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Tuesday, 13 May 2003
Page: 10924


Senator Bartlett asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 21 February 2003:

(1) (a)What legal advice does the Government have to suggest that the threat and/or use of force against Iraq, without United Nations (UN) Security Council authorisation, would not constitute a crime of aggression and a breach of international law; and (b) can a copy of that advice be provided.

(2) With reference to the statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs in September 2002 that, `We have no intention, as Australians, of playing any part in anything which would be illegal in breach of the law...Australia has no intention of doing anything which is in breach of international law': How does the Government explain the change in approach leading to the Prime Minister's comments on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's 7.30 Report, on 23 January 2003, that, `Until I know and the Government knows what has come out of the UN Security Council position - I mean you could have a situation where you have a resolution carried 13-2, and one of the two is a permanent member and the permanent member says “I am going to veto the resolution”. Now in those circumstances we would have to make a decision, the Americans would have to make a decision, and potentially others. And I know there are other countries that would in those circumstances regard such a veto as capricious and regard a vote of 13-2 in favour of action as being Security Council endorsement and they wouldn't allow that capricious veto to hold them back'.

(3) Why will the Government proceed to take action against Iraq if one or more UN Security Council members vetoes action, as has been suggested by the Prime Minister.

(4) What criteria will the Government use to determine if a UN Security Council veto on Iraq is `capricious'.

(5) Given that the United States of America (US) is the only country to have vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling on states to obey international law: In the Government's view, was this capricious; if not, why not.

(6) Does the Government intend to push for a change to the UN Security Council's process to take away the right of the five permanent members of the council to veto resolutions; if so, what steps has it taken to do so.

(7) Does the Government acknowledge that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons during the Gulf War in 1991 but chose not to use them.

(8) Has the US Administration explained why Saddam Hussein would be more inclined to use chemical and biological weapons now than in 1991.

(9) Does the Government agree with the proposition that Saddam Hussein would be more likely to use chemical and biological weapons if his personal survival was at stake and he had nothing left to lose; if so, what role would Australia's dispatching of troops play in threatening Saddam Hussein's survival.

(10) Has the Government been provided with an analysis by the US Administration of the current strength of Iraq's armed forces and the state of Iraq industry and equipment, bearing in mind the effect of UN sanctions, no-fly zones in the north since 1991 and the south since 1993, political isolation and damage to infrastructure, including power and reticulation systems; if so can a copy of this analysis be provided.

(11) (a) What evidence has been provided to the Government by the US Administration of Iraq's involvement in terrorist acts such as those on the World Trade centre in New York and in Bali; and (b) can a copy of this evidence be provided.

(12) With reference to the statement by US Administration official, Mr Armitage, that he is in no doubt that Iraq would pass weapons of mass destruction on to terrorists: What evidence has the US administration provided to the Government of this assertion.

(13) (a) Can the Government explain why the US and the United Kingdom (UK) continued to supply Iraq with weapons of mass destruction for 18 months after Saddam Hussein's attack, on 17 March 1988, against the Kurdish city Halabja in which 5 000 citizens were killed by deadly chemical weapons; and (b) has the Government raised this question with the US Administration; if not, why not.

(14) Has the US Administration indicated why it continued to treat Saddam Hussein as an ally and trading partner long after the 1988 attack on Halabja.

(15) Has the US Administration advised why, in 1989, President George H Bush authorised new loans to Saddam Hussein in order to achieve the goal of increasing US exports and putting the US in a better position to deal with Iraq regarding its human rights record.

(16) Has the US Administration advised why Mr Kelly, US Assistant Secretary of State, flew to Baghdad in February 1989 - 11 months after the attack on Halabja - to tell Saddam Hussein that `you are a source for moderation in the region, and the United States wants to broaden her relationship with Iraq'.

(17) With reference to the US Senate Banking Committee reports which indicate that the `United States provided the government of Iraq with “dual use” licensed materials which assisted in the development of Iraqi chemical, biological and missile-system programs' and that this assistance included `chemical warfare agent precursors; chemical warfare-agent production facility plans and technical drawings; chemical warfare-filling equipment; biological warfare related materials; missile fabrication equipment and missile system guidance equipment': Is the Government aware that this assistance was provided up until December 1989, 20 months after the attack on Halabja.

(18) Is the Government aware that private American suppliers provided Iraq with biological materials, including Bacillus Anthracis, Clostridium, Botulinum, Histoplasma Capsulatam, Brucella Melitensis and other toxic agents, and that, according to a US Senate Committee report, `these biological materials were not attenuated or weakened and were capable of reproduction'.

(19) Is the Government aware of a US Senate Committee report which stated in relation to these biological materials that, `these microorganisms exported by the United States were identical to those the United Nations inspectors found and removed from the Iraqi biological warfare program'.

(20) Has the Government sighted Iraq's 12 000 page declaration of its weapons program in the form in which it was presented; if not, why not.

(21) Can the Government confirm that around 150 European, US and Japanese companies provided the components and know-how needed by Saddam Hussein to build atomic bombs, chemical and biological weapons.

(22) Can a list of the countries involved in supplying those weapons of mass destruction to Iraq be provided.

(23) (a) Can the Government confirm that an International Institute of Strategic Studies report found that Saddam Hussein is much less dangerous now than in the past when he was backed by the West; and (b) does the Government agree with the report; if not, why not.

(24) Why is it that, when Iraq released its 12 000 page inventory of arms programs, the US obtained agreement from the President of the Security Council that the document be handed over to the US to analyse and copy.

(25) (a) Is it the case that the US excised the 9-page table of contents, chapters on procurements in Iraq's nuclear program and relations with companies, representatives and individuals for its chemical weapons program from Iraq's inventory of arms programs before the distribution of the inventory to Russia, China, France and Great Britain; (b) if the Government is unable to provide an answer to (a), has it sought clarification from the US Administration since those reports in December 2002; if not, why not; (c) why is it that the 10 non-permanent members of the UN security Council were given a scaled down, 3 000 page document instead of the full inventory; and (d) given that the former UN Weapons inspector, Mr Albright, said in December 2002, as reported in the Guardian, that there would be widespread embarrassment if the extent to which British, French, German and other Western companies had supplied Iraq's weapons build-up was known, what steps has the Government taken to establish whether or not this is the case.

(26) With reference to the claim made by historian Gabriel Kolko in 2002 that, `the United States supplied Iraq with intelligence throughout the war with Iran and provided it with more than $US5 billion in food credits, technology and industrial products, more coming after it began to use mustard, cyanide and nerve gases against both Iranians and dissident Iraqi Kurds': can the Government confirm that this is the case.

(27) (a) Can the Government confirm that Iraq's invasion of Iran in the 1980s was actively supported by the US with intelligence and weaponry; and (b) if this is the case, what explanation has been offered to Australia by the US Administration about the need to now take action against Iraq for its attack on Iran.

(28) (a) Is it the case that Iraq's use of chemical weapons against Iran was not raised by the US with the UN or with Saddam Hussein at the time; and (b) what explanation does the US offer for this lack of action.

(29) Has the Government been informed by the US as to why Iraq has been singled out for attack when, for instance, Egypt fought six wars between 1948 and 1973 and played a key role in starting four of them, and Israel initiated wars on three occasions and has conducted innumerable air strikes and commando raids against its various Arab adversaries.

(30) In the Government's judgement, how does Iraq now rate as a brutal regime compared with, for instance, that of Indonesia's General Suharto.

(31) How, in the Government's judgement, do Iraq's attacks on Iran and Halabja compare in terms of human rights abuses with Indonesia's occupation of East Timor, South Africa's occupation of Namibia, Turkey's occupation of northern Cyprus or Israel's occupation of Palestine.

(32) Given the fact that Mr Richard Butler withdrew weapons inspectors from Iraq on the advice of the US Administration just prior to the attack on Iraq by the US and the UK on 16 to 19 December 1998, why did the Prime Minister claim in the Australian on 1 January 2003 that `Hussein effectively expelled weapons inspectors during 1998'.

(33) (a) Can the Government advise which states have assisted Israel to develop nuclear weapons; and (b) does the Government regard these states as being responsible for proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

(34) (a) Can the Government advise which states have assisted North Korea in building its nuclear stockpile; and (b) does the Government regard these states as being responsible for proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

(35) Has the government considered the implications under international law of Australia's threat to use force in the form of dispatching troops prior to authorisation by the UN Security Council of action against Iraq; if so, what are those implications.

(36) Given that Article 51 of the UN Charter requires very strong evidence that specific, grave and imminent threats are present before pre-emptive action is taken: (a) Has the Government been provided with evidence from the US Administration to this effect; and (b) can a copy of this evidence be provided.

(37) What led the Prime Minister to say recently `if the United Nations Security Council doesn't rise to its responsibilities on this occasion it will badly weaken its credibility'.

(38) What led to the Minister for Foreign Affairs saying recently that the UN Security Council will `look meaningless and weak, completely ineffectual'.

(39) (a) Does the Government agree with remarks made by Mr Woolcott, former Australian Ambassador to the UN, in early February 2003 that, `for 40 years the Security Council was paralysed by the Cold war and by repeated Soviet and American vetoes. But it survived, and whatever position it takes this month, it will survive the present crisis. It is simply an overstatement to suggest that if it does not come in behind the Anglo-American pressure it will become irrelevant'; if not, why not.

(40) In the Government's assessment, to what extent has Israel's consistent non-compliance with UN Security Council resolutions calling for its withdrawal from occupied territories weakened the UN Security Council's credibility.

(41) What difference does it make, in terms of the Security Council's credibility, that Israel is a democracy and Iraq is not.

(42) Is the Government aware that Israel would not permit the UN to conduct inspections of its research institute at Nes Ziona near Tel Aviv, which produces chemical and biological weapons and holds a stockpile of chemical agents.

(43) Is the Government considering retrospective amendments to international law to legitimise threatening or using force against Iraq.

(44) What, in the Government's assessment, would be the implications of such changes for Pakistan, India, North Korea and South Korea.

(45) Does the Government agree with claims by President Bush that Iraqi actions amount to a threat of nuclear blackmail; if so, why.

(46) With reference to the Prime Minister's recent statement that he believes that Iraq's `aspiration to develop a nuclear capacity' might be sufficient reason for Australia to join in pre-emptive action, claiming `there is already a mountain of evidence in the public domain': Can a copy of that evidence be tabled.

(47) Can the Government confirm that the US vetoed 22 draft UN Security Council resolutions on Palestine and seven relating to Israel's invasion of Lebanon in the 1980s.

(48) Would these vetoes be considered as capricious in the Government's criteria.

(49) (a) What advice has the Government received from the US Administration about the suggestion that Iraqi dissidents have promised to cancel all existing oil contracts awarded to firms that do not assist the US to remove Saddam Hussein from power; and (b) was this taken into account in the decision to dispatch Australian troops to Iraq.

(50) Does the Government agree with the statement made by Mr Woolcott, that, `The fundamental role of the [UN] Security Council is to preserve the peace, not to authorise war'.

(51) Given that Mr Woolcott said, `War is not, in fact, being “forced” on the US, as Bush said in his State of the Union address. The truth is that an unnecessary war is being forced on Iraq': Does the Government agree; if not, why not.

(52) Given that Mr Scott Ritter, former UN weapons inspector says in his book, War on Iraq, that Iraq cannot be given a `clean bill of health' in terms of weapons of mass destruction, but says that in 1998 nuclear infrastructure and facilities had been 100 percent eliminated; and that scientists there still have the knowledge to reconstruct but this would be a very gradual process and not possible while weapons inspectors are there, for example, the centrifuges needed to enrich uranium are readily detectable: What evidence has the US Administration provided the Government about Iraq's access to nuclear weapons.

(53) Given that, according to Mr Ritter's book, Iraq produced three nerve agents in the past: Sarin, Tabun and VX at the Mathanna State chemical factory: Is the Government aware that this factory was bombed during the Gulf War and then weapons inspectors completed the task of eliminating the facility.

(54) Is the Government aware that Sarin and Tabun have a shelf life of 5 years and VX agent would also have degraded by now; if so, what evidence has the US administration provided the Government about the existence of these weapons in Iraq.


Senator Hill (Minister for Defence) —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1) (a) The Government tabled the legal advice it received from the Attorney General's Department and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Parliament on 18 March 2003.

(b) Refer to part (1) (a).

(2) Australia continues at all times to act consisently with its international legal obligations.

(3) This is a hypothetical question, as no United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution has been vetoed.

(4) Refer to part (3).

(5) I do not intend to speculate on the motivation for actions by the United States (US) Government.

(6) No.

(7) I do not intend to speculate on choices that Iraq may or may not have made.

(8) I do not intend to comment on the views of the United States Administration.

(9) Saddam Hussein's propensity to use chemical and biological weapons has been established. I do not intend to speculate on the circumstances which may prompt Saddam to once again use these weapons of mass destruction.

(10) Information pertaining to the current strength of Iraq's armed forces and the state of Iraq's economy and infrastructure is publicly available. It is not appropriate to discuss or release US analysis.

(11) (a) and (b) The Government has commented publicly on this issue, including during the Prime Minister's address to the National Press Club on 13 March 2003.

(12) Statements made by US officials are a matter for the US Government.

(13) (a ) and (b) The policies of the United Kingdom (UK) and the US Governments are a matter for those Governments to address.

(14) Refer to part (13).

(15) Refer to part (13).

(16) Refer to part (13).

(17) Refer to part (13).

(18) There is no need for the Government to confirm the contents of a publicly available document.

(19) No. Iraq's declaration of 7 December was officially handed over to UNMOVIC, the IAEA and the President of the UN Security Council. The President of the Security Council decided that full copies of the document would be made available only to the five permanent members of the Council, due to the risk of proliferation of sensitive information on WMD development. The President of the Security Council decided that UNMOVIC and the IAEA would edit the full report to excise proliferation-sensitive material before circulation to the 10 elected members of the Council. Accordingly, the Government has not sighted the declaration.

(20) Refer to part (19).

(21) Refer to part (19).

(22) Refer to part (19).

(23) (a) and (b) There is no need to confirm the contents of a publicly available document. The Government does not intend to comment on its findings.

(24) The Government does not intend to speculate on the motivations of actions by the United States Government.

(25) (a) No. We have seen no evidence to suggest that the US excised any evidence before the declaration was distributed to other permanent members of the Security Council.

(b) and (c) Refer to part (20).

(d) The Government does not intend to comment on the views of private individuals.

(26) Refer to part (25) (d).

(27) (a) and (b) The foreign and defence polices of the US Administration in relation to the Middle East are a matter for that Administration - it is not appropriate for the Australian Government to comment on this matter.

(28) (a) and (b) This is a matter for the Government of the United States of America.

(29) It is not appropriate for the Government to speculate on the policies of the United States Administration.

(30) Assessments of national human rights records are most appropriately conducted on a country by country basis against the criteria established by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Iraq's human rights record is as horrifying as it is lengthy. Saddam has been a threat to neighbouring states Iran and Kuwait and has conducted offensive military actions against Saudi Arabia, Israel, Bahrain and Qatar. The brutality of the Iraqi regime has been most forcefully directed against Iraq's citizens including political opponents, the Kurdish minority and the Shia Muslim majority. Iraq's human rights violations include the following:

i summary executions;

ii arbitrary arrests, detention and violations of the principles of due legal process;

iii forced displacement of Kurds, Assyrians and Turkmen ethnic minorities;

iv mistreatment, torture and the use of rape as a political tool;

v disappearances; and

vi harassment and intimidation

Reports from the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the United Kingdom's Foreign and Commonwealth Office Dossier of November 2002 highlight that under the Ba'athist Regime:

i an estimated 100,000 Kurds have been killed or have disappeared and have been subjected to the use of chemical weapons;

ii approximately 16,000 Iraqi citizens have `disappeared'

iii over 90,000 Kurds have been forcibly removed from their homes, under a process of “Arabization” of their traditional lands;

iv the population of Shi'a Muslims has declined from 250,000 to 40,000 in the Southern Marshes in the Tigris and Euphrates River Delta;

v executions of Shi'a clerics and the detention of over 100 Shi'a clerics and religious scholar in 1991, the whereabouts of whom are still unknown.

vi over 600 people captured during Iraq's invasion of Kuwait remain detained; and

vii Intimidation and harassment of political opposition and their families is on the increase.

(31) Refer to part (30).

(32) I do not intend to comment on statements ascribed to the Prime Minister.

(33) (a) No. While there is broad speculation that Israel is a nuclear-weapons-capable state, its possession of nuclear weapons has never been confirmed. The Government is unable to provide information on whether other countries may have assisted with the development of any nuclear weapons program in Israel. Australia has consistently called on Israel to join the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) as a non-nuclear weapon state.

(b) As a strong supporter of the NPT, Australia would be seriously concerned if any nation was found to be assisting another to develop nuclear weapons.

(34) (a) No. It is difficult to be certain about whether the DPRK already has nuclear weapons. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections in 1992 revealed inconsistencies suggesting that the DPRK had separated more plutonium than it had declared to the Agency. While it is not known how much undeclared plutonium may be involved, some estimates suggest it could be sufficient for up to three nuclear weapons. The Government is unable to provide information on whether other states may have assisted with the development of any North Korean nuclear weapons.

(b) Refer to part (33) (b).

(35) Yes. The Government tabled legal advice in Parliament on 18 March 2003.

(36) (a) and (b) Refer to part (35).

(37) I do not propose to comment on statements ascribed to the Prime Minister.

(38) I do not propose to comment on statements ascribed to the Foreign Minister

(39) The Government will not comment on the views of private individuals.

(40) The UN Security Council remains the primary body for addressing global security. While there are at times differences of opinion with the UN in relation to particular issues, Australia's support for the UN system remains unequivocal.

(41) The Government does not intend to answer a speculative question.

(42) No. Israel is not party to the Biological Weapons Convention or the Chemical Weapons Convention and is therefore not subject to the UN inspection obligations of the latter.

(43) No.

(44) Refer to part (43).

(45) Yes. As the Prime Minister said in his address to the National Press Club on 13 March 2003, it is in Australia's interests that Iraq be disarmed of its chemical and biological weapons and denied the opportunity of acquiring nuclear weapons.

(46) There is no need to table evidence already in the public domain. The Prime Minister and Foreign Minister have made numerous detailed statements on Iraq's WMD to Parliament and similar statements have been made by US and UK government officials. There are also a number of detailed documents published by the US and UK Governments.

(47) The United States' actions in the Security Council are a matter for the US Government.

(48) See answer to question 47 above.

(49) (a) and (b) The Australian Government's concern is not about oil, but Iraq's continued attempts to produce chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, and long-range missiles, in flagrant defiance of the resolutions of the United Nations and the will of the international community. Through extensive and comprehensive discussions with senior US figures, and through the Prime Minister's discussions with President Bush, the Government is satisfied that the US position on Iraq is entirely principled and is in no way driven by issues to do with oil.

(50) Refer to part (39).

(51) Refer to part (39).

(52) Refer to part (46).

(53) The Government does not intend to comment on the views of private individuals.

(54) Refer to part (46).