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Mr Downer is the Foreign Minister of Australia - not the Foreign Minister of the United States.



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KEVIN RUDD M.P. Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs

[02-159]

MEDIA RELEASE

MR DOWNER IS THE FOREIGN MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA - NOT THE FOREIGN MINISTER OF THE UNITED STATES

An Australian decision on military action on Iraq should be based first and foremost on Australia’s nation interests

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has made an extraordinary statement today explaining the basis on which Australia would make a decision to support US military action against Iraq.

Mr Downer was asked, “if the United States can't get UN backing, would we still support the United States if they decided to attack Iraq?”

Mr Downer reply was: “Well, whether we would commit troops would depend, first of all, if the United States made a decision to launch a military attack against Iraq, and the United States has not made that decision.”

When asked a second time if Australia would support the US Mr Downer said, “we would have to be invited ourselves to participate.”

These are extraordinary statements by the Foreign Minister of Australia. What they say is the Howard Government’s first and foremost consideration in deciding whether or not to go to war is whether America has decided to go to war.

I would have thought the first and foremost consideration for any Government of Australia in making such a grave decision is whether or not it is in Australia’s national security interest to go to war.

Mr Downer’s second basis for considering if Australia should become militarily involved is equally remarkable: that is, whether or not the Unties States invites us. Once again, I would have thought a responsible statement by the Foreign Minister of Australia to such a question would be if it is in Australia’s national security interests - not simply whether or not we’ve been invited.

A decision on going to war is the gravest decision a government can make. It affects the lives of all Australians. Such a decision should not be the product of the sort of ill-considered language and reasoning evidenced by the Foreign Minister’s statements today.

Ends 8 September 2002

For further information contact: Kevin Rudd, MP on 0418 796 931 or Alister Jordan on 0417 605 823