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Howard Inquiry shifts the blame to the intelligence agencies and exonerates the politicians on Iraq.

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Kevin Rudd, MP Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Security


v The terms of reference of the proposed Flood Inquiry set out by John Howard today place the spotlight exclusively on Australia’s intelligence agencies over their performance in the lead up to the Iraq war.

No spotlight at all is placed on the politicians and the exaggeration of the Iraqi WMD threat in order to justify the case for going to war.

The Parliamentary Inquiry on Iraq established beyond reasonable doubt that the Howard Government was loose with the truth on national security. The report was a catalogue of intelligence failures. The report was also a catalogue of 12 separate occasions on which the Government exaggerated the Iraqi WMD threat. The report specifically warned about the dangers of policy driven analysis - where analysts are indirectly pressured to conform their assessments with policy decisions already taken by government.

A second problem with John Howard’s proposed Inquiry is it does not have the powers of a Royal Commission. There is no power to compel the attendance of Ministers in a properly constituted public forum. In fact, there is no mention of public hearings at all in the Flood Inquiry’s terms of reference.

Third, Labor’s position is that any independent inquiry should not be led by a recent head of an intelligence agency. Nor should it be headed by anyone without demonstrable intelligence expertise. Labor had suggested a former senior officer of Defence, Foreign Affairs or PM & C who had worked extensively with the intelligence community would be appropriate. A problem with Mr Flood is that he was head of ONA within the last decade - and ONA will obviously form a central part of any properly constituted commission of inquiry.

For these reasons, the Opposition does not support the Howard Government’s proposed inquiry.

In an age of terrorism, all Australians want to be confident that we have a first class intelligence capability - and a proper relationship between the intelligence community

and their political masters. John Howard must realise we cannot be half-pregnant on such an important matter of national security.

Ends. 4 March 2004