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Monday, 26 May 2003
Page: 14860

Mr JULL (2:28 PM) —My question is directed to the Minister for Trade in his capacity as Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. Initially, what will the lifting of UN sanctions on Iraq mean for the Iraqi people?

Mr VAILE (Minister for Trade) —I thank the honourable member for Fadden for his question. Australia warmly welcomes the UN Security Council's adoption of resolution 1483, which brings to an end 13 years of sanctions against Iraq. This development should lend momentum to Iraq's economic recovery, although it will take time for the business environment to be normalised as the security situation improves and new governance arrangements are settled. The government is moving quickly to formally repeal measures under Australian law that implemented the old sanctions regime. While this process is being completed, companies can trade with Iraq under interim arrangements that have been put in place. We are pleased to see provisions that establish a transparent and internationally credible mechanism for the management of Iraq's oil revenues and enable the smooth phasing out of the UN oil for food program. This will enable a smooth transition to a market based economy and will ensure that this crucial pipeline for humanitarian goods is not prematurely disrupted.

Since the oil for food program resumed following suspension as a result of the conflict, Australia has continued to provide the vast majority of Iraq's wheat imports—so far, 400,000 tonnes through the World Food Program. It is good news for Australian wheat farmers that the UN oil for food program has been funded to run for another six months. We are pleased that the resolution unequivocally calls on the international community to assist in humanitarian relief and for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Iraq's infrastructure. For its part, Australia has already committed $100 million to humanitarian and reconstruction activities in Iraq. Australia has also deployed a range of Australian experts to advise on Iraq's economic recovery, particularly in the field of agriculture.

The House should also note that, as part of resolution 1483, new obligations were imposed on United Nations member states to establish a prohibition on trade in or transfer of Iraqi cultural property illegally removed from Iraq since 2 August 1990 and to facilitate the return to Iraqi institutions of such property. The lifting of sanctions is consistent with our longstanding support for a significant, practical and value-adding UN role in Iraq, including in transitional political arrangements.