The Today Show – 10 September 2015

QUESTION

Defence Minister Kevin Andrews joins us now. Good morning to you, Mr Andrews.

MINISTER ANDREWS

Good morning Lisa.

QUESTION

The Middle East has been at war with itself for thousands of years. As the Prime Minister said yesterday, it’s ridden with conflict and soaked in blood. What makes you think these air strikes will have any long-term difference and not simply put Australia front and centre in a fight that’s not ours?

MINISTER ANDREWS

We’ve already seen the difference in Iraq. Over the last 12 months the territory controlled by Daesh has contracted quite considerably. We are having an impact at the moment and we believe this will contribute to that impact.

QUESTION

Why are these air strikes only targeting Islamic State and not the Assad regime?

MINISTER ANDREWS

We’re in Iraq at the invitation of the Government of Iraq. We’re defending Iraq. It makes sense to be able to go over the border because it’s a bit like the border between New South Wales and the ACT – we know where it is on a map but most people wouldn’t know where it is, and Daesh certainly doesn’t respect it and operates on both sides. So if we can go over the border with Iraq and bomb Daesh over the border then we will knock out hopefully some of their facilities, their training bases, and their command and control bases.

QUESTION

Has an end date been established for the airstrikes? Or will Australia be fighting indefinitely?

MINISTER ANDREWS

We review this on a regular basis and we formally review our involvement every 12 months. As I said, we’ve made considerable progress over the last 12 months but I expect we will be there for some years.

QUESTION

Do you categorically rule out putting Australian troops on the ground?

MINISTER ANDREWS

Yes I do.

QUESTION

For how long will you rule that out? For another 12 months? Is there no chance there will be Australian troops on the ground if this set of airstrikes is not successful?

MINISTER ANDREWS

Our troops are there training the Iraqi forces. Ultimately the Iraqi forces have to be out there defending their country and taking back territory from Daesh. So our role with our troops is simply to train the Iraqi forces.

QUESTION

But for this to really work, surely airstrikes isn’t going to be enough?

MINISTER ANDREWS

No, because we’re not just doing airstrikes. The airstrikes have been very important. They have led to taking back territory, they have kept Daesh underground almost, and that’s meant that the Iraqi forces themselves can have a greater impact on the ground and that’s ultimately what has to occur.

QUESTION

So what will success in this fight look like?

MINISTER ANDREWS

A regime in the Middle East that doesn’t commit genocide against its own people and a regime in the Middle East that doesn’t export terrorism elsewhere around the world including, unfortunately, here to Australia.

QUESTION

Well unrest has been taking place in the Middle East has been going on for hundreds of years. How long do you think this will take, realistically?

MINISTER ANDREWS

We’re probably there for a number of years but as I said, we review it on a year-by-year basis. Ultimately we want the Middle East to be a peaceful and hopefully prosperous Iraq.

QUESTION

Can you define ‘number of years’?

MINISTER ANDREWS

Look, 2-3 years, I can’t say in exact terms. But the reality is this is going to go on for a number of years. We’ve had some success to date. And with our coalition partners, Canada, the US, the UK, France etc, we believe we can make a real difference.

QUESTION

So as Defence minister you genuinely believe you can have this all sorted in 2-3 years?

MINISTER ANDREWS

That’s out hope. That’s our intention and I’m very proud of the men and women of the Australian Defence Force who are working very insidiously to bring about a more safe and secure Australia.

QUESTION

Well now to Australia’s pledge to take in extra refugees, something the Prime Minister ruled out just a few days ago. What plans are in place to take in such a number?

MINISTER ANDREWS

We are dispatching Australian officials to the Middle East, to countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan where we are going to take the extra 12,000 people. They will be working with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and we hope that the first of the 12,000 can be here in Australia by Christmas.

QUESTION

Ok, Kevin Andrews, we will have to leave it there. Thanks very much for your time this morning.

MINISTER ANDREWS

Thanks Lisa.