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Transcript of doorstop interview of the Minister for Defence at the Joint Future Warfighting Conference: National Convention Centre, Canberra: 20 April 2005: Sudan, Iraq and China FTA.



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TRANSCRIPT SENATOR THE HON ROBERT HILL Minister for Defence Leader of the Government in the Senate

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DOORSTOP INTERVIEW

Joint Future Warfighting Conference, National Convention Centre, Canberra

9.00am, Wednesday 20 April 2005

E&oe_______________________________________________Sudan, Iraq and China FTA

Journalist:

You’ve announced today the deployment to Sudan, can you give us any information?

Senator Robert Hill

As you know some time ago, we indicated that we’re prepared to make a contribution to the United Nations force in Sudan, this force of course arises out of the settlement between the North and the South rather than Darfur and we’ve now worked along the path and the UN has invited our contribution in the terms of logistics, some military monitors and some air movement specialists. We’ve made a decision to deploy those persons and they will be called forward as the United Nations requests.

Journalist:

So what will the 15 be doing, what is their role?

Senator Hill:

They’re specialist roles. Three of them I know are in relation to air movements, managing, guiding the air movements of the force. The total military force including the infantry I think is about 10,000, so the logistic challenges of such a force are really quite considerable.

Journalist:

Do we know when they are actually going to be arriving or will they be deployed over the next period of time?

Senator Hill:

Yes, over a period of time, I am actually expecting the first of them to go within a matter of days rather than weeks.

Journalist:

Do you envisage the deployment to last longer than the 12 months that’s initially been put on it?

Senator Hill:

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I suspect that the UN will be in Sudan for a long time. It of course has been a civil war that has gone on for decades. It is an historical opportunity, the fact that the international community is responding to support the peace agreement I think is very important and it is likely that we will be requested to stay longer and we may be requested to provide different specialised elements during the course of the UN Program.

Journalist:

So we could end up with a lot more than 15 or significantly more than 15 over there?

Senator Hill:

We could end up with some more, but we’ve always said it would be a small deployment and it would be people with specialised skills, this is what the UN really wants from countries such as Australia and they don’t have difficulty it seems in getting the large numbers of infantry from certain countries, but it terms of getting the highly skilled professions such as those who can manage undeveloped airports in a safe way, they turn to countries such as ours.

Journalist:

Can you give us an update on the troops that are about to arrive in Iraq, where are they up to and how many are there?

Senator Hill:

Well in Al Muthanna there is only a small number forward deployed at the moment, but they are moving into the Gulf all of the time now and that will gradually build up over the next couple of weeks. So they are being deployed in different ways, some are going by ship, some have left on Tobruk, some have being flown by the British who are supporting our movement in this instance and some we’re flying on commercial aircraft.

Journalist:

So will you be visiting them over there?

Senator Hill:

Yes, I am going to visit.

Journalist:

Do you know when?

Senator Hill:

Yes.

Journalist:

Is that a high security issues?

Senator Hill:

We don’t normally give dates, no, but I am looking forward to visiting there soon. I think I can play a particularly useful role in terms of building a relationship with the political leaders of the Province which I think is very important. The Governor and the Provincial Chairman and such officials as that.

Journalist:

Senator, ASPI yesterday released a report saying that our maritime (inaudible) is under threat of attack. Is there any more the Government should be doing?

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Senator Hill:

I have only read the reports on it. A lot has been done in recent years of course in relation to port security and maritime security generally - managing large volumes of container traffic safely, those sort of challenges. I think the security in our ports is as good as any in the world actually, but we will look at the detail of the report because if there are constructive suggestions as to more that we should be doing, obviously we would take that seriously.

Journalist:

Having finalised arrangements for support from the British for helicopters and that sort of thing, medical support, are you satisfied that they are adequate?

Senator Hill:

Yes, we have settled arrangements, although they are always subject to variation according to needs, but yes the best professional advice from the ADF is that the British are offering all the extra support that we need.

Journalist:

Just on a quick note, does Australia’s closer economic relations with China change perhaps the reaction to any incident that may happen or any future tensions in the Taiwan Strait. This agreement with the Free Trade deal, do you believe it may put pressure on our military response?

Senator Hill:

No, I don’t… if you argue that it continues to draw us closer to China then I would say that that is useful in our goals of persuading a peaceful resolution of the Taiwan issue. Our position is that there is one China and there are differences

between China and Taiwan and that they need to be resolved peacefully and that is the message we continually give both sides.

Journalist:

Minister there are suggestions that the Japanese Prime Minister may apologise for atrocities in WW11 committed to Australia. How would you feel about comments like that?

Senator Hill:

Well I don’t know that I should respond on suggestions. I think that events in Asia of recent times have been a reminder to the Japanese that people won’t quickly forget atrocities that have occurred in the past and whilst we don’t wish to visit those atrocities on current generations they should nevertheless remain cognoscente of that fact and respectful of that fact. So there have been areas of concern in the last few weeks within those North Asia and East Asia and I hope that all will reflect calmly on what has occurred and recognise that there is a need to

develop new relationships, but they will be developed out of confidence of each side towards the other and that takes a lot of hard and careful work.

Journalist:

(Inaudible)

Senator Hill:

I said that I don’t want to respond to speculation. Thankyou.

ENDS

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