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Thursday, 29 March 2007
Page: 119

Mr BRUCE SCOTT (4:35 PM) —I rise in the adjournment debate this afternoon to complete some points that I was unable to put on the public record in the matter of public importance discussion last week—my time had expired. I will repeat the matter of public importance put forward by the Labor Party:

The Government’s failure to acknowledge the disastrous consequences of the invasion of Iraq ...

The points I want to continue with now are those identifying what has changed in Iraq since our troops entered that country with the coalition forces. The record speaks for itself. Some 3,000 schools have been rehabilitated since the war. There are 5.3 million Iraqis who now have access to potable water—an increase of one million Iraqis who, prior to August 2006, did have not access to potable water. Crude oil production is now up at 2.3 million barrels per day—that is 7.5 per cent higher than in the last quarter. That revenue is bringing wealth that is shared by all Iraqis. The number of cars on the road has doubled from pre-war levels. The number of telephone subscribers—this means people have a basic telephone and are able to communicate inside Iraq and to the outside world—has also increased from 833,000 before the conflict in 2003 to about 8.1 million today who have access to a telephone.

By March 2006, there were 54 commercial TV stations, 114 commercial radio stations and 268 independent newspapers and magazines. Under Saddam Hussein, there were no commercial or independent media outlets. Freedom of the press and freedom of speech are important and fundamental principles for all of us in this place. The establishment of media outlets and independent television and radio stations in those numbers speaks for itself by any measure.

The average monthly teacher salary under Saddam Hussein was equivalent to $US2 per month. Now they earn the equivalent of $US100. Those figures are from early this year. It has gone from the equivalent of $US2 under Saddam Hussein to $US100. There has been a 27 per cent increase in the number of children enrolled in high school since before the war. Once again, children are able to go freely to school and gain an education. It should be the right of every community—and it is particularly important for children—to be able to gain access to education. That is a 27 per cent increase from those figures prior to the war.

Given what has been achieved in Iraq, I am at an absolute loss to understand why the Labor Party believes that the results to date in Iraq have had, as stated in the MPI, ‘disastrous consequences’. Those figures speak for themselves. The Labor Party has not assisted this government in any way. The alternative—if we had Labor Party policy and it was in government—would have been catastrophic. Many more innocent people would have lost their lives and the remaining people would be still living under a regime run by a tyrannical dictator. It would still be an oppressed and dangerous country to live in.

Our troops in Iraq are very proud of these achievements. By virtue of the MPI, the Labor Party are telling our service men and women that their work has not been worth while. As chair of the defence subcommittee, I paid a visit to our troops in Iraq. It was evident from the soldiers and officers with whom I spoke that they were very proud of the part the coalition forces have played in helping to rebuild Iraq after decades of oppression under Saddam Hussein. Members of this government recognise the value of our coalition allies of like-minded countries who are committed to seeing Iraq stabilised, secure and with a future.

This coalition government and Australians want to see the job through and not cut and run, as would be the case if there were a Labor government. Should we withdraw, it would embolden the terrorists around the world, damage our fight against terrorism and abandon Iraqis. We are not going to do that. The timetable for withdrawal conditions will never be calendar based. The MPI of the Labor Party bears little scrutiny— (Time expired)