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Thursday, 5 December 2002
Page: 7288


Senator LIGHTFOOT (3:07 PM) —I listened to what Senator Mackay had to say in her contribution to taking note of answers this afternoon. It is a pity that, although she mentioned that a bipartisan approach was being offered by the Australian Labor Party to the government, they were hollow words—they were not words of sincerity. You only have to look at the actual approach by the Australian Labor Party so far. Ruling out the atrocity in Bali, where so many Australian and other lives were lost, where is the bipartisan support of Her Majesty's official opposition for the first-strike position—about which controversy has been promoted in this chamber by the opposition—that the Prime Minister has elucidated? Are the opposition saying that they are going to wait for a second strike? Are they saying that they are going to wait until there is another Bali type incident in Australia and not seek out these terrorists— some of the worst known people in the world, who place no value on the lives of people of any age? These people place no value on any life, not even their own. How can you say that we should not support a first strike? Of course we have to support a first strike. You fail the basic tenet of government if you do not protect the Australian people. This is where the government of this country is so strong. Compare that to the opposition. Not only do the opposition not supply any policy in most other areas; they do not supply any basic policy on the defence of this nation and the protection of Australian citizens, whether they are in Australia or overseas.

The opposition mentioned something about X-ray machines. Of course they are necessary—the examination of luggage is necessary in this country. But the main thrust of protecting Australia is being able to ascertain where the terrorists are and to strike first before they strike Australia. The only other possible alternative is for you to have a second strike—to sit back here in a bunker with your arms folded and wait for the first strike, find out where it came from and then take action. That is not the right way to protect your citizens; that is being irresponsible. This government, thank the Lord, cannot afford to take that luxury with Australian lives. That is at least part of the reason that the Prime Minister's rating is up around 60 per cent and the support rating of the Leader of the Opposition, who is the alternative Prime Minister, is barely 20 per cent. The Prime Minister is a long way in front.

I will give the Labor Party some advice. I do not want this to be gratuitous. This is not going to be uncle-like advice—or avuncular advice, as Senator Mackay said; that was perhaps the most interesting thing she said in her whole contribution of five minutes. Your first responsibility, if you are to form a government, is to look after Australian citizens, whether they are in this country, which is the priority, or in another country. You cannot say that you are going to put in some X-ray machines and somehow magically this is going to assuage a first-strike capability by these horrendous, indiscriminate killers of Australians. We now know that Osama bin Laden is accepted as being alive and well. He was not killed. Where are we going to go if we discover that he, or a cell of his, is in Australia or overseas? That is not to say that there would be a pre-emptive strike overseas without the cooperation of that particular government, but there must be a first strike. No matter how you qualify things, there has got to be a first strike. That is the responsibility of any government that has its citizens' interests at heart. That is the responsibility of a government that is riding high in the polls. You must change your attitude to defence. You must get some basic policies to protect Australian citizens, whether they are in this country or overseas. Until then, I would not see you getting an approval rating over 20 per cent—you are lucky to be in double figures, let alone in a winning per centum. (Time expired)