North coast Greens have joined their federal colleagues saying the federal government’s decision to bomb Syria places Australia ‘on the wrong side of history’.
Defence minister Kevin Andrews has said Australia could be fighting in the Middle East for two to three years, as he rules out troops on the ground.
As the RAAF prepares to join air operations over Syria within a week, Mr Andrews says the role of Australian troops is to conduct air strikes and train the Iraqi forces.
When asked whether he categorically rules out putting Australian troops on the ground, he told the Nine Network: ‘Yes, I do.’
Mr Andrews said the situation will be reviewed year by year, but he thinks Australia will be involved for two to three years.
‘The reality is that this is going to go on for a number of years,’ he said on Thursday.
He said success in the fight against Islamic State would be a regime in the Middle East that doesn’t commit genocide against its own people, and doesn’t
Clear message: Greens
The Australian Greens have condemned the government’s decision to commence airstrikes, warning it will worsen the refugee crisis and aggravate extremism.
North coast Greens spokesperson Dawn Walker said ‘our community in the northern rivers has sent a clear message that it wants the government to show compassion to people fleeing war in Syria and, while the refugee intake has been increased, Tony Abbott is also taking the opportunity to drop bombs, causing more distress for the Syrian people.’
‘I’m so proud of the way our local communities came together on Monday night to tell the government loud and clear that we are strong enough to offer protection to people seeking refuge from war.
‘While Abbott’s announcement of taking 12,000 refugees is welcome, it is happening because of the determination of the Australian public.
‘Any decision to drop bombs should be made by the Parliament, not a prime minister that is looking down the barrel of a federal election.
‘The Syrian civil war is complex and if Tony Abbott was serious about ending the atrocities unfolding in Iraq and Syria, he’d be joining international efforts to stem the flow of fighters, weapons and money, and leading regional diplomatic efforts to bring the conflict in Syria to a close.
We should be using our diplomatic offices to help support the tentative efforts towards local and regional ceasefires that have emerged in recent months.’ said Ms Walker.
Self evident: Bishop
Foreign minister Julie Bishop said it was ‘self-evident’ the conflict would take years not months to resolve.
‘We will need some time to defeat this terrorist organisation,’ she said.
As Australia and other coalition forces focus on IS bases and supply lines in Syria, Ms Bishop rejected suggestions Australia had watered-down its opposition to the Assad regime.
‘You’re not hearing a change in foreign policy from me,’ she told ABC radio.
Ms Bishop said Australia and its coalition partners needed to be assured that the ‘vicious and brutal’ regime in Damascus was not replaced by a terrorist organisation.
That’s why the focus was on defeating IS, she said.
Ms Bishop spoke overnight with US Secretary of State John Kerry about the impact of IS, which is operating out of eastern Syria into Iraq, and how to disrupt its bases and supply lines.
‘We discussed in detail how these operations would work,’ she told Seven Network.
More refugees: Triggs
Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs warned that bombing IS targets in Syria would create more refugees.
Australia’s policy of accepting 12,000 people fleeing the conflict and conducting air strikes was ‘contradictory’, she told ABC radio.
‘I think it’s inevitable that will increase the refugee flow and it will almost certainly lead to the deaths of more civilians.’
Ms Bishop said Australia remained concerned about a build-up of Russian support for the Assad regime.
One US official said dozens of Russian naval infantry had arrived in Syria, but their likely role was to protect incoming military hardware rather than a boots-on-the-ground deployment.
Prime minister Tony Abbott wouldn’t confirm whether his government had committed to a particular timeline.
‘Our armed forces personnel do the job effectively and professionally and when the job is done they come home,’ he told reporters in Port Moresby on Thursday.
– with AAP