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Wednesday, 3 September 2014
Page: 6347

Iraq and Syria


Senator FAWCETT (South AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:07): My question is to the Acting Minister for Defence and the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Brandis. I refer to the government's commitment to provide assistance in relation to the current dire situation in Iraq. Will the minister indicate to the Senate the attitude of the government to the comments made overnight by the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, regarding the situation in Iraq?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Arts and Attorney-General) (14:08): The Australian government has carefully considered the statement overnight by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon regarding the importance of international action to combat the spread of ISIL in Iraq. As the secretary-general stated, the situation in Iraq is very worrisome, and the terrorist activities by ISIL are totally unacceptable. The international community must show solidarity. The Australian government agrees with the secretary-general that a failure to act by the international community will result in a continuation of ISIL's unacceptable activities. The secretary-general also said:

It is about people, very innocent people, young people, women and girls and old people who do not have much capacity. …

… … …

… without addressing this issue through certain means, including military and counter-terrorism actions, we will just end up allowing these terrorist activities to continue. … we have to be firm and address the issue.

The Australian government supports the secretary-general's remarks, including his call for international action, to deal with the threats posed by ISIL. It is important that all senators heed the comments and warning of the secretary-general and his calls for the international community to show solidarity in response to ISIL.


Senator FAWCETT (South AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:09): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Will the minister update the Senate on the Royal Australian Air Force's delivery of military stores to Northern Iraq as part of the Australian government's contribution to help confront the threat of ISIL extremists and to help protect a number of ethnic and religious minorities?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Arts and Attorney-General) (14:10): Overnight an Australian C-17 Globemaster aircraft delivered military stores to Erbil in Northern Iraq. The military stores comprised ammunition that was inspected and cleared by Iraqi officials in Baghdad prior to being delivered to Erbil. The C-17 then returned safely to Al Minhad Air Base in the UAE. Australia's contribution in Iraq will continue to be coordinated with the Iraqi government, regional countries and our international partners. Our mission is similar to assistance being provided by other nations, including the United States, Albania, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Italy, France and the United Kingdom. The ADF is standing by to provide further support to conduct further humanitarian aid and stores drops as required.


Senator FAWCETT (South AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:10): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. In light of developments overnight and renewed outrage about ISIL brutality, will the minister advise the Senate why it is important that Australia remains committed to doing what it can to protect the lives of men, women and children in Iraq, who in recent weeks have seen thousands of their neighbours and families butchered in gruesome acts of genocide?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Arts and Attorney-General) (14:11): It is very, very important that Australia maintains this commitment. Honourable senators will have seen reports of the brutal murder of the American journalist Steven Sotloff overnight at the hands of an ISIL militant. But our concerns run deeper than the shocking murder of one individual. We condemn in the strongest possible terms the actions of ISIL and its atrocities against all of the men, women and children who have fallen victim to it. We will continue to work with our partners and to contribute to international efforts. But this problem does not exist only on the other side of the world. The government is deeply concerned about the involvement of Australians in terrorist organisations. That is why we have committed an additional $630 million to ensure that our national security agencies have the tools they need to protect Australia and our interests. In closing, may I thank the opposition for its bipartisan support on this issue.