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Thursday, 12 December 2002
Page: 10622


Mr DANBY (1:20 PM) —On this last day of the sitting of the House this year I pay tribute to the staff of the parliament, the Library, the dining room and all of the attendants for the magnificent work they do. A lot of us lead very dislocated lives, coming from different parts of Australia to participate in the national life of this great parliament. It would not be possible without the incredible support that we get in all of the multifaceted ways from various staff. So I begin my remarks by thanking them and wishing them all a merry Christmas and a happy new year. I hope that we all have a peaceful one.

That brings me to the gist of my remarks. Some weeks ago the opposition foreign affairs and defence committee met with a former ambassador for disarmament, Richard Butler. He has played a leading and very praiseworthy role over the years in that area, particularly on the elimination and nonproliferation of chemical and biological weapons, which Australia led under former foreign minister Gareth Evans. Ambassador Butler told members of the opposition—and I am sure these views are reflected amongst members of the government, too—that, whatever one's views on policy with Iraq, he had been there many times and he had studied the situation of the people of Iraq, and he said that none of us in this great democratic parliament should have any illusions about the regime in Baghdad. He said, as many people have, that this regime is one of the worst violators of human rights in world. When speaking on the various policy options that we have—including the opposition's policy, which all of us support, that, if there is to be action against Iraq, we should have United Nations action approved by the Security Council—we should all preface our remarks by underlining what an appalling regime exists in Iraq.

I feel at this time that someone must speak up on behalf of the millions of people in Iraq who are being murdered or tortured all of the time. It is all very well for people simply to focus on what might happen if there is a military conflict. People made very exaggerated scenarios when it came to Afghanistan. We do not want a military conflict, but, if it does come, the opposition says that it must come with a United Nations Security Council approval. But let us be under no illusions. Let us not create the Potemkin villages with Iraq that some people used to create in regard to the former Soviet Union. Saddam's regime practises genocide against the Kurdish people in Iraq. The infamous Anfal campaign, on which I have an answer from the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Notice Paper today, killed over 100,000 Kurdish people in a deliberate act of genocide. It included the use of poison gas against civilians.

This dreadful Baathist regime is best outlined in the great work on modern Iraq by the great Iraqi scholar at Brandeis University, Professor Kanan Makiya, called Republic of Fear. Unfortunately, I appear to be the only parliamentarian to have read it since June 2000. Makiya describes the Stalinesque regime that exists in Baghdad and its systematic killing of all kinds of political opponents, including radical opposition such as the Communist Party. A majority of Iraqis also live in total fear.

The Iraqi regime does have a relationship with terrorists. President Vaclav Havel of Czechoslovakia did say that Mohamed Atta definitely did meet with Iraqi intelligence officers prior to September 11. This does not prove that Iraq was involved in September 11 but we should have no illusions. In Kurdistan at the moment the Kurds will tell you that the Iraqi service is working very closely with an al-Qaeda aligned group in Kurdistan to upset the great democracy that is spreading in that northern region, with 30 free newspapers and great human rights. Let us have no illusions about Iraq. (Time expired)