TRANSCRIPT: INTERVIEW WITH WENDY KINGSTON ON NATIONAL NINE MORNING NEWS
TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE
TOPICS: Afghanistan; Libya.
JOURNALIST: Minister, thank you very much for your time.
STEPHEN SMITH: A pleasure.
JOURNALIST: What do we know at this stage about the soldier and what actually happened?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well the only details I can provide at this stage are the same details that the Chief of the Defence Force and I have released last night. The family have asked that no personal details be released at this stage, so obviously we're respecting that. But it was a night patrol. A mentoring and task - a mentoring joint operation. And the initial analysis is that an IED, a roadside bomb was the cause of death. It's of course a terrible tragedy for the family but a big blow to Army, and a big blow to the nation.
JOURNALIST: Just on that. Have you actually spoken - or do you know if any other Ministers have spoken to any of his colleagues in Afghanistan or indeed Townsville, and how they're doing?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well I know that the Chief of Army was making a contact with family members who will do that in the course of the day, is very much a standard process. And that sees in due course respecting the family's wishes, the Minister for Defence, and the Prime Minister, speaking to family members.
This has been a big blow to 2 RAR in Townsville, it's the first fatality that we've seen from 2 RAR, so it's been a tough day for the regiment of Townsville as well.
JOURNALIST: He is the 29th Australian soldier to die in Afghanistan, the 8th this year alone. Do you think it will ever get to the point that Australia will consider pulling our troops out?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well we're on track to meet our objective which is to train the fourth brigade of the Afghan National Army to be able to take responsibility for security matters in Uruzgan Province by 2014. That's our objective.
We're on track to do that.
And part of the exercise of course is joint patrols with the Afghan National Army, and so it continues to be difficult and dangerous work. But we believe we've got both the military strategy and the political strategy in place to meet that transition objective by 2014. The problem in Afghanistan will never be met just by a political, just by a military solution alone.
We need to have a political settlement as well. And Australia has been strongly supporting those efforts behind the scenes in recent times.
JOURNALIST: You mentioned difficult, the word dangerous as well. Can you give us an insight into what the situation is actually like for our troops in Afghanistan and how their mission is going at the moment?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well in Uruzgan Province we have our mentoring and training taskforce. We also have our special forces. We're the tenth largest contributor in Afghanistan, but we're the third largest Special Forces contributor, so our Special Forces do highly dangerous work, but they're very, very good at it. Our mentoring and training taskforce do the joint patrols, they also train and mentor behind, so-called behind the wire. But it does involve the dangerous work outside mentoring the Afghan National Army members in the patrol work in gaining ground and holding it.
And the single biggest danger that we face in Uruzgan Province has for some time been the roadside bombs, the IEDs, and that's a very dangerous part of the work that our troops do there. But all of the work they do - whether it's Special Forces or training - is first class work, and it's much appreciated by the Afghans and much appreciated by our international partners including the United States and the United Kingdom.
JOURNALIST: All right.
Defence Minister Stephen Smith thank you very much for your time this morning.
STEPHEN SMITH: Thank you, thanks very much.