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Thursday, 20 September 2001
Page: 31141

Mr ROSS CAMERON (2:47 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Defence. Could the minister outline to the House the latest contributions being made by Australia to the war against terrorism following the extraordinary and unprecedented events in the United States last week?

Mr REITH (Minister for Defence) —I thank the member for Parramatta for his question. I did inform the House earlier this week of some of the measures the government had taken to support the United States at this difficult time, including the invocation of ANZUS, the deployment of Anzac in the Persian Gulf and the exchange of personnel in units in the US. We have taken some additional measures. As a result of a request from US Central Command, we have extended the deployment of Anzac for a few more days through to 3 October. That will assist the US in maintaining the multinational interception force presence in the Gulf without interruption while newly arrived US warships complete their familiarisation training. The government will also consider options in due course to provide a follow-on vessel to replace HMAS Anzac based on US requirements.

The government has also now agreed to the deployment of ADF exchange personnel currently attached to UK forces as part of coalition NATO counter-terrorist response operations. The UK and NATO have both given support to the conduct of US-led counter-terrorist operations. ADF personnel are currently deployed on a range of exchange positions within the UK's forces. We have approximately 44 ADF personnel deployed on long-term exchanges and they perform a variety of duties, combat and combat support related activities, including service on UK naval vessels, aircrew and support personnel with operational RAF squadrons and Army personnel deployed in a range of different combat functions within the British Army. We also have a further 112 ADF personnel currently attached to UK units as part of Exercise Long Look 2001, which is an annual short-term triservice exchange.

I had previously informed the House that RAAF personnel on exchange with US forces had been involved in flying combat air patrols over continental United States. I had a brief this morning to say that is not true, that is not right. I can update the House that we did have two pilots tasked and available for that, but at relatively short notice there were changes to operational requirements. That does underline the fact that the exchange personnel we have are allocated to their units, whether with the US or with the UK, and they are under the operational command of those units.

Naturally enough, the information that we have about their activities is likely to be spasmodic, as the information as to those activities from an operational point of view will be subject to operational security requirements within their commands, either within the US or the UK. We are obviously very interested in and keen to know the activities of any Australians, wherever they might be serving, but the information that is available to us is sometimes limited or sketchy, as has happened in this particular case. Obviously we will attempt to keep the House and families as best advised as we can. But I think it is important for the House to know that we have Australians in a number of units, both in the UK and the US. They could be deployed overseas and they would do so within those command units.