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Labor’s chaos extends to Afghanistan.



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MEDIA RELEASE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS ALEXANDER DOWNER

April 4 2004

Labor’s chaos extends to Afghanistan

Latham’s Labor has followed its chaotic cut-and-run policy on Iraq with more contradictory policy-on-the-run over Afghanistan.

Labor says it would consider sending Australian troops back into Afghanistan. At the same time Mark Latham says our troops are needed back from Iraq to make Australia a “safer and sounder” nation.

Labor’s foreign policy spokesman Kevin Rudd today has highlighted past requests for additional military assistance in Afghanistan. Last week he said Labor would “consider” any such proposals.(Lateline 29/03/04 see below).

What is Labor’s true policy? Will it send more troops to Afghanistan or are they needed back in Australia as Latham says?

In Berlin last week I attended an international conference on Afghanistan. Among leaders of other countries engaged in Afghanistan and the broader war against terrorism, I met with Afghanistan’s President Karzai and Foreign Minister Abdullah.

They remained grateful for Australia’s past military commitment to their country as well as our ongoing $110 million aid program. Our policy is clear: Australia’s military deployment has ended but we will continue to work with Afghanistan through our aid program which covers such areas as education, refugee resettlement and combating illicit drug cultivation.

Labor needs to clearly outline its policy. Despite Latham’s failure to take up my offer of a briefing on Australia’s Iraq deployment, I offer him a briefing on Afghanistan at a time of his convenience.

Latham 26/3/04 Press Conference We're much safer and sounder as a nation, and I'm sure the Australian people have been saying this in recent times, having our troops here than on the other side of the world. And that's the reason why we're making this commitment to have our troops back by Christmas.

Rudd (“Lateline” ABC TV 29/3/04) TONY JONES: A very quick yes or no answer would a Labor Government contemplate sending Australian troops to Afghanistan? KEVIN RUDD: Our priorities at this stage, as far as the war against terrorism is concerned, in our own region, our own neighbourhood and backyard. As far as any proposal we would receive on that score, well, we'd consider it in due course.

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