BEN FORDHAM: Well, Australia has joined an international coalition to protect vulnerable shipping routes in the Persian Gulf. Last month Iran’s Revolutionary Guard stormed and seized a British oil tanker, and in the weeks since Iran has been targeting foreign ships, prompting the UK to call for international help. Well, now Australia is going in.
Marise Payne, the Foreign Minister, is on the line. Minister, good afternoon.
MARISE PAYNE: Good afternoon Ben, how are you?
BEN FORDHAM: I’m doing well. How quickly are we going to mobilise here?
MARISE PAYNE: Well Ben, this is a staged process. There will be a P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft which deploys to the Middle East for a month before the end of this year, and then an Australian frigate will deploy in January of next year for a six-month period. So, there’s a period of time required for preparation obviously, and the ADF will be working very hard on that. And of course, we will also have a small number of ADF personnel who will be posted into the International Maritime Security Construct headquarters, which are located in the Middle East. It’s important for Australians to be part of the planning, and they’ll have a very specific role.
BEN FORDHAM: Are we preparing for military conflict?
MARISE PAYNE: Ben, this is really about stability in this part of the world. It’s about upholding the right to freedom of navigation by ships at sea. And you referred in your opening comments to the destabilisation that has been going on, particularly around commercial shipping, and we have stood by the principle of freedom of navigation very, very strongly for a long time. The international waters belong to everyone. They’re critical for the free passage of trade, and you don’t have to look at a map for very long to understand how true that is for a country like Australia, and as a major trading nation, our upholding in freedom of navigation at sea is very much in our interest. So, it’s not so much about conflict as you said, but it’s about stability, it’s about freedom of navigation, it’s about Australia standing up for those principles.
BEN FORDHAM: Minister, you won’t be surprised to hear that the Greens have criticised this. They’re saying it’s inflammatory, it’s an overreaction – what’s your response to that?
MARISE PAYNE: Well, I think when we look at what responsible countries do, responsible countries stand up for the rule of law. They stand up for the principles that underpin the international system, and freedom of navigation is a key aspect of that. And you would expect Australia, where it is in our interest, as it is in this case, to make a contribution if we are able to do so. The Government has considered this very seriously, we’ve taken significant advice from other participants, and from of course our own military leadership, and intelligence and security leadership, and we’ve made a decision to make a contribution for a period of time.
BEN FORDHAM: And we thank all of the servicemen and women who are going to be involved. Minister, thank you very much for coming on.
MARISE PAYNE: Ben, we thank them and we particularly thank their families, the people who support them when they’re away.
BEN FORDHAM: Well said. Marise Payne, the Foreign Minister joining us on the line after Australia decided to join this international coalition that’s going to be acting in the Persian Gulf.
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