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Censure motion [Iraq, British intelligence, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction]

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Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs




The Prime Minister asked this question: is it reasonable to expect that he would read a document such as this provided by the British Joint Intelligence Committee? I say yes Prime Minister because you were on the verge of taking this country to war.

And the problem with this document is that it torpedoed amidships a large part of the rationale that you put to the Parliament and the people for going to war - and you knew it.

It is unique in this Parliament for a Prime Minister not to take a Censure Motion on a question of national security. He goes fleeing from the Chamber and he refuses to engage this as the serious and substantiative Censure Motion which it is on national security and whether this Government can be trusted on these matters.

We have seen today the classic John Howard reinterpretation of history. There were two reasons advanced by this Government for going to war: one that it was necessary to reduce the threat of terrorism from Australia; second, it was necessary to reduce the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction through terrorists.

The import of this document for the people of Australia is that it blows apart both those arguments. A document delivered to Australian intelligence officials one month before this country committed itself to war. That is why it is important. We have the gall of a Prime Minister before the Parliament saying that the reason for going to Iraq was to liberate an oppressed people. Talk about retrospective humanitarian justification.

When they tabled this legal opinion justifying their case for going to war was there any thread of documentation or discussion of it? No there was not. It’s been invented after the fact and the reason why it has been invented after the fact was this Prime Minister, Man of Steel, Howard of Zimbabwe, Chair of the Commonwealth Troika on Zimbabwe, knows that if humanitarian intervention was the justification for Iraq, we’d be at the gates of Harare today. So don’t come at us with that codswallop.

Further information: Kevin Rudd, MP 0418 796 931 or Alister Jordan 0417 605 823

Come to the actual core of the argument itself. Did we notice the slow dripping away of the Prime Minister’s defence today, from when he began by saying: ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about Leader of the Opposition’ through to ‘there may have been a document produced by the JIC in London’, through to what happens then? ‘It could have gone into the mix’. By the answer to the fourth question it got down to ‘Australian intelligence contingency planning drew upon’ advice of the British Joint Intelligence Committee’. And by the end of the Question Time do you know what the Prime Minister was saying? He was saying that was part of the paraphernalia which was available to his office and to individuals in shaping decision to go to war.

It’s like getting blood from a stone to try and get through it from this Prime Minister. You have to extract it bit by bit. A simple yes or a simple no from the now vacant chair would have been a all that was required. And at the end of it all, the key question asked by the Leader of the Opposition remains unanswered, and that is ‘what was the intelligence and evidence base upon which you chose to reject the considered advice of the supreme intelligence body of the United Kingdom in reaching your decision for going to war?’ And the reason you don’t answer the question is that you don’t have an answer.

We come down to the core argument he advances. He talked at length, Mr Speaker, about the fact that he’d covered off this question of an increase in the terrorism threat arising from war in Iraq. And he’s tried to cover that off in terms of what was contained in a couple of travel advisories for a couple of countries in the Middle East. Well let me tell you, the increased terrorism threat Prime Minister, now that you’ve

dared to return to the Chamber, has everything to do with what was happening in Iraq then and now when we see al Qaeda returning to the country, creating merry-hell, possibly responsible for the death of Sergio de Mello, possibly responsible for the assassination the Ayatollah in Najaf the other day, and in Indonesia becoming a radicalising force as far as terrorism is concerned, and the organisation of terrorist activity against Australians.

But that’s one element of it. The second element, Prime Minister, you have no answer for at all. Because this document says that if you invade Iraq it will increase the risk of proliferating biological and chemical weapons to terrorists. Tell me this Prime Minister, where in this Parliament have you ever admitted that? Where have you ever admitted it? Where have you admitted it? I remain silent. I ask the Prime Minister, where have you admitted it?

Well, Mr Speaker, having the Prime Minister in the Chamber makes it a unique opportunity to pose the question for the simple reason that he has never done so. The increased risk of proliferating biological and chemical weapons to terrorists. You were told about it in this document and you didn’t tell the Australian people this second core element. And this is not an occasional utterance. On fifteen different occasions we have the Howard Government using this himself, in arguing his case for going to war. On thirty different occasions his Ministers using the same. That is not an accidental argument.

You lie censured for this because once again you’ve misled the Australian people on a fundamental matter of national security.

Time Experied.