Senate debates

Tuesday, 3 March 2015


Deployment of Australian Troops

12:41 pm

Photo of Stephen ConroyStephen Conroy (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | Hansard source

I indicate that Labor will not be supporting this suspension as it has not supported previous suspensions. I would like to begin by expressing Labor's support for the ADF personnel currently involved in operations in Iraq and the wider Middle East. Like they always do, our ADF personnel serving with dedication and distinction. They are having an impact in the international efforts against Daesh. Our RAAF pilots have completed 167 missions, releasing over 200 weapons. Our other Air Force assets including refuellers, command and control aircraft, and heavy lift aircraft are providing valuable support for the international mission. Our special forces are now on the ground in Iraq advising and assisting the Iraqi armed forces. The Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Binskin, told Senate estimates last week that our contribution is making a difference against Daesh:

… for all intents and purposes … their major push and their major strategic message of being able to establish a caliphate is in question.

Let me repeat, Labor supports the current commitment to fighting Daesh in Iraq. If there is a change to the size or make up of Australia's military contribution to Iraq, the government has promised to fully brief the opposition. Any changes to the mission should be fully explained to the Australian people by the Prime Minister.

As Labor has said before, the role of parliament is to debate issues of concern, particularly when it comes to whether Australia deploys its defence forces. Labor supports the role of parliament as a place of debate but that should not be confused with requiring parliamentary approval for military deployments. The role of the parliament in approving military action is fraught with danger. The government must retain maximum flexibility to respond to threats to Australia's national security quickly and efficiently. Requiring parliamentary approval prior to deploying ADF personnel and assets could unnecessarily increase the risk to the deployment. Furthermore, the government of the day has access to classified information which the parliament does not. Executive government remains the most appropriate body to exercise civilian control of the Australian Defence Force. And we fully expect the government to provide opportunities to debate this deployment in the coming weeks and months.

Just last week the defence minister provided an update on operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East. That is appropriate and it ensures an important level of transparency to any ADF deployment. Regular statements to parliament by the government is something that Labor initiated and it is something that this government is continuing As I have said, it is appropriate for the parliament to debate government decisions that involve the deployment of ADF personnel, but that should be done in a considered way. We do not believe that this is a considered way and we do not support this suspension motion.


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