THE HON BILL SHORTEN MP
LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG
THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
SENATOR THE HON STEPHEN CONROY
SHADOW MINISTER FOR DEFENCE
AUSTRALIA’S INVOLVEMENT IN IRAQ
Labor has upheld our bipartisan, principled approach to the serious matters of national security and military deployment throughout Australia’s involvement in the defence of Iraq.
Labor supports Australia assisting the Government of Iraq to protect the people and territory of Iraq.
Labor and the Coalition have both previously agreed that the Australian Defence Force’s contribution to the international effort to combat the Daesh threat in Iraq, should be restricted to Iraq only.
The Australian Government now proposes that in order to protect the people of Iraq from Daesh, RAAF aircraft should have the option to operate in Syrian air space.
Labor has received advice that Iraq has a clear right to defend itself against cross border attacks given the Syrian Government is unable or unwilling to prevent such attacks by Daesh. Iraq also has the right to request assistance from other nations under the United Nation’s principle of collective self-defence, and has done so.
Labor supports the Government’s proposal that ADF assets should have the option to operate across the Iraqi border in Syrian airspace, subject to the following:
- ADF operations in Syria must be constrained by the proposed legal basis of Iraq’s collective self-defence. We call on the Government to confirm that any Australian use of force will be limited to that necessary to halt or prevent the cross border attacks on Iraq or to defend Australian personnel, be proportionate to that threat, and be subject to international law.
- The Government must provide assurance that an effective combat search and rescue capability will be in place to meet the risks evident for any RAAF personnel downed in hostile territory. This assurance should precede any ADF operations in Syrian airspace.
- The Government’s overall approach must include a substantial commitment to address the deepening humanitarian crisis in the Middle East, and in Syria in particular. Labor welcomes the Government’s announcement of an additional 12 000 humanitarian refugee places to assist people affected by the crisis in Syria. Labor also welcomes the announcement of $44 million in additional humanitarian relief funding for the crisis in Syria, but we call on the Government to match Labor’s proposal of $100 million in additional funding given the enormous need.
- The Government must formally notify the United Nations Security Council about Australia’s decision, including our assessment of the legal basis for action, and advocate strongly for the UN to renew efforts around a long-term, multilateral strategy to resolve the Syrian conflict.
- The Government must outline to Parliament their long term strategy regarding Australia’s changing role in the defence of Iraq and allow for appropriate parliamentary discussion – consistent with the Government’s prior commitment to keep Parliament updated on national security matters.
Labor believes that peace and stability in both Iraq and Syria cannot be achieved by purely military means.
With respect to Iraq, the Government should provide support to improve governance and assist reconciliation among the Iraqi people.
With respect to Syria, the Government should use all available diplomatic and political means to support multilateral engagement by the international community in developing a durable solution to the current crisis. This engagement should focus, in the short term, on providing safe havens and humanitarian access in Syria, meeting the urgent humanitarian assistance needs of the region, and in the longer term support an inclusive political process which can resolve the conflict in Syria.