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Launch of Vantage Point, Darwin, Northern Territory: Vantage Point, Iraq.



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Senator the Hon. Robert Hill, Minister for Defence Leader of the Government in the Senate

Transcript

31 Jan 2003

MIN310103/03

Launch of Vantage Point

Darwin, Northern Territory

10:00am CST, Friday, 31 January 2003

E&oe_______________________________________________Vantage Point, Iraq

Journalist

Minister, why do we need Vantage Point?

Senator Hill

Well our Defence Force deserves good quality housing, and you know from my perspective as good as the non-Defence sector. And apartments, units where they have these magnificent views, I just think is a great thing.

Journalist

How come in other European countries [indistinct] more pressure on Saddam Hussein?

Senator Hill

Well I think France is the critical one as a Member of the Permanent Five. And France will determine its own position. I don't think it will be pressured. But it was - it did support Resolution 14.41. It does support the disarmament of Saddam Hussein, consistent with that, and it does recognise the primacy of the Security Council and the needs for its resolutions to be enforced. So, I think it'll approach the issue in that way.

Journalist

Are you confident that [indistinct]…?

Senator Hill

Well I don't want to use this word, 'come on board' because I don't think that's the way you talk to France. France is an important nation with an important responsibility. It's met that responsibility in the past and I'm sure it will in the future.

Journalist

What do you say to these claims about [indistinct]…?

Senator Hill

Well that's a nonsense. The Defence Budget is actually increasing. We've locked in 3% increases in real terms for the acquisition side of the Budget. We're obviously having to increase expenditure on the operational side to pay for the large number of operations that the ADF is currently involved in.

Journalist

When do you expect [indistinct]….?

Senator Hill

The Prime Minister has said that they are included in a number of force elements that might be pre-deployed. The decision to pre-deploy them hasn't yet been taken so, until that's taken, it wouldn't be appropriate to speculate on their deployment.

Journalist

The [indistinct] today that Iraq is not [indistinct] UN Resolution [indistinct]…?

Senator Hill

Well Iraq has been guilty of material breach of 16 Security Council Resolutions and the last Resolution was really an attempt, a last attempt for them voluntarily to comply. And that is to disarm, to end their weapons of mass destruction programs.

And if they're not doing that, and the inspectors haven't been able to indicate that they are doing it, then it seems to me that that amounts to a material breach. It's really - the ultimate decision in that regard is one that has to be taken by the Security Council.

Journalist

So what do you say to [indistinct]….?

Senator Hill

Well I've painted the scenario that for 12 years we've sought to peacefully disarm Iraq. They've refused to co-operate and meet that requirement of the international community despite the sanctions, despite the no-fly zone. Containment basically hasn't worked and that, to me, amounts to a material breach of Resolutions over a long period of time. They were given one last chance to do so peacefully. They haven't been able to satisfy the inspectors that they've done so. There's still time of course. But it requires a change of attitude. They can no longer continue to fudge the issue. They've got to - they can't - they can no longer continue to evade, to conceal the

weapons. They've got to become - they've got to be frank and accept that the international community is not going to walk away from this issue. They are going to be disarmed and it would be so much better if they're prepared to be disarmed peacefully.

Journalist

Minister, I've been told there's [indistinct] a movement in Townsville. [Indistinct] Hercules and movement in and out of the international airport. Is that a build-up between the troops or is it practice? What's going on?

Senator Hill

Well there's no deployment other than the pre-deployment that we've already announced. So - well it's…

Journalist

What would be the action…?

Senator Hill

…hard to answer because there's continual activity. The Chinooks are of course based in Townsville. The decision hasn't yet been taken to redeploy the Chinooks although they were included in the Prime Minister's list of possible force elements for pre-deployment. And it may be work in anticipation of that occurring. But there's been no extra deployment from that which we've announced.

Journalist

…[indistinct]…

Senator Hill

No, I think that's Labor Party business. They've got to determine where they stand on this issue. We obviously would like to see them supporting the Government in addressing, effectively addressing threat of weapons of mass destruction. But the political decisions they take are obviously for them. Okay.

ENDS