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Latham - Beazley - Rudd: Axis of confusion.

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Media contacts Catherine Fitzpatrick (Senator Hill) 02 6277 7800 0405 351 245

MEDIA RELEASE SENATOR THE HON ROBERT HILL Minister for Defence Leader of the Government in the Senate


Tuesday, 13 July 2004 136/2004


Labor’s new Shadow Defence spokesman has taken less than 24 hours to further confuse Labor’s already fatally muddled position on Iraq.

Mr Beazley today told the media there was a clear need for Australian Army trainers in Iraq to be protected by Australian soldiers.

“They’ve got to be properly protected. The troops that are there that have got to be … obviously have to be properly protected.” (Beazley media conference, 13/07/04)

But Labor’s Foreign Affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd has consistently refused to commit Australian troops to protect Australian diplomats also operating in Iraq.

Mr Rudd says Labor will wait to take advice on that issue after the election.

Why does Labor believe Australian Army trainers currently need protection of Australian soldiers but Australian diplomats don’t?

And what of Mr Latham’s new promise to send unarmed and unprotected Customs officers to Iraq? Who will protect them?

And what of Mr Rudd’s promise of electoral commission officials and police trainers? Has that been abandoned? If not, who would protect these officials in Iraq?

Both Mr Latham and Mr Beazley are saying the Australian Army and Navy trainers are not required and should be withdrawn. But it was Mr Rudd who wrote to the Prime Minister urging the involvement of Australian trainers in the first place.

“I understand DOD currently has staff in country assisting with the development of the army. It would be useful for the Government to investigate whether this training capacity could be increased.” (Rudd letter to Prime Minister 17.11.03)

It has become clear in Mr Beazley’s first 24 hours in the job that Labor is making up policy as it goes along.

It is now almost eight months since Mr Latham became Labor leader. In that time he has not taken the time to have a single operational briefing on ADF activities in Iraq.

What is more important to Mr Latham - Australian forces in Iraq or his latest “media stunt of the day”.