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Hill And Cosgrove Doorstop - Farewell for F/A-18s

Hill And Cosgrove Doorstop - Farewell for F/A-18s

Minister for Defence Media Mail List

SENATOR ROBERT HILL: Very pleased to have the opportunity to thank those - to personally thank those who are being deployed and the wider defence organisation that supports them, and the families, to say how much we appreciate the support that they give to their spouses, and in return, in what are obviously difficult times for families, we pledge our commitment of support towards them.

The RAAF, in my experience in the war against terror has done a fantastic job -every element that has been deployed, and most elements have, the performance has been excellent, morale's been excellent, and they've been a great credit to Australia. And I'm sure in relation to this deployment they will do just as well again.

I stress the fact that it is a very important deployment. The threat of weapons of mass destruction is a real threat, and for 12 years we've tried to resolve the issue of Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction peacefully, and if we don't succeed it will be a terrible signpost [indistinct] to other rogue states and non-state players that are prepared to use such weapons to achieve political gain. So succeeding in this is critically important. We hope it can be done peacefully, and that's why they've been pre-deployed. It's really that final illustration of strength and determination. If he's not prepared to co-operate, if he's not prepared to meet the demands of the whole international community - to be peacefully disarmed - then he will be disarmed.

QUESTION: Minister, you referred a couple of times to the RAAF's capacity and capability, and the fact that you're very proud of it. But what do you say to reports that it's not up to scratch? That the Hornets aren't technologically up to scratch? There was a report in the paper [indistinct]

SENATOR HILL: Well, that's absolute nonsense. This - the FA-18, for example, is the backbone of the US naval aircraft, which, you know, played such a critical role in relation to Iraq and Middle East issues in the past, and - and it's not only the capability of the aircraft, it's the capability of our crews and their training.

These are the latest models - our latest models, in terms of the new radar, and technological updates. Extremely lethal, capable weapons platforms, and supported by excellent, well-trained crews.

QUESTION: So you reject that report as well, sir?

GENERAL PETER COSGROVE: Oh absolutely. [indistinct] spot on. They have state of the art weapons, not only [indistinct], but of course when we go over there, we'll be working very closely with the coalition, and the coalition [indistinct], increased protection, and [indistinct] a good environment to work in [indistinct] very, very well.

As the Minister said, the key thing is our fighter pilots are as good as any fighter pilots in the world, and these people who are [indistinct] need to think very carefully about [indistinct]. Thankyou.

QUESTION: [indistinct]

SENATOR HILL: Of course it does, but we've done it because we're supporting - it's important for us to talk to their families, and express how much we appreciate the support they give to their spouses, and as I've said, to have the opportunity to say to them that we accept the responsibility in return - as a wider community - a Government and a wider community - that when these spouses are away on deployment in operations it's a time for us all to join together and ensure that families get the greatest possible support.

QUESTION: What's the timeframe [indistinct] ?

SENATOR HILL: We haven't published a timeframe, but we are not anticipating a long deployment.

QUESTION: Would you agree with that, General Cosgrove?

GENERAL COSGROVE: Well, of course. That it wont be a long deployment? Of course.

QUESTION: [indistinct]

SENATOR HILL: Because we're disarming.

QUESTION: Well, when you say disarming, the thing might drag on.

SENATOR HILL: Well, we make decisions in terms of the length of particular assets, and we assess the circumstances. Look, people say once you're in you'll be in forever, but look what's happened in Afghanistan - we decided that our Special Forces had more than done their bit, and so we withdrew them. And that's the way that we're operating. So...

QUESTION: [indistinct] any more troops if the situation does [indistinct]?

SENATOR HILL: We have no plans for an expanded contribution. We have made a determination on what we think is an appropriate Australian contribution to the wider international effort to disarm Saddam Hussein, and I can't imagine any threat that would cause us to revisit that.

ENDS

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