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Tuesday, 2 February 2016
Page: 47

National Security


Mr TEHAN (Wannon) (14:39): My question is to the Prime Minister. Will the Prime Minister update the House on his recent trip to the Middle East and the United States and explain how Australia's ongoing military and humanitarian contribution is supporting the fight against terrorism?


Mr TURNBULL (WentworthPrime Minister) (14:39): I thank the honourable member for his question and note his strong and continued interest in and contribution to issues in this area of intelligence and security. During my first trip to the Middle East as Prime Minister I travelled to the United Arab Emirates, to Iraq and to Afghanistan, and I met there with some of the 780 personnel who are deployed in our ADF in support of the coalition to combat Daesh in Iraq and Syria and among most of the 250 who are working in the common cause in Afghanistan.

And can I say, as I know all honourable members would agree, that meeting these young Australians in the Middle East, serving our nation, is inspiring—their professionalism, their courage, their shining intelligence, their enthusiasm; it is really inspiring. We had some very valuable discussions. I got some very valuable feedback, particularly in matters of signals intelligence and electronic warfare. The contribution of our young men and women there is really making an enormous difference. I met with leaders there: the Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates; the Prime Minister of Iraq, Mr Abadi; and Dr Ghani, the President of Afghanistan.

In Iraq today, our ground force's contribution is second in scale only to that of the United States. We have in Iraq trained over 2,600 Iraqi army personnel, and that training work is continuing. The Prime Minister of Iraq expressed his very sincere thanks for the critical role Australian advisers played in supporting the retaking of Ramadi, which has been a critical boost of confidence for the Iraqi government in the battle against Daesh. Driving Daesh out of that city: it is maybe too soon to say it is a turning point; history may record in the future that it was, but it is a very important step. In Afghanistan, President Ghani thanked me for Australia's commitment and sacrifice in the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Since 2001—it is our longest war—almost 26,000 Australians have served, and we are training there the future officers of the Afghan National Army.

Our contribution of course goes beyond defence personnel. We have provided, for example, over $190 million in response to the Syrian crisis since 2011 and $40 million to Iraq since June 2014. In the short time left, I will just note that in our discussions in Washington it was very clear that Australia's contribution is of enormous value to the coalition effort. It is deeply appreciated. Our contribution is appreciated. Our voice is heard and understood by the United States government, with whom we continue to work in the closest and tightest collaboration.