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Troop deployment: HMAS Kanimbla farewell ceremony, Sydney: transcript of doorstop.



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LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

TRANSCRIPT 0F DOORSTOP - HMAS KANIMBLA FAREWELL CEREMONY, SYDNEY THURSDAY 23 JANUARY 2003

E & OE - PROOF ONLY

Subjects: Troop Deployment

JOURNALIST: Mr Crean, was this the right day to tell the troops they shouldn’t really be going?

CREAN: I think you’ve got to be honest with the Australian public and you’ve got to be honest with our Australian fighting forces. I don’t believe our troops should be going, I don’t think there should be any deployment of troops ahead of a United Nations authorisation. But whilst I oppose the deployment of our troops, I support our troops and always will. They don't have a choice, they have to accept the decision of the government of the day, that is their job and that's a very important distinction to make. So whilst I don't support the deployment I do support our troops.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible … Families] ... it was an inappropriate thing to have said?

CREAN: Well, you should go and speak to a lot more of the families because I’ve had many coming up and saying to me that they were exactly the words they wanted expressed. They agreed with them. But you know, there is divided opinion on this issue and the Australian public overwhelmingly doesn’t want war and they want the issue resolved through the United Nations. That’s the position I’ve held since April last year and I’ll continue to hold it. But I believe it’s important to be honest with the Australian public as I have been.

JOURNALIST: ….deployment is a matter for parliament to determine?

CREAN: Parliament has to debate this issue and it will. There is no question about that. And even the Prime Minister has promised that there will be something of parliamentary debate. But this deployment is inappropriate

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because there should be no commitment of troops ahead of a UN authorisation. That is my very firm view. If the UN determines that we’re in, we should be in. But if George Bush decides to go alone outside of the UN we should not be in there supporting. And the trouble with this deployment is that it puts us in the position of having to respond to their request rather than the United Nations’ decision is the appropriate one to focus on and we should be addressing all of our energies there. We can avoid war, and we can only do that through the United Nations process. That’s what this Government’s got to get behind doing not deploying troops in advance, not pre-empting the situation, not putting our people unduly at risk.

JOURNALIST: How do you think today makes us look actually sending troops away, how does this make us look?

CREAN: Well, it looks as though we’re in the cart for an attack on Iraq. It makes us look like - regardless of what the UN decides - if the US decides to go alone we will be with them. In those circumstances, Labor will not support that position, I’ve made that quite clear. We will support actions authorised by the United Nations, but most of all we’ll support the United Nations getting a peaceful outcome. You know, there’s nothing unpatriotic

about preferring peace over war. It’s the right decision to argue for a peaceful outcome, not a war outcome. I want the peaceful outcome, the best way to achieve that is through the United Nations, not to be associated with the talk that ramps up war.

JOURNALIST: Do you think our troops are at greater risk given the circumstances?

CREAN: I think the consequences of going it alone in a narrow group of people does potentially expose us to greater risk. I think these are the consequences one has to weigh very heavily in their minds. There are only three countries out of the United Nations of 191 that are involved in

forward deployment - only three. Australia is one of them and it shouldn’t be. Australia on the other hand should be part of any commitment the UN deems necessary. If we got unanimity out of the United Nations to actually get the weapons inspectors back in - why not let them complete the task? Bus as for this argument that we’ve got an obligation under the US alliance to be there - have a look at what the ANZUS alliance actually says. Article One specifically says Australia and the US should be using every means possible through the United Nations to achieve peace. That’s consistent with my position. That’s what I’ll argue for and I’ll continue to argue for it. But my argument is with the Government, not with our troops.

(ENDS)