Prime Minister Tony Abbott says he’s thrilled about the leaking of a confidential government memo. Canberra – using six F/A18 combat jets and two support aircraft based in the United Arab Emirates – joined the raids in Iraq but not the strikes on targets in Syria, citing legal concerns.
Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop says while the US has formally asked Australia to expand its operations in the Middle East to include air strikes on Syria, the government wants to be sure there is a credible legal basis for it.
The United States has been leading a coalition of Western and Arab powers carrying out air strikes against fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group since previous year.
“(ISIS) is a movement of almost incalculable, unfathomable evil and it’s very important that Australia play its part in the campaign to disrupt, degrade and ultimately destroy this death cult”, he said.
He said Coalition partners were already operating in Syria and so Australia’s involvement would just be in addition to that.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten is seeking a reassurance on the legality of Australian warplanes bombing Syria but has underscored Labor’s bipartisanship over the war against Islamic State.
The US has a “freer hand” but Australia must ensure it gets the right approvals, he told Sky News on Saturday.
Mr Abbott said on Friday that the government would make a decision in the next couple of weeks. “So it’s something she’s been doing for quite some time”, Ms Bishop said.
Labor MP Nick Champion says unlike the US, Australia is a signatory to the global Criminal Court, meaning any illegal action in Syria could leave Australian soldiers vulnerable to worldwide court action.
Asked directly if she believed the government was getting the adequate support from Labor which is the standard practice on issues of national security and defence, Ms Bishop said it was not.