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Wednesday, 18 September 2002
Page: 6587


Ms HALL (1:43 PM) —I am very sad that we are in this House today discussing the possibility of a war with Iraq, a war that I do not agree with or sanction in any way. I found it most disturbing to hear the government's rhetoric and innuendo as it positioned Australia to follow the United States into battle with Iraq. I have listened as the Prime Minister, the foreign minister and various members of the government firmly positioned themselves behind George W. Bush as he adopted an extreme and uncompromising position. The authority for basing assumptions on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction is vague and outdated. The language used to convince the world and Australians that Iraq and Saddam Hussein are on the verge of obtaining nuclear capability is emotive and designed to engender fear rather than being objective and factual.

Saddam Hussein is a dictator of the worst order and has caused enormous hurt and hardship for his people. He is ruthless and has shown that he has no respect for the processes of the United Nations. This has been the case for a long time now. In recent times he has not increased his level of aggression, nor has there been any authoritative or concrete information to show that there has been a recent increase in the weapons of mass destruction held by Iraq. It is all supposition and the facts are hard to prove. This supposition is putting thousands of lives in jeopardy. The United States, with George Bush at the helm, does not want this matter resolved peacefully; rather, it wants revenge. It wants a distraction from its domestic matters and it wants the nation to focus on security and nationalism at a time when there are congressional and Senate elections.

There is no-one in Australia who does not deplore the events of 11 September. It was heartbreaking to see the destruction and the loss of life. The impact of that day has reverberated around the world and impacted on the lives of people throughout the world. But the impact of that event, the trauma and the loss of the lives of all those people will not be reversed by killing more people, escalating the conflict, and creating greater division and instability throughout the world. Peace is not obtained by killing, revenge and war; that is a knee-jerk reaction. It may initially feel good but, in the long term, it creates greater instability and more problems than it solves. War should always be a last resort; even then, it is something I have difficulty accepting. Peace is achieved by all parties making a commitment to it through diplomacy—something that can only, in this instance, be achieved through the United Nations. There is absolutely no way Australia should be involved in any conflict that is not sanctioned by the United Nations.

There is one certainty about war with Iraq, and that certainty is that it will increase world instability, lead to enormous loss of civilian life and create great hardship for thousands of innocent Iraqis. Over the years, the impact of war and the loss of life during war have shifted dramatically. Back in prehistory and the middle ages, death in war was almost exclusively contained to those involved in hand-to-hand conflict. In World War I about five per cent of the casualties were civilians, and in World War II 50 per cent were civilians; in more recent times it has been shown that between 80 and 90 per cent of casualties are civilians. The more sophisticated warfare becomes, and the easier it is to push a button or fight from a distance, the greater the civilian loss of life. This means that children and other innocent victims are easily sacrificed, and perpetrators of war are never faced with the evidence of their aggression.

Unlike the United States—which has dismissed the move as a trick by Saddam Hussein to stop military action—I welcome the Iraqi government's announcement that it will now allow United Nations weapons inspectors unconditional entry. The Australian Prime Minister and foreign minister have also been very negative towards and dismissive of the announcement, and have visibly been echoing the rhetoric coming from the United States. I believe that, before condemning something, we should at least be prepared to see whether it works. I find it most disturbing that the United States is still pursuing a resolution in the United Nations to issue an ultimatum to Iraq. This demonstrates that the US's interest is in war and bringing about a regime change in Iraq. I find it even more disturbing that our Prime Minister appears to be backing George Bush and is showing that Australia has no independence whatsoever when it comes to foreign policy. Basically, Australia's foreign policy is listening to the US—or, should I say, George Bush—and then saying, `Me, too.' I find that frightening.

It is very interesting to note that the US's attitude to Iraq has changed over time. During the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-88 the US actively prevented Saddam Hussein from being defeated and, at that time, was aware that Iraq was using chemical weapons. How things have changed. These days the US is appalled at the use of chemical weapons by Iraq but, back then, according to an unnamed veteran of the Iraqi aid program—and this was quoted in the US media—the Pentagon `wasn't so horrified by Iraq's use of gas It was just another way of killing people.' I find it unacceptable that the US can support and sanction something when the end meets their needs but condemn it when it does not. I find the whole concept of killing people, by whatever means, unacceptable.

It would appear that the US's double standards go well beyond whether it supported Saddam Hussein in the past when it suited its interests or opposes him now because he is restricting its access to Iraqi oil fields. The US's unconditional support for Israel, and its acceptance and support of Israel's non-com-pliance with United Nations resolutions, are hypocrisy of the highest order. The argu-ment that it is necessary to wage war on Iraq because it possesses weapons of mass destruction is another demonstration of hypocrisy. Israel, India, Pakistan, the United Kingdom and the United States itself all possess weapons of mass destruction, but the US does not demand that these countries be subjected to the same rigorous scrutiny or demands as Iraq. In fact, the US refuses to allow UN inspectors to inspect its facilities. That is a double standard. You might ask why. You could say, `Is it the oil or is it the ready-made target that will divert the attention of Americans during an election year?' What is most distressing to me is that Australia is following the United States without question. Where is our independence?

Within the Shortland electorate I wanted to make sure that the people felt the way I did or to at least canvass how they felt about Australian troops being committed to Iraq. So I have sent a survey throughout the electorate. So far, I have received only 250 answers but of those 250 answers 70 per cent say that they do not support any Australian troops being committed to Iraq, 19 per cent do support it and 10 per cent are undecided. There were comments such as `Australia should stay out of Iraq' and `if the US goes it alone without UN approval the terrorists have won'.

The other issue that I think needs to be raised is this: if the US is successful in its moves to change the regime in Iraq, what then? I would refer members to the Four Corners program that broadcast on 9 September. The issues that are raised there are quite frightening.

In this speech I have argued that Australia should question the US's motives, that we should act independently and that our actions should be actions that protect Australia's interests and not the interests of the US. Australia should not support unilateral military action by the US. The only Australian involvement that should even be considered is through the United Nations.