The Australian Greens Leader, Senator Christine Milne, asks why Prime Minister Abbott allowed the NZ Prime Minister to announce Australia's latest troop deployment to Iraq.
Senator MILNE: My question is to Senator Abetz, the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Will the minister confirm that Prime Minister Abbott has the power to deploy 3½ thousand Australian troops to unilaterally invade Iraq if he chose to do so and would be able to do so with no reference to the parliament? If so, when is the government going to concede that, especially with the current Prime Minister, this is dangerous and that such decisions as important as deploying troops to war should be brought to the parliament?
Senator ABETZ: The question by the Leader of the Australian Greens is, of course, absolutely hypothetical. There is no basis to it whatsoever. The CDF and other high military officials have completely and utterly debunked the nonsense that was peddled in the media in relation to that, and indeed the journalist that first wrote the story has somewhat backpedalled from his initial assertions. So, given all that passage of time and that evidence, for the Leader of the Australian Greens to come in here and somehow give that assertion some credibility does her no credit whatsoever.
I can confirm to the Senate that no such proposal was on the table or is on the table; and, as a result, the question is hypothetical.
Senator MILNE: Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I did ask whether the Prime Minister has that power and when you are going to concede that it should come to the parliament, but I ask now: why did the Prime Minister allow the New Zealand prime minister to announce the latest deployment of Australian troops to Iraq when he announced the joint Australia-New Zealand force with 143 New Zealanders? Why didn't he announce it at home rather than allowing it to be announced in New Zealand?
Senator ABETZ: I think the honourable senator herself knows that the suggestion that the Prime Minister allowed the Prime Minister of New Zealand to make the announcement is stretching credulity somewhat far. The good news is that Australia and New Zealand do have a close relationship from many years back. We do enjoy a close relationship; may that long continue. But, in relation to the particular announcement made by the New Zealand prime minister: it occurred. But, above and beyond that, with whose authority I am not going to make any comment.
Senator MILNE: Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I thank the minister for conceding that the announcement was made. So how many additional Australian troops are going to be deployed to Iraq, when and for how long? Is it two or three years or more? Will they be engaged in combat? What will that make the total of Australian troops deployed in Iraq?
Senator ABETZ: Let's just get absolutely clear what we are talking about here. There are some leaders in the world and peoples in the world that are prepared to make the necessary decisions to stop the barbarity and evil that is taking place in Iraq as we speak-beheadings as we speak, people sold into sexual servitude and slavery, and Senator Milne quibbles about whether or not Australia might support the international effort to help excise this evil out of Iraq. I find the double standards of the Australian Greens absolutely horrific in this regard. I just cannot believe that Senator Milne would quibble about whether it might be 100 or 200; whatever number may be and in whatever circumstance, surely she has the good grace to support the fight against the evil that is in Iraq.