SPEECH TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
TUESDAY, 3 MARCH 2015
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Thank you, Madam Speaker and I appreciate what you say, Madam Speaker, I do believe statements to the Parliament about committing our troops to a region in conflict that the Parliament is an appropriate forum to hear such matters and I thank the Prime Minister for a statement to the Parliament.
Our first thoughts, though, today are with our troops already in Iraq and the Middle East and their families.
The ADF mission in a region torn by violence under threat of attack from an aggressive enemy capturing weapons supplies and money as it advances, carries a deadly risk.
As the Prime Minister has said, all Australians admire the bravery that such actions demands.
I had the privilege of visiting Baghdad and bases in the Middle East where I was personally witness to the skill and the professionalism, the absolute commitment to task and as the Prime Minister has said, when you're in the presence of our troops on a mission, on a posting, you do realise that these people make you feel proud to be Australian.
So on behalf of the Labor Party, I say to our men and women in uniform, all Australians are proud of you today and every day and we're also proud of your families.
And I promise them that our nation stands shoulder to shoulder with the people who love you so that whilst you're away and until you come home, everyone will do what they can to ensure that they are looked after.
The situation as the Government said, in Iraq is most serious.
Daesh are totalitarian zealots beyond redemption.
Their followers believe only in violence for the sake of violence and Australia is right to stand against them.
From the outset, Labor's support for Australia's current mission in Iraq has been bipartisan and our foundation of that is based upon the invitation of the Iraqi Government as part of an international coalition with responsibility to protect Iraqi civilians from Daesh.
It's been underpinned by four key principles.
One, Australian operations to be confined to Iraq.
Two, that our involvement should continue only until the Iraqi Government is ready to take full responsibility for the security of their people and their nation.
Three, that we don't support the deployment of Australian ground combat units to directly engage in fighting Daesh.
And four, if the Iraqi Government and its forces engage in unacceptable conduct, Australia would withdraw its support.
Now I thank the Government for the detailed briefing we received in the last hour before Question Time.
And it appears from the information that was provided to us that the commitment most likely accords with Labor's principles and the scope of activities that we've outlined.
There have, of course, been some troubling reports regarding the behaviour of some Iraqi militia groups and of course we know that our military and our ADF and our Foreign Affairs Department is monitoring this most carefully.
So Madam Speaker, our mission in Iraq is about building partner capacity, providing training inside the wire to improve the military capacity of conventional Iraqi security forces.
This important work includes training Iraqi soldiers on ethical, lawful military operations.
We welcome the measures being put in place for force protection and will continue to seek reassurance in this respect.
I can appreciate the risk of green on blue and indirect fire and that is something which, of course, has to be managed and minimised but it is dangerous work.
I believe our work in Iraq is valuable and it's important.
But of course we cannot put our faith in draining the swamp of terrorism by military means alone.
We need and to support a social, political and economic solution and I note some progress has been made by the Iraqi Government to achieve a settlement that holds on the ground, including working with a Sunni and Kurd communities to improve their safety.
But the sectarian politics in Iraq and the region are extraordinary and deep.
There is no doubt in my mind that as Daesh seeks to spread its horrendous franchise to Libya, Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere, that we need to work towards a broader approach and a regional solution.
Australia's mission in Iraq is not about pursuing territory or power but helping the displaced and protecting the vulnerable.
We do not seek to assert the supremacy of one faith or one people but defend the rights of all faiths and all peoples.
Labor believes that peace and tolerance can and will prevail over poisonous hatred and fanaticism, in Iraq, in the region and of course everywhere.
That's our shared hope and our common cause.
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