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Tuesday, 16 September 2003
Page: 20131


Mr HAWKER (2:18 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Would the minister inform the House of the key findings of the United Kingdom Intelligence and Security Committee report titled Iraqi weapons of mass destruction—intelligence and assessments? Is the minister aware of any commentary on the intelligence and the war on Iraq?


Mr DOWNER (Minister for Foreign Affairs) —First, I thank the honourable member for Wannon for his question. I also wish to table the answer that I gave to the question from the member for Moore on 10 February and the travel advisory of 5 February.


Mr Rudd —You are tabling Hansard!


Mr DOWNER —I am sure you do not want to see them, but you will have to now. The government welcomes the report of the British parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee into intelligence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program.


Dr Emerson —Are we a little bit precious?


The SPEAKER —The member for Rankin is warned!


Mr DOWNER —I was addressing the House on the matter of the British parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee report into intelligence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program. The terms of reference were to examine whether available intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction was adequately and properly assessed and whether it was accurately reflected in the British government's publications, including its September 2002 dossier. This all-party committee of the House of Commons concluded:

Based on the intelligence and the [Joint Intelligence Committee] Assessments that we have seen, we accept that there was convincing intelligence that Iraq had active chemical, biological and nuclear programmes and the capability to produce chemical and biological weapons. Iraq was also continuing to develop ballistic missiles. All these activities were prohibited under [United Nations Security Council resolutions].

The British House of Commons committee rejected any suggestion that intelligence was—to use the British expression—`sexed up' for public use against Iraq. The Joint Intelligence Committee, which has been the subject of discussion in this House, was found not to have been subject to political pressure. The committee also found that the September dossier in Britain on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction had not been sexed up by the British government. The Intelligence and Security Committee concluded—and this has been an important part of the debate in Australia in recent times:

... [the Secret Intelligence Service] continues to believe that the Iraqis were attempting to negotiate the purchase of uranium from Niger. We—

that is, the parliamentary committee—

have questioned the SIS about the basis of its judgement and conclude that it is reasonable.

One of the claims made by the opposition against our own Prime Minister was that he had not told the truth about the Niger claim, but here we have a British House of Commons committee confirming the assessment made by the United Kingdom's Secret Intelligence Service, saying that the claim, which was of course published in Britain and the United States, was reasonable and drawing the attention of the public to the fact that the British Secret Intelligence Service—the British intelligence community—still stand by that claim. So, here again, one of the accusations made by the Leader of the Opposition against the Prime Minister has been found to be untrue.

Let me conclude by making this point, because I think it is a useful one. I assume that the Leader of the Opposition, from all of his questions and from his censure motion yesterday, believes that all of the Joint Intelligence Committee's judgments are accurate. Is that what we can conclude?


The SPEAKER —Minister!

Honourable members interjecting


The SPEAKER —I have taken action!


Mr DOWNER —The fact is that any reasonable person listening to the Leader of the Opposition—


Mr Crean —Mr Speaker, I seek leave to answer the minister's question.


The SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.


Mr DOWNER —would conclude that the Leader of the Opposition believes that anything the Joint Intelligence Committee says is accurate. Therefore, we must conclude that the Leader of the Opposition now believes that there was convincing intelligence that Iraq had active chemical, biological and nuclear programs and the capability to produce chemical and biological weapons and that it also continued to develop ballistic missiles. Yet the Leader of the Opposition has been going around this country saying that the Prime Minister and the government lied about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction programs. But if anybody is not telling the truth then I am afraid it has been exposed today—it is the Leader of the Opposition. It is the Leader of the Opposition who has not been telling the truth and who has been trying in desperation to run a political line which, once put under a little bit of forensic examination, is found to be totally vacuous.