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Thursday, 27 March 2003
Page: 13802

Mr CREAN (2:12 PM) —My question is again to the Prime Minister. Is the Prime Minister aware of comments by the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, concerning the postwar administration of Iraq in which he said:

We didn't take on this huge burden with our coalition partners not to be able to have a significant dominating control over how it unfolds in the future.

Prime Minister, has the US discussed this proposal with you; do you agree with it; and how long do you now assess this interim US protectorate, involving a dominating control by them, will last?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —I have not seen those remarks. But, accepting the Leader of the Opposition's reporting of them on face value, they do not in any event represent a proposal; they represent a comment by the Secretary of State. Let me just again explain to the Leader of the Opposition what our position is, because this parliament is interested in the policy of the Australian government on this issue. Australia supports the earliest possible transfer of authority to the Iraqi people in the postwar period—that is point No. 1. As I made clear to the House yesterday, it is a matter of practical reality that there will be an interim period immediately following the conflict in which the US will play a leadership role in the administration of Iraq—and that is proper and natural.

However, we see an effective and value adding role for the United Nations in post Saddam Iraq in order to support the early transfer of authority to a new, representative Iraqi government. The United Nations will also have an important role to play in the humanitarian field, but the United Nations will need to display a greater degree of unity and resolve than the Security Council did in relation to the enforcement of resolution 1441. Members of the coalition already acknowledged in the Azores statement of 16 March the need for an important UN role in whatever transitional arrangements are put in place. We welcome this statement.

The foreign minister's visit to Washington and New York next week will provide a timely and valuable opportunity to make a number of practical proposals in relation to specific areas where the UN can add value and expertise. These will include the appointment of a UN special representative whose roles could include: liaising between UN agencies and the temporary coalition authority; assisting in the development of an interim Iraqi consultative forum and helping to coordinate subsequent political arrangements in Iraq; coordinating what will be a significant UN presence in Iraq; assisting the coalition with relief and reconstruction efforts, including fundraising and donor coordination; and assisting with the disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capability. Australia will contribute in a practical way to assisting the Iraqis to build the capacity to govern themselves and to develop the sound policies, stable institutions and accountable systems that are a prerequisite for a viable and responsible Iraqi state.