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Monday, 30 November 2015
Page: 14211


Mr RUDDOCK (Berowra) (13:11): I always enjoy the comments from my colleague—always constructive and very helpful. But in this matter, let me say: I do not think there is any shortage of debate, and I do not think there is any shortage of opportunities to deal with these issues. I was somewhat surprised when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition moved her motion. As she said, she was seeking a parliamentary debate, during the current sitting, of the Australian government strategy in response to the crisis in Syria and Iraq. It did not offer a view about where we should be going and what we should be doing, but it did say we should have a debate. Let me just assure my colleague—and I am sure he knows—there is a debate. It was initiated by the Prime Minister. It was responded to by the Leader of the Opposition. I must say, I picked up the speakers list for the House of Representatives today, and I noted that the statements on the terrorism attacks around the world—initiated by the Prime Minister; responded to by the Leader of the Opposition—are still being made, with one member of the opposition and 15 members of the government contributing.

This is an important issue. I have taken the opportunity to inform myself on these matters. As the honourable member knows, as part of a field trip from this parliament, following a visit sponsored by Save the Children Australia for me to go to Jordan, I later travelled with my colleague, the member for Fowler and Chief Opposition Whip, to Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. I came back despairing about the future, because I can see continuing conflict. I am very, very anxious to ensure that this conflict, which is contributing significantly to potential risks now reaching Australia, is dealt with with a degree of determination. But it cannot be dealt with by Australia alone. It needs the leadership of those that we call our coalition partners. It needs the leadership of many others, and I have spoken about this from time to time. We cannot go in and do what needs to be done, but we can help those who are prepared to do so. It is in that context that we are playing our part now. We are supporting with an Australian commitment the effort to contain the organisation known as Daesh. We are working to support the government of Iraq. We are working to advocate for political solutions in relation to this crisis.

As part of the global coalition we have committed 300 Australian Defence personnel to help train the regular Iraqi army to reclaim and hold territory. We are providing about 80 ADF personnel in support of the Iraqi counter-terrorism service to assist and advise in the work that they are undertaking. We are contributing to the air strikes on Daesh targets in Iraq and now extending them. To date we have had something in the order of 2,100 Iraqi personnel trained by Australians. Our Special Forces have trained and guided others. We have contributed 480 air strike missions over Iraq and Syria, and I want to thank all of those Australians who are playing this important role.

But I just make the point that we are not going to be able to deal with this alone. We need clear political leadership and I hope we will see that forthcoming. I am sure our Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister are clearly advocating that in all of the engagements in which they are participating. There have been some positive signs, but there is a long way to go, and the dispossession of so many people in the way we have seen is a tragedy of enormous proportion. It is appropriate we debate it, but there has been no unwillingness on the part of the government to ensure that there are opportunities for that debate.

Debate interrupted.

Sitting suspended from 13 : 17 to 16 : 00