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Memo to the minister: the Iraqi people need assistance now.

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Shadow Minister for Population & Immigration


In Question Time today, Minister Ruddock eloquently demonstrated the extent of the Howard Government’s concern for the Iraqi people during their time of need - less than zero.

The Howard Government cut the core funding to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ by 50 per cent last year.

The Minister refused to answer the question, rambling on with a history lesson from the last Gulf War more than a decade ago. From what I could gather, the Minister seemed to eventually arrive at the conclusion that as there had been no mass movement of Iraqis so far, it was not a problem and would not become one.

The Minister confirmed that funding remains below 2002 funding levels

Given that the war is just six days old, I am impressed with the Minister’s powers of foresight. Despite warnings by UNHCR that there is an impending human crisis in Iraq with up to 600 000 people on the move, the Minister prefers to ignore the advice of the experts and claim that there is no need for Australia to increase its support in this area.

All Howard Government Ministers have been quick to tell us in recent weeks how concerned they are for the welfare of the Iraqi people. Given the destruction of basic services in Iraq, it is an unavoidable reality that huge numbers of people will start to move. These people will need help with food, shelter, water and medical services, among other things.

How long does the Minister plan to wait until he restores core funding levels to UNHCR so they can adequately cope with the unfolding crisis?

And Minister, if Iraqis have to keep moving from countries of first asylum to get their basic needs met, whose fault will that be?

26 March 2003

For further information:

Julia Gillard on 0417 361 637 Ann Clark on 0425 711 922