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Transcript of doorstop, Melbourne, 10 January 2003: Iraq, weapons inspections, Nauru, Pacific solution, trade deficit, North Korea.

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Subjects: Iraq, weapons inspections, Nauru, Pacific Solution, trade deficit, North Korea

CREAN: The Government must push harder for the diplomatic solution. I am disappointed that the Prime Minister today is still talking up the war rather than pursuing a stronger case for a diplomatic solution. War must be avoided, it can be avoided, but it won’t be avoided if people take the view that war is inevitable rather than using the best efforts and the best pressures on the United Nations to secure a lasting resolution.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

CREAN: Falling short, in that preparation is being made for war. What we want is a Government that is prepared to put every effort and every pressure on the United Nations to follow its resolutions and its timetable. The Prime Minister wants it both ways. He wants to pretend that he is talking about a diplomatic solution but all his talk is about preparing for war. I think this war can be avoided. It can be avoided if the channels of the UN are used properly and that is where the Government is falling short. It should be using its strength, its influence, to push for the diplomatic solution - but all the Prime Minister seems to want to do is talk about a war.

JOURNALIST: …[inaudible]… what the Government owes the Australian people…

CREAN: What the Government owes the Australian people, is the obligation to ensure that the decisions it takes in Australia’s interests, that its in Australia’s interests to get a lasting solution from the United Nations. No one country can make a decision in relation to Iraq. The last Gulf War was fought under a United Nations mandate. This is the process that has to be pursued in this occasion. Pre-empting the United Nations is not the appropriate way to go.


JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

CREAN: Australia is in a situation where it has to be very careful about the way in which it progresses. It obviously has to take advice, it has to understand the importance of its alliance with the United States. But its best interests are served through pursuing a diplomatic solution through the United Nations. Steps should not be taken by this Government unless the United Nations sanctions them.

JOURNALIST: I'm told the Prime Minister is now mentioning a rough time frame of weeks … [inaudible]

CREAN: It depends on which part you listen to from the Prime Minister. He says the decision by the United Nations and reports by the United Nations Weapons Inspectors could be months away. Well, if it takes time for the United Nations to get it right let it take the time. This is too an important an issue to be pre-empting. To be taking precipitous action on. What we need are two things. We need a United Nations prepared to ensure that the timetable that has been collectively determined, is adhered to. We need Iraq to comply with the decisions of the United Nations. What we don’t want is precipitous action for which a lot of criticism can be directed, that takes attention away from the significant but important role of the United Nations.

JOURNALIST: On the question of Nauru, do you think Australia bears any responsibility...[inaudible]…Pacific Solution.. for the continuing destabilisation of the Nauru Government?… [inaudible]

CREAN: I think that the Pacific Solution was a political solution by the Government and it wasn’t a lasting solution for asylum seekers. I don’t know what consequences that it has had in terms of Nauru politics. I’ve just returned to the country and I need to get further information in that regard. I think that in all of these circumstances what we have to make are decisions that are in the regional interests not just in Australia’s short-term interests.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

CREAN: Absolutely, and Labor has shown through the policy prescription it put down at the end of last year exactly the course which should be taken. I’d hope that the Government embraces that.

JOURNALIST: We should not be going to war …. [inaudible]

CREAN: We should not be going to war unless that is the decision, the collective decision, that the United Nations makes. What we need to do, most importantly of all is to avoid that war. And that war can be avoided if the United Nations processes are allowed to run their full course.


JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

CREAN: Well clearly, if the United Nations takes the decision that requires involvement by us, that’s something that we would have to respond to. We can’t have it both ways either. If in fact we say that the United Nations

processes have to be pursued then it is terribly important that Australia plays a role in the United Nation’s response. But these are issues that can only be determined once we know what the United Nations has determined. And my argument is that rather than talk up the war ahead of the United Nation’s determination, our Government should be getting behind ensuring that the United Nation’s processes work. Talk up the diplomatic solution because I certainly believe that can be achieved. Don’t talk up the war. And that’s what the Prime Minister’s done today and that’s my criticism of him.

JOURNALIST: The trade figures are out today, the 14th deficit in a row. Have you got anything to say on that?

CREAN: Where is the debt truck now? This is the Government that said that it, before 1996, it was going to reduce Australia’s foreign debt. It’s almost doubled Australia’s foreign debt. What they’ve done is take that debt truck and parked it in the driveway of the Australian household.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

CREAN: I think that is a worrying withdrawal and that’s something that clearly, we need to get diplomatic efforts again, to try and secure their adherence to. It is terribly important in terms of regional security that we are addressing these issues, but it comes back to making a consistent point. The best way to do that is through the international agencies not unilateral decision-making. And that’s what I urge. I urge it in relation to all of these issues.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]…North Korea...?

CREAN: I think that we can’t ignore the circumstances in North Korea. I think that these are issues that have to be addressed consistently. And the most effective way to achieving that consistency is through the international agency frameworks, in particular the United Nations.

JOURNALIST: John Howard has said today that what has happened in North Korea has happened because of world division on Iraq. Is that something that…[inaudible]...?

CREAN: I think that is a very superficial response by the Prime Minister and I think it requires detailed analysis. But, what I am interested in is addressing these problems, addressing them through the international agencies, ensuring that the United Nations are given the opportunity and the authority to effect it’s mandate, and to effect its decisions and to ensure its



authority. That’s what we need for regional and global security. And it is in all of our interests to get behind a collective decision making body not get sucked in my unilateralism.

Thanks very much.