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(generated from captions) Thanks, John. Before we go, a brief look back at our stories tonight. The Prime a brief look back at our top Minister has warned coalition MPs that the government faces annihilation at the election, annihilation at the next may be part of the problem. another high profile candidate - ABC weatherman Mike Bailey is seeking Sydney. That's ABC News. Stay seeking preselection in North

with us now Report, coming up next. We'll with us now for the 7.30

leave you tonight with the blooming beauty of the Chelsea Flower Show. Thanks for your company. Goodnight. Closed Captions by CSI

CC It's the frustration and

the sadness of the casualties

that were avoidable that is the

thing that bothers me. Tonight

on the 7:30 Report, a senior

Australian soldier's view of

how the occupation of Iraq turn

ed into a blood bath. We were

set up for failure to begin

with. Australia had no interest

in discussing the post conflict

or peace and stabilisation

phase. And new claims that the Australian Government knew of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal

as it was happening. There was

a lot of information being fed

back about the allegations of

abuse and reports of abuse and

the fact that some abuse was

actually happening for sure.

Welcome to the program and

tonight we also look at the significance of the Prime

Minister's startling briefing

to his parliamentary colleagues

in their party room today. That

his Government faces disaster

at the election, that his own

leadership has become a

weakness as well as a strength

for the Coalition. He also

confessed there were no rabbits

ready to pull from his hat.

This was not an expression of

confidence today from one of

the most successful political

leaders in Australian history.

Mr Howard's message came as

Labor continued its attack on

the Government's big spending

ad campaigns and as political

editor Michael Brissenden

reports, Labor's momentum has

attracted another surprise

recruit.

Yes, I know we promised never

to use it again, but somehow

today the Labor theme tune does

seem apt. Indeed there has

finally been a change in the

weather. The rains have come,

the winter has arrived and the

ABC's Sydney weather man Mike

Bailey has announced he's

become the Labor Party's latest

star recruit. Mike Bailey's new

front will be moving over the

electorate of North Sydney

whenever the election is called

up against Jo Hockey. It is

cold, anyone from the ABC

here? As Bob Dylan once said,

you don't need a weatherman to

know which way the wind blows

but lit take quite a breeze to

blow Mr Hockey over. Still he

like everyone else in the

Government is not about to

underestimate his opponent. We

still love our ABC despite

extreme provocation. Do you

have any questions? You lead

with questions. Are you nervous? No, nervous

about? Going up against Mike Bailey? North Sydney has always

been a seat that I've treated

as marginal. I don't take it

for granted, never have, never

will. And neither should he. Even though he's probably

pretty safe, the Government as

a whole is looking far less

secure. Today the Prime

Minister delivered the most

pessimistic assessment of the

Government's position yet to

his party room and there was a

concession for the first time

that he may be part of the

problem. The polls, he said,

suggest that the Government

wouldn't juz lose, it would be

annihilated. Labor is enjoying

its highest two-party preferred

figures since 1996. The

explanation, he said, was that

while things were generally

good, the Government had been

in power for more than 11 years

and while that had been stable,

the three most visible figures,

meaning himself, Peter Costello

and Alexander Downer, had held

the same positions since 1996.

This was, he said, both a

strength and a weakness. An

analysis that shocked quite a

few in the party room. Some

close to the Treasurer found it

particularly interesting,

having argued strongly for the

shufling of positions about

this time last year. But

loyalists like Tony Abbott warn

of rushing to any overblown interpretations. I don't think

that was what he was saying. I

think what he's saying is that

people can take things for

granted. People can assume if

Howard, Costello and Downer

have been managing things so

well for 11 years that anyone

can do it, well I'm afraid

anyone can't do it. Australia

has been incredibly lucky to

have those three great figures

at the helm for 11 years and

- You don't consider they're

weaknesses? And just imagine

replacing Howard, Costello and

Downer with Rudd, Swan and

McClelland. That's the fate in

store for Australia if polls

don't change. Well precisely,

that is what the electorate is

contemplating and they seem to

keep doing it, despite a good

Budget and an avalanche of

Government ads. IR this week,

$50 million worth of climate

change-related ads to come and

plenty more as well. There are

so many ads that according to

hard Mitchel the biggest media

buy ner the country, the

Government is struggling to

find room to place them . Well

there's one under way now,

there's the one with umbrella s

and others. We're finding

television time is very tight

and advertising for Government

- for Federal Government tends

to come at the last minute. So

are they not managing to find

their spots for advertising

they want? It's a great difficulty. The Government has

been somewhat reluctant to

release just how much all this

is costing but thanks to the

rather heated Senate estimates

project under way we know the

figure for the 18 campaigns now

running is $111 million.

Obviously there will be more to come. This says it all about

the Government's priority.

National security advertising-

4.8 million of ad placement over 16 months. Workplace

relations, trying to dig

yourself out of a political

hole $4.1 million of placements

over six days. That's just your

reflection bon government advertising. It is my

reflection, it is my reflection

on - Workplace relations

affects most Australians an

they're entitled about nfs made

in the law made by their

Government. It's disgraceful

advertising campaign. Workplace

affects every single Australian

and they're entitled to know

changes to the law and we've

properly advertised those

changes. How much weekly wages

is... Don't give any any

hypocrisy. Hypocrisy, surely

not. When the NSW asked - ran

ads in every ad break in the

cricket before the last NSW election. These ludicrous ads

from the NSW Government that

were pure puffery, they've

provided no nfs and it was ultimately revealed that the

cost of the advertising

campaign exceeded the cost of

the plan. Of course I remember

how much that was denounced by

the Leader of the Opposition

when he joined Morris Iemma for

the last campaign rally in

western Sydney and said what a great Premier Morris Iemma

would make. You are total

hypocrites on this subject. In

contrast he says his

Government's campaign is one of

pure fact, not PR. Just as well

it's not designed to influence

the voters because so far it's pretty obvious it's not working. As the Prime Minister

said in his party room address,

the public are attracted to

Kevin Rudd. He told his

colleagues he had no rabbit to

pull out of a hat and warned

them not to expect the polls to

turn around in the next few months. Part of the problem, he

says, is that the economy is

doing so well that the voters

think a change would be without

risk. They are still a small

group but some insiders are muttering that the Government

should have been thinking about

change itself when it had the

chance this time last year. Political editor Michael

Brissenden. He's a veteran of

some of the modern world's

biggest and blood yess hell

holes. Australian military

lawyer Colonel Mike Kelly has

served in Somalia, Bosnia, East

Timor and most recently Iraq

where one senior American

adviser in Baghdad described

him as quote easily the most

important Australian in the

coalition effort unquote. He's

been at or near the centre of

quee events in Iraq immediately

post war, even having to deal

directly with the defiant

Saddam Hussein. Having left the

army at the end of last week,

Mike Kelly is free for the

first time to talk about his

experiences in Iraq and as he

tells it, the incompetent

leadership that has driven him

to enter politics as the Labor

candidate in the important

marginal NSW seat of

Eden-Monaro. His cre teak of

the post war planning in Iraq

and the lack of interaes post

war of Australia is blistering

even though it does now come

from a Labor candidate and he

speaks for the first time

publicly about early warnings

back to Canberra of the prison

abusers at the notorious Abu

Ghraib prison and also about

the AWB kickbacks to Saddam

Hussein. Colonel Kelly is the

second senior military recruit

to Labor's ranks. The first was

SAS veteran Major Peter Tinley

who is regarded as having

played a prominent strategic

role in the lead up to the

invasion. Shortly I'll discuss

the criticisms with Brendan

Nelson but first this report.

As he ends a 20-year military

career, Colonel Mike Kelly now

wants to lift the fog of war

hanging over Iraq. It's the

frustration and the sadness of

the casualties that were

avoidable, that is the thing

that bothers me. This poor

young men and women with limbs

missing, etc, and terrible

states, you know, and just, you

know, that sort of suffering

and the cost that wasn't, you

know, that was very frustrating

because I knew that we could

have avoided a lot of that.

Mike Kelly has seen up close

the horror shrouded by war's

smoke and fury and he believes

the war in Iraq has been

comprehensively bungled.

Actually pour kerosene on the

problem and I think that's

really the situation we've had

in Iraq. We've actually made

the international security

situation worse by the way the

operation has been conducted.

As any good soldier knows,

it's a risky strategy to stick

one's head above the trenches.

But that's exactly what Labor's

star recruit for the federal

seat of Eden-Monaro is about to

do. Sure, people will come

after me with a hatchet given

what's at stake. I've always

tried to tell it straight in

whatever situation or

circumstance I've been in. But

would Australians simply

dismiss what you're saying now

as simply an expression of your

political bias? Yeah, I think

there's definitely the

potential there for people to

see now a different slant on

what I have to say that lit be

coloured by party politics. But

really I'm getting into this

because of my concerns about

the security issue. I wouldn't

expect a candidate from the

Labor Party to be saying

anything else than some sort of critical comments about Iraq

and AWB, etc. I mean that's

presumably the reason why Kevin

Rudd handpicked Colonel Kelly

to be put into Eden-Monaro. A

military lawyer, Mike Kelly is highly regarded internationally

as a leading expert on the laws

of occupation and peace making.

His expertise saw him assigned

to front line duties in world

hot spots like East Timor,

Bosnia and Somalia. What's

more, his former boss in Iraq

bass bass Paul Bremer gives him

a ringing endorsement. I would hire him to do just about

anything for me. He's a very

high quality person but I take

no position on - between the

parties in Australia, that's

not my business, but I have

great respect for Mike as a

wonderful soldier , statesman,

lawyer, he certainly served the coalition, he serve Australia

very well in Iraq. Many people

have criticised the war in Iraq

so what makes Mike Kelly's

assessment different? Well, few

Australians are aware of it but

during 2003 and 2004, Mike

Kelly was arguably the most

senior placed Australian in the

coalition of the willing. You

know, he worked on a number of

our major legal initiatives, in

particular he was very

instrumental in helping set up

the central criminal court.

Paul Bremer also entrusted Mike Kelly with the responsibility of ensuring

Saddam Hussein an his cronies

were brought to justice. What

was it like to sit down with

this man? Personally I felt that getting rid of Saddam

Hussein itself was a good

thing. Very interesting, you

know, I felt very strongly that

while I was sitting there I had

effectively in the room with me

all of his victims and all of

my coalition colleagues who had

worked to sort of bring about

this step in the process of

bringing this man to justice.

So in your view where did it

all start going wrong for the

coalition in Baghdad? We were

set up for failure to begin

with. I think that probably the

initial one, the most important

was the failure in planning. Or

at least the failure to take

heed of the planning that had

been done. We nutted out

exactly what needed to be done.

We worked through a checklist

that I presented to them of

having to worry about stopping

looting and protecting and

preserving the infrastructure

and looking after the standing

up of the security, public

security aspects. But then

Rumsfeld came in and overruled

that concept and basically

threw it out the window and

that's where things really

started to go wrong. He just

didn't accept military advice

on a number of levels and he

had some very strange

conceptions of how we could do

business in Iraq. I guess the

reason I don't use the phrase

guerrilla war is because there

isn't one and it would be a

misunderstanding and a

miscommunication to you and to

the people of the country and

the world. According to Mike

Kelly, chief among the

coalition's failures was the

mass sackings of Iraqi soldiers

an civil servants, the so

called debathification of Iraq.

It was meant to bring about

regime change but it also

encouraged hundreds of

thousands of unemploid and

disaffected Iraqis to take up

arms against the coalition. The

disbanding of the Iraqi army

was really tragic mistake. At

the time we knew it.

Immediately you had a huge

disgruntled mass of organised

people who started

demonstrating. My own vehicle

got caught up with one of their

demonstrations. I only just

managed to escape by firing a

warning shot. So they were very

disgruntled. Many sorveers have

wlaim blamed US Ambassador

Bremer for causing that chaos. The poll sshling was

right, the mistake was that I

turned the impleltation over to

Iraqi politicians instead of

Iraqi judges but I was, there I

didn't think we had enough

troops at any point during the

time I was there and by not

having enough troops there for

the post war phase, we gave the

impression that we were in fact

the reality that we were not

prepared to provide the most

basic function of government

which is security for our

citizens. You may remember the

looting that went on unchecked

right after the fall of

Baghdad. Really after the

combat phase, the manoeuvre

phase, if you like, there was a

distinct coming down to the

shutters back in Canberra. We

just didn't do any strategic

thinking or analysis of our

own. In fact, Mike Kelly says

the Howard Government's

attitude was made very clear to

him when he was engaged in

prewar planning in

Washington. I was advised very

strongly and phoned in the

middle of the night in

Washington to make it very

clear that Australia had no

interest in discussing the post

conflict or peace and stabilisation phase, that we

would - I was to give no

indication that we had - would

make any commitment to that

process or interested in any

way. So - Who made that

call? Well I was advised

through General Cosgrove that

that was the Government's

position and I was to make that

very clear. We asked General Peter Cosgrove to respond to

those comments but he wasn't

available for an interview.

However his spokesman told us

in this email that General

Cosgrove recalls the late night

conversation though not in

quite the same terms as Mike

Kelly. Specifically Cosgrove

denies telling Kelly that

Australia had no interest in

taking a role in stabilising

Iraq. Rather he instructed Mike

Kelly from discussing those

issue s because they were still

under consideration. There was

a distinct lack of interest and

analysis going on back in

Canberra about the situation in

Iraq so we weren't really being

a good alley. But Mike Kelly

say there's was worse to come.

When he was later assign add

key role in investigating the

oil for food kickback

scandal. I was quite outraged

when I did discover because if

you look at that $300 million

poured into the war chest of

the regime we were about to

send our soldiers into battle

with, to me was just morally

outrageous and how that could

have been allowed to happen was

something that really shocked

me. Another time something like

that might have been called

treason. In early 2004, long

before the scandal broke, Mike

Kelly was sending reports home

warning Canberra "The jig's up

for AWB". But he heard nothing

in return. I was surprised that

I never received any inquiries

from Canberra about, you know,

what was going on and what

information was emerging from

that. But perhaps the most

damaging aspect of Mike Kelly's

allegations for the Howard

Government, maybe his dramatic

new information about when the

Government knew about prisoner

abuse in Iraq's notorious Abu

Ghraib prison. But I did report

the problems we were having and

no pressure was being brought

to bear either from Washington

or Canberra or anywhere else to

deal with those concerns. In

mid 2004, a Senate inquiry investigated concerns of a

cover up within government.

Robt Hill saying the first the

Government knew about the

scandal was in January of that

year . When the public interest

was aroused, that's when we all

saw those photos in May and we

realised that there had been,

in some instances, gros

abuse. But what didn't emerge

at the Senate inquiry was Mike

Kelly's claim that throughout

2003 he was keeping Canberra

informed with detailed

situation reports from Baghdad.

In June of that year, Mike

Kelly personally visit ed Abu

Ghraib and other detense

facilities. He then began

raising concerns about the

mistreatment of detainees. He

also warned Canberra that the

disturbing situation had the

potential to become a severe

embarrassment for the coalition. Remember this was

months before the scandal

broke. Certainly from the

earliest times that I was there

there was a lot of information

being fed back about the

allegations of abuse and

reports of abuse an the fact

that some abuse was actually

happening for sure. It was Mike

Kelly says, just another

example of a consistent pattern

of the Coalition's refusal to

confront the growing problems

in Iraq. If you were sitting in

judgment on those Who were

leading the coalition at this

time, what would be your

verdict? Look, if I look at people like Donald Rumsfeld all

I can say is, you know, that

verges on criminal negligence

as far as I'm concerned. What's

more, Mike Kelly also accuses the Australian Government of

being complicit in that

criminal negligence? Well I

believe so, you know, because

you know, we were a part of the

coalition and we had a role to

play in helping to develop the

strategy which we fudged on,

you know, and so I think yeah,

there is some questions to be

answered there. Mike Kelly and

his wife Shelly, are preparing

to move into the electorate he

wants to represent. How about

that? Yeah, a bit of ancient

history. Eden-Monaro may be a

quiet, mainly rural area but it

occupy ascritical role comes

election time. It's been held

by the party forming government

since 1972. But sitting member

Gary Nairm says it's a long way

from Baghdad. I thought it was

an arrogant move by Kevin Rudd,

parachuting somebody else.

Nobody in the electorate

obviously knew this person,

driven a couple of thousand

kilometre over the last week

and I can't really find too

many people that really know

much about this candidate.

Certainly as Mike Kelly leaves

the military, he's conscious

that his toughest battle may

still be ahead of him. But

people might look at you now

and say well he would say that

because he wans to score

political point and advance his

own career. Well I'd say look,

just look at my record, you

know, I've always served both

governments of all colours

faithfully and loyally, I done

have to sh - don't have to

believe my words but judge me

by my actions. And I guess he

will be judged when the

election comes. That report

from Nick Grimm. To respond to

the criticisms I'm joined now by Defence Minister Brendan

Nelson. Before we go to the

detail of Colonel Kelly's

criticisms rtion would you

agree he commended respect and credibility inside your

Department and with the US

allies in Iraq? Good evening,

Kerry. Well firstly my personal

dealings with Colonel Kelly

have been limited but I thank

him, as I do all the men and

women who have served in the

Australian army for their

service to our country.

Certainly he worked diligently,

he was respected by quite a few

people with whom he worked, not

only in Defence but overseas.

But I'd also point out that his

version of events is disputed

in your package there by

General Peter Cosgrove and I

also note that his version of

events and the information he

provided to the Cole royal

commission was also disputed by

others voefd and those two

things are obviously a matter

of record. Let's take the

specific criticisms one by one.

Abu Ghraib, Colonel Kelly says

that le regularly raised

concerns abprisoner abuse in

situation reports back to

Canberra from June 2003

specifically about Abu Ghraib

from September 2003. Your

predecessor as minister Robert

Hill denied any knowledge of

Abu Ghraib before January of

2004, is that really credible

in light of what Colonel Kelly

has revealed? Well, Kerry, all

of those events surrounding the

appalling issues at gab u graib

- Abu Ghraib have well been

traversed throughout the media and all sort of public

discussion. We know for a fact that no Australian Defence

Force pennel were voefd. We

know those who were responsible

for that cruel and inhumane mistreatment have been dealt

with in through the judicial

system in the United States and

we also know that when the

information was coming forward,

that Senator Hill, my

predecessor and General Kos

groz responded to it

appropriately. But in an

overall sense, Kerry, you've

got to ask yourself in

hindsight and really what Mike

kil Kelly's doing, he said a

number of things in the story.

He said he basically supported

the removal of Saddam Hussein

and I think that any sensible

person would appreciate that,

particularly given the dreadful

human rights abuses under that regime. The second thing he's

doing is saying that in

hindsight once Saddam Hussein

had been removed then things

should have been done

differently and I think all of

us, the American President, the

British Prime Minister, our own

government agree that in

hindsight we would do things

differently. And personally I don't see what's to be gained

in helping Iraqis today to

stabilise that country, to deal

with Al-Qaeda, to stabilise

that region and protect our own

interests by going over things

that have gone through, in one

case, a royal commission and extensive public debate in another with Abu

Ghraib. Particularly if it

reflects poorly on the

government. Look I'm happy to discuss any of these issues

with you. Let's go back to Abu

Ghraib very quickly. Go back to

Abu Ghraib specifically because

I don't think you quite answered the question there.

The issue - when Abu Ghraib was

final r finally exposed by an

American journalist in 2004, the Australian Government made a point of saying that they

didn't know about it before

January of 2004. The real issue

is did the Australian

Government, did your government

know about it for months before

it was publicly exposed and

could you, in that time, as in could Robert Hill, could John

Howard, could Alexander Downer,

have raised directly with the

Americans concerns about human rights abuses in Abu

Ghraib? Well, Robert Hill, then

Defence Minister, Minister Alexander Downer as Foreign

Minister, General Cosgrove as

the chief of defence, Kerry,

dealt with all of those

issues. When? On the record at

the time and they've gone

through that both in the

parliament, in estimates

inquiries an in the public

arena. But this is the first

time we've heard from the lips

of the senior army officer

directly involved with those

issues that he was warning his

superiors in the Defence

Department back from June to

September and onwards of 2003

that abuses were going on with

detainees. Well, Kerry, look, I

will examine the records within

Defence to have a look at that

but those issues have been well

traversed. We may not have

heard them from Mike Kelly's

lips but we've certainly read

about them in print, we've

heard the advice given to us by

General Cosgrove, the Chen

chief of defence, my

predecessor Robert Hill but I

go back again to things that

Mike Kelly said in the interview about his concern for

the preservation of human life

and I say to him, and I say to

the Labor Party, if we really

want to preserve Iraqi life is

that more likely to occur if we

cut and run from Iraq, which we

were told yesterday by the

democraticly elected Iraqi

foreign minister that we should

not do, or sit a question of staying there until we

stabilise the country and as

far as de-Baathification is

concerned that's one of the key

things that the democratically

elected Iraqi parliament is

currently dealing with in

dition to the legislation to

distribute oil revenues. That

is one of the key things that

is a part of very much the

Baghdad security plan. So going over ancient history I don't

think is going to do anything

to help the Iraqis and

stabilise the region. It's not

quite so ancient. There seem

toos be a consistent pattern to

Colonel Kelly's recollections

that he was ignored with his

warnings on Abu Ghraib that, he

was not nold to get involved in

post war strategy, this he was

ignored with his warn about the

AWB kickbacks that the jig was

up with AWB and he's not alone

either when he voices the view

that the world is now a less

safe place than it was before

Australia went to war with

America in Iraq. Well, Kerry,

firstly his, as I said earlier,

his recollection of events and

what he stated in relation to

AWB was disputed by others that

were involved. We've had a

complete royal commission But

he wasn't invited to give

evidence at that royal

commission. Well in fact there

might be a message in that too,

Kerry. I mean Australia was

only one of the 66 countries

identified in the inquiry that

actually had any kind of

extensive examination of the issuings and the conclusion

was, as you know, that AWB executives deliberately sought

to mislead the Government and

in relation to Abu Ghraib, at I

say, all of those issues have been covered and the

perpetrators have been dealt

with. It's important also that

we make sure, Kerry, that as we go forward into the future

that, we focus on the fact

today that Iraq, the

democratically elected Iraqi

government, the United Nations

Security Council through

resolution 1723, the Government

and the UN is basically asking

aurks the US and Britain and

other countries to continue to provide assistance, training

and support and security to the

people of Iraq and if you go

back to one of Mike Kelly's

other assertions, by the way,

Kerry, in terms of Australia

being an occupying power and

getting actively involved in

the reconstruction of Iraq,

under resolution 1483 with the

forth Geneva convention, it was

recognised the United States,

the United Kingdom were the key

countries that were ock pcking

until the Iraqi people

basically took over in July 2004. And of course there's now

a long list of credible critics

testifying to the disastrous

coalition post war strategy,

Colonel Kelly is not alone in

that is he, and he was raising

those issues at the time, he

says. Kerry, I say to you this.

That if we could go back, when

I say we, I mean the coalition, the countries that stood up for

the view that the world was

better in the post September 11 world without Saddam Hussein

who tortured and mured on

avernl 70,000 people a year for

15 years, I say to you, Kerry f

we could go back to that period after removing Saddam Hussein I

think all of us would do some

things differently, but we've

got to deal with the

reality. We're just about out

of time but one of the

realities is how many hundreds

of thousands of Iraqis have

died since the war? Well I can

tell you, Kerry, that many,

many more would have died if

the United States, the United

Kingdom, Australia and other

countries were not there

training the Iraqis, providing

security. The killing is being

done by insurgents and it's

currently predominantly being

done by Al-Qaeda which is an

enemy to the civilised world as

much as it is to Iraqis and to Australia. Let's look to the

future. Thanks for talking with

us. Thank you, Kerry. And that's the program for tonight.

We'll be back at the same time

tomorrow but for now, goodnight. Closed Captions by

CSI

Can you get rid of... He sung with Joan Sutherland. Impossible, Madame. Non, non, non. How many ostriches did they kill to make that hat? Of course, Madame. And I had a very special walk, click the heels. Off we go. (Laughs)

Now, he's set himself his toughest challenge - a most unlikely choir. It's like inviting a whole lot of people to a party

but you don't know who you've invited or who's going to turn up. (Sing) # Obstacles in my...# If you're homeless, in the grip of drugs, struggling with mental health problems or disadvantaged in some way, you are welcome. There are no auditions. I'm wrecked. Like I said, they really keep me honest. (Sings)

Jonathan Welsh works miracles. He transforms their lives and they transform his. I could listen to you sing all day, that was beautiful. Thank you. He'll have some help this week.