Defence minister says Iraq campaign could be lengthy

DEFENCE Minister David Johnston has admitted Australia could be engaged in another lengthy conflict in Iraq.

RAAF Super Hornets completed their first non-combat missions in Iraq yesterday and were expected to beginning a bombing campaign overnight.

Speaking to ABC's Insiders yesterday Mr Johnston said the campaign to defeat ISIS could be a drawn out fight.

"We've got extremely good people on the ground and in the air who know exactly what needs to be done, and I think that there is a campaign, quite a long campaign in front of us," he said.

"But as I say, I'm quietly confident that we'll be able to degrade, delegitimise certainly, and really undermine the capacity of this organisation to do what it's done to this point in time."

With United States Air Force bombing raids already underway the RAAF was waiting for an official request from the Iraqi government.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Australians were reluctant to deploy their military; however, the actions of the Islamic State terrorist group drove the country to act.

"As Australians, we're rightly reluctant to reach out to conflicts thousands of miles away but sadly these conflicts sometimes reach out to us," he said.

"In this case, it is the extremism of the ISIL movement in Iraq and Syria. The beheadings, the crucifixions, mass executions, ethnic cleansing and sexual slavery that are occurring in northern Iraq and Syria, are only the beginning if ISIL has its way."

Opposition leader Bill Shorten said the Labor Party supported the campaign, but admitted the conflict could last a long time.

"I don't know how long this conflict will take," he said.

"I believe, though, that our task is clear. It is about protecting citizens of Iraq from evil, from murder, from mass murder and sexual slavery.

Mr Shorten said the Federal Government hadn't asked the Opposition to support action against ISIS in Syria.

"What is important to remember in Iraq is that the Government of Iraq has asked for Australia's assistance. This is quite different to even the 2003 second Gulf War." - APN NEWSDESK