Australia is a at "high state of readiness" to assist the United States with further airstrikes targeting Islamic State terrorists in Iraq, Defence Minister David Johnston says.
The New York Times is reporting the US has begun mobilising a coalition of allies and is considering asking them to become involved in airstrikes in Iraq.
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What is Australia risking if it participates in military action against the Islamic State? Analysis with Peter Hartcher and Chris Hammer.
Defence Minister David Johnston says Australia has so far only contributed humanitarian aid, with troops dropping energy biscuits and water to trapped refugees. But he has told the ABC Australia might do more.
"We're at a high state of readiness. We're at a good state of readiness at all times. Apart from saying that, I wouldn't want to say any more," Senator Johnston told the ABC on Wednesday night.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott told the Parliament on Thursday that the government had not had an official request from the US to provide military assistance but said talks with the US were ongoing.
Mr Abbott described President Obama's decision to authorise air strikes against the "murderous hoards" of IS as being "to his great credit".
"If we were asked for military assistance, there would be the standard approvals process that would involve Cabinet decision making and consultation with the opposition."
Mr Abbott said any request for Australian military involvement would be considered in light of "achievable objectives, a clear role for Australian forces, full risk assessment and an overall humanitarian objective".
"No-one in this Parliament, I am sure, no human being anywhere, would wish to stand by and watch the preventable slaughter of innocent people. None of us would wish to see a preventable slaughter of innocent people," he said.
"I'm sure the Leader of the Opposition would not in this context mind me echoing the words of Ben Chifley and his light on the hill, to work for the betterment of man kind, not just here, but wherever we can lend a helping hand."
On Wednesday night Senator Johnston said Australia has a "lot of capability" at its "fingertips" including the "incredibly capable Super Hornets".
"Now, that's an obvious first port of call were we to consider it necessary to participate with our friends and our ally," the minister said.
But he said both the US and Australia wanted to see a "more inclusive government in Baghdad" before committing to any large scale military mission.
"The Secretary of State and Julie Bishop and I discussed that we think it's appropriate that a more inclusive government in Baghdad should be established before we start talking to them about what level of military assistance from the sort of group of allies who are so concerned would start to materialise.
Labor says it has asked for a briefing from the government but so far has not been provided with one. The opposition's spokeswoman on foreign affairs Tanya Plibersek said she supported Australia's humanitarian involved but said "we need to be very cautious" about any military involvement.
"If there is a potential genocide the international community has a responsiblity to protect, it does look as though there are potential genocides in northern Iraq but any action Australia might take is something we need to be very thoughtful and very calm about," she said.
"You can't make serious decisions about national security by press conference," she said and called on the government to provide more detail, including draft legislation.