Ms JULIE BISHOP (Curtin—Minister for Foreign Affairs) (14:08):  I thank the member for Bass for his question, and I note that he is a former serving officer of the Australian Defence Force and has a great interest in this matter. Over the weekend I visited Iraq and spent time in Baghdad specifically. I met with the President of Iraq, the Speaker of the Parliament, Prime Minister Abadi and Foreign Minister Jaafari. I was able to reach agreement on the legal framework that will now enable our special forces to be deployed to Iraq to train, advise and assist the Iraqi security forces. Our Defence department and Defence Force will now be able to put in place the necessary administrative arrangements to enable that deployment to take place. I can report to the House that the senior leadership representatives I met with in Iraq expressed extreme gratitude for Australia's agreement to be part of an international coalition of nations determined to assist the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people in combating ISIL—or Da'esh, as it is called in Iraq. They were very grateful for our preparedness to provide assistance, particularly airstrikes, because those airstrikes are making a difference and have essentially taken away ISIL's capacity to mass troops, equipment, tanks and the like and have degraded their capability.

I also took the opportunity to meet with representatives of a number of minority communities—Yazidis, Christians, Mandaeans and Shabaks. They told me of the terrible plight facing their people and the horrific atrocities that have been committed by ISIL and other terrorist organisations operating in Iraq. Indeed, the situation in Baghdad itself is still tense. On Saturday evening, while I was there, a number of bombs went off which killed about 20 or 30 civilians in Baghdad city itself. Indeed, on Sunday morning while I was addressing our embassy staff and our security staff, at one point a bomb went off somewhere in Baghdad. It was certainly clear to all of us that Baghdad is a city that is under some stress as a result of these activities.

I announced today that the Australian government will provide further humanitarian assistance in Iraq. There will be a further $10 million, bringing to a total of $17 million Australian funding to support those who have been displaced and who need shelter, food and water. And there will be a further $5 million for Syria, bringing to $136 million our total response in Syria. We will work with other countries to defeat ISIL, to take back territory and to enable the Iraqi government to protect its citizens.

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