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Thursday, 27 March 2003
Page: 13805

Mr CREAN (2:31 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer to reports today that President Bush scratched the line from his speech that the troops were `ahead of schedule'. I also refer to the Prime Minister's response to a question yesterday concerning the rotation of troops in the gulf. Can the Prime Minister now confirm whether there are any plans for the rotation of Australian Defence personnel? Given that a number of analysts are predicting that the war will last six to eight weeks at a minimum and that many of our personnel have already been in the gulf for almost two months, can the Prime Minister now tell the public whether there are any plans to send more personnel to the gulf to relieve existing forces?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —I answered a question on this yesterday, and nothing has happened to in any way alter the answer that I gave yesterday. If anything did then I would inform the Australian people. In relation to the deployment which the Leader of the Opposition referred to and to his reference to the period of time that they have been deployed, I take the opportunity to point out that I am so very pleased, for their sake, that they were deployed so early, because it has enabled them to get ready and it has enabled them to make a more effective contribution. I believe it has contributed to their relative safety. So far from it being a mistake to have predeployed them, it was a positive contribution to their ultimate commitment and a positive contribution to their own safety.