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Tuesday, 4 November 2003
Page: 22004


Mr ALBANESE (9:09 PM) —On 23 October 2003, I and 41 Labor colleagues signed a letter which was presented to President Bush. Among other things, the letter stated:

The friendship between our countries is longstanding and deeply felt. We have a great deal in common, particularly our commitment to democracy ... That's why we feel it's important for you to understand why so many Australians opposed the war on Iraq.

Australians have a history of support for international efforts to stop the spread of weapons including weapons of mass destruction and landmines. Weapons inspectors should have been given the time they asked for to peacefully disarm Iraq. No evidence of a massive weapons building program nor capability has emerged since the war. Australia, the US and Britain went to war because of a “clear and present danger” which just did not exist.

... ... ...

The precedent we have set is a very dangerous one, and there is every indication that the world will become less safe, not more, because of our actions.

... ... ...

While many of us didn't support the war on Iraq, all Australians welcome the end of Saddam Hussein's brutal regime.

... ... ...

Our hope is that the people of Iraq will have control over the rich resources of their country and be able to use those resources for their collective benefit. Our hope for the world is that this mistake will lead us to renew our commitment to the United Nations and its processes for promoting and maintaining global peace.

Contrast this with the response of the Greens. The events of that day said a lot about the differences between Labor and the Greens. I and others very deeply opposed the war on Iraq. We attended demonstrations in the cities and, indeed, in the capital. But we did not believe it was appropriate to disrupt this parliament. Those of us on the left of politics argue for a civil society. We argue for civility and respect in our personal relationships—across gender, race and creed. We argue for civility and respect through democratic institutions such as our national parliament, which demands respect in terms of our behaviour. We demand civility and respect in international relations through the United Nations.

The left argues for respect and tolerance for diversity, including the different ideological positions that people bring into this chamber. How did the Greens advance this agenda? They simply did not. Crass `look at me' politics undermines the support for democratic institutions and for a progressive agenda. It is all about the primacy of the individual rather than of the collective. The truth is that it is legitimate for the Greens to be placed under scrutiny. That does not mean the simplistic, absurd statements of Senator George Brandis, whose comments offend all victims of Nazism, particularly the Jewish community. Legitimate scrutiny shows that the Greens' priority is to position themselves to the left of the Labor Party, no matter where the Labor Party are on an issue. They look at where we are and then move one step further.

For the Greens, this is not about what is a legitimate political position or about what is right or wrong. They are anti-Labor and they have an objective of peeling off our votes, regardless of the impact that has on the conservatives. The fact is that, at times, this assists the conservatives' agenda. John Howard could not have been more happy with the actions of Senator Brown and Senator Nettle in this chamber. Their actions advanced conservatism, not a progressive agenda.

Greens elected to each level of government have continually attacked the Labor Party and not the conservative side of politics. On Marrickville Council there are three Greens. They caucus and vote with the chamber of commerce and the conservatives on that council against the Australian Labor Party. They vote pro-development if that is what the conservatives on council demand that they do. It is important that they are placed under scrutiny for their actions. It was very important during the visit of President Bush that we put forward legitimate reasons for why the war on Iraq was wrong. I believe that the 41 signatories did so in a sophisticated way that was designed to bring the Australian people with us on the fact that the Iraq war was wrong.