Senate debates

Monday, 22 July 2019

Questions without Notice

Australian Defence Force, Middle East

2:17 pm

Photo of David FawcettDavid Fawcett (SA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is also to the Minister for Defence. Can the minister update the Senate on how Australia's military contribution to the Middle East is supporting efforts to increase security and stability in the region?

Photo of Linda ReynoldsLinda Reynolds (WA, Liberal Party, Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank Senator Fawcett for this question. I also thank him for his service, both in uniform and now in this place in the committee work he does. First of all I have to say that all Australians should be extremely proud of the contribution that our men and women in the ADF are making to the security and stability of the Middle East. Today over 1,000 ADF members are deployed across the Middle East. Our people are contributing to international coalition efforts to combat Daesh and other terrorist groups, building the capacity of security forces in Afghanistan and Iraq and supporting maritime security and peace operations.

The professionalism of our defence personnel and the high standards by which they all conduct themselves was pressed upon me repeatedly by officials in Afghanistan, Iraq and also the UAE. I saw firsthand the results of the efforts of our ADF men and women. Their contributions are utterly magnificent, and everybody here in this place and in our nation should be extremely proud of their contributions. When I spoke to our men and women, two things struck me. The first one is how incredibly proud they are of each other. When I asked what the one thing that they would take away from their experiences was, it was all about the men and women that they work with; also, how much they have learnt by working alongside their colleagues in Afghanistan, Iraq and also UAE. The second thing they said is that deploying into the Middle East also provided them with a greater degree of appreciation for what it means to be Australian and how lucky we all are that we were born here in Australia.

In Afghanistan, the ADF continues to support the Afghan government's efforts to provide stability for its people. For example, over eight million Afghan children are currently enrolled in schools in Afghanistan. Today 40 per cent are girls. We should all be very proud. (Time expired)

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Fawcett, a supplementary question?

2:19 pm

Photo of David FawcettDavid Fawcett (SA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Could the minister outline how Australia is supporting efforts to counter Islamic State and other terrorist groups in both Iraq and Syria?

Photo of Linda ReynoldsLinda Reynolds (WA, Liberal Party, Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

Since 2014, Australia has been a leading contributor to the United States led global coalition to combat Daesh in both Iraq and Syria. The territorial defeat of Daesh in March this year was a significant achievement, freeing millions of people from a barbaric regime and also oppressive control. However, despite its territorial defeat, unfortunately, Daesh and other terror groups remain a potent threat in the Middle East and also, increasingly, in our own region.

The Morrison government is committed to continuing efforts to prevent any attempt by Daesh and groups like it from harming Australians or our interests overseas. As such, the coalition government recently extended the deployment of a Royal Australian Air Force KC30A air-to-air refuelling aircraft, and we will soon redeploy a Wedgetail aircraft to contribute to the ongoing fight against Daesh in the region.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Fawcett, a final supplementary question.

2:20 pm

Photo of David FawcettDavid Fawcett (SA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Can the minister inform the Senate also how Australia is supporting efforts to increase maritime security, stability and prosperity in the Middle East?

2:21 pm

Photo of Linda ReynoldsLinda Reynolds (WA, Liberal Party, Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

Operation MANITOU is Australia's contribution to the combined maritime forces. This is a US-led, 33-nation partnership, focused on countering terrorism, preventing piracy and encouraging regional cooperation, and also on promoting a safe marine environment. Since 2014, Royal Australian Navy vessels, including the recently returned HMAS Ballarat, which returned home after a nine-month deployment to the region, have seized nearly 10 tonnes of heroin and 58 tonnes of hashish, equating to an estimated street value of over A$6 billion.

Our ships have also interdicted vessels carrying illicit weapons and ammunition destined for battlefields in such places as Yemen and also Syria. The HMAS Ballarat alone, during a nine-month deployment, seized nearly 20 tonnes of illicit drugs, nearly half a million rounds of small arms ammunition and several hundred bags of chemical fertiliser, likely destined for use in the manufacture of improvised explosives. (Time expired)