The Courier-Mail

TONY BACKS WAR AND PEACE

Cheap shot can often come at a high price Abbott gives green light to airstrikes as he signs off on refugee increase

- DENNIS ATKINS STEVEN SCOTT

TONY Abbott will today convene a special Cabinet meeting to sign off on an increase in refugees from Syria at the same time as it endorses military attacks on the country.

Cabinet’s National Security Committee last night backed a plan to join US-led airstrikes on ISIS targets in Syria and will argue this is an extension of our troops’ mission to provide “collective self-defence” to Iraq.

The military attacks will come with a boost in help for the millions of people fleeing Syria by increase Australia’s refugee intake.

A one-off increase in refugees appeared likely last night, although some of them could initially be on temporary protection visas.

Christians and other minorities including Druze and Yazidis are likely to be earmarked for placement in Australia as permanent refugees because they will have the least chance of returning home if Islamic extremists end up taking Syria.

The Government is also planning to announce more funding for the United Nations’ refugee agency UNHCR, aimed at improving protection in refugee camps in the Middle East.

The Prime Minister told Parliament he would make an announceme­nt within a day on Australia’s response to the crisis.

“We shouldn’t delay, but neverthele­ss we do need to be careful and I expect that within 24 hours the Government will have much more to say on this matter,” Mr Abbott said.

He said military strikes on Syria were a necessary part of stopping the barbarity of ISIS and the regime of Bashar alAssad.

“As well as a humanitari­an response, we also need a security response, because the people of Syria are currently caught between the hammer of the death cult and its mass executions and the anvil of the Assad regime and its chemical weapons,” he said.

Mr Abbott flagged measures to improve safety in refugee camps and assistance aimed at refugees who are “persecuted minorities, women and children”.

THE PEOPLE OF SYRIA ARE CAUGHT

BETWEEN THE HAMMER OF THE DEATH CULT ... AND THE ANVIL OF THE ASSAD REGIME

PM Tony Abbott

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the Government would probably focus on people from minority religions.

She left open the option of temporary visas for some refugees who wanted to return home in the future.

“There are some who are seeking temporary safe haven and want to return home when it is safe to do so,” Ms Bishop said.

“There are others who believe that they would be persecuted whatever the outcome of the conflict in Syria and they are looking for permanent resettleme­nt.”

Government Leader in the Senate Eric Abetz called for a special focus on Christian migrants. “Given the plight of Christians, I think a very strong case can be made that Christians should be prioritise­d,” he said.

LNP Federal MP George Christense­n told the ABC’s

7.30 last night: “I think that any Christian walking around in Syria and many of those places in the Middle East at the moment, because of Islamic State, basically has a target on their forehead or a line around their neck where ISIS wants to cut, so if your life is threatened, as their lives are, they should be prioritise­d.”

But Opposition Leader Bill Shorten warned against picking refugees based on their religion. “If you’re a woman facing terrible crimes to be committed against you, if you’re a child, a little child, potentiall­y drowning at sea, I’m not interested in their religion, I’m interested in their safety,” Mr Shorten said.

Refugee Council of Australia chief Paul Power also urged the Government not to discrimina­te between people fleeing Syria based on religion.

Divisions over the Government’s response dominated meetings of the Liberal party room and joint Coalition party rooms yesterday.

About 17 backbenche­rs spoke on the issue, with the majority urging the Government to do more.

Some MPs want the planned increase in the total refugee intake to 18,750, which is due to come in by 2018-19, to be fast-tracked.

Others want a one-off increase in refugees.

Former immigratio­n minis- ter Scott Morrison told the meeting the Government had already increased the number of refugees from Syria because places were not taken up by those who arrived from other countries by boat under Labor.

Nationals MP Andrew Broad called for a boost of more than 10,000 and Liberal MP Brett Whiteley told his colleagues community views had shifted and voters expected the Government to act.

One Liberal told the meeting the Government could suffer an electoral blow if it took too long to announce an increase in the refugee intake because it could look like it was “dragged” to the position.

 ??  ?? FREEDOM TRAIN: Middle East refugees cross into Hungary on a railway line.
FREEDOM TRAIN: Middle East refugees cross into Hungary on a railway line.
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