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Time for government to focus on home.

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Senator Andrew Bartlett Leader of the Australian Democrats

April 11, 2003 MEDIA RELEASE 03/224

Time for Government to Focus on Home

The Australian Democrats today called on the Howard Government to refocus on Australia and ensure peace and safety for Australians.

Democrats’ Leader Senator Andrew Bartlett said the six month anniversary of the Bali bombing tragedy was a terrible, but timely, reminder that the Government’s primary focus must be on protecting Australians and ensuring harmony for Australia at home and with our neighbours.

“Our own region must be a priority, not fighting America’s wars,” Senator Bartlett said.

“There can be no denying we are a target for terrorists. This war on Iraq has not secured Australia’s safety. John Howard must turn his attention immediately to Australia’s safety at home.

“The delight we all feel at the apparent toppling of a brutal dictator in Iraq should not distract from the real threat to Australian security.”

Senator Bartlett said the Budget must address Australian protection and domestic issues.

“Australians will have to pay the bill for John Howard’s involvement in America’s war on Iraq,” Senator Bartlett said.

“This should be a Budget for the Australian people - not for George W Bush.

“It should be a budget for Australia’s protection, and it should be about funding health, education and housing for Australians.

“But that’s not John Howard’s priority. This will be a Bombs Away Budget. A Budget focussed on John Howard’s policy of handcuffing Australia to the military agenda of the United States.

“The war on Iraq will have little impact on the battle against terrorism. Indeed, Mr Howard has even admitted that in the chaos of war, we are now not even sure in whose hands Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction now rest.

“We need to see resources spent on the real tools that fight terror: intelligence, diplomacy and aid. Wars such as the war on Iraq will not protect us from terrorists.

“The Government has increased the threat against us. They must work harder to ensure the safety of all Australians.”

For interview with Senator Bartlett, please call Katrina Beikoff on 0419 867 649