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Tuesday, 24 February 2015
Page: 1098


Mrs GRIGGS (Solomon) (14:33): My question is to the Minister for Defence.

Mr Burke: Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

The SPEAKER: There is no point of order.

Mr Burke interjecting

The SPEAKER: I would not advise the Manager of Opposition Business to be too smart, but he has the call.

Mr Burke: The question went specifically to whether or not ministers would be remaining ministers.

The SPEAKER: There is no point of order. He will resume his seat. The member for Solomon has the call.

Mrs GRIGGS: My question is to the Minister for Defence.

Mr Dreyfus interjecting

The SPEAKER: And the member for Isaacs will desist or leave, the choice is his.

Mrs GRIGGS: Will the minister please update the House on the activities of our troops currently serving in Iraq?

Mr ANDREWS (MenziesMinister for Defence) (14:34): I thank the member for Solomon for her question and also thank her for the commendable job she does in representing the people of Darwin in this parliament, which includes some 5,000 military personnel. On that note, there are very significant military bases in the electorate of Solomon and in Darwin. I congratulate her also on recently being appointed as the chair of the coalition's backbench policy committee on Defence and veterans' affairs.

The first priority of a national government is the safety and security of the people of Australia. As the Foreign Minister pointed out earlier—

Opposition members interjecting

Mr ANDREWS: Obviously the safety and security of the people of Australia is a joke to the people across there. This government takes the safety and security of the people of Australia as its first priority. As the Foreign Minister pointed out earlier in question time today, our Defence and security agencies are aware of more than 90 Australians involved in terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria. We know that there are some 140 additional people here in Australia actively supporting those terrorist activities and groups. So our contribution to degrading and disrupting the activities of the Daesh death cult in the Middle East is significant and continuing. That involves six FA-18 Super Hornet aircraft, a KC-30 refuelling aircraft and an E-7 Wedgetail aircraft involved in intelligence gathering and other activities, flying combat missions and air strikes. Indeed, there have now been some 500 sorties flown over Iraq, more than 200 weapons have been used to strike the targets of Daesh fighters and their logistic hubs. So that is a significant contribution that our Defence Forces are making in the Middle East. In addition to that, there are some 200 special forces involved in training and mentoring members of the Iraqi security forces.

Today, the New Zealand government made a welcome commitment to deploy more than 100 defence personnel to help increase the capacity of the Iraqi forces, and I congratulate Prime Minister Key and Defence Minister Brownlee on that. We must remember why we are there. It is the executions, the crucifixions, the depravity and the brutality of Daesh that is a serious threat not just to peace-loving people in the Middle East, but to peace-loving people all over the world. The Australian government and our Defence forces remain steadfastly committed to supporting the Iraqi people in what we are doing in the Middle East.