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Tuesday, 25 September 2001
Page: 31353

Mr BEAZLEY (2:00 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Are you in a position to announce today the nature and scale of Australia's defence commitment to international antiterrorist operations, the objectives of Australia's defence commitment, the time scale of Australia's commitment, the resource implications and any domestic security changes necessary to deal with emerging threats posed by global terrorist networks?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —I thank the Leader of the Opposition for what is an important question. As I speak, we have not received any request from the United States. When a request is received—and I use the word `when' advisedly—we will naturally consider it. It will be considered in a positive light against the background of the statements I have previously made about the willingness of this country to assist the United States, because this challenge is a challenge to free peoples everywhere and it is not a challenge that should be borne by the United States alone. That is the view of this parliament, as enunciated in the resolution that was carried last Monday.

The Leader of the Opposition will be aware from the time that he was in government that in circumstances such as this governments give consideration to a range of possibilities, so far as potential requests are concerned. That has obviously been what this government has done. We have had a number of discussions with the Chief of the Defence Force and our other service chiefs, and we are satisfied that this country will have a capacity, if requested, to make a positive and important contribution. But I repeat: no request has been received.

I can indicate to the Leader of the Opposition that, consonant with my desire to see our cooperation with the Americans remain on a totally bipartisan basis, it will be my intention, when I receive a request and after it has been considered by the National Security Committee of cabinet, to ensure that the Leader of the Opposition is briefed on the intentions of the government. It is important that we remember that, if Australian forces are to go abroad, they will go abroad in the name of Australia; they will not go abroad in the name of any particular government. They will go abroad in the name of our entire country and I am sure they will have the goodwill and the prayers of the entire country.