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Address to New South Wales Liberal Division cocktail party, State Parliament, New South Wales.



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PRIME MINISTER

THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP

ADDRESS TO NEW SOUTH WALES LIBERAL DIVISION COCKTAIL PARTY, STATE PARLIAMENT, NEW SOUTH WALES

E&OE 20 February 2003

Well thank you very much Chris, John Brogden, George Souris, my Federal and State parliamentary colleagues, ladies and gentlemen. Let me echo the gratitude that Chris has already expressed to you for the support that you’ve given to the Liberal Party cause here in New South Wales, particularly in the lead up to this most important election on the 22nd of March. And tonight is very much a night for Liberals here in Sydney and all over New South Wales to focus on the task that lies ahead. We’ve now had a period of two terms in government from Labor, I share the view that Chris has expressed that the signs of arrogance and indifference are already there. The refusal of the Premier so far to debate his opposite number is the sort of arrogance that is born of taking power and taking the support of the electorate for granted. And I hope that the media of New South Wales hounds the Premier into facing his democratic responsibilities and debating his opponent.

I want to say how impressed I’ve been, both from a campaigning point of view, but also from a Liberal point of view, with the policy and initiatives that are being revealed by the Coalition since Christmas. In so many areas, particularly but not only in education and health which are the bread and butter responsibilities of state governments we’ve seen unveiled a range of initiatives and proposals and policies which are building the credibility of the Opposition and the Coalition here in New South Wales as an alternative government. We not only need as a Party in the next 30 days to exploit the weaknesses of the incumbent government, but we also need to put on display the alternative policies that will guide the Coalition in government. Electorates increasingly want positive alternatives rather than point scoring negative criticism all of the time. And I think what the Coalition has done over the past few weeks is to provide that very essential balance.

So tonight is very much a night for me to remind you of the importance of a maximum effort over the next 30 days, of reminding all of you that the opportunity to change a state government only comes once every four years. The opportunity lost on this occasion is an opportunity that won’t come again for quite a number of years. And also to remind you that a lot can change during an election campaign. I don’t think there would have been many Victorian Liberals or many Victorian Labor Party remembers 30 days out from the election just over four years ago that saw Jeff Kennett defeated who would have thought there was going to be a change of government, and there was. And there were some of the ingredients present there, that are now present here in New South Wales. Perhaps taking an electorate for granted, perhaps assuming that you couldn’t be defeated no matter the circumstances and there are lots of elements of that present here in New South Wales.

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So I want to say to all of you that the Federal parliamentary party will do everything it can to support John Brogden’s efforts to become Premier of New South Wales. I don’t like Labor Governments anywhere, we have too many Labor Governments. Although, and I’ll come to

this in a moment, there is one Labor leader in the world that I admire quite a lot and he’s not leading the Australian Labor Party but I suspect there are a few people on the backbench of the Australian Labor Party in Canberra who wish they had a leader of the character and strength of Tony Blair. I never thought I’d say that. It is true on this issue. So I want to say that we’ll support you John as strongly as we possibly can.

But before I introduce John I will say just a word about the most challenging issue that I’ve had as Prime Minister and that is the circumstances now surrounding Iraq’s non-compliance with repeated Security Council resolutions. I think we all wish, like those of our fellow Australians who marched in the streets last weekend, I think we all wish it would go away. I’d like to be debating other things, I wish I didn’t have to focus on it, I wish it were possible somewhere to find a peaceful solution. I think there is still a faint hope that that can be achieved. But it will only be achieved if the world speaks to Iraq with a united voice. If the world continues to display a disunity, ambiguity, to quarrel within itself, all of that will give aid and comfort and encouragement to Iraq to continue its defiance. It’s not an easy situation but I can understand the anguish of some people in grappling with it. But we now live in a different world, a world made permanently different by the emergence of international terrorism in such a lethal form on the 11th of September 2001 and repeated with terrible cost to Australia in Bali on the 12th of October last year. And the reason why I believe so strongly that the stance now being take by Australia is right, is that if a country such a Iraq is able to get away with retaining the chemical and biological weapons she surely has, other states equally irresponsible, with equal levels of brutal dictatorship will believe they can do the same and if those weapons proliferate the likelihood of them falling into the hands of terrorists multiplies quite dramatically. And the ultimate nightmare in the modern world is that those weapons would get into the hands of international terrorists. When we had the Cold War the ultimate nightmare was that there would be a nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States. And it was the possession of nuclear weapons by both of those superpowers and the doctrine of so-called mutually assured destruction that kept the world at peace. Now the situation is totally different, the ultimate nightmare is that you will have a fatal marriage of, if I can put it that way, of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of rogue states and international terrorists. That is why I believe that Iraq should be stopped. That is why I believe something should be done about it. And that is why I think the commitment made by Australia in support of the United States through our deployment, that is why I believe that the presence of American forces in the Gulf has led to Iraq offering a few morsels of concessions to the weapons inspectors. And those people who condemn the Americans are very happy to choose as the starting point of their own international posture the presence of the weapons inspectors in Iraq which are only there because of American military pressure. If there’d been no American military build up there’d be no inspectors in Iraq, none at all, and that’s the view of Hans Blix, he told me, in person in New York. It’s the view of Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of the United Nations. It’s the view of anybody who has any understanding of this issue.

Now I hope that we can secure a further United Nations resolution. The United Nations has a habit of looking as though it’s squabbling and disunited and then all of a sudden everybody agrees and a resolution goes through. But there’s still some days and perhaps even a small number of weeks to travel before we know the outcome of that process. But this I do know, and this you should all mark because it is crucial to an understanding of this issue. That if the Security Council turns away from enforcing its will, it will fatally cripple the authority of the United Nations. The world will never again turn to the Security Council as the deliverer of an internationally acceptable outcome to a difficult issue it if walks away from this. This is a huge test of the United Nations, an enormous test of the United Nations. I mean we have our quarrels with it, we do, we find some of their committees provocatively meddlesome in the

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affairs of a democratic country such as Australia. I think the United Nations specialist agencies, particularly those dealing with refugees and the humanitarian release of refugees and the health and the health of children, I think those agencies do a wonderful job. But the real fulcrum of the United Nations is the Security Council, that is the body that is meant to enforce the collective desire of countries to have peace and security. And if it fails the test of Iraq its authority will be fatally compromised, perhaps forever, and certainly for years into the future. So for those countries that see this perhaps as some kind of contest with the United States rather than an issue which involves the authority of the United Nations, they should stop and pause and think for a moment. And does anybody imagine that if the world turns away from dealing with this issue that Iraq is going to, out of gratitude, disarm? Throw the weapons away? Say well isn’t that nice and we’ll be nice in return? And people talk of the potential loss of life that would be involved in military action, and there would be loss of life in military action. If you’re looking at the scale of suffering, a million and a half people have lost their lives as a result of Saddam Hussein’s behaviour, both in Iraq and in the neighbouring countries. He remains the only world leader in history to have used biological weapons on his own people. And Iraq and North Korea are the only two countries that are in open breach of their obligations under the nuclear non proliferation treaty. And while I’m on the subject of North Korea, which I know is of great concern, properly so to many Australians, let me pose a simple question. If the Security Council cannot discipline Iraq, what earthly hope does it have of disciplining North Korea? It has no hope of disciplining North Korea if it can’t deal with Iraq.

So friends this, as I said a moment ago, is not an easy issue. I understand the anguish of some people on it. I respect the views of those who disagree. I think with respect they’ve reached the wrong conclusion, but in a democracy they have a right to have whatever view they hold, that is the way our system operates. And this issue will obviously occupy my mind and the minds of my colleagues for many weeks into the future. But it won’t prevent us focusing on other very important issues. It won’t stop me reminding you that Australia has recovered her AAA credit rating which it has not had since the time of the “Banana Republic” under Paul Keating. And it won’t stop me reminding you that we have now generated one and a quarter million new jobs since we were elected in March of 1996. It’s very important.

I’m here tonight to express my support for John and his team. To compliment him on the tremendous energy that he’s bought to the leadership of the New South Wales parliamentary Liberal Party. To offer him my support and that of my colleagues and to urge all of you to travel that extra mile, go that further distance that is needed to change government here in New South Wales.

[ends]