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Thursday, 13 February 2003
Page: 11831

Mr CADMAN (2:04 PM) —My question is addressed to the Acting Prime Minister. Would the Acting Prime Minister update the House on the latest situation in relation to Iraq?

Mr ANDERSON (Acting Prime Minister) —I thank the honourable member for his question. After completing his trip to the United States, the Prime Minister is now meeting Prime Minister Blair and other senior members of the British government. He will be taking the opportunity presented by his time and meetings in London to express the Australian government's great appreciation for the strong, determined and principled stand that the British government has taken on Iraq. Australia and the United Kingdom stand together in seeking to ensure that Security Council resolution 1441 is enforced and that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction are destroyed.

Prime Minister Blair, frankly, is to be commended for his leadership on this difficult issue. He has not allowed divisions in his own party to deter him from taking a principled stand. Nobody wants military conflict and nobody has a monopoly on hatred of war, but there are very important issues at stake here—issues which the international community has to face up to. Iraq has refused to adhere to its international obligations for 12 long years. Iraq continues to pursue weapons of mass destruction, which poses a threat to its neighbours and the entire international community. The world must now face the prospect of the twin evils of weapons of mass destruction and international terrorism coming together. We must prevent this eventuality from happening. Unless that is understood and acted upon, the international community may well in time pay a truly terrible price for having failed to act.

It is for these reasons that the governments of the United Kingdom and Australia, along with the United States, have been calling upon the international community to speak with a single voice, expressed through the United Nations. As the Prime Minister has put it so well, Iraq will be encouraged and emboldened if it sees a world divided. The reality is that, to the extent to which we lack resolution and lack unity in the face of the current difficulties confronting us, Saddam Hussein will play all of those chinks in our armour for all that it is worth. His skill in this regard is second to none; his track record, his form, is well recognised and long documented. We would be very unwise—indeed, naive—to ignore those realities. Only if the world speaks with one voice will there be any hope that Saddam Hussein will hear our demands and act accordingly. This is the only hope for the peaceful outcome that I believe we do all sincerely want. This is the challenge that the United Nations Security Council now faces—the challenge to face up to its responsibility for maintaining international peace and stability.