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Monday, 15 September 2003
Page: 20019


Mr CREAN (Leader of the Opposition) (3:13 PM) —I move:

That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opp-osition moving forthwith:

That this House censure the Prime Minister for:

(1) not telling the Australian Parliament and people the truth about the heightened threat of terrorism caused by the Government's decision to engage in military action in Iraq;

(2) not telling the Australian Parliament and people the truth about the increased risk of chemical and bio-logical weapons falling into the hands of terrorists caused by the Government's decision to engage in military action in Iraq; and

(3) failing to take all the necessary steps to protect Australians from the threat of terrorism.

The findings of the British Joint Intelligence Committee demonstrate beyond doubt that the Prime Minister sent this country to war based on a lie. The Prime Minister did not tell the Australian people the truth when he committed us to war and, by his actions, the Prime Minister increased the threat of terrorism to the Australian people. He made us less safe and, worst of all, he failed to protect us. Six months after the Prime Minister committed this country to war, not a single weapon of mass destruction has been found. Yet in the process Iraq has become a new haven for international terrorists. In other words, what the Prime Minister has succeeded in achieving is the exact opposite of what he promised the Australian people. What is unravelling here yet again is the continuing pattern of deceit by this Prime Minister. Remember them? We all remember them. The children were thrown overboard. Was he telling the truth then?

Opposition members—No.


Mr CREAN —Then there was the further assertion that predeployment did not mean our troops were committed to a war. Was he telling the truth then?

Opposition members—No.


Mr CREAN —And Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program were an imminent threat to Australia. Was he telling the truth then?

Opposition members—No.


The SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition knows that that is not normally permitted.


Mr CREAN —He said that this war would reduce the threat of terrorism. Was he telling the truth then?

Opposition members—No.


Mr CREAN —Of course he was not. Let us look at the most recent example. Here is what the Prime Minister said on 20 March:

We believe that so far from our action in Iraq increasing the terrorist threat it will, by stopping the spread of chemical and biological weapons, make it less likely that a devastating terrorist attack will be carried out against Australia.

That is what the Prime Minister said on 20 March. In other words our action in Iraq, rather than increasing the terrorist threat, would make it less likely. That is what the Prime Minister said. But what did the British Joint Intelligence Committee say? Its assessment was:

... that al-Qaida and associated groups continued to represent by far the greatest terrorist threat to Western interests, and that threat would be heightened by military action against Iraq.

That is what the Joint Intelligence Committee in Britain found—that the threat would be heightened. The Prime Minister said an attack would be less likely, yet he had intelligence reports saying the threat would be heightened. He did not tell the Australian people that. He continued to tell them that Australians and Australian interests would be less likely to be the subject of a terrorist attack. He also said, on 27 February:

... not only might they—

that is, Iraq—

use them—

that is, chemical and biological weapons—

against other countries but they might give them to terrorists, and that is the reason why I'm taking the stance I am.

In other words, that was his other justification for going to a war in Iraq—that they might give these weapons of mass destruction to terrorists. But what, Mr Speaker, did the British Joint Intelligence Committee say about this? They said there was no intelligence—no intelligence—that Iraq had provided chemical and biological materials to al-Qaeda and assessed:

... that any collapse of the Iraqi regime would increase the risk of chemical and biological warfare technology or agents finding their way into the hands of terrorists ...

The Prime Minister said that if we did not go in they would give their weapons to the terrorists; the Joint Intelligence Committee found exactly the opposite. In just one paragraph of this report, paragraph 126, the British parliament has destroyed the Australian Prime Minister's entire case for going to war in Iraq. The Prime Minister continues to assert that he relied on intelligence that contradicts this. Where is it, Prime Minister? This report is now not just before our parliament but also in the public domain. You were asked consistently in question time today, Prime Minister, where this other intelligence was, and you failed to give us any evidence. The Prime Minister had compelling information coming to him, based on this report. The Prime Minister cannot hide from this. The simple fact is that the British parliament itself in this report says that the allies, including Australia, were represented—


Mr Abbott —This is a censure of Tony Blair!


The SPEAKER —The Leader of the House!


Mr CREAN —Read the report. The minister interjects. This is the minister who came into this parliament and said that Australia was at increased risk of terrorism because it went to the war in Iraq. He told the truth probably for the first time in this parliament. But what information did the Leader of the House have, Mr Speaker, that led him to the conclusion—back in the debate on war—that we were at increased risk of terrorist attack?

We now know that the British Joint Intelligence Committee came to that conclusion and we now know that the Prime Minister and his government received this report at least by 18 February. We know that Australian representatives took part in that committee. We have the circumstances in which the Prime Minister has consistently relied—when it suited him—on the conclusions of the same British Joint Intelligence Committee. Remember the claims about uranium and Niger? Remember when the Prime Minister was in this parliament, flourishing the very details of all of that information that came from the same Joint Intelligence Committee? Don't tell us, Prime Minister, that when you received that and it suited your argument you could not help yourself getting out there. But you expect the Australian people to believe that when you received information contradicting a report you ignored it—that you had some additional information that contradicted it. Well, table it, Prime Minister. That is the charge to you. You will not take the censure, Prime Minister, but under the suspension of standing orders you will have the opportunity to defend yourself.

We have before the parliament now conclusive information that the basis upon which the Prime Minister justified taking this country to war was a lie. There can be no more reprehensible position for a Prime Minister to take than sending young Australian men and women to war based on a lie, and that is what he has done. That is what he has done, and that is what this evidence now demonstrates. Apart from the fact that we still have not found the weapons of mass destruction, his justification was that we would reduce the threat of terrorism and that we would take away the capacity for Saddam Hussein to be feeding his weapons of mass destruction—chemical and biological—to others. That is not borne out by any of the evidence that has now come before us. He did not tell the Australian people the truth on this; it is the continuing pattern of deceit. I say this: you do not have to lie to defend the country in terms of its national security.


The SPEAKER —Leader of the Opposition! That is not an accusation you can make.


Mr CREAN —I will never hesitate to do what is necessary to defend this country. I love it, I believe in it and I will do everything possible to defend it, but I will never send our young men and women to war based on a lie. I will tell them the truth.

More importantly, once having made the decision to start the conflict, you do everything possible to protect the Australian people. Last week, we saw a litany of circumstances in which the government has failed to protect the Australian people. All the Prime Minister did, knowing that he had increased the threat to Australia and Australians, was increase the travel warning—no steps here, no heightened threat security; the Prime Minister stands condemned. (Time expired)


Mr Rudd —I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.