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Monday, 16 June 2003
Page: 16400

Mr RUDD (3:13 PM) —My question again is to the Prime Minister. I refer to his statement to this parliament on 4 February 2003 where he quoted from the British dossier on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. He said:

Iraq continues to work on developing nuclear weapons. Uranium has been sought from Africa that has no civil application in Iraq.

Has the Prime Minister seen reports that this particular charge rested on forged documents relating to the alleged supply of 500 tonnes of uranium from Niger; documents purportedly signed by the foreign minister of Niger, Alle Habibou, in October 2000, although Mr Habibou had left his position as foreign minister more than a decade prior to that?

The SPEAKER —The member for Griffith must be aware of the obligation he faces not to introduce argument into questions. I will listen to his question closely.

Mr RUDD —I respect that, Mr Speaker. Does the Prime Minister today still stand by the accuracy of his 4 February statement that Iraq had sought to acquire uranium from Africa? With two inquiries running now in London and two in Washington on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction intelligence, is it not time now for your government finally to agree to hold an independent inquiry here in Australia?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —I have already indicated our attitude to an independent inquiry. I do recall reading reports in relation to one of the British documents. As to the relationship between that and my February statement, I will have a look at both of the documents. But nothing can alter the fact that this country—

The SPEAKER —The member for Fraser will withdraw that statement.

Mr McMullan —I am pleased to withdraw it, Mr Speaker.

Mr HOWARD —Nothing can alter the fact that this House resolved to support the government's decision to join the coalition against Saddam Hussein, legally based upon the noncompliance of Iraq with resolutions of the Security Council of the United Nations relating to weapons of mass destruction. That was the legal justification. I remain totally of the view that that legal justification was sound. The moral justification for taking part is even sounder, and that moral justification has been reinforced by the successive discovery, since the end of hostilities in Iraq, of the atrocities practised by Saddam Hussein—atrocities that exceed in their magnitude manyfold the casualties that were involved in the military operation.

The SPEAKER —The member for Hasluck!

Mr HOWARD —Nothing can wipe away the fact that all of the doomsday—

The SPEAKER —The member for Braddon!

Mr HOWARD —forecasts of those who sit opposite: the flooding of the Tigris-Euphrates valley, the hundreds of thousands of refugees and the hundreds of thousands of deaths forecast by the member for Fremantle—

The SPEAKER —The member for Griffith!

The SPEAKER —I warn the member for Braddon!

Mr HOWARD —On top of that, another issue has clearly emerged. Despite the terrible bloodshed that continues in the Middle East, the determination of the United States administration—born out of their successful prosecution of the war in Iraq—has now given those in the Middle East who want a peace settlement greater hope than we have ever had before. That is one of the bonuses of that military operation. I know those who sit opposite rail against the decision that was taken by the government. Go on railing against it, because you are railing against the judgment of your fellow Australians. You go on railing against it—

The SPEAKER —Prime Minister!

Mr HOWARD —Let me make this very clear, Mr Speaker: the judgment that we made in relation to the intelligence—

Mr Wilkie —No evidence—that is clear.

The SPEAKER —The member for Swan is warned!

Mr HOWARD —was based upon assessments properly made without any kind of improper influence by our intelligence agencies. They were judgments honestly made by, amongst other things, an organisation—the Office of National Assessments—that celebrates its 25 years of existence today. We went to war in a just cause, on a proper legal basis, to liberate an oppressed people, and I remain eternally proud of the role played by the Australian military forces and this government in the liberation of the people of Iraq.

The SPEAKER —The member for Hasluck will excuse herself from the House!

The member for Hasluck then left the chamber.

Mr Rudd —Mr Speaker, in seeking to pursue the truth on this matter, could I seek leave to table reports from the Australian Financial Review on the question of the uranium link with Africa and from the Washington Post, quoting CIA reservations on the uranium matter—

The SPEAKER —The member for Griffith will indicate the documents, not detail what they have in them.

Mr Rudd —and further reservations from NBC quoting Condoleezza Rice expressing reservations on the uranium matter.

The SPEAKER —The member for Griffith will resume his seat. Is leave granted?

Leave not granted.

The SPEAKER —The member for Griffith!

The SPEAKER —I warn the member for Griffith!