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Iraq requires action, not commentary from the Australian Foreign Minister.

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Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs


As one of the three Occupying Powers, what action does Mr Downer now propose on security and humanitarian assistance?

What does Foreign Minister Downer now believe are his responsibilities in post-war Iraq?

Based on his statement today, Mr Downer seems to regard it as one of rolling commentary, rather than concrete action on the ground in Iraq.

Mr Downer’s statement today provides a pathetic illustration of this point. Mr Downer said he “hoped” it would be possible for a further Security Council resolution to be passed and that “the one thing the Americans and the international community shouldn’t do is walk away from Iraq”.

It is extraordinary that Mr Downer now sees his role in Iraq as providing gratuitous advice to the US and the UN on what they should be doing for us - while remaining absolutely silent on what he should be doing on Iraq.

This is the foreign policy equivalent of Mr Downer throwing the hospital pass to somebody else.

How many times does Mr Downer need to be reminded that his own Prime Minister confirmed on 10 April that Australia was an Occupying Power in Iraq under the terms of the Fourth Geneva Convention? As such, Australia is only one of three Occupying Powers. We are therefore conjointly responsible for:

• The maintenance of law and order; • The provision of health and hospital services to the local people; and • The operation of basic infrastructure, such as electricity, water and roads.

On the question of security, there is plainly a grave and continuing crisis on the ground in Baghdad, Najaf and elsewhere in Iraq. If the Howard Government cannot provide additional security assistance to Iraq because of responsibilities elsewhere in East Timor and the Solomons, then it cannot simply wash its hands of responsibility

1 September 2003

Further information: Kevin Rudd, MP 0418 796 931 or Alister Jordan 0417 605 823

on this matter and pretend that it is therefore resolved of its responsibilities as an Occupying Power.

If we cannot physically provide additional security assistance ourselves, then the Howard Government’s responsibility is to detail its plans for how the security gap on the ground in Iraq will be met in precise terms by the other Occupying Powers and/or the UN. As an Occupying Power, Mr Downer is responsible for outlining clearly:

• Where the current security gaps now lie in Iraq; and • How these security deficiencies will now be addressed, by whom and when.

Similarly on the question of humanitarian assistance, the deterioration in domestic security in Iraq has led to the pull out and/or downgrading of the presence of a range of humanitarian agencies - including the International Council of the Red Cross. Mr Downer therefore also has a responsibility as an Occupying Power to define:

• What gaps will now arise in the provision of basic humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi civilian population; • How these gaps will now be met, by whom and when; and • What additional contribution from Australia will therefore be forthcoming on

top of the US$44 million that Australia has contributed to the UN Flash Appeal on Iraq as part of the requested total of US$2.3 billion?

It’s all very fine for John Howard to be present at all the photo opportunities for the welcome home parade for Australian troops returning from the Iraq war. But if you are going to participate in a war, you also become responsible for building the peace. And on this latter responsibility, Messers Howard, Downer and Hill appear increasingly to be missing in action.