Coalition MPs disagree on anti-IS tactics

FORMER defence minister Kevin Andrews has taken a swipe at the Turnbull government over its failure to accede to a US request for extra military help in Iraq and Syria.

Mr Andrews, who was replaced by Marise Payne as defence minister after Malcolm Turnbull rolled Tony Abbott at prime minister, told the ABC on Thursday that Senator Payne must have had information he did not have when he held the role.

He said if "the Americans made a reasonable request", Australia should have given it "the most favourable consideration".

Late last year, US Defence Secretary Ash Carter asked more than 40 countries to consider contributing to military efforts or expanding their existing contributions against the IS militant movement.

However, in a statement released by Sen Payne on Wednesday, she said the government had advised Mr Carter that Australia's "existing contributions" would continue.

Mr Andrews said that during talks with Australian military figures, it was made clear to him ground forces were needed to defeat IS.

Australia has about 400 troops in the region, mostly involved in air strikes and training of rebel ground forces.

Several government frontbenchers have claimed Australia's contribution is second only to that of the US, but in the wake of last year's Paris terror attacks the French have contributed more air resources than Australia to combat IS.

The Greens backed Sen Payne's decision, with deputy leader Scott Ludlam saying it was the first time he could recall Australia knocking back such a request from the US.

The renewed debate follows Lowy Institute executive director Dr Michael Fullilove arguing in his Boyer Lecture late last year that Australia should not simply accept all military requests from America.

Dr Fullilove acknowledged a need for Australia, as a member of the "liberal international order", to sometimes act as its "bodyguard".

He also said the decision by the Howard government to engage in the second Iraq war was wrong and allies were "allowed to disagree".


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