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Thursday, 19 September 2002
Page: 6686

Ms JACKSON (10:24 AM) —I am not here today to argue the merits of this impending war, and I am not here to posture, predict or hypothesise. What I want to do is to speak directly to my constituents in Hasluck, and I want to make sure that they know where I stand and how I feel about this issue. Many constituents—those who have phoned, written, emailed and spoken to me on occasions over recent months—have all echoed my own feelings on the possibility of war in Iraq, and Australia's involvement. I have not felt or heard such anxiety and fear since, as a young woman, my own political interests were in part motivated by the peace marches on Palm Sunday in the early 1980s when there was an all-pervading fear of the inevitability and ultimate devastation of nuclear war. It is little wonder that my constituents are responding in this way to the constant images of death and violence, bullying and hatred, which are flooding our mass media. These fears have not been allayed by a government which, it seems, cannot make up its mind, which has no coherent policy or, for a while there, any idea of how it was going to decide Australia's role in this global crisis.

I recently conducted a survey of young people in Hasluck. Twenty per cent of them said directly that war was one of the top three things that concerned them. Another 14 per cent expressed an interest in overcoming intolerance, racism and poverty to try to make the world a safer and more harmonious place. Young people in Hasluck, and I dare say in the rest of Australia, are well aware of current world events and are better informed than ever before. They know well the oft quoted maxim: it is the old men who declare wars, but the young men who must fight them. Perhaps in this day and age it is appropriate to say: the young men and women who must fight them. They will demand that their representatives make informed decisions. They have seen the destruction wrought on the Afghanistan community in the war against terror. They know that more civilians have been accidentally killed in Afghanistan in the war against terror than were killed on September 11. They know that the victims of war are not just those killed but those who are forced to flee for their lives, and they know that this impacts on their own lives in their own country.

I am proud to be able to endorse the statements of the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow minister for foreign affairs. I am proud that it is the Labor opposition which has consistently presented a thoughtful and measured approach to this question. The flip-flopping of the government has served only to heighten fear and uncertainty. As one of my constituents said yesterday, her relief at the statement by the Iraqi foreign minister undertaking that weapons inspectors would be able to enter Iraq was palpable. But no doubt this brief respite was shattered by the US President's almost rejection of the offer. It seems it is a ploy and a play for time that we cannot accept this statement at its face value—and our Prime Minister agrees. How can my constituents have confidence in a government which has refused, up until now, to debate the issue in parliament until pressure from Labor and the community became overwhelming; a government which has time and again refused to acknowledge its responsibilities as a founding member of the United Nations; a government which blindly follows the tortuous posturing of the United States as it asserts its dominance? Policy seems to be based on a childish maxim: if my weapons of mass destruction are bigger than your weapons of mass destruction, then I am right.

I want my constituents to know where I stand. I do not profess to be an expert in defence weaponry or foreign affairs, but I do know that, as Nelson Mandela recently said, when asked why he was speaking out on this issue:

... the problems are such that for anybody with a conscience who can use whatever influence he may have to try to bring about peace, it's difficult to say no.

I am sure that Mandela would also concur with the words of Benjamin Franklin:

There never was a good war or a bad peace.

These are words we would all do well to remember during the coming weeks and months. I want my constituents in Hasluck, from Midland to Maddington, from Kalamunda to Kenwick, to know that I support Labor's plan for a multilateral, UN-brokered solution. I will bring to bear whatever influence I can to prevent this war. I recognise the threat posed to the world community by Saddam Hussein. I recognise that there could be circumstances in which Australia's participation in a war with Iraq is necessary, however peripheral it may be. But if and when this happens, we must know that we have done everything humanly possible to prevent it and that it is done under the auspices of the UN. The evidence that we have had presented by this government is not new; we have lived with the current threat for months, if not years. What has changed that we must now considering actions which will undeniably have devastating consequences? I will finish by quoting Samuel Butler, a 19th century poet, who said:

An unjust peace is to be preferred before a just war.

Mr LLOYD (Robertson) (10.29 a.m.)—I move:

That the debate be now adjourned.

The SPEAKER —The question is that the debate be now adjourned.

Mr Andren —I call for a division.

The SPEAKER —I am conscious of the member for Calare's call for a division. However, as he is aware, I do need two voices to call for a division in order for a division.

Mr Windsor —I call for a division.

The SPEAKER —Order! A division is required. Ring the bells.

A division having been called and the bells having been rung—

The SPEAKER —As there are fewer than five members on the side for the noes, I declare the division resolved in the affirmative, under standing order 204. The names of those members who are in the minority will be recorded in the Votes and Proceedings.

Question agreed to, Mr Andren and Mr Windsor dissenting.