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Tuesday, 9 March 2004
Page: 26259

Mr PROSSER (2:02 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Would the minister inform the House of the steps taken overnight towards self-government in Iraq?

Mr DOWNER (Minister for Foreign Affairs) —I thank the honourable member for Forrest for his question and for the interest that I know he has in the welfare of the people of Iraq. Yesterday the Iraqi governing council, the leaders of Iraq, signed a landmark transitional administrative law agreement. This is, in effect, the constitution which will provide guidance for the new Iraq. On behalf of the government, I take the opportunity to say that we applaud the interim governing council members, who have set aside their differences in order to map out a democratic future for Iraq. This shows that Iraqis are now successfully taking control of their own destiny. The transitional administrative law arrangement sets out the fundamental principles for governing Iraq, which are that the system of government will be federal, democratic and pluralistic and that all Iraqis will have equal rights and freedoms, regardless of their origins, their gender or their religious beliefs. For minorities this is an unprecedented development. Kurdish will be one of the official languages of Iraq, Iraqis who speak other languages will have a right to educate their children in those languages and any Iraqi, including Jews, Assyrians and Kurds, can reclaim their citizenship if it had been unjustly revoked by Saddam Hussein.

This transitional administrative law arrangement is a road map for a democratic Iraqi government. A broadly representative interim government will take over Iraq on 30 June—that is when the coalition provisional authority will be disbanded, the occupation of Iraq by coalition forces will come to an end and the Iraqis will take control of their own destiny. In conclusion, let me say that I think last night's signing of this agreement was a historic moment in the history of Iraq. At long last the people of Iraq will be able to determine their own destiny; at long last they will be able to live in freedom and democracy. If some people think the overthrow of Saddam Hussein was a mistake—and some do—you can rest assured that the people of Iraq do not happen to share that view.