Christine Milne: PM Abbott must be honest about troop deployments
The Australian Greens Leader, Senator Christine Milne, responds to an answer provided in Question Time. She calls on Prime Minister Abbott to have the courage to front the Australian people and be honest about how many service men and women will be deployed to Iraq.
Senator MILNE: 1 move:
That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Employment (Senator Abetz) to a question without notice asked by Senator Milne today relating to the deployment of Australian troops to Iraq.
I asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Abetz, to confirm that it is the case that, if he wanted to, the Prime Minister could deploy 3½ thousand troops to invade northern Iraq unilaterally because that is the current law in Australia. I pointed out that that is why it is dangerous and should come to the parliament. Senator Abetz chose not to answer the question. But it is a fact that the Prime Minister could do that if you wanted to. That is what is so frightening about it. We have in this country a situation where a Prime Minister can deploy our troops without reference to the parliament. That is wrong; it should change.
But what is even more appalling at the moment is that Prime Minister Key in New Zealand stood up and announced that the New Zealanders were sending 143 troops as part of an Australia New Zealand joint mission to Iraq. That is on top of the 200 special servicemen and servicewomen we already have there, plus the 400 on standby in the Air Force. So, here we go, hundreds more, it seems, are going to Iraq, and the Prime Minister did not have the courage to front it here in Australia and come out and say he had already made that decision and that there had been a decision for a joint deployment. No, he went to New Zealand and let the New Zealand Prime Minister announce it, and we still do not know how many more Australian troops are going to be deployed. We do not know how long for. The New Zealanders are saying up to two or three years. Well, let's hear it from the Prime Minister. Are we sending Australian troops? Are we sending our combat troops, or are we sending more special troops? What is the deal, for how long and to what end?
What we have here is a situation where the response of the Australian government has never been to tell the Australian people what the outcome is that they intend to secure with the use of Australian troops. At the same time, what do we know? We know that the Turkish border is still incredibly porous. We know that young people being recruited from around the world are meeting in Turkey and being taken over the border into the ISIL held territories and as a result of that into the caliphate. We also know that when other countries in the region are broken, in terms of their finances, we have got ISIS taking the oil fields in Iraq and Syria. They are selling that oil on the black market. They have a $2 billion budget and a $250 million surplus. What is more, it is alleged that the Syrian government is buying oil from ISIS.
It is time we got real about ISIS getting its funding from oil. It is being sold on the black market. To whom? What are we doing about that? What are we doing about the porous borders? Why do we not actually engage those issues rather than continue to deploy Australian troops with no specified mission, no time line? We know that there will be massive trauma as a result of this deployment. I have said endless times that we are sending our troops into a quagmire. We started off with just sending supposedly humanitarian aid, and this is ending up to be exactly the mission creep that we ought not to be supporting. As if it were not bad enough in 2003 when we marched into Iraq behind a Prime Minister, John Howard, who sent us there without a reason for war on a false pretence, every other country has had an investigation into how their Prime Minister did that. But Australia has not. They have been protected, and Labor is as bad as the government in protecting the Howard government from the investigation we should have had into why we went into Iraq on a lie. Now we are going again. Before we know it, we are going to have 1,000 Australians stuck in Iraq again. For how long and to what end?
This is not the way that we should be running the country, and it is not the way we should be exposing Australian men and women to the horrors that are going on in the Middle East as we speak. We should bring our troops home and we should get serious about cutting off the money supply to ISIL which they are getting from the black market sale of oil. We should be working in the diplomatic sense to close that border and stop those porous borders. It is time that we stopped this nonsense of suggesting that just sending more and more troops is going to make a difference. The Prime Minister said there would be no boots on the ground. Well, we already have 200 on the ground, 400 in the air, and now Prime Minister Key tells us we are going to have hundreds more. The Prime Minister has been a coward not to front the Australian people with exactly how many more servicemen and servicewomen he is going to send there or for how long and to what end.