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Downer left to cover government retreat.

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Robert McClelland MP Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Federal Member for Barton



Today’s claims by Mr Downer about Labor’s Iraq position are as desperate as they are hypocritical. Mr Downer is trying to create a distraction whilst his Government moves itself closer to a pre-election Iraq back flip.

Mr Downer and his colleagues have ‘chopped and changed’ their policy to such an extent that they still cannot come up with a coherent reason for the original invasion.

Is it weapons of mass destruction, regime change, spreading democracy in the Middle East, security overwatch or global oil security? No one knows what the reason for our open-ended involvement is because the Government has never coherently articulated it.

Regardless of the reason for entering Iraq, the Government appears to be preparing for a pre-election back flip on withdrawal in order to neutralise the disaster as an election issue.

First the Australian people heard Mr Howard’s statement in June that he never intended Australian troops to continue as part of a post invasion occupation force.

Now we find Mr Howard writing a letter to the Iraqi Prime Minister, pressuring him to end sectarian infighting over vital issues for Iraq’s future. You don’t put real pressure on the Iraqi Government through letters, you do it by giving notice that the time has come for them to step up to the plate. This will only happen by committing to a phased withdrawal of foreign toops.

Labor’s position on Iraq is clear. We were opposed to the invasion from day one, we are dismayed by the continuing strategic ineptness of the Howard Government to deal with the post-war environment, and we await a coherent Government exit strategy to match our policy of withdrawal in consultation with our allies.

No amount of spin from Mr Downer will change the fact that the Government are in complete policy and political disarray when it comes to Iraq.