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Opposition Leader discusses Iraq; and September 11

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Subjects: Iraq; September 11.

JOURNALIST: We explored at some length, Australia’s commitment to supporting the United States stand against Iraq. I think it’s fair to say that the Labor Party has spent the last few weeks questioning that stand, teasing it out, putting it to the test. This commitment is of course bound up with the events of September 11. Simon Crean is it impossible to untangle the two?

CREAN: Yes it is because I think you’ve always got to make the judgment call in relation to what we would do on Iraq based on the evidence surrounding Iraq and Saddam Hussein. I think the great risk in the circumstances that are so horrendous, as so horrendous as September the 11th, is to try and lump everything in and justify it as a response to the September 11th attack. We’ve got to be considerate of the facts. We’ve got to base it on the evidence. We’ve got to build the coalition of support. That’s the sensible way forward.

JOURNALIST: And do you see that happening?

CREAN: Well not until recently by the Government. I mean, the Government was basically very gung-ho to get behind the US in terms of whatever it did. I was urging the case that said you’ve got to go through the United Nations framework. We need to see the evidence. We need to build the coalition. But importantly the Australian public needs to be brought on board. The Prime Minister should be taking the public into his confidence, reporting to the Parliament and allowing a debate. If it’s good enough for Tony Blair to address his Parliament, if it’s good enough for George Bush to address the congress and the United Nations, why can’t the Australian Prime Minister do it in the Australian Parliament?

JOURNALIST: And are you convinced you’re going to get that debate?


CREAN: I think we’re moving closer to it. We got the Prime Minister’s concession a couple of weeks ago that he would allow a debate. He wouldn’t give the timing of it. But, I think, in the wake of the step up in terms of the US and the UK, the dossier of evidence, the fact that the Prime Minister claims to have all of the information he needs, all I’m saying to the Prime Minister is if you’ve got all of the information you need then share it with the Australian public, report it to the Parliament.

JOURNALIST: I thought Greens Leader, Bob Brown made an interesting call yesterday, saying that before we send the soldiers John Howard should go to Iraq and make a personal plea to Saddam Hussein?

CREAN: Well the United Nations, I think, is the appropriate body for that. It, after all, has carried the resolutions that Iraq has to comply with. And that’s why I’ve consistently said that the matter needs to go back through the United Nations. Its resolutions need to be complied with. Interestingly the Prime Minister, last Saturday, is now saying, he’s now agreeing with that. He’s now saying it should go through the United Nations.

JOURNALIST: Simon Crean, perhaps we could finish by just putting a question to you that a lot of our listeners have asked over the last week or two and that is, why commemorate September 11? What it is it that is so different about this tragedy from the many other tragedies, which happen around the world, which we just choose to ignore, we forget, they fade?

CREAN: Well this is a day that none of us will forget. It’s one of those defining moments everyone can recall what they were doing when this happened.

This, the first anniversary of it. I think is an important time for remembrance, for reflection and for resolve.

Remembrance for the lost families and for the heroes that also sacrificed their lives to try and save as many as they did.

Reflection because of the vulnerability that we now find ourselves in.

What September 11th did was to remind us of two things. How the threat to us has fundamentally changed, if you can turn aeroplanes into human bombs that makes us all vulnerable.

But the other thing on reflection that I think all of us look back to is, when we hear those last calls from the people facing death, what did they turn to? They turned to family and friends. And I think that’s important because that’s the glue that holds society together.

And of course the final thing that we’ve got to do today is to resolve to fight the ‘War on Terror’, but in the process of doing it, not to forsake tolerance.


Now all of those things I think go fundamentally to human values. What we stand for, what makes us tick, what involves us and that’s why this anniversary of that horrible event, I think, is such a terribly important occasion.

JOURNALIST: Simon Crean, thank you.