Opposition defence spokesman David Johnston has called for another 300 Australian troops to be sent to Afghanistan, following claims diggers there don’t have enough support.


A recently published email from an Australian soldier in Afghanistan claimed that air and mortar support was insufficient on a recent field mission which killed Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney.

Senator Johnston on Wednesday said cabinet’s national security committee must be presented with a precise outline of what happened during the deadly battle and the resources that were available to soldiers at the time.

“I have no confidence or faith that this has to this point in time occurred,” he told parliament.

Senator Johnston said the federal government should consider deploying “more substantial assets” to Afghanistan, including a reduced squadron of Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopters, six tanks and more gunners and engineers.

All in all, he estimated about an extra 300 military personnel were needed in Afghanistan.

“I don’t make these suggestions lightly, I make them because this is a very serious, important matter,” Senator Johnston said.

“When we have people in the frontline saying they are short on ammunition, short on support and that … artillery, mortars and aviation support is not available, we have a significant problem that needs to be addressed.”

Meanwhile, the federal parliament has passed a package of changes to its own rules and procedures, but only after the government lost its first vote.

Ironically, a division over how to deal with divisions in which an MP inadvertently misses a vote was won by the opposition by a single vote.

However, the rest of a package of changes, which the government proclaimed “a great day for parliamentary reform”, was passed without controversy.

The opposition, while supporting most of the measures, successfully amended an aspect that could be crucial in a parliament of knife-edge numbers.

Manager of opposition business Christopher Pyne said the government had reneged on an agreement to hold a debate on a vote being held again if a member inadvertently missed the first vote.

Mr Pyne moved an amendment to the package to require a debate to suspend standing orders so the house could decide if the missed vote was genuine misadventure.

The change would discourage government sloppiness, he said.

The government opposed the amendment, but with the independents splitting, it was passed by 73 votes to 72.