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Government must now find out how long Japan's military intend to sdtay in al Muthanna [Iraq]. \n



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Robert McClelland MP Shadow Minister for Defence Federal Member for Barton

3 November 2005

GOVERNMENT MUST NOW FIND OUT HOW LONG JAPAN’S MILITARY INTEND TO STAY IN AL MUTHANNA

Senate Estimates hearings this week have highlighted that the time has come for the Government to find out Japan’s intentions for their deployment to Southern Iraq.

The Defence Minister needs to simply pick up the phone and ask his Japanese counterpart exactly what is going on.

Thanks to Air Chief Marshall Houston’s candour we now know the training of the first battalion of Iraqi security forces has been completed and a second and apparently final battalion will be completed by May next year.

What remains is the unsatisfactory ambiguity surrounding the intentions of the Japanese Forces in Al Muthanna province.

When asked whether the overall purpose of the Iraq mission would be finalised by May 2005, the Chief of Defence Force had no option but respond:

“In terms of the training of the Iraqis, we will have achieved our objectives. We are confident that we will do that. The other side of the coin is that we are there with other coalition partners, the principal partner being Japan.”

Senator Hill later confirmed the Government’s inaction on seeking clarification of Japan’s intention when he said:

“If they come to us and want to discuss what future support we might be able to give them, we will obviously discuss that with them.”

This is totally substandard Ministerial management.

It is up to our Government to be proactive and set down parameters of our Iraq mission. We still don’t know how long Australian forces will be there.

Until the Government defines precisely what our mission is in Iraq and when it will be achieved we risk having our security interests determined by other countries.

Further information:

Tom Cameron 0417 147 932