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The Hon Kevin Andrews MP
Minister for Defence
16 September 2015
Topics: RAAF first strike in eastern Syria
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.
So Kevin, I just confirm the timeline then. This happened two days ago did you say?
That’s right, yes.
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?
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.
Minister, have you been given any indication as to whether you will stay on as Defence Minister?
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.
Does the new Leader share your view?
These are matters ultimately for the Leader and I will be discussing them with him.
How regularly do you expect to be updating the Media on air strikes in the future?
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.
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