War against Terrorism in Afghanistan.
Special honour is reserved for our soldiers, sailors and air force men and women in the Gulf who, in the best traditions of the Australian military, continue to bring credit to our country by helping liberate the oppressed people of Iraq.
Theirs is a proud record of service to our nation that derives its strength from the devotion of loved ones at home and we thank them especially, for the special sacrifice they continue to make for us all.
Text of a statement released by the Prime Minister, John Howard, on Anzac Day.
AUSTRALIANS IN IRAQ HONOURED
I am very pleased to announce that the Governor-General, as Chancellor of the Order of Australia, has approved, for conferral today, awards to a number of outstanding Australian civilians and military personnel who have served with distinction in Iraq.
Mr Neil Mules has been appointed an Officer in the Order of Australia for his outstanding service as Australia’s representative in Iraq. Mr Mules has worked tirelessly to ensure that we have a strong and effective Australian presence in Iraq and he has been instrumental in advancing Australia’s significant commercial, security, political and humanitarian interests in post-conflict Iraq.
Ms Heidi Venamore and Mr Chris McNicol have each been awarded a Public Service Medal in recognition of their achievements in furthering Australia’s interests in Iraq under difficult and challenging circumstances. Ms Venamore is the Deputy Head and Mr McNicol is the Director, Political and Economic in the Australian Representative Office in Iraq.
It is always a pleasure and as Prime Minister I am extremely proud to also have the opportunity of acknowledging the men and women of the Australian Defence Force who have served this country so magnificently and successfully in this campaign in Iraq. Today we recognise, with the award of the Australian Active Service Medal, a representative group of our military personnel who have been engaged in military operations and who have served with distinction in this campaign.
There are many others who will be recognised with this award in the months ahead but today’s ceremony in Baghdad gives us all an opportunity to reflect upon the contribution of our military services and to honour those servicemen and women who have selflessly responded to the challenges facing our world today. All those honoured today have been working under difficult and challenging conditions and it is appropriate that the awards are made at this time as it is uncertain when they will be in Australia to receive their awards.
On behalf of the nation I thank all those who have served with such distinction in Iraq.
Text of a media release from the Prime Minister, John Howard, on Anzac Day.
AUSTRALIAN SERVICE TO IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN RECOGNISED
I am pleased to announce new medals which will be awarded for service in the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns. Her Majesty The Queen has approved the establishment of specific campaign medals for members of the Australian Defence Force who have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. These medals will be known as the Iraq Medal and the Afghanistan Medal.
Australia has made a significant contribution in both Iraq and Afghanistan in pursuing the cause of freedom and stability. These campaigns have not only been in the international interest but have also been in Australia’s national interest. Our military forces are defending and representing the values of Australia.
Personnel who serve in relevant operational areas for 30 days or more will qualify for the campaign medals. These medals are in addition to the award of the Australian Active Service Medal.
The Government believes that two medals are warranted to adequately recognise the sustained contribution made by the Australian Defence Force in these two operational theatres. Our servicemen and women have been at the forefront of combat fighting in very difficult circumstances and are also making a significant contribution to the rehabilitation and future of Iraq and Afghanistan.
There are also many civilians who have made a notable contribution to the rehabilitation of Iraq and to meeting the humanitarian needs of the people of Iraq.
I am therefore very pleased to announce that the Governor-General has recently approved the Iraq clasp for the Humanitarian Overseas Service Medal (HOSM). This award recognises that spirit of generosity in many of our fellow Australians who willingly go to areas of great humanitarian need, at some risk to themselves, to offer assistance.
Civilians working with our coalition partners in the Coalition Provisional Authority are taking a central role in the rehabilitation of the agricultural sector. Others are working with United Nations bodies and Australian NGOs such as Care Australia and World Vision Australia providing much needed assistance in the areas of water, sanitation, education and health. Civilians who serve in the declared operational area undertaking humanitarian work for an eligible organisation for 30 days or more will qualify for this award.
On behalf of the nation I thank all those members of the Australian Defence Force and our Australian civilians who have served with such distinction in Iraq and Afghanistan.