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Opposition Leader discusses UN weapons inspection report; and US President's State of the Union address.



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LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

TRANSCRIPT 0F INTERVIEW - Philip Clarke, RADIO 2GB SYDNEY, WEDNESDAY 29 JANUARY 2003

E & OE - PROOF ONLY

Subjects: UN WEAPONS INSPECTORS’ REPORT; PRESIDENT BUSH’S STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS

CLARKE: Mr Crean, good afternoon, welcome to these brand new 2GB studios.

CREAN: Well thanks Philip, it’s good to be here on the fourth day of open. It smells new.

CLARKE: Yeah I know, it feels new, it’s good, driving the new ship. Anyway, we are happy to welcome you in more salubrious surroundings.

CREAN: No, it’s great.

CLARKE: …for listeners of course, the sound remains the same as they say.

Well, it’s a big day today isn’t it, the State of Union address which I’m sure you’ve had a chance to absorb this afternoon. I thought laid it out, the choices pretty starkly for Saddam Hussein - either cooperate or to use George Bush’s words `we will lead a coalition against you. That coalition is likely to include Australia isn’t it?

CREAN: Well, what I wanted to hear him really say is that whatever we do we do through the United Nations and to use the strength - he didn’t say that did he?

CLARKE: No he didn’t. He’ll go with or without the United Nations.

CREAN: Well, and I think that’s the worrying thing, because that’s what will split this nation, quite frankly. I believe that Saddam Hussein has to be disarmed, but I don’t think that path to disarmament is through unilateral

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action. It’s through the authority of the United Nations, the United Nations already having unanimously determined that the Weapons Inspectors should go back in, already having received a report from the Weapons Inspectors saying Saddam Hussein still hasn’t satisfied us. The next step has got to be a determination by the United Nations, not just a single determination by the US.

CLARKE: That means countries like France which have been notoriously recalcitrant over this issue, really they’ve got to pull their heads in and decide which side of the fence they want to sit doesn’t it?

CREAN: Well look, but this was the argument last time, Philip, remember we were told, and I’ve been arguing that the UN has to be the mechanism for dealing with this issue since April of last year. We were told that the UN couldn’t decide anything, that France would be a problem or Russia would be a problem, there would be a veto here or something else there. Resolution 1441 was unanimous.

The result of that was the Weapons Inspectors. John Howard said he was surprised that the strength of the Weapons Inspectors. I wasn’t surprised, I had faith in the United Nations, and I’ve been consistent about that. Now if indeed the United Nations is presented with this report it’s got to make a decision.

And I welcome the fact that George Bush says today we’ve going to send Colin Powell along to the Security Council next week and present new evidence. Well, why hasn’t that new evidence been made available before now? Why didn’t the President release the new evidence today?

CLARKE: Well, it’s a bit like a game. You know … you have to concede that the release of such evidence may jeopardise the sources which that evidence may have occurred. And also is the release of the evidence in essence going to prevent the collection of further evidence in the future. I mean you have to accept their assurance on this that that would happen.

CREAN: Except that they’re now telling us that next week we are going to get new evidence.

CLARKE: Would you agree that if it hadn’t been for the United States though and their unilateralism in the sense that they’ve sent troops in great numbers to the Gulf, that they’re rhetoric’s been very aggressive towards Iraq, that they’re, that they’ve taken a lead role in this in forcing the UN to do something about it, that if it hadn’t been for the United States unilateralism in that sense then we wouldn’t get, have got to this point.

CREAN: There’s no question that the United States is a significant player and has an impact in terms of what the United Nations does. But the truth of it is, it was a unanimous decision. And quite frankly, Philip, if you look

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at public opinion, public opinion and the case by the US has always been fed back when unilateralism has been its direction…

CLARKE: But it was the…

CREAN: No, no, but look, when the strength of the position and where the pressure against Saddam Hussein has come has been through unanimous decision of the United Nations.

CLARKE: But it’s the United States which has driven the process, hasn’t it? I mean it hasn’t been hand-wringing countries like France which have driven the process, it’s been the United States saying `look we will do this, this is what’s going to happen and the United Nations has been reluctantly coming along in the wake. All right, yes they have a unanimous resolution but under expression from the United States.

CREAN: Well, one could argue that it was really Tony Blair that put them back on the path of the United Nations. It was Tony Blair that disclosed information in the British Parliament before George Bush addressed the Security Council.

Now, you know, people can argue who’s been responsible but in the end what matters is that we got a unanimous decision of the United Nations - something that was being told to us by the critics who said `don’t put your faith in the United Nations, they can never determine anything’. Here they are, they come up with a resolution.

If in fact that that process has led to a very strong report from the Weapons Inspectors. If they’re doing their job, why not let them finish it? And why, shouldn’t the US be using its strength and influence to strengthen the hand of the United Nations. These issues, whether they’re terrorism which is being fought under the auspices of the United Nations, world conflict … should be resolved through the United Nations as much as possible.

Our alliance with the United States says so. Article One of the Australia-US alliance says, in the circumstances of international conflict they should be resolved through the United Nations. And in the case of Iraq, it’s a United Nations’ resolution that people are complaining has not been complied with. Why not have the United Nations determine enforcement and next steps?

[AD BREAK]

CLARKE: Mr Crean, if the United States takes action against Iraq, and it seemed pretty plain today that that’s going to happen with or without UN support. You do face the position, I understand your position about UN support and I think most people in the country would probably agree with you that it would’ve been far better if the UN supported the action against Iraq if that became necessary. But there is a, I mean, clearly George Bush said

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today we’re going come what may. Now we, that is we Australia, are over there, we’re going to be part of that aren’t we?

CREAN: Well we are over there and wrongly over there. The deployment last Thursday of the Kanimbla should not have happened and I’ve argued that very strongly.

What I thought was quite extraordinary was that, as I understand it on your program earlier, the Defence Minister has admitted to a timetable for the deadline of war. Now, how can the Government say it’s made no commitment in terms of the United States yet it’s already talking a timetable for war?

And the Prime Minister has said we won’t be part of any way that involves nuclear weapons. Has he got that assurance from George Bush? Has he made it clear to George Bush that we won’t be part of it? And how does he, in the circumstances of our troops being under US command, how does he extricate our troops if nuclear weapons are used?

Now these are all very important questions, that the Prime Minister has not come clean with the Australian people on. I believe he’s made the commitment to the US regardless and I think that is a bad error of judgement.

But I think what is terribly important here is two aspects. One, that we still should pursue the peaceful option. If you ask every Australian out there in the street what they’d like, they want Saddam Hussein disarmed and they want it done peacefully…

CLARKE: Well of course they do, no one wants war, no one wants war. Mr Howard doesn’t want war, neither do you, neither does any rational person.

CREAN: And, given that the UN Weapons Inspectors still said that there’s a possibility of achieving that peaceful outcome, why not pursue it?

The second is, if that’s not possible, and there has to be a resolution, a determination of force against Iraq, there’s a fundamental question here. Should that be pursued, through a unilateral approach or through the United Nations? I say it has to be pursued through the United Nations. And, I suppose the other point I say is the Prime Minister out of touch with where the Australian public is, but worse he won’t tell them the full story.

CLARKE: Can I ask you this question just before we go to the news and if you wouldn’t mind, we’ll chat again after the news. If the United Nations, through the Security Council authorises military action via a coalition with the United States, should then Australia join that coalition.

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CREAN: Yes, we should. Yes because you can’t have it both ways. You can’t say you want the authority of the UN upheld and then if that’s been flouted by the country against which the resolution is directed, if the United Nations says we have to move in and wants support, we should be in there with them.

CLARKE: Why should we be? I mean Australia is a small country at the other end of the world?

CREAN: Because it’s consistent with ensuring that the authority of the United Nations is upheld. It’s consistent with the argument that the international policeman is an international body, not just the United States.

CLARKE: If the United States decides to proceed without the authority of the UN, would it be a fatal blow to the UN’s authority?

CREAN: It wouldn’t be a fatal blow to the UN’s authority. But what it signals is unilateralism is a pattern that can be followed and that’s bad for world peace and security.

I’ve heard the Prime Minister talk about the problems of North Korea and what are we saying to North Korea? Get back into the International Atomic Energy Agency - a body that reports to the Untied Nations. Well what do you say to North Korea when the United States ignores what the UN process is and says `doesn’t matter what you say we’re going it alone’. That’s the problem.

And that’s why I’m not just a passionate believer in the United Nations, I’m convinced that if we’re to deal with these very difficult and complex issues of world peace and security, the appropriate mechanism to deal with them through is the United Nations - and we’ve got to be consistent about it.

[ad break]

CLARK: My guest in the studio is Simon Crean, the Opposition Leader. We are talking about the obvious, of course, Iraq. Mr Crean, one of the questions that arises, I suppose, the post-Iraq situation, assuming that the pressure from the United States is unbearable on the regime - and you’d have to accept that, at some point or another if the US wishes to prevail, it will - as to what happens then. And it does concern me, I must say, that we, while participating in the so-called liberation of Iraq or whatever - all of which would be a good thing, it’s a brutal dictatorship - that I wonder how much of a place at the table we are going to get in the reconstruction and what happens then?

CREAN: Probably not much at all. But I guess what we’ll be asked to do is to play a peacekeeping role.

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CLARK: Should we do that?

CREAN: Well, under the United Nations’ auspices, of course we should. And that’s the basis upon which we’ve been peacekeepers in many parts of the world, Timor closest to us. But, you know, just have a look at the circumstances, Philip. We talk about Iraq, but look at the trouble in our region. Look at the Solomons, look at Vanuatu, look at what used to be - what’s still called the Pacific Ocean - it’s anything but Pacific these days. Now if, in fact, we’re going to be part of backing unilateralism by the United States outside of the UN, what about when it’s important for us to seek multilateralism or the UN as part of the resolution of these problem areas? That’s what we should think about, because that goes to our national interest. It goes to what is peace and security in our region.

And, you know, there’s complexity - as I said before - all over the globe and we have to really struggle hard with some of these issues. I’m not pretending the UN’s perfect, but what I am saying is that we have a mechanism to try and address them.

And, again, let’s have a look at a bit of history, Philip. After the First World War - the war to end all wars - the League of Nations was established.

CLARK: Yes.

CREAN: It collapsed. It collapsed because countries wanted to go outside it. And the war that was supposed to end all wars and created the League of Nations, upon its collapse we had another world war, from which the United Nations was formed. We have to learn the lessons of history and understand the importance of what our resolve will be if we get to huge areas of conflict. It’ll be, after all the damage is done, we’ve got to sit down and work this out collectively. Why not do it now?

CLARK: Hmmm.

CREAN: That’s the issue. And we have the opportunity, the golden opportunity in my view, to use our relationship with the United States to put pressure on it to secure the second resolution of the United Nations to force the hand of …

CLARK: Well, yes. And yet, I think that’s what’s going to happen. I mean, George Bush - I think - is doing just that. I mean, he’s putting great pressure on the Security Council to say, ‘Well, look, do this.’ Mr Howard himself is saying today he thinks the responsibility is now with the Security Council. I mean, that’s where it is now, isn’t it?

CREAN: Well, that’s where it should have been all along. But remember in the middle of last year it was war talk from John Howard, accusing anyone that was talking about going through the United Nations of being appeasers

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of Saddam Hussein. He’s been all over the place in relation to support for the United Nations. Labor’s been entirely consistent in this regard. What we’ve got to do is - now that the weapons inspectors have reported and reported strongly - let them finish the task.

CLARK: Alright, Mr Crean. Good to talk with you.

CREAN: My pleasure, Philip.

(ends)