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Transcript of doorstop: Monday, 2 June 2003: Canberra: Hill on WMD; US bases; Eric Roozendaal.

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Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs

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


TRANSCRIPT 0F DOORSTOP CANBERRA, MONDAY 2 JUNE 2003 E & OE - PROOF ONLY Subjects: Hill on WMD; US Bases; Eric Roozendaal Rudd: If the Howard Government now believes that there may have been a failure in intelligence assessments on the question of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, then for goodness sake let them say so. What we have is Senator Hill drip-feeding elements of this story out, expressing for the first time concern that the Government may have got these intelligence assessments on Iraq’s WMD wrong. As the Opposition’s foreign affairs spokesman, I have always accepted the intelligence briefings that the Howard Government has given me at face value. If the Howard Government is now saying something else to me and saying something else to the Australian people, then let them say so in plain language. When Australia went to war against Iraq, Prime Minister Howard said there was one reason and one reason alone for going to war. Prime Minister Howard said that that reason was to eliminate Iraq’s weapons of destruction threat so that it did not represent a national security threat to this country or to other countries. John Howard made this absolutely clear in his formal statement to the Parliament; he made it absolutely clear in the legal advice he tendered to the Parliament; and he made it absolutely clear in the resolution he put before the Parliament as to why this country was going to war. So if a month or two later the Howard Government is now saying, ‘whoops we may have got this wrong’, then let them say so loud and clear rather than drip-feeding the truth out to the Australian public, the Australian community and to the parliamentary Opposition. Reporter: [Inaudible] Rudd: Can I simply put it in these terms: the Australian Opposition has accepted at face value the intelligence material provided to it by the Australian Government over a long period of time on the question of Iraq. If what the Australian Government is now saying is that its intelligence material may have been wrong, then let the Australian Government say so - not whisper it out the side of its mouth while it is offshore attending a conference in Singapore. It is time to be plain speaking in your language on a question of such fundamental importance. Reporter: [Inaudible]

Rudd: The Howard Government seems to have a new version each day of the

possibility of a further US presence of one form or another in Australia. A week or two ago it was the possibility of US bases. Today it is the possibility of further US transiting arrangements for Australia, or of increased US exercises in Australia. Frankly, it is time the Howard Government spoke plainly to the Australian people about what proposal has been put to it by the Government of the United States and what they intend to respond to that proposal with.

Reporter: Did you have any doubts at the time that the intelligence was flawed or light on? Were you worried?

Rudd: The Federal Opposition has no independent intelligence to operate with. A long-standing convention of this country is that you base your policy judgements on the intelligence information given to you by the government of the day. Now, if the Howard Government is saying that that intelligence may have been flawed, then let them say that clearly to the Australian people and not whisper it out of the side of their mouth.

And I put it in these terms as well: remember it is not that long since Children Overboard; it is not that long since the Australian people were taken for a ride in terms of this Government’s formal undertakings to the Australian people actually went on. Well, if the Howard Government is now saying that they may have got the intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction wrong, let them say so plainly. When it came to the question of Children Overboard, we had to rely on a Senate Inquiry to finally extract the truth from a Government which went kicking and screaming all the way.

What is now going to happen on this question? We, the Opposition, as of today still have a view that the intelligence information provided to us by the Howard Government was the only information on which we could base our policy judgement. Now if they are changing that position, let them say so plainly.

Reporter: [Inaudible]

Rudd: Well coming from the Queensland division of the Party I am unaware what General Secretary Roozendaal may be planning to do or is doing with his New South Wales colleagues. It is a question best put to them.

Reporter: [Inaudible]

Rudd: Well on the question you put, that is what General Secretary Roozendaal has in mind, I have not the faintest idea what Mr Roozendaal has in mind or what he intends to do with members of the Federal Caucus from the State of New South Wales. And I mean it. It is far better you put those sorts of questions to them.

Reporter: [Inaudible]

Rudd: The central challenge facing all of us as the alternative government of Australia is to articulate a clear alternative policy vision for this country’s future. An alternative vision on health care, an alternative vision on education, on higher education and for families under financial pressure. We need to do that with a strong and united voice. And once we have done that and done it effectively over a period of time, let me tell you, the Howard Government will show itself to have feet of clay not just on these questions but on the other matters we have been talking about this morning as well.

Ends. 2 June 2003