Parliamentarians sample Middle East activities

This article has photo gallery Published on CPL Max Bree (author), CPL Oliver Carter (photographer)

Senators for Queensland, James McGrath (right) and Barry O'Sullivan, (centre) take part in a medical training exercise on board HMAS Newcastle as part of the Australian Defence Force Parliamentary Program for Operation MANITOU. (photo: CPL Oliver Carter)
Senators for Queensland, James McGrath (right) and Barry O'Sullivan, (centre) take part in a medical training exercise on board HMAS Newcastle as part of the Australian Defence Force Parliamentary Program for Operation MANITOU.

Three federal politicians experienced the Middle Eastern heat, desert sands and a taste of life at sea during a recent visit to the region.

As part of the Australian Defence Force Parliamentary Program, the representatives visited Australia’s main base in the region along with the Air Task Group and HMAS Newcastle from 24-28 July. 

The Hon Warren Entsch, the MP for the electorate of Leichhardt, said he wanted to get involved in the program after Australia committed forces to Iraq last year.

“Before I was to sit down and consider any further deployments to the area, I wanted to come over and experience it myself and talk to people on the ground,” he said.

“That’s to make sure what I’m being told in Canberra corresponds with what’s happening over here.”

The parliamentarians were given a taste of things like driving a Bushmaster, firefighting drills in Newcastle and firing weapons.

Queensland Senator, James McGrath said he loved every day, despite not being able to master all the hands-on elements.

“Whether it was going to the range and shooting, which I was particularly bad at or going on the Newcastle and painting the deck, which I was also particularly bad at, I really loved all the activities,” he said.

They also flew in a KC-30 air-to-air refuelling tanker during a mission over the Persian Gulf.

“You could almost touch those Hornets as they come in to be refuel, that’s an experience of a lifetime,” Mr Entsch said.

Despite residing in the “sunshine state”, Senator McGrath struggled with the Middle Eastern weather.

“Putting up with the heat here each day I found really tough - in the showers, you put the cold water on but there’s no such thing.”

Mr Entsch said he anticipated the heat to be more of an issue for deployed personnel.

“I was expecting a whole lot of complaints because it gets over 50 degrees here,” he said. 

“But interestingly enough we haven’t had a single complaint about personal comfort. Any issues that have been raised were about improving capacity and output.”

The representatives said the Australian Defence Force had three more staunch advocates in parliament at the end of their trip.

"Every day we thought it couldn't get any better in terms of experiences," Queensland Senator Barry O'Sullivan said.

"We live a very safe life because of you guys over here, I found the whole experience very rewarding."
 
Imagery available at the Navy Image Gallery: http://images.navy.gov.au/S20152146