ABC Interview, Tijikala, Northern Territory – 21 August 2015

QUESTION

Tell me about what you’ve seen today and what you thought.

MINISTER ANDREWS

Well this Army Aboriginal Community Assistance Program, which has been going for more that 20 years now is bringing great benefits to Titjikala. Building houses, work with the health centre, providing some dental services, and most significantly putting in a whole new waste disposal system for the water in the town, so this is going to have lasting benefits for the people who ,I’ve here.

QUESTION

And what are those lasting benefits?

MINISTER ANDREWS

Well, the water disposal plant itself has a life of decades into the future. They’re providing additional health services while they’re here, building two new duplex houses and also providing and expanded men’s shed and the training as well. So not only do we train good welders and people in cooking classes, but in skills which will hopefully be of on going benefit for the local community.

QUESTION

And how does this empower Aboriginal people to help themselves in the community?

MINISTER ANDREWS

Well, giving them those skills is very important. I was back there with Kenneth, one of the local Aboriginal men here who is in the process of getting his welding skills and building a barbecue in the process. Other people are build things for the local sporting facilities and things like that so they get a sense of pride in their local community. I think Tijikala has won the Tidy Town award in the Northern Territory on a number of occasions. So it’s building that community spirit, but building skills as well. Some of those people are gaining employment because of that training, and that therefore contributes to their families and the community.

QUESTION

I just have a few questions on Syria from our Canberra reporters. What has the US asked in terms of Australia expanding its role in the battle IS in Syria?

MINISTER ANDREWS

Well, I’ve received a letter from the US Defence Secretary, Ash Carter. They’ve requested that we play a significant role in terms of our Air Force operations. Currently we have a considerable Air Force contribution in Iraq. We have six Hornets there, we have a Wedgetail command and control aircraft there, and we have a refueller as well. So they operate over Iraq at the present time, and the US request is that they could also operate over Syria, in those regions where we are actually fighting against Daesh or ISIL.

QUESTION

And will we be doing that?

MINISTER ANDREWS

Well we’ll consider that. I’ll get advice over the next week or so from the Defence Department and then I will take a recommendation to the National Security Committee of Cabinet.

QUESTION

And how many extra planes or troops will be needed to expand Australia’s operation against IS in Syria?

MINISTER ANDREWS

It doesn’t involve any additional planes or troops. The request is really in relation to our Air Force operations at the moment. We can fight against Daesh, dropping bombs within Iraq, but if Daesh go overtone order into Syria and the moment we are not doing that, and that’s what this request is to allow us to do.

QUESTION

Is bombing IS in Syria a good idea?

MINISTER ANDREWS

Well, this is a death cult. We’ve seen the executions, the beheadings the medieval barbarity from Daesh. We’ part of a large coalition of nations from around the world who want to degrade and ultimately destroy Daesh because the terror which is occurring, both in Iraq and Syria, but also exported around the world is something we want to bring to and end.

QUESTION

Is it the only way to defeat IS and are you happy with Australia’s achievements so far in Iraq?

MINISTER ANDREWS

We’ve made a very considerable commitment to Iraq, not only Air Force but we’re also involved in a Building Partner Capacity mission to train Iraqi regular forces, we have Special Forces in there which we are looking to train the Iraqi Special Forces themselves. That’s making a considerable contribution to the defeat of Daesh, but this is a long battle and we have to win it otherwise this exported terror which we’ve seen in Australia will continue to happen.

Thank you.