Statement: Request for ADF Assistance in the Red Sea

Tuesday 19 December 2023

Australia has been a consistent contributor to security and peace-keeping operations throughout the world. For the last two decades, the Australian Defence Force has maintained a presence in the Middle East and served us well in conducting counter-terrorism and anti-piracy operations.

That is why the Prime Minister’s reluctance and indecision to meet the United States’ modest request for a maritime contribution in the Red Sea is troubling.

The Prime Minister is dithering on this decision, in yet another example of weak leadership in national security.

This is a vital moment in global security. Hamas and its Iranian-backed affiliates have created strategic disorder in the Middle East that risks both international prosperity and security.

We must take a stand against barbarism, and Australia has a clear role to play—as we have done so in the past. This is never more the case given that 12% of the world’s trade passes through the Red Sea lanes.

If the UK, Canada, Spain, Norway, France and Italy can contribute to the Red Sea Operation Prosperity Guardian taskforce, then why can’t Australia?

The Prime Minister must show leadership and be upfront with the Australian people. Does the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) have the personnel and capability to deploy to the Middle East? Can the RAN defend itself against the threat posed by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels? Can they defend themselves against missile and drone attacks? If not, why not? Is the RAN overstretched by Operation Sovereign Borders? If so, why is the Albanese government underinvesting in the RAN? These are questions that the Prime Minister must answer.

Australia’s security has always been preserved by standing with our allies. If we can’t support Operation Prosperity Guardian, we risk becoming the blunt end of the AUKUS partnership.

If we can’t be counted on in times of crisis, why should we expect our partners to come to our aid, in our moment of need?

Australians deserve answers. We call upon the Albanese government to give them.

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