Tuesday December 19, 2017
Print  


Howard Confirms Australian Forces Engaged In Iraq Combat

March 20, 2003

The Prime Minister, John Howard, held a press conference just after 3.30pm AEST today to confirm that Australian forces have started combat and combat support operations. This is the transcript of his remarks.

PRIME MINISTER:

I called this short news conference to confirm that while we can't be, for reasons I know you understand, be in any way specific about the location of forces. Our forces have started combat and combat support operations. The various Australian naval vessels continue their multinational interdiction force activities and also support combat operations. For security reasons I have nothing further to say about the operations of the Special Forces. The FA-18 hornet aircraft have started operations over Iraq. They're conducting missions to escort high value coalition tanker and airborne early warning and control aircraft.

There are just several other points I'd like to make. I think it's appropriate that today marks the first indication of our active involvement I should have something to say, but from now on, although I will obviously comment regularly on the whole issue including some general aspects of the military operations, there will be a regular military briefing at 11:00am each day and I think it's highly desirable that the detailed operational matters be dealt with by the military spokesmen.

I want to take the opportunity I'm sure on behalf of all Australians of expressing our hope that all of our men and women will return home safe and sound. Whatever views we may have on this matter we should all be united in our hopes and prayers for their safe return and I know that all Australians of good will will feel that way.

I might also indicate that the Secretary of State rang me earlier today to foreshadow the things that the President spoke of in his address and, of course, I was separately aware of the projected activities of the Australian Forces. That is really all I wanted to say. If there are any questions - but I really will not speculate in any way or talk in any way about operational matters for reasons I'm sure all of you will understand.

JOURNALIST:

[Inaudible] aware that... disarmament of Iraq...

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I'm not going to go into the detail of that except to say that I was rung earlier today by the Secretary of State and I was obviously aware of certain other matters at a particular time and I'm not saying any more than that.

JOURNALIST:

Will the National Security Committee of Cabinet meet today or will ...[Inaudible] ...

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, it's going to meet regularly as required. It will, for example, meet tomorrow. I will be in Canberra all weekend and I expect that there will be regular meetings and regular contact throughout the duration of this matter.

JOURNALIST:

Will the Defence Minister also operate out of Canberra?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don't know, he can make his own arrangements. But look, we're covering all of that but I'll be in Canberra during the weekend.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, will you be telling the Australian people tonight that the country is now at greater risk of a terrorist strike as a result of today's action?

PRIME MINISTER:

I'll be putting into the context of the whole debate the issue of terrorist threat.

JOURNALIST:

What did you think of Question Time, Prime Minister, given that war had just started, you announced it actually at the start?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think it should have been a lot quieter. I think I endeavoured to contribute to a quieter mood.

JOURNALIST:

Should our troops have any fears about the legality of their actions in the Gulf?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, they shouldn't. Our forces will operate in accordance with the laws of war to which we are bound by our accession to various treaties and conventions and I'm sure they will act, as they always do, in an honourable and legal fashion. I have no doubt at all about the legal basis of what we are doing and the opinion that we have produced remains unshaken and the more you trawl through the statements made in 1998 by Mr Brereton and Mr Beazley you find that that was the view of the Labor Party then. It appears to have retreated from that rather more objective, high-minded position.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, you expressed your hope that all the troops deployed would come home safely, at the same time should the Australian public prepare themselves for the possibility of casualties?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, there's always a risk of casualties in war. There's nothing inconsistent with acknowledging that but expressing the hope that they'll all come home safe and sound. The good thing is, Dennis, that they, because of their pre-deployment - and this was a comment made to me today by a number of military people - because of their early deployment they've had an opportunity of getting ready and acclimatising and therefore being given the opportunity of their best shot in the difficult circumstances of war. I'll just take one more question.

JOURNALIST:

Can you give us advice on how long this operation will take to meet its objective?

PRIME MINISTER:

I'm not going to speculate. Thank you.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Google






Contents | What's New | Notoriety | Amazon Books | ©Copyright | Contact
whitlamdismissal.com | watergate.info | malcolmfarnsworth.com
http://australianpolitics.com/news/2003/03/03-03-20.shtml
©Copyright australianpolitics.com 1995-2014