Firstly, I just want to refute and take exception to the comment by Senator Ludlam that this has any relationship to polls. I think that is a statement that people in Mosul, that people in the Raqqa province and that the Coptic community who have seen members of their community beheaded recently would take exception to. They would take exception to the statement that there is no crisis over there, there is no worldwide attention needed to defeat these forces. Yet he is linking Australia’s response as a responsible, international citizen to support the resolution of this and the re-establishment of sovereign control of Iraq by the Iraqi government to somehow trying to reduce that to a crass, domestic, political situation. I refute that and I do not accept that.
He also mentioned the lessons of Iraq. If there is one lesson we should be learning it is that when you are dealing in areas like that where there are long held, centuries old tensions between communities—whether they be religiously based, ethnically based, geographically based—we need to be empowering those people to seek a resolution, preferably diplomatically but, if needs be, through military means. At its essence, this is a training mission. The whole purpose of this deployment is a training mission to help the Iraqi forces, at their invitation, so that they can re-establish sovereign control of their own nation. This is not like Australia sending an invading force. This is a training mission to go and help them. So if we are going to learn anything from the Iraq conflict, the Greens should be welcoming the fact that Australia is seeking to help build the capacity of the Iraqi military and government to re-establish their own control.
We also have the statement from the Leader of the Greens who is talking about this being a captain’s call or a captain’s pick. It ignores the fact that there is a system within our form of government whereby it is not just the Prime Minister, it is also the National Security Committee of cabinet and cabinet who approve decisions that are made that result in a deployment of Australian troops. The suggestion that somehow—as Senator Xenophon, who I have a high degree of respect for, indicated—we should have a situation where, in an emergency, people could be deployed and then we could have a debate and the parliament might seek to overturn that ignores the reality of what it means once you have placed men and women in harm’s way.
That is part of a plan, normally part of a coalition, and to then seek to extract them exposes them to more risk than it does to follow through with a considered plan. Our government does not act without advice from the Defence Force, from the professionals who have, at their disposal, a range of intelligence that is not available to members of parliament, except to those who have the appropriate clearances and are on roles like the National Security Committee of cabinet. It is certainly not available to the media or to the public. Those people are informing the government about options, and a debate before a deployment is potentially dangerous to our troops.
I looked with some horror at the media questioning of the government before we deployed some ADF and other assets to support the recovery of Australians who were killed in the incident over Ukraine. The persistent and detailed questioning from media around exactly who was being deployed, where they were being deployed and what they were being deployed for was actually putting Australians in that place at risk. If you extrapolate what happened in that small example to a broader example of a deployment of a force, it is not appropriate, it is not safe and it is not the precedent in this country which has served us well over many years for this parliament to usurp the ability of the cabinet to make that decision that, where it is in Australia’s best interest, our Defence Force should be deployed.