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Tuesday, 10 September 1996
Page: 3135


Senator MARGETTS(3.58 p.m.) —Pursuant to contingent notice, I move:

That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Margetts moving a motion relating to the conduct of the business of the Senate, namely a motion to give precedence to general business notice of motion No. 204.

It is urgent that Australia should condemn the United States' offensive against Iraq on 4 and 5 September on the basis of its unilateral action of violence without the support of the UN or even regional allies. Through its unilateral action, the United States has shown contempt for the United Nations, failing to get United Nations or even regional support for its action.

On the weekend, the United States tried and failed to get a Security Council resolution to support their actions in Iraq. Both France and Russia vetoed such a resolution on the basis that the offensive was an election ploy by President Clinton to boost flagging support.

While circumventing the United Nations—the United States still owes billions of dollars to the United Nations and is engaged in a process of trying to weaken the United Nations and depose the Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali—it is hypocritical to the notion of global conflict resolution when the UN is the most appropriate vehicle to prevent the escalation of this sort of conflict.

It is well known that there are few grounds for the US offensive. The rationale for attacking Iraq was that it violated the UN safe haven; however, last year it was also violated by Turkey and the US failed to act on behalf of the Kurdish people then.


Senator Hill —Mr Deputy President, on a point of order: this is not a debate in the terms that Senator Margetts is debating the motion. She is debating the merits of the US action in Iraq, not the merits of whether or not this matter needs to be debated in the Senate today. In those circumstances, I would respectfully suggest that she should be told to limit her debate to the reasons for urgency.


Senator MARGETTS —Mr Deputy President, on the point of order—


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —I do uphold the point of order. Senator Margetts, your contribution is to indicate why the matter is urgent and has to be debated today.


Senator MARGETTS —On the point of order: I was debating why it is urgent. I said it is urgent as to why the action is necessary now. I realise it is unlikely to get support from the other parties, but in the conventions of the Senate usually there is some way I can argue why it is urgent and that is what I am doing now.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Proceed.


Senator MARGETTS —Thank you. We should debate this now because Australia is not just an innocent bystander in this. We are implicated in the United States offensive. Both Pine Gap and Nurrungar probably played some role in the United States cruise missile attack on Iraq, although details are kept secret.

We need to debate this now because we know that in order to provide accurate targeting information for the cruise missiles launched from B52s and US navy ships the American military needs up-to-date satellite imagery. AEP reported on 4 September that Pine Gap is one of the earth's stations for orbiting US photographic reconnaissance and electronic intelligence satellites. Nurrungar handles communications from satellites which serve a variety of functions, including missile early warning and global military communication links.


Senator Hill —Mr Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. This is interesting but it is not relevant to the issue as to whether or not the debate on the merits of Senator Margetts's motion should take place today. The usual time for these debates is general business on a Thursday. What she must do is convince the Senate that there is an issue, not an issue relating to the past but an issue relating to the future, that is of such consequence that it needs to be brought forward. I would respectfully suggest that she is not even seeking to do that.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —I think Senator Margetts was trying to indicate the urgency. I ask Senator Margetts to continue.


Senator MARGETTS —Thank you, Mr Deputy President. It is urgent because Australia is involved in this process and we need to understand, debate and have at least some issues in the open on why Australia is involved in the process and what part we have played in encouraging what is happening now.

It is possible that either or both bases have played a role in the cruise missile attacks against Iraq. That is why it is urgent to be debated in this chamber. I would like to point out that the unilateral action calls into question Australia's renewed alliance with the United States as a result of the Ausmin talks. That is why it is urgent.

Australia is setting itself up to be implicated in any US brokered offensive. I can understand why debating this might be embarrassing for the government and for the opposition. When the US shows such blatant disregard for international law and UN processes, it is urgent if Australia is going to be a party to unilateral violence which may be opposed vigorously by how many nations/

Above all, I believe it is urgent that Australia should condemn this violent US offensive as it should the Iraqi offensive. The Kurds would be better helped with the United Nations assisted comprehensive aid program, the lifting of the blockade against Iraq and brokered peace talks. Support by honourable senators for this suspension to debate the motion may be an important measure to inform the United States that their unilateral actions against Iraq have been unacceptable and Australia will not follow US foreign policy decisions with blind support.

That is why it is urgent. That is why it is necessary for this to be debated in this chamber instead of allowing statements which in fact have been used all around the world to justify a blatantly political ploy for somebody else's election when in fact it has nothing whatsoever to do with human rights and Kurds in Iraq.