The prospect of Australian participation in a war against Islamic State fighters in Iraq is edging closer with both Tony Abbott and Bill Shorten in lockstep yesterday branding the militants respectively "a death cult" and "an enemy of humanity".
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Islamic State a 'death cult': PM
The government won't stand by in the face of preventable genocide says the Prime Minister.
In powerful statements to Parliament, the two leaders took a common position in declaring that Australia and its allies and partners could not stand by while innocent people were slaughtered.
Building the moral case for intervention, Mr Abbott said that Australians "in good conscience … cannot leave the Iraqi people to face this horror, this pure evil alone, or ask others to do so in the name of human decency what we won't do ourselves".
Mr Shorten went beyond the declarations by both Mr Abbott and US President Barack Obama, designating the atrocities carried out by the Islamic State as "genocide".
Australia is yet to receive a request from Washington for deeper military involvement such as help with air strikes. But the RAAF is poised to begin deliveries of weapons and munitions to the Kurdish Peshmerga forces, who are bearing the brunt of the fight in northern Iraq against heavily armed Islamic State fighters.
But there is little doubt Australia would respond favourably to any such request, with Mr Abbott insisting that a failure to act was both morally unconscionable and strategically dangerous.
"Doing anything involves serious risks and weighty consequences," he said. "But doing nothing involves risks and consequences too.
"As things stand, doing nothing means leaving millions of people exposed to death, forced conversion and ethnic cleansing.
"I refuse to call this hideous movement 'Islamic State' because it's not a state, it is a death cult."
The issue dominated Parliament on Monday, with MPs in both houses debating further involvement, underscoring the growing momentum towards a military campaign.
Mr Shorten left no doubt as to the Opposition's support for intervention, describing national security as "above politics".
"The inescapable fact is that genocide is being perpetrated against defenceless people and we cannot co-operate with this evil by refusing to support the innocent," he said.
Mr Shorten branded the Islamic State, "an enemy of humanity, engaged in crimes against humanity".
The Opposition Leader pointedly dismissed any suggestion that the current situation was similar to the 2003 "Coalition of the Willing" invasion of Iraq.
"In 2003, we went to Iraq without international support and without the support of the majority of the Iraqi population," he said.
"Today, the Iraqi government is speaking with the international community, seeking our humanitarian assistance."
Rodger Shanahan, a former Army officer and now a Middle East expert at the Lowy Institute, said the arms deliveries would go a long way to bolstering the Kurdish forces, in concert with the US air strikes, but warned the conflict would be brutal and bloody.
"They'll be a blip in history but they'll be a bloody blip and they'll be nasty to get rid of," he said. "They'll go, but somebody's got to get rid of them."
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the aim of the arms deliveries was to "make the Peshmerga strong enough so that they can defend themselves".
But she also acknowledged the risk of arms provided by Australia falling into the hands of other terrorists.
"There are always risks but as I've said, we've been weighing these carefully, not only in Australia but all of the nations involved."