Australian air strikes on ISIS in Iraq are “ready to go” and begin as soon as tonight according to defence minister David Johnston.
While no time frame has given by the government, due to the sensitive nature of the operation, Johnston told the ABC TV this morning: “Our air strike situation is firm. We have our legal authorities and we are ready to go.”
He added, “I think that the government and the opposition have been at one, I think the public has been impressed by the fact this is not a matter for political debate.”
“We’ve seen enough to establish in our own minds as a nation, pretty well, that this situation in Iraq cannot continue,” he said.
There are reports that the air strikes could cost Australia as much as half a billion dollars a year, which Abbott has said “could take quite some time”.
The government hasn’t yet outlined how this will be paid for, but the finance minister Mathias Cormann told Sky News that the government is still focused on getting the budget back in surplus within four years.
“I cannot predict what may or may not happen in the years ahead but from where we are know, based on how we have been progressing things through parliament so far, our commitment remains to get the budget back in broad balance over the current forward estimates,” said Cormann.
This week Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced Australia would conduct air strikes against the “death cult”.
Six Australian F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets are on standby in the Middle East, and eight aircrafts are have been approved to go.
“ISIL has effectively declared war on the world… the world is responding,” Abbott said.”It is absolutely in Australia’s national interest that this mission go ahead”.
The PM stressed that Australia was not technically at war and was operating at the request of the Iraqi government.
A national poll has today revealed that 75% of Australians believe the threat of terrorism attacks in Australia is real.
The Galaxy survey commissioned by The Sunday Telegraph also found 62% of the Australian respondents said they support the governments decision to perform air strike on ISIS in Iraq.
Yesterday ISIS released a video purporting to the beheading of Alan Henning, a British taxi driver who was kidnapped while delivering aid to Syria last December.
At the end of the video the militant group threatened former US Army Ranger Peter Kassig as its next potential victim.
Kassig, 26, was working to help Syrian refugees by providing medical and humanitarian support with a group he founded called Special Emergency Response and Assistance.
Today Kassig’s parents have recorded a heartbreaking video plea for their son to be released from ISIS captivity. See it here.
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