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Wednesday, 19 March 2003
Page: 12930

Mr JOHN COBB (3:16 PM) —I hesitated to speak on the floor of the House on this issue, having already done so, but on serious reflection it seemed to me that my electorate and my country have the right to know that it is not just the Prime Minister and the cabinet who have resolved to take the course that we are taking but the whole of the government. I believe that everybody has the right to know why we have taken this particular decision. For the government, it is obviously an awesome decision to take and an awesome responsibility. Obviously there is no bigger responsibility than to make the decision to send our troops into conflict. In the short time that I have been a member of this House, it is the biggest decision that I have seen taken here. We have an enormous responsibility to the people of Australia. The prime reason for having a national government is a nation's security—in other words, looking after the borders and our internal and external security. It is an enormously serious issue which we do not have the luxury of treating as a political issue—as the opposition is doing. It is very much an issue of the nation's security.

I can assure you, Mr Speaker, and members of the House that the electorate of Parkes is incredibly proud of the Australian troops for what they have done—as recently as the action in Afghanistan—where they are now and what they will do in the future. I support our action because I believe it is right. I believe it is right from the point of view of the security of this country. Anybody who has really stopped and thought deeply about what has gone on in recent times, whether it be September 11 or nearer to home in Bali, understands what an enormous issue terrorism is for the Western world.

Anybody who thinks that we are not susceptible to terrorism needs to get out of bed on the other side for a change. The only reason that we have so far not suffered this in our own country is that those who would do such a thing—whether they be al-Qaeda or others—know it is much easier to be caught for it in Australia than in a place like Bali. It is also much harder for them to find people to set themselves up to do it. If they have any of those weapons, be it nerve gas and anthrax or other biological weapons, that Saddam Hussein has—and no-one really denies that he has them—it is much easier for them to come to a country like ours, deposit such weapons and be gone by the time the result is known. It is as simple as that.

I also believe that we are right from a humanitarian point of view, without any doubt. We heard the last speaker talk about humanitarian issues. Recent speakers, commentators and those who are totally against taking any action at all say, `What's wrong with a few more months?' Saddam Hussein, as we know, is somebody who tortures, kills, rapes and does whatever he has to do to get rid of any opposition or simply because he enjoys being a dictator. This man is obviously a homicidal maniac; he is not a suicidal one. The more time we give him, the more time he has to find ways of getting weapons to terrorists. We are talking about a man who is quite willing to use these weapons on his own people, so why the heck would he not give them to terrorists, whether or not they approve of him? It is quite common and seems to be fashionable to say that al-Qaeda do not think that Saddam Hussein is their type of person—and I am sure they do not. But they do not care who they kill, so I do not think they will care who they obtain weapons from. Saddam Hussein obviously does not care who he kills. If he is quite happy to pay suicide bombers then I think he would be quite happy to give those weapons to people like al-Qaeda.

There is another consideration in the humanitarian debate that we have to acknowledge. Iraq is not like reading about the Second World War—it is not like reading about history—it is actually happening now. It might be an awesome responsibility and a terrible thing to have to put our incredibly professional troops into an area of conflict, but it is also an incredible thing to realise that, when we hear and read about what happens in Iraq, it is not history; it is happening now. In another two months, there will be I do not know how many people lost, but probably as many as could be lost in the next week or two.

When I hear what is said on the other side of the House, I have absolutely no doubt that the French and the Labor Party in Australia have a couple of things in common. The French are opposed to this conflict and to getting rid of Saddam Hussein, his regime and his weapons mainly because they are opposed to anything the Americans do and they simply want to be noticed. The Labor Party too are opposed to anything the government does, no matter how responsible it is, and they want to be noticed. This will come back to bite the opposition without any doubt, because we are taking a responsible position, while they are taking a cheap one—and it is one they are going to have to live with.

The issue of our allies—and the Americans have been our allies and so have the British—is something that also seems to have been unfashionable to talk about. But it is a fact that both these countries—the Americans, especially, in recent times—have been very faithful to us, and I see no reason why we would not be to them, even if it were not in Australia's interest to deal with terrorism in whatever guise it is in and wherever it is.

I have not yet heard an answer to the problem that the Western world faces and that we face from those who say that this thing should not happen. If we do not go in there and deal with Saddam Hussein, if we do not go in there and get rid of his weapons of mass destruction, what do we do? Do we simply wait a few months for resolutions— which have obviously never worked, not even come close to working—to work? What do we actually do? Do we just hope that one day this will not come back and visit us on our own shores? We know that terrorism exists, we know that it does not care how it gets us or when and we know that we have got to deal with it. We can do this and, if we are successful—and we will be—hopefully we will never know that we were right. But if we simply take the course of the opposition, we will certainly know if we were wrong.