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Thursday, 7 December 2017
Page: 10074

National Security

Senator McKENZIE (Victoria) (14:34): My question is to the Minister for Defence, Senator Payne. Can the minister update the Senate on the Australian Defence Force's contribution to stability and security in the Middle East region?

Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Defence) (14:34): I can. The Australian Defence Force continues to make a significant contribution to security and stability around the world, including in the Middle East region, and it's really important to acknowledge the 2,500 Defence personnel who will spend this Christmas on international deployments away from their friends and their families.

In Iraq, Australia continues to make a significant contribution to the international counter-Daesh coalition. This year, 2017, has been a year of strong success for the Iraq security forces, the ISF, who have persevered courageously in the face of an enemy that has employed horrific and barbaric tactics to frustrate their advance. The ISF, with the support of the international coalition, has liberated over 95 per cent of the territory Daesh once controlled, including the major centres of Mosul, Tal Afar, Hawija and Falluja, for example.

In Afghanistan, we have increased our commitment of Australian personnel to the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission to around 300, to assist the Afghan national defence and security forces to develop and grow their capacity and capability to secure their own country. Through the continued hard work of the men and women of the ADF and members of the coalition, we are determined to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a terrorist haven.

The Australian Navy has also continued to make a significant contribution to maritime security in the region through Operation MANITOU. From the ship's companies of HMAS Arunta to HMAS Newcastle—which I helped welcome home on Saturday—and HMAS Warramunga, the men and women of the Navy have continued their efforts and prevented the smuggling of illicit cargo that helps to fund terrorist networks.

I remind senators that I began my remarks by saying, in relation to the 2,500 men and women of the ADF who are deployed at this time of year, when the rest of us have the privilege and pleasure of spending it with our families, then, with respect, we should acknowledge their service and we should acknowledge their separation from their families and loved ones.

The PRESIDENT: Senator McKenzie, a supplementary question.

Senator McKENZIE (Victoria) (14:36): Can the Minister advise the Senate of how else the Australian Defence Force is contributing to security and stability in our region, as well as to Australia's maritime security?

Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Defence) (14:37): Of course, Australia is making a significant contribution to a number of other missions around the world. In response to the seizure of Marawi in the southern Philippines some months ago by Daesh-aligned terrorists, Australia has since begun conducting training activities with the armed forces of the Philippines and joint maritime patrols. We're sharing the experience in urban combat warfare that we have gained in the Middle East and our experience from maritime border protection to ensure that the Philippines is as well positioned as possible to prevent Daesh establishing a foothold in our region.

The ADF is also making a very significant contribution to our maritime security through our involvement in Operation Sovereign Borders. ADF vessels and aircraft are continuing to combat illegal maritime arrivals and people smuggling. This is consistent with bringing the rule of law to our region and with saving lives at sea. We continue to make highly valued contributions to three international peace operations deployed in Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Syria and South Sudan. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: A final supplementary question, Senator McKenzie.

Senator McKENZIE (Victoria) (14:38): Can the Minister outline what other preparations the Australian Defence Force is making ahead of the Southern Hemisphere disaster season?

Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Defence) (14:38): Again, as the holiday season approaches, on behalf of the parliament, in my capacity as defence minister, I want to acknowledge and thank the work of all ADF personnel and Defence civilians who not only contributed to our national security throughout the year but will remain on stand-by over the Christmas-New Year period to respond to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.

Australia and our region are very prone to extreme weather events at this time of year, and we're all too familiar with that. The long-range weather forecast indeed suggests that the South Pacific will be vulnerable to cyclones of similar severity to last year in this coming season. Australia enjoys an excellent reputation with our neighbours, in part because of the selfless devotion to duty of Defence personnel who work as one to ease distress in disaster-affected communities and offer support to the region through stability operations when needed. The work of the Defence Organisation, the ADF and the Defence APS is greatly appreciated in this place.