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Opposition Leader discusses troop deployment; and Security Act.

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Subjects: Troop deployment; Security Act

JOST: Simon, thank you for joining us.

CREAN: My pleasure, John.

JOST: Simon, this is sort of a poignant moment, you down there farewelling Australian defence personnel. Is it saddening?

CREAN: It is, and it’s unnecessary. It’s unnecessary, because we shouldn’t be deploying any troops ahead of a UN decision that authorises that. And this deployment, whatever they say, is a ‘no turning back’ position if the US decides to go it alone. And that’s why this is a wrong decision. And I will continue to argue to the Government that it’s wrong in the Parliament, in the public.

But, having said that I don’t support the deployment, I will always support those who are deployed, because that distinction is important, John. These people do not have a choice. They have to follow the orders of the Government of the day. That is the nature of a defence force in a democratic society. And what we have got to do is to ensure that - whilst I will continue to argue strongly against this action by the Government and seek to reverse it - if the decision has been taken, if they are being sent, the troops go with our blessings. And my commitment is that they return safely and I will do everything I can to get the decision changed and to have them home safely and quickly.

JOST: Are we all victims of mass distraction?

CREAN: Well, I believe this is a significant distraction here, because we have the main game in the United Nations and the Security Council. We talk about the need to put pressure on Saddam Hussein. You can’t get more pressure than a unanimous decision of the United Nations Security Council. Now, the weapons inspectors have been in there doing their tasks. Let them complete that task. But


don’t pre-empt any decision-making. Allow the United Nations process to work through, and make the assessment on the evidence.

The risk here is that we’re sending the signal - from three countries out of 191 in the United Nations, three countries alone - that the preparedness for war means the diplomatic solutions can’t be found, that peace can’t be found. Now, there’s nothing unpatriotic about arguing for peace over war, John. And I want the peace, and the best chance of securing the peace is to get the United Nations’ authority enforced, not by - outside of that framework - deploying troops in advance.

JOST: And if we don’t get that endorsement, you say that these troops should be brought back immediately?

CREAN: Exactly.

JOST: That’s the Labor Party, the Opposition’s position?

CREAN: There should be no attack on Iraq without the authorisation of the United Nations.

JOST: Well, haven’t we been led along the garden path by all, by two Prime Ministers and a President and a Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defence and various other people who have postulated this war? We’ve been led along a garden path of mental preparation, watching the troops build up - and at the same time, we’ve been led up the garden path because we’ve been told they’re going to go to the United Nations and this is going to have universal support. So there has been - when I say a war of mass distraction, I’m really talking about lies, propaganda and bullshit.

CREAN: Well, what we’ve got is a deep split, as you know, within the United States itself - certainly with the public, and there are differences of opinion within the Administration. Now, what I’m saying to John Howard is he’s got to listen to the Australian people, not just George Bush.

And he’s also got to understand that as long as he keeps talking about the ANZUS alliance and our obligations, the first obligation under that alliance - Article 1 - is that the United States and Australia will use all peaceful means through the United Nations, in particular, to avoid conflict. And my point is that if we’re a good ally, we should be drawing the attention of the United States to that aspect of our alliance. And we should be using it to bolster the strength of the position that the United Nations Security Council arrived at through Resolution 1441.

A unanimous decision of the United Nations is enormous international pressure. We’ve got to build off that international pressure and get Saddam Hussein to disarm. That’s the name of the game, not giving the distraction about whether this is in or outside of the United Nations’ authority. The Australian public and world opinion is increasingly saying that there should not be any action outside of the UN. The political leaders around the world should listen to the public.



JOST: You’ve been listening to the public, no doubt through your monitoring of surveys that the party does. And what sort of feedback are you getting? I notice that there have been surveys published showing that only ten per cent of Australians are in favour of a pre-emptive non-UN-endorsed strike against Iraq. So what sort of feedback are you getting?

CREAN: The overwhelming feedback is that they don’t want any action in Iraq outside of the United Nations. There’s a strong body of opinion that says no war at all, at all. But I take this view: there shouldn’t be any attack on Iraq without the authority of the UN. If the UN says we’re in, we should be in. That is our obligation as part of the international citizenry, and through a considered position based on all the facts. But if the US, and George Bush, go it alone, we shouldn’t be there with

them. And that’s the problem with this deployment.

JOST: One last question - I know you’ve got to go in one minute - and that is about this Security Act that’s been held up in the Senate. The Security Act is, what I would say, certainly an official erosion of our democratic rights, but that’s another story. Are you going to continue to hold it up? Is it going to get through? Or can it be negotiated by the Howard Government?

CREAN: We believe it should be negotiated. We put a proposition to the Howard Government, before the Parliament got up, a proposition that would have seen the strengthening of the capacity of our intelligence-gathering agencies to fight the War on Terror, but not to infringe on the civil liberties.

JOST: Okay.

CREAN: We had that message there. John Howard walked away from that compromise. I believe he should look at it again.

JOST: Are you happy that it should become a trigger for a double dissolution?

CREAN: Well, it’s up to the Government as to whether it wants to fight elections on those sorts of double dissolutions. But if he wants to turn Australia into a police state, and have a double dissolution on that, then obviously he is a brave person indeed.

JOST: Simon Crean, thanks for talking with me today. And pass my good wishes onto the troops down at the wharf there.

CREAN: Okay. Thanks, John.