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Thursday, 13 February 2003
Page: 11825

Mr GRIFFIN (1:29 PM) —Before I was to some extent abruptly and rudely interrupted last night, I was about to make some additional comments on the matter of Iraq. I am pleased to be able to continue my contribution to this debate in the main chamber. Given the time of day and the circumstances, I will paraphrase some of my remaining comments. This is not a subject that can be easily dealt with in a 15-minute speech, but I am certainly glad that members who have not yet had the opportunity to speak are being given that opportunity today.

I mentioned last night the circumstances we face in relation to the issue of weapons of mass destruction and that the weapons inspectors ought be allowed more time to consider that matter. I also said that we may be dealing with an issue here that for some is about regime change. Although I have no love at all, as I said earlier, for the regime of Saddam Hussein and would be very keen to see it change, I once again ask: is this the time for a regime change? Are these the circumstances and is this the way to achieve that objective? Would more time allow for more change? That question can be legitimately asked and considered. As I said earlier, on the question of civil and human rights, there have been numerous and flagrant breaches of the rights of the people of Iraq by Saddam Hussein and his regime. That is appalling but it is not new. That has been going on for a long time and action should be taken in this area. But for some to say that this has happened in just the last several years is more than false.

It has also been suggested that this proposed war is about US oil interests in the Middle East. That is a legitimate charge to lay and it ought be considered very seriously, because there are issues of double standards in relation to aspects of regimes in the Middle East and elsewhere. There is also the issue of whether we are really dealing here with some unfinished business from George Sr to George Jr. If that is the case, that is not grounds to head down this path of conflict at this time.

As on so many other occasions, we are dealing here with the questions of costs and benefits. There are a range of benefits with the removal of Saddam Hussein for the future of Iraq and the region, but there are also a range of potential costs that have to be considered and weighed up in those circumstances. One thing is clear: we will be dealing with a situation of significant civilian casualties. The question is not `Will there be?' but `How many?' What that will mean in the consideration of Iraq's future is difficult to analyse and weigh up. No doubt we will be talking about some casualties to the armed forces of allied nations which will be involved—and we know that in the circumstances of our own country that will mean our own troops. That also weighs heavily upon my mind in terms of action being taken at this time.

Who will be right about those issues? I fear we are about to find out. I fear that we will find ourselves in a situation where we will be moving down a track when we really should have considered whether that was the way to go at this time. What do we know? We know from the Prime Minister that we are committed. We know that, at the very best, it has been a circumstance of our saying, `Nudge-nudge, wink-wink, say no more; we are heading down there; we are with you.' I equate the question to being on a slide.

As you would note, Madam Deputy Speaker, a man of my size going down a slide is not something that happens very often or is pretty to watch. When I play with my children on a slide, there are places you get to on it where, once you have moved so far down, the only way to go is down—and that is what I believe we are dealing with here. It is a situation where, although the explicit choice may not have been stated, the fact is that it has been made. That removes flexibility and actually raises questions about our own basic sovereignty in these circumstances and about consultation with the Australian people.

I will also comment briefly on where I think the situation with the US ambassador presently stands. Although an ambassador, as a representative of a country, has the right to defend the interests of that country on an ongoing basis, I think the interventions that have occurred in recent days from Ambassador Schieffer are plainly unprofessional. I note that he is a friend of President Bush, and I understand his feelings and concerns about those matters. However, the fact is that we have a history of having ambassadors to this country for whom this has not been their calling but something that they have done towards the end of their careers. I think that we are seeing that in some of the comments and in the way that this ambassador has behaved. It brings him no credit and it certainly does not help the argument.

We are also in a situation where we have a range of issues in our own backyard. I do not believe we are dealing with the issue of terrorism properly. I do not think fridge magnets are the answer in these circumstances. I think more can and ought be done closer to home. We need a second UN resolution to ensure that there is proper debate and proper consideration of these issues—and even then I fear the actions that may come. (Time expired)