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Continued Prime Ministerial arrogance on refusal to provide statement and debate on Iraq: but in the meantime the PM subtly changes his tune day by day.



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KEVIN RUDD M.P. Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs

[02-157]

MEDIA RELEASE

CONTINUED PRIME MINISTERIAL ARROGANCE ON REFUSAL TO PROVIDE STATEMENT AND DEBATE ON IRAQ

But in the meantime the PM subtly changes his tune day by day

Prime Minister Howard said today he owed the Australian people an explanation and a justification if a request is received from the United States for military support in Iraq and there is a need for Australia to respond to that request.

Specifically, Mr Howard said on 3AW today: “I owe the Australian people explanations; I owe them justifications if - and this is a big if - a request is received and there’s a need to be involved.”

Suddenly the Prime Minister is beginning to exhibit a response to mounting political pressure on him to provide a full statement to the Australian Parliament and people outlining his Government’s case against Iraq.

Interestingly, less than three weeks ago, Prime Minister Howard stated that a full Prime Ministerial statement would be “premature.” Three weeks later he seems to be starting to change his tune.

Three weeks ago, Prime Minister Howard also told the Australian people it was “probable” there would be a war against Iraq and it was “probable” Australia would be requested by the United States to provide military support. Three weeks later, the Prime Minister now says the question of a US military request to Australia is now only a very big “if.”

Prime Minister Howard is now desperately trying to deflect attention from his arrogant refusal to put his case to the Australian Parliament and people on Iraq by assuring the Australian people they are not going to wake up one morning to discover Australian Defence Force troops were fighting in Iraq.

The Prime Minister, as he often does, constructs a straw-man argument to defend his refusal to take the Australian Parliament and people into his confidence. With respect to the PM, it is a statement of the bleeding obvious that if the United States decides to go to war one day, Australian troops would not be in the field the next. In all previous allied military engagements, there has been considerable lead-time between a US decision to act and the deployment of Australian military assets.

The Prime Minister needs to swallow his pride and do what President Bush and Prime Minister Blair are now doing - which is advancing his Government’s case against Iraq, which the Australian people can then choose to support or reject. The Australian people are sick and tired of arrogant platitudes on this question - all resting on an equally arrogant proposition of “just trust me.”

The Opposition repeats for the fifth time its formal call on the Government to make a full statement of the Government’s case against Iraq (including the Government’s evidence in support of that case) when Parliament resumes. It is critical this occur outside the charged atmosphere of any commencement of hostilities.

Ends. 6 September 2002

For further information contact: Kevin Rudd, MP on 0418 796 931 or Alister Jordan on 0417 605 823