Senate debates

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Questions without Notice: Additional Answers


3:05 pm

Photo of John FaulknerJohn Faulkner (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

During question time, Senator Bob Brown asked me a series of important questions but, because of the constraints of our sessional orders and the serious nature of the questions, I was only able to answer one part of the last question that Senator Brown asked me, which went to the issue of the proposed UN conference requested by Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Brown. The other issue related to civilian casualties, and I just wanted to briefly respond to that now, because I think it is critically important.

I can inform the Senate that of course I am very much aware of reporting that there was an air strike in Kunduz province on 4 September which appears to have resulted in civilian casualties. ISAF have reported that they are undertaking an investigation into the incident, and that investigation is running its course as we speak.

I can assure Senator Bob Brown that the Australian government takes the issue of civilian casualties seriously. I can assure him that I do. Australia’s rules of engagement are specifically designed to avoid civilian casualties and to avoid damage to civilian infrastructure but also of course to provide a maximum level of protection to our troops. I share the strong view with many that the death of any civilians and noncombatants during any conflict is very regrettable.

I think it is important to note that the Taliban insurgents continue to employ tactics that place innocent Afghans at high risk, by choosing to launch attacks from heavily populated areas, and I stress, as I have said so many times in this chamber, that Afghanistan remains a dangerous place; that Uruzgan province, where we operate, is both dangerous and challenging; and that we must remember, as we address these important issues, that we face an enemy who, as I have said before and I stress again to the Senate, is ruthless and determined.