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Thursday, 19 October 2006
Page: 76

Mr BEAZLEY (2:36 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister and it follows his answer to my previous question—the one going to the fact that the Iraqi people would feel safer if we were no longer there. Has he seen the comments by Sir Richard Dannatt, the Chief of the General Staff in the United Kingdom, who said we had to:

... get ourselves out sometime soon because our presence exacerbates the security problems.

He went on to say:

I don’t say that the difficulties we are experiencing round the world are caused by our presence in Iraq but undoubtedly our presence in Iraq exacerbates them.

Is it not a fact, Prime Minister, that you personally have exacerbated the threat from JI throughout Indonesia because of your serious strategic errors in this regard?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —That is a very interesting question from the Leader of the Opposition, because the single most deadly act inspired by JI against Australia was the attack on 12 October 2002 in Bali—

Mr Swan interjecting

The SPEAKER —The member for Lilley is warned!

Mr HOWARD —and that preceded by months the coalition operation in Iraq. So don’t, the Leader of the Opposition, come into this place and start lecturing this side of the House about the threat of JI and terrorists. The terrorists struck and killed Australians in Indonesia long before the operation in Iraq.

Mr Crean interjecting

The SPEAKER —The member for Hotham will be warned soon.

Mr HOWARD —The point I am making is: don’t by our actions in Iraq in October 2006 give terrorists pause to feel triumphant. Don’t give them a propaganda weapon. Don’t allow them to go from one end of Indonesia to the other. Don’t allow them to do it, because that is precisely what will happen if the advice of the Leader of the Opposition is followed.

Mr Gavan O’Connor —What does the US intelligence agency say about it?

The SPEAKER —The member for Corio!

Mr HOWARD —But the Leader of the Opposition drew my attention to some comments of the head of the British army. He has made a number of comments about this issue, but let me draw the Leader of the Opposition’s attention in the same context to the remarks made at a news conference today by the Iraqi oil minister, a man who has very high repute in Iraq, a man who suffered torture under Saddam Hussein. This is what he had to say:

We expect the international community to stay with the Iraqi people in this war against international terrorism, because if these people are allowed to succeed, God forbid, in Iraq, then they will be a threat to the whole world.

They are the views of an Iraqi minister. You can choose to ignore them, you can choose to wholly embrace them or you can try and put them into some kind of context. But quite plainly what this Iraqi minister is saying—a man who knows better than anybody in this House what it is like in Iraq—is that the terrorists would gain an enormous victory if we were to pull out. And that is our argument. I keep bringing the Leader of the Opposition back to this.

Mr Gavan O’Connor —But you used that in Vietnam!

The SPEAKER —The member for Corio is warned!

Mr HOWARD —He can quote anybody he likes against me, but he has got to answer to the Australian people why he wants a policy that would give the terrorists, including terrorists in our own region, a psychological victory. Why do we want to give Jemaah Islamiah an additional recruiting weapon? Why do we want to encourage the terrorist groups in Indonesia to recruit more young Indonesians for the jihadist fight against us? That is the burden that lies upon the Leader of the Opposition and that is the obligation he has to explain to the Australian people.