Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Melbourne - Humanitarian Assistance for Iraq, Senate, Tony Abbott's Unfair Budget.






SUBJECT/S: Humanitarian Assistance for Iraq, Senate, Tony Abbott's Unfair Budget.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Australian Labor supports the Government's announcement of the RAAF providing two planes to assist resupply beleaguered Kurdish fighters who are the front line against the Islamic State terrorist organisation.


Decisions like this are not made easily - Australian men and women are going in harm's way. This is for the best of reasons: humanitarian relief to prevent genocide against beleaguered minorities in northern Iraq.


What we see today is a remarkable act of international cooperation. What we see today are the air forces of several countries resupplying with light weapons Kurdish Peshmerga troops, who are the front line against the Islamic State incursions in northern Iraq. The two aeroplanes that the RAAF are supplying will equip their tasks in a hazardous environment with great distinction.


Labor supports fully the actions of the Federal Government in this matter. I might also just say that this is happening because of one reason: there are vulnerable people who need help and they need it now. Happy to take questions.


REPORTER: (Inaudible.)


SHORTEN: The Government did provide some advance notice of this before today. In the course of the week, at the end of last week, the Government has also, and importantly Defence officials, been providing timely briefings to the Opposition.


REPORTER: Are you concerned that any weapons dropped could end up in the wrong hands?


SHORTEN: This is always the question - I believe though that the global coalition working on this matter is conscious that on the balance of risks, the greater risk is to allow the IS to succeed in their war in northern Iraq. The Peshmerga are what stands in that part of the world between a whole lot of civilians getting terribly hurt and injured and that not happening.


What I would also note is that the Government of Iraq importantly have clearly, even though they have previously had their disagreements with the Kurds in northern Iraq, they have clearly accepted that this more important to provide resupply to these Kurdish Peshmerga troops than not. I understand that the Government of Iraq has signed off - and again you have got a humanitarian mission, you have got a global cooperation with a number of nations, you have the Government of Iraq - has signed off on it and you have got Kurdish troops who are doing important work in terms of preventing a humanitarian catastrophe.


REPORTER: Did the Government flag any additional resources it might want to send? I know there was some talk of sending foreign aircraft last week, that wasn’t raised with you?


SHORTEN: I’ll respect the confidentiality of briefing. It is up to Government when they choose to reveal any resupply. Labor supports the resupply decision.


REPORTER: Would you support sending fighter aircraft (inaudible)?


SHORTEN: I am not going to ahead of myself. What we see here is the importance of having an Iraqi Government with the widest possible base. By that I mean the Shia majority working with Sunni and Kurdish minorities and indeed Christians. That is important, that work is underway. We see humanitarian relief being a fundamental first order of importance, that work is underway.


Labor supports the reasoning of our defence experts that providing two aeroplanes to help an air bridge of supplies going to the Kurdish Peshmerga is timely prevention of far more drastic consequences down the track.


REPORTER: Could Australia’s increased involvement in Iraq lead to a backlash at home?


SHORTEN: I think all reasonable Australians would believe fundamentally in the value of humanitarian relief of the prevention of genocide, and this is also providing support as part of a global effort, it is not just Australia acting one-off. Importantly, the Government of Iraq is on board for these decisions as well.


REPORTER: How is this a humanitarian mission?


SHORTEN: It becomes humanitarian if thousands of civilians get killed.


REPORTER: I’ll just ask you on another issue, why is Labor supporting in the Senate the inquiry that Clive Palmer is trying to get up into the Newman Government?


SHORTEN: There has been no final decision made on that matter. Obviously the Senate is a house of review. The Senate historically, be it when it has been Liberal or Labor or any other party, conducted reviews and looked at important political matters of the day.


REPORTER: But one level of government inquiring into another is quite rare, isn't it? It sets a precedent?


SHORTEN: No, once again, no final decision has been made. But it is not unknown for the Senate to carry out its appropriate functions of the house of review. That is what our constitutional fathers put the Senate there to do and I believe that work needs to carry on.


REPORTER: So Mr Ludwig is, Senator Ludwig is I think flagging support for Mr Palmer’s motion. Are you somewhat back from that position, you’re not quite out there as far as him, you’re saying it’s still a matter for debate within the party, or within the leadership team?


SHORTEN: No, not at all. No final decision has been made. But certainly the idea that the Senate would act as a house of review and set up a committee to look at important matters is not ground-breaking or earth-shattering. One more question thank you.


REPORTER: Rallies are taking place around the country today against the Abbott Government, is there any reason why you’re not taking part?


SHORTEN: People have got a right to protest. This is a very unfair Budget. What I do every day is hold the Government to account. Opposition to the Abbott Government takes many different forms, but today I think it is important that I speak up in terms of national security. And I think Australians expect, for all of the argument we have about this unfair Budget, when it comes to matters of national security, I believe Australians want to hear the two major parties working together and that is what we are doing today, most clearly. I guarantee next week in Parliament we will hold this unfair Budget to account as we have done ever since the unfair Budget was brought down.


Thanks everyone. Have a lovely afternoon.