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Prime Minister praises UN Security Council resolution on Iraq; discusses Peter Garrett's ALP membership application.

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This transcript has been prepared by a source external to the Department of the Parliamentary Library.


It may not have been checked against the broadcast or in any other way. Freedom from error, omissions or misunderstandings cannot be guaranteed.


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Wednesday 9 June 2004

Prime Minister praises UN Security Council resolution on Iraq; discusses Peter Garrett's ALP membership application


MARK COLVIN: The Prime Minister h as described the UN Security Council resolution on Iraq as 'a big step forward' for what he says has the potential to be only the Middle East's second democracy, after Israel. 


The Foreign Minister Alexander Downer is predicting that Australians will take great comfort from the resolution and that the UN's involvement in Iraq will encourage more countries to make a humanitarian and military contribution to Iraq. 


While the Government's pleased with those developments, Mark Latham has had a victory at home. 


His plan to recruit Peter Garrett has moved forward. The singer has applied to join the Labor Party, and the Australian Conservation Foundation has announced that Mr Garrett resigned this afternoon as its president. 


On Friday the ALP's national executive will discuss Peter Garrett’s application and the plan to put him in the prime seat of Kingsford Smith. 


Alexandra Kirk reports from Canberra. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: There's bipartisan agreement on the importance of the United Nations resolution - great news, says the Government. And for Labor, welcome news that the UN is resuming a central role in Iraq’s future. 


The Prime Minister, just back from his trip to the United States, Britain and France, is very pleased resolution 1546 had unanimous support. 


JOHN HOWARD: What it means is that the process is working. What it means is that we’re looking to a more optimistic future. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Mr Howard says the UN resolution is proof the first step to creating a democratic Iraq is being taken. 


JOHN HOWARD: It’ll be a terrific thing for the Middle East if we can have another democratic country there. There’s only one democratic country in the Middle East at the moment, and that’s Israel. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has declared the UN resolution great news for Iraqis and good news for the rest of the world - a reminder, he says that there is a plan for a new Iraq which now has broad international support. 


ALEXANDER DOWNER: It gives us great heart now that the international community, the world at large, is supporting the efforts that we’re making in Iraq. And I think Australians will take great comfort from the Security Council resolution. I think most Australians can identify with the fact that now the United Nations Security Council is backing the new Iraq, and backing what we’re doing in Iraq. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Mr Downer says it will encourage other countries to make a contribution to Iraq and hopes the Opposition leader Mark Latham will be persuaded to change his mind about bringing the troops home by Christmas. 


ALEXANDER DOWNER: We are today offering Mr Latham a briefing on the Security Council resolution, and on the implications of the Security Council resolution for the future of Iraq. I think this is a great opportunity for him, not perhaps to climb down in a humiliating way, which he may think would do him political damage, but a great opportunity for him to start this issue afresh and to support a bipartisan position of backing our troops there. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Mark Latham's office says Labor's position on bringing the troops home is clear and consistent and won't change - a message reiterated from New York, by Labor's foreign spokesman Kevin Rudd, who's welcomed the UN resuming a central role in Iraq's future.  


KEVIN RUDD: Mark Latham has made it absolutely plain that Labor’s policy on Iraq will not be changing, and that Labor’s intention is to have the troops of Australia returned to Australia by the end of the year, and that Australia’s future assistance to the Iraqi reconstruction effort will lie in the economic and civil assistance area. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: While Mr Latham's office says it doesn't speak about briefings it receives from the Government, it notes that Mr Rudd is in New York today, receiving a first hand briefing from the United Nations.  


Mr Rudd's also due to meet Richard Armitage, the US deputy Secretary of State, later in the week. Ahead of their Washington meeting, Mr Armitage has fired another American broadside at Labor's troop withdrawal policy, reiterating President George Bush's criticism last week, delivered in the presence of Mr Howard. 


The Labor frontbencher is unmoved, but conceded he has a job in front of him.  


KEVIN RUDD: You would have to say that there is some disagreement on the part of the United States Administration with aspects of our policy on Iraq. Let’s just call a spade a spade. I hope to have a discussion with Richard Armitage, someone who I have known for some years about that and work out a way forward. But we are quite plain in terms of our policy and Mark has made it absolutely crystal clear that that policy is not about to change. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: While Alexander Downer suggests Mr Latham may find some comfort in the anti-Americanism of Labor's likely star recruit, Peter Garrett's, Kevin Rudd says Labor's foreign policy, which rests on three pillars, won't change.  


KEVIN RUDD: Our membership of the United Nations, our alliance with the United States and our policy of comprehensive engagement with Asia. That is what we stand for. That is what the party collectively stands for. Peter Garrett’s addition to the show doesn’t change that one bit. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Peter Garrett has now applied to join the ALP, and Mark Latham has asked for the application to be accepted, and for the preselection for the safe Labor seat of Kingsford Smith to be done quickly.  


The New South Wales ALP party officers met this afternoon and agreed the best way to do this was for it to be dealt with by the National Executive of the Labor Party. It will now meet on Friday afternoon to consider Peter Garrett’s ALP membership application, and also to set up a process for holding the preselection ballot by members of the National Executive. 


While his ministers believe Mark Latham's support for the rock singer proves the Opposition Leader's anti-Americanism, John Howard is staying right out of it. 


JOHN HOWARD: That is a matter for the Australian Labor Party. 


REPORTER: What would your favourite Peter Garrett number be though? 


JOHN HOWARD: (Laughs) 


REPORTER: Come on ... 


JOHN HOWARD: Well I quite like Beds are Burning .  


REPORTER: Do you? 




REPORTER: What about US Forces




MARK COLVIN: Pass indeed. The Prime Minister there, ending Alexandra Kirk’s report.