Doorstop Parliament House – 16 September 2015

E&OE……………

Topics: RAAF first strike in eastern Syria 

MINISTER ANDREWS 

Ladies and gentlemen, I can confirm this morning that the Australian Air Task Group has carried out its first successful mission over eastern Syria. Two days ago an Australian hornet fighter aircraft destroyed a Daesh armoured personnel carrier with a precision guided missile. This is part of our logical extension in the fight against Daesh, to operate not just over northern Iraq but also to operate over eastern Syria in order to degrade and destroy Daesh forces.

QUESTION 

So Kevin, I just confirm the timeline then. This happened two days ago did you say?

MINISTER ANDREWS 

That’s right, yes.

QUESTION 

If it happened two days ago, why would we have to find out from the Americans that an Australian plane bombed a target in Syria? 

MINISTER ANDREWS

Well we don’t normally announce the missions that occur on a daily basis. On this occasion I was planning to make a Ministerial Statement, which is the sixth monthly update of our operations in the Middle East, and that’s due today.

QUESTION 

Minister, have you been given any indication as to whether you will stay on as Defence Minister?

MINISTER ANDREWS

I think that continuity at the moment is quite important in this instance. We are operating in this mission in Iraq and in Syria; we still have forces in Afghanistan. We are virtually weeks away from the publication of the Defence White Paper, which sets out our strategic challenges and our environment and how we respond to that with personnel, with equipment, etc. for the next 20 years. We’re going through the most significant restructure of the Defence Department for almost 50 years. So this is a time I believe where continuity is important.

QUESTION 

Does the new Leader share your view?

MINISTER ANDREWS

These are matters ultimately for the Leader and I will be discussing them with him.

QUESTION

How regularly do you expect to be updating the Media on air strikes in the future? 

MINISTER ANDREWS

Our aircraft are operating on an almost daily basis; the hornets at the moment, the Wedgetail command and control aircraft and the refueller. We don’t generally report on a regular basis those operations, I give a sixth monthly update to the Parliament which I’m expecting to do today. But because this was the first strike mission over Eastern Syria, I thought it was important to advise of it.

Thank you.

ENDS.