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Transcript of interview: Sky News: 9 June 2010: Afghanistan; Ramp Ceremony.

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Senator the Hon. John Faulkner   Minister for Defence 

09 Jun 2010                                                                                                                                MIN100609/10  

Transcript: Sky PM Agenda

Topics: Afghanistan, Ramp ceremony

Reporter: A ramp ceremony will be held at Tarin Kowt for Darren Smith and Jacob Moerland and then a second ceremony will be held when the plane carrying their remains lands at the Al Minhad airbase near Dubai in the Middle East. Defence Minister John Faulkner will be at that second ceremony as those remains are moved from the military plane. He joins me now on the line from Al Minhad near Dubai. Minister thanks for joining us. You will be the first Defence Minister since the Vietnam War to attend a ramp ceremony where more than one Australian Soldier has died in combat. How are your emotions there this morning? 

Senator Faulkner: Well it’s obviously a very tragic day for the families of our two fallen soldiers and it will be a very difficult day for the Australian Defence Force and it’s a difficult day for Australia’s Defence Minister. 

Reporter: Have you learnt any more Minister about the circumstances surrounding their deaths? 

Senator Faulkner: Well I think it’s important that we don’t speculate on the cause of the explosion until the matter is fully investigated. It’s currently being investigated I can assure you by a weapons intelligence team and when there’s more detail able to be made public about the incident, then obviously we will do so. 

Reporter: Let me ask you more broadly about how things are going in Afghanistan. You’ve said that progress is being made. The Australian objective of course is to train the Afghan army for a new brigade to take over security in Oruzgan. What progress has been made on that front and has it been too slow in your view? 

Senator Faulkner: Look I think progress is being made in terms of training the Afghan National Army’s fourth brigade in Oruzgan province. As far as Australia is concerned, we are looking at accepting a greater role in the training of the fourth brigade. We are working closely with the Afghan National Army to achieve that objective and the critical thing here is to do this training, so the Afghan National Security Forces can themselves take responsibility for protecting the Afghan people, particularly - in relation to Australia’s role - in Oruzgan province, so the Afghan National Security Forces can take responsibility for security and stability in that province. 

Reporter: Well, this has been the goal for some time. What time frame do you put on this actually being achieved or is it impossible to say how many years this may take? 

Senator Faulkner: The best advice I have available to me is that advice provided by Australia’s Defence leadership and CDF. I’ve always said that the advice provided to me, that this task will take from three to five years, is the best advice that I can provide the Australian Parliament and the Australian people. We are enhancing our training effort of the three infantry kandaks of the ANA’s fourth brigade in Oruzgan and other combat services and support services kandaks. But it will take time and the advice that I’ve provided

previously, that that time frame is approximately three to five years, is still the best advice that I can give you. 

Reporter: Minister you’re heading to a meeting of NATO Defence Ministers in Brussels tomorrow. What were you hoping to achieve there? Do you have any answers yet on what is going to happen when the Dutch leave Oruzgan? They play the lead security role there. Do you know what the outcome there is going to be? 

Senator Faulkner: I think we have made a great deal of progress in that area and of course I’m not at liberty to make public announcements about this until NATO itself has finalized its processes. Obviously these are matters for General McChrystal, as the commander of the ISAF forces in Afghanistan and also NATO who are responsible for fulfilling the United Nations mandate in Afghanistan. But we’ve certainly made progress and I’m hoping that within a matter, in a very short period of time, after my discussions with NATO Defence Ministers and the Secretary-General of NATO and I’m also meeting with General McChrystal separately and Mr Mark Sedwill who of course is the Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan - I hope after these meetings, we will be able to sort out a timeframe for an announcement in relation to the future leadership responsibilities in Oruzgan.  

Reporter: Will it be the Americans, as expected? 

Senator Faulkner: Well of course, there will be a critical role for the Americans to play as the Chief of the Defence Force here in Australia has said, but I’m respectful of the processes of ISAF and NATO and as soon as I’m able to, of course, I’m keen to outline to the Australian people the approach that will be taken. What I think I can say to you very confidently indeed, is that it will be a very seamless transition in the province. We will continue to build the momentum that we’ve seen in the province. I’ve said consistently, as you know, the Dutch have been very good partners in the province, we’ve worked very closely with them and we’re very confident when the new arrangements are announced, they will be seen as innovative and very positive, but also will ensure that we continue to make progress in Oruzgan itself. 

Reporter: Defence Minister John Faulkner, thanks very much for joining us on the line. 

Senator Faulkner: Thankyou. 


Media contacts: 

Colin Campbell (John Faulkner): 02 6277 7800 or 0407 787 181 

Defence Media Liaison: 02 6127 1999 or 0408 498 664