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Thursday, 20 March 2003
Page: 9828

Senator BARNETT (10:18 AM) —I stand in support of the motion on Iraq and wish to use some key words to express my thoughts and views. Since September 11, 2001 there has been a paradigm shift in the way that we see security and country-to-country and people-to-people relationships in this global community in which we live. This was brought home face to face to the Australian people on October 12, 2002 with the shocking and terrible incident in Bali. We are now living in a new world order. This is one in which insecurity prevails, and it is quite possible that insecurity could grow and that terror could become even more terrific and terrible in the months and years ahead if we do nothing.

There has been a paradigm shift or change in the way that we see ourselves in this world community, and not only for the United States as a result of what happened in New York, Washington DC and Pennsylvania on September 11 and since that time with terrorists' attempts to shut down the US Congress and community. What should be remembered is that it is not just that 3,000 lives were lost on September 11 and that 90 or more Australian citizens were killed on October 12. From the terrorists' perspective, they were thrilled and pleased and celebrated that outcome. Saddam Hussein congratulated the terrorists on their actions, but their preference would have been that, instead of 3,000 lives or 90-odd lives lost, there would have been 30,000 or three million innocent lives lost. That is the type of community and the type of terrorism that we are facing.

This is not simply a war against Iraq. I call it a war against Iraqism. It is a war against terror, and that is why I am pleased, humbled and honoured to be able to stand here and say that if we withdraw now at this time it would certainly cause an increase in insecurity and terror around the world tomorrow. If we do nothing today, there will be an increase in insecurity tomorrow; terrorism will reign. The Iraqi regime have had 12 years to be contained, to act in accordance with the law and the UN resolutions that have been made—and there have been no less than 17—and they simply have not been contained. There are some people in this chamber and elsewhere who say, `Give them more time.' They have had more time and the only reason they have been allowing UN weapons inspectors in in the last two years is quite simply world action—the UN Security Council resolutions—and military force. That is why I supported the predeployment of Australian and US military personnel and hardware.

Today we stand here at a critical time in our history. It is a watershed event, and I accept and agree with that point. But inaction is simply not an option. Inaction, by withdrawing our troops at this vital time, can only provide victory to Saddam Hussein. It will provide victory to terrorists. It will provide victory to rogue states, and that is simply not an option. If we withdraw now, think of the people of Iraq—the innocent men, women and children—who have suffered unfairly and in an awful manner over so many years under this wretched regime. They have been gassed, tortured, persecuted and hurt, personally and in every way. If we cannot deal with this issue vis-a-vis Iraq today, what hope do we have of dealing with other terrorists or rogue states tomorrow?

I raise the issue of North Korea. What hope would we have of dealing with North Korea? Our ability in that regard would be deficient. Both Iraq and North Korea present grave security concerns for this nation. Both have pursued weapons of mass destruction in breach of their international obligations. Each case warrants treatment on its merits with the tools and means available to the international community. Australia is addressing both of these important international issues in ways most appropriate to the circumstances of each case. I compliment Alexander Downer, in particular, in that regard and, of course, the Prime Minister. North Korea is undoubtedly influenced by the decision making process of the international community in relation to Iraq. This is a key juncture in global history. If the international community is ultimately unprepared to show unity in disarming Saddam Hussein in Iraq, North Korea will see for itself the limitation of international resolve in dealing with weapons of mass destruction, and its approach will be influenced by that. Disarming Iraq, and making unacceptable the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by other countries, will send a powerful signal to North Korea. That is the key. Withdrawal now is simply not an option.

I have mentioned September 11 and 12 October. Recently, in the Australian Financial Review, Greg Craven said:

At least since September 11, but probably before, we have lived in a different world. The danger to our security is not from an attack by some rival superpower. The real threat is from an ever-changing mosaic of connection between brutal rogue states and terrorist movements, whose interactions are invisible and whose attacks are unpredictable.

We now live in a new world order. This is the paradigm shift that has occurred. Greg Craven goes on to say:

What would be the result if the US was to turn away now, defeated and humiliated? Critics of the US would rejoice in its embarrassment and France would hum the Marseillaise, but rogue states and terrorist rogues around the world would sing a different song.

Saddam Hussein, of course, would be celebrating and he would be heartened beyond measure by that. He would be the victor, as I have indicated. Greg Craven continued:

They would discern that the democratic world was paralysed in the face of its own misgivings and divisions from dealing with real and present danger. Like apt pupils, they would learn the obvious lesson: only a fool wants war, but you do not have to be a fool to accept that we are going to have to fight one.

In today's Australian, there is a very thoughtful article by William Shawcross. He says:

All wars have unintended and unexpected consequences.

But the flip side is also true. When all other avenues have been tried, war sometimes becomes the necessary last resort. To flinch from it becomes far more dangerous than to accept its dread inevitability, as we learned between 1933 and 1939.

My colleague Senator Ross Lightfoot highlighted that time of appeasement very eloquently during his speech previously. The article continued:

The French would like us to believe we are rushing into war. Nonsense. For 12 years Hussein has defied UN demands that he hand over and destroy his biological, chemical and nuclear weapons programs. They have been “12 years of humiliation for the UN” in the words of Britain's Foreign Minister Jack Straw. Twelve years in which the international community has failed to enforce its own laws against one of the vilest dictators on earth.

That is a reflection on us. That is a sad reflection on the international community, as a result of the inaction of the last 12 years. Now it has come to this. Yes, sadly, it is late, but it is never too late for action and that is what is happening here. I would also like to congratulate Prime Minister Tony Blair on his recent speech, on his stand and on his credibility.

Senator Eggleston —A great man.

Senator BARNETT —He is a great man, standing up for his country, for his beliefs and for the freedoms of this world. It is sad that the senators on the other side of this chamber cannot acknowledge the great stand taken by the Labour Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He said:

Because the outcome of this issue will now determine more than the fate of the Iraqi regime and more than the future of the Iraqi people, for so long brutalised by Saddam. It will determine the way Britain and the world confront the central security threat of the 21st century; the development of the UN; the relationship between Europe and the US; the relations within the EU and the way the US engages with the rest of the world. It will determine the pattern of international politics for the next generation.

That applies to the world community and it applies to Australia. This is a watershed event in global social and political history. Prime Minister Blair has summed that up so well. We all should learn from history and its lessons, particularly in the period prior to the Second World War.

I note that in the last two years there have been some 20 separate terrorist incidents which have caused the loss of thousands of lives in the world community. This is tragic indeed. In this new world order where insecurity reigns, we must do something about it. Prime Minister Blair stated that the world has to learn the lesson all over again that weakness in the face of a threat from a tyrant is the surest way to war not peace. That is a great statement and an appropriate lesson for all of us. Prime Minister Blair continued:

Looking back over those 12 years, the truth is that we have been victims of our own desire to placate the implacable, to persuade towards reason the utterly unreasonable, and to hope that there was some genuine intent to do good in a regime whose mind is in fact evil.

Now the very length of time counts against us. People say, `You've waited 12 years, so why not wait a little longer?

Indeed, we have waited; it is time now for action. Insecurity is spreading throughout the world like a virulent cancer. We came face to face with it on 12 October with the Bali bombing. As an Australian nation, we cannot roll ourselves up into a little ball, as the Prime Minister so eloquently put it after the Bali bombing. We cannot pretend that there is no tyranny out there. We cannot deny the insecurity and terror that runs rife in the world. Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. They have chemical and biological weapons. That is a deadly cocktail. Those weapons getting into the hands of terrorists or rogue states is a fear which drives my thinking on this issue. I want to protect the future for my children and for the children throughout this country, because we are moving into very worrying times. That deadly cocktail is nigh.

Terror is the enemy. It is not just the act of terror, but it is the fear that it puts in our hearts. The removal of the Taliban and the al-Qaeda network in Afghanistan was right. The United States-led coalition that was created to make that happen was correct. It was one step towards ridding the world of terror. We are not just facing a war against Iraq; we are facing—as I have coined the phrase—a war against Iraqism. This is not a war against Islam. The Prime Minister has made that clear, as have many senators and members on this side of the House. We have Muslim communities in Australia, and we want to care for, protect and look after their interests—as we do for all Australian citizens. It is not a war against Islam. The Prime Minister made that point when he came back from his tour to the US and the UK. He came back via Indonesia for a very sensible and appropriate reason: to assure President Megawati Sukarnoputri of that point. Those two leaders have an agreement to disagree in respect of the appropriateness of war in Iraq. But what is agreed and accepted by the Indonesian leader is that this is not a war against Islam. I think it is a fight for the people of Iraq and their liberation. It is also a fight for the freedom of others around the world. These are things that we should not take for granted.

When we are proactive as leaders, wherever we are, criticism will follow. When you are a leader and you stand up for something—in politics we realise this—you are criticised. That is why I want to take my hat off and congratulate the Prime Minister for his courage, steadfastness, determined attitude and willingness to lead this nation, because what he believes is 100 per cent right. In my view, we have never seen such a man for the moment. At a time like this, Mr Howard is the man to lead Australia and to make that decision. I am so proud of him and the leadership team in this coalition government. I admire him and the work that he has been doing, which has been done under great stress. When you see the protesters outside his own home in Canberra, it really pains me to the core to see that happen. He is not, as some people say, a warmonger. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We are now in a special moment in Australian history. Let us not take for granted the need to remove apathy. We need renewed vigour to say, `Thank you, God, for this blessed country, for the freedoms that we have to love, care, share, vote, speak, debate and to protest.' Senator Lightfoot made a point which I would also like to make. In the last few days, a citizen of Iraq expressed a view contrary to Saddam Hussein. What happened to him? He had his tongue cut out. He was mutilated and tied up to a pole as an example. This happened in Saddam Hussein's own country. That is the type of regime that we are up against. We have to stand up for our freedom to protest and to express a different view. We will fight to the death to protect those freedoms. That is only appropriate, not only for us but for others around this great world in which we live.

Let us see this event as a cause for stirring in our bosom as a nation to be thankful for the privileges that we have to grow, earn money, work, seek satisfaction in our work and to say thanks for our strong health, education and welfare systems. Let us express those views and make those points clear. The legal argument has been put in recent days regarding the appropriateness of this war, but I am not going to make all those points because they have been covered quite clearly. I see those as the secondary, not primary, issues.

I highlight and mention Greg Hunt's article in the media just a few days ago where he said:

Of course, it would be preferable to have a further resolution for purposes of unanimity. Such a resolution would be the best way of avoiding conflict. But Australia, Britain, Spain and the US have exhausted every avenue to achieve the moral support of an 18th resolution. However, France, while calling for UN solidarity, has at the same time categorically ruled out any further resolution authorising force. It has blocked the very avenue down which it wants the world to travel.

Make no mistake though, full authority to enforce resolution 1441 already exists.

It does exist. There is legal authority and I am not going to go into it. The other resolutions that are relevant are resolutions 678, 687 and, as I have said, 1441. They were all passed under chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations. There are many other reasons for the disarming of Iraq and many other commentators support that. In closing, I want to say that it highlights the importance of the credibility of the UN and this US-led coalition. (Time expired)