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Wednesday, 25 September 2002
Page: 4894

Senator NETTLE (5:25 PM) —I rise to speak to the motion to take note of the Prime Minister's letter. As we heard from my colleague, Greens Senator Bob Brown, the Greens have a range of concerns on this issue and in regard to the Prime Minister's response to the Senate regarding our concerns in here and in an international context.

I draw the Senate's attention to the letter from the Prime Minister in which he says that he would like to have a full parliamentary debate on this issue. However, people may note that it is conditional in that the Prime Minister's letter says that he would like to have the debate `at an appropriate time'. The Australian Greens question when John Howard is going to decide that it is an appropriate time to have this discussion. Certainly, the question has been asked in many forums previously whether the Prime Minister would like to see discussion on this issue after the executive—the Prime Minister and his friends—have made a commitment to send Australian troops to Iraq. That is, after they have made a commitment to send the sons and daughters of so many Australians to Iraq, where they will be exposed to Gulf War syndrome, when they will not have the support of the Australian people for being there and where they will potentially be involved in unilateral action led by the United States and George Bush, with all his warmongering talk that we have heard in the last few months.

I would also like to draw the Senate's attention to the next paragraph from our Prime Minister, where he continues to articulate what we have heard him and his ministers articulate in the public arena for some time now. They like to be able to fall back on it. It is their safety blanket to say, `But we haven't received a request from the United States for us to go to war.' Perhaps the Prime Minister or his representatives in this chamber could elaborate on what we heard the foreign minister, Alexander Downer, saying on the weekend. He said that the Australian government has been consulted about contingency plans by the United States with regard to an invasion of Iraq. Perhaps the government would like to expand for us on what these contingency plans entail. Perhaps the government would like to explain whether `contingency' is another word for the fall-back plan—the unilateral plan. If George Bush, John Howard and Tony Blair are not able to bully the United Nations Security Council into giving them the resolution that they want, perhaps their fall-back option is these contingency plans that have been discussed with our government by the President of the United States.

As we heard Bob saying, Tony Blair presented a dossier of evidence to the parliament in the United Kingdom last night, and we saw nothing new in that. We saw a similar thing to what was presented here by Alexander Downer, the foreign minister—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bartlett) —Order! Senators should address members of the other house by their proper title, such as Mr Downer or Mr Howard.

Senator NETTLE —When Mr Blair in the United Kingdom presented the dossier of evidence on why we should immediately jump on our horses and head towards Iraq and the imminent invasion there, we saw no new evidence in that dossier. Rather, we saw what Mr Downer presented in this chamber and in the other place, which was a conglomeration of things in which Saddam Hussein had been involved for the last 11 years. Everyone in this chamber knows, and the Australian people know, that Saddam Hussein is a cruel dictator. There is most certainly a strength of evidence supporting the way in which he has treated his own people and the way in which he has ignored the calls by the international community and, indeed, kicked out the UN weapons inspectors in 1998.

None of this gives us any clear evidence that there is an imminent threat that Saddam Hussein will use weapons of mass destruction, be they biological, chemical or nuclear, if they have that capacity, in the near future. Certainly, the evidence produced by Mr Blair in the United Kingdom does not add any strength to those arguments put forward by our own Prime Minister or by the President of the United States. Rather, this dossier put forward in the United Kingdom is being used by those world leaders as part of their campaign to bully the United Nations. Each of them has said on several occasions now that if the United Nations does not come up with the goods, does not come up with the resolutions that they would like to see, clearly the United Nations is deficient. We have seen them continuing to bash the United Nations and the role that they play in the international community by saying, `If they do not do what we want them to do, clearly they are not doing their job.'

We would like the opportunity to put forward positive and constructive changes in respect of how the United Nations may be changed. Indeed, joint committees here have looked at evidence and, I understand, have come up with bipartisan proposals for how the United Nations Security Council could be democratised and organised to ensure that all nations had a say and that all voices were heard in that peak decision making body of the United Nations. Now is the opportunity for us to have that debate, to put forward those views, rather than continuing to harp on, as we have heard these world leaders do, saying that the United Nations are clearly deficient and that clearly we cannot listen to them on a range of international treaties— Kyoto of course being one example and the International Criminal Court, which was referred to earlier in this chamber, being another. If they do not comply with what the powerful nations want, clearly they are deficient.

We also see in the letter from our Prime Minister, John Howard, that he wants us to focus on Iraq's refusal to comply with United Nations Security Council resolutions. This is something that the international community has needed to do, and some elements of the international community have now been doing it for some time. Their push to have Iraq comply with United Nations Security Council resolutions has been hindered in recent months because of the warmongering talk we have heard from George Bush, Mr Downer, Mr Howard and, of course, Tony Blair in England. Whilst ever those nations continue to articulate a view that they would like to invade Iraq, whether or not it is UN supported, whether or not UN weapons inspectors are admitted into Iraq, it becomes less and less likely that we will have the opportunity for those UN weapons inspectors to be admitted into Iraq and for the international community to determine once and for all whether indeed there is evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

We also saw on the weekend the release of a 33-page document from George Bush—his National Security Strategy. I can say that I am certainly not feeling any safer having this doctrine out there on the international stage to be discussed. On a range of issues, it reads to me like a blueprint for global domination by the United States. Indeed, it goes through the way in which they would like to ensure that no other nation around the globe is able to develop the capacity to compete with them, let alone get even on weapons of mass destruction or the military arsenal which the United States commands. It then goes further than that to talk about the way in which the United States agenda of trade liberalisation and the free trade agenda are going to lift millions of people around the globe out of poverty. It goes further in talking about the ways in which it is winning freedoms for the people of the world by pushing on with the ideological agenda shared by this government about free trade and trade liberalisation.

The Greens are extremely concerned to have this response from our Prime Minister with regard to what is such a serious issue. Indeed, during the last few weeks when we have had limited opportunities for debate about Australia's potential involvement in an invasion of Iraq, it has been disappointing to see that we have not had more robust debate, we have not had more comments and more people coming forward articulating their concerns and the concerns of the Australian people with regard to any future invasion of Iraq. We understand that a range of political parties in this place have been equivocating and looking at what will be their decision with regard to any future invasion. We welcome calls from backbenchers for them to be allowed a conscience vote. Clearly the Australian Greens do not need a conscience vote on this issue—our conscience is quite clear—and we have been unequivocal and continue to be unequivocal in our opposition to Australian involvement in Iraq. We would like people here to have the opportunity to listen to the electorate and to listen to the people who are contacting them and saying, `We do not want Australian troops involved in any invasion of Iraq.' The Greens will continue in this place and in the community to articulate our opposition to a war on Iraq. Quite clearly this is not about Saddam Hussein, UN resolutions or September 11; it is about the United States— (Time expired)

Question agreed to.