Turnbull’s only defence is to attack Tony Abbott.
Paris attacks: Malcolm Turnbull cans calls for boots on ground
Brendan Nicholson Sid Maher THE AUSTRALIAN NOVEMBER 24, 2015
Malcolm Turnbull says ‘it is unrealistic for Australia to embark on any military operations in (the Middle East) other than in partnership with our allies’. Picture: Kym Smith
Malcolm Turnbull has slapped down members of his government who have urged him to send combat troops to fight in Syria and Iraq.
The Prime Minister told parliament yesterday that military force would be needed to defeat Islamic State, but it would be unrealistic for Australia to embark on a “boots on the ground” campaign.
Former defence minister Kevin Andrews, who Mr Turnbull dropped from cabinet, said in a series of interviews yesterday that airstrikes were not enough to defeat the terror group and special forces were needed on the ground. “More is required,” Mr Andrews said.
Scott Morrison backed Mr Turnbull, warning against any “hot-headed” action and saying that for Australia to act alone would be “folly”.
The Treasurer said Australia was in the Middle East as the second largest force in a US-led coalition, excluding naval commitments, and he was sure Mr Andrews was not suggesting unilateral action.
“It’s important that in these situations we remain very calm and we work in concert with our partners in this theatre and that we don’t have some sort of hot-headed response to these issues, that we remain very measured and calibrated with our partners and we remain focused on getting the job done,” Mr Morrison said.
“So any action Australia takes would need to be done consistent with the activities of those other groups and to consider any unilateral action outside of that would be folly.”
Mr Turnbull said he was aware that many in Australia and in the US argued that America and its allies should dispatch a large expeditionary force to conquer Islamic State in the same way that Iraq was occupied in 2003.
“That is not the policy of the United States government or any of the coalition partners and it is unrealistic for Australia to embark on any military operations in that region other than in partnership with our allies,” Mr Turnbull said.
Mr Andrews was echoing former prime minister Tony Abbott, who wrote in The Australian last week that Australia “should be prepared to contribute more to a military campaign to destroy this terrorist caliphate on the ground in Syria and Iraq”.
“This could involve less restrictive targeting rules for airstrikes and the deployment of special forces on the ground in support of local forces, similar to the 2001 campaign where the Northern Alliance defeated the Taliban in Afghanistan,” Mr Abbott said.
Mr Turnbull will today tell parliament that the terror level will remain high, but he will urge calm and note that the security agencies are doing everything possible to keep the nation safe. He will issue a strong reassurance that the government will do everything possible to prevent attacks.
A Newspoll published by The Australian yesterday indicated that Australians overwhelmingly feared a Paris-style attack at home, more than half believing that was likely and a quarter convinced it was inevitable.
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade secretary Peter Varghese said yesterday that if a group such as Islamic State acquired a nuclear weapon it would not be constrained by the taboo that had barred their use since 1945.
The risk of such an incident remained low, although the consequences would be high, Mr Varghese said in a speech at the Australian National University.
After convening a meeting of cabinet’s national security committee at 7am yesterday, Mr Turnbull told the House of Representatives that Australians would not bend to the will of terrorists.
Just back from a series of meetings overseas, Mr Turnbull flagged an international effort to combat financing of terror and cyber recruiting and said all world leaders believed terror was the number one challenge facing the globe.
With French ambassador Christophe Lecourtier in the public gallery, Mr Turnbull said the attacks in Paris were an attack on civilisation and the city had been assaulted by godless murderers “who blasphemously claimed to be killing in the name of God, who claimed to be killing for the sake of Islam but defamed and blasphemed Islam”.
The Prime Minister said Australia was the most successful multicultural society in the world. “The richness of our diversity is one of our nation’s great strengths and we must protect it dearly.”
Mr Turnbull said that the assault on Paris was a reminder “that a few fanatics with automatic weapons and explosives can do great damage and strike at the heart of free, open, democratic societies”. He said leaders of Muslim nations he met in the past week had said that Islamic State’s deeds and ideology defamed and blasphemed Islam, and were utterly contrary to the precepts of authentic Islam.
They included the leader of the largest Muslim nation, Indonesia’s Joko Widodo, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Najib Razak of Malaysia.