Australian aircraft are to start flying support operations over Iraq, the prime minister says.

Australian military aircraft will start flying support operations over Iraq from Wednesday, Prime Minister Tony Abbott says.

Mr Abbott said the federal cabinet had not yet approved combat flights, but early warning and control aircraft and refuellers were being deployed into Iraq.

“Australian aircraft from today will start flying over Iraq in support of allied operations,” he told parliament.

“Ours are support operations, not strike missions.

“Australian air strikes await final clearances from the Iraqi government and a further decision by our own.”

He said international security and Australia’s national security were “indivisible”.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said any decision on a combat role should not be rushed.

“We support the government taking the time to get it right,” he said.

He reiterated the four conditions behind the opposition’s support for the government on a potential combat role.

Labor’s support does not extend to ground combat forces and is only confined to Iraq, not Syria.

Mr Shorten also welcomed work on the legal and diplomatic framework under way to support Australia’s Iraq operations.

He offered support to the 600 Australian Defence Force personnel stationed in the Middle East.

“We wish them a safe and successful mission and a speedy return to the ones they love.”