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Transcript of doorstop: 21 August 2003: Jerusalem bombing; Zimbabwe; Iraq.

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Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs




Rudd: In the light of the terrorism bombings in Jerusalem yesterday, we in the Federal Opposition believe that both sides to the continuing dispute in the Middle East must not allow the horror of this terrorist attack to derail the Road Map to Peace. The Road Map to Peace is the only plan on the table. It’s the only show in town. And it’s imperative that both the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority maintain their efforts to ensure that this Road Map proceeds at least to phase two.

Having recently visited both Ramala and Jerusalem I’m doubly convinced that in the absence of the Road Map to Peace, as the only viable negotiating plan and proposal on the table, frankly, the region will degenerate into open civil war. For those reasons therefore it’s important that the horror of the Jerusalem bombing, the absolute horror of the Jerusalem bombing, not be allowed to derail the peace process.

On Zimbabwe could I say this: there are reports today that President Mugabe has decided to seize control of the delivery of humanitarian assistance from the UN and take control of it through the Zimbabwean Government, particularly we fear through his own political party the Zanu PF. This is obscene in the extreme. Mugabe has pursued policies in agriculture and land reform, which have seen the decimation of Zimbabwean agriculture and the starvation and near starvation of many Zimbabweans.

It is obscene that Mugabe should take this action to seize control of food distribution from the UN. My challenge to John Howard, Chairman of the Commonwealth, is this: you cannot go around the world and preach about the liberation of oppressed peoples in one place, and do nothing about what is happening to oppressed peoples in another place, namely Zimbabwe.

You cannot run around the world and talk about the liberation of oppressed peoples in Iraq and sit on your hands when it comes to oppressed peoples in Zimbabwe who are starving as we speak. Mr Howard is Chairman of the Commonwealth and my challenge to him today is: what course of action does he have in mind to take against

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the Mugabe Regime on this most recent and appalling development? Mr Howard is Chairman of the Commonwealth and remains Chairman of the Zimbabwe Troika of the Commonwealth. The matter lies very much in Mr Howard’s in tray and from him we have heard nothing.

Finally on Baghdad could I say this: Mr Downer spoke to me yesterday and advised that because of security concerns in Baghdad and for other operational reasons I should defer my own visit to Baghdad until September. I appreciate Mr Downer’s advice on that and I will respect it as it is based on the on the ground recommendation of Australia’s representative in Baghdad, Mr Mules, as well as the Australian Defence Force. I do hope, however, to have an opportunity to visit Baghdad sometime in September.

Reporter: When were you due to go?

Rudd: I was due to be in Baghdad next week meeting Sergio de Mello and others. That visit had been planned about a month ago, I was to see representatives of the UN, the Coalition Authority as well as other humanitarian organisations while

there. I was scheduled to depart for Baghdad next Tuesday night. That visit, based on Mr Downer’s advice to me, has now been deferred until September. The visit itself depended of course on the provision of flights by both the RAAF and the United States Airforce to get into Baghdad.

So that visit has been deferred, but I’d simply say this though. It’s important that the government now also formally reassesses the security impact of this most recent and horrific bombing in Baghdad on the 700-800 other Australians currently in Iraq, be they from the Defence Force, diplomatic staff or other public servants and Australians working for Non Government Organisations and the UN. This has been a grave development and for the 700-800 Australians who display great courage by their daily life and work in Baghdad, it’s important that their security needs are now formally reassessed.