House debates

Monday, 16 October 2006

Prime Minister

Censure Motion

3:34 pm

Photo of Kevin RuddKevin Rudd (Griffith, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and International Security) Share this | Hansard source

The Prime Minister has posed this question, so here it is. You have the strategy, Foreign Minister, which is along these lines. It consists of two sets of propositions. The first is do not cut and run, and the second is stay till the job is done. Do you know something, Mr Speaker; that is not a strategy but a key line and theme from Mark Textor. Because the Prime Minister says he is interested about the future in Iraq, here are some questions for you, Foreign Minister. How many Iraqi troops should be trained by foreign troops before we think of packing up and going? How many? Where should they be trained—in what locations? Foreign Minister, where should they be deployed right across the country? Foreign Minister, what level of training in specific circumstances should they achieve before other troops should consider leaving the country? What also should be the precise state of political relationships within the Iraqi parliament between the Sunni, the Shiah and the Kurds before we believe there is sufficient confidence to be had which would justify our exit from Iraq? While the foreign minister is at it, perhaps he could also tell us how many more tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians should be blown to bits before it is time to go. These are some basic questions that we have at present.

There is a key line and theme which is along the lines of, ‘Don’t cut and run; stay till the job is done.’ It rhymes; that is terrific. But, when it comes to an actual strategy for this country to remain committed to a war, what are the benchmarks for the future? What are the national security benchmarks to be achieved in Iraq? How are they to be measured? How are they to be analysed? In other words, what is the mission statement? What is the mission? How can you evaluate when it has been achieved?

This Prime Minister stands up here and cants political rhetoric, because that is what is being delivered by his pollsters and those who brief him from the dispatch box. He does not have a strategy for this country’s future in Iraq; he simply has a political issue management team running. This Prime Minister’s primary axiom, his prism for looking at national security, is simply: how do I manage the issue? How do I get myself through to tomorrow? This Prime Minister could not give a damn about the future of Iraq. If he did, we would have a detailed, truthful strategy on the ground about civilian reconstruction, the state of the economy, the state of the power infrastructure, the provision of border security and the provision of proper training for the armed forces—and at what density and location. Because we do not have any of that from this government we know that it is not serious about it. So here is the challenge for the foreign minister when he stands up to deliver his response to the censure: why don’t you, on behalf of the government, deliver a formal statement to the parliament on this government’s future strategy for Iraq and the conditions of national security and domestic political arrangements that must be met in order to justify a future drawdown? There is the challenge; we have not had one for a long time.

When you look at the entire debacle that is Iraq, it is important to put it into the context of the foreign policy and national security management—or mismanagement—of this government over the last 10 years. If you stand back from it all and examine it in its cold, hard, gory detail, you can be left with no conclusion other than that this is the worst exercise in national security mismanagement and the worst case of foreign policy mismanagement this country has seen since Vietnam. This is a gold medal winning performance when it comes to national security policy mismanagement. When you go to the criteria this government advanced prior to going to the war, each of those criteria registers as a fail. We were told by this government that we were going to war to eliminate weapons of mass destruction. The weapons of mass destruction did not exist. We were told that we were going to war in order to reduce the overall global terrorist threat. The global terrorist threat did not go down; it went up. We were told that we were going to liberate an oppressed people; 50,000 of those oppressed people now lie dead.

We were told, particularly by the foreign minister, that the function in going to war was to set up a cavalcade, set up a domino theory—a new avalanche of democracy across the Arab world and the Middle East. Well, that is going a treat, isn’t it? Have you had a look at what happened in the Palestinian Authority’s recent elections? Hamas are doing are good job on that one! What about some of the others? Take Southern Lebanon: Lebanon is doing well since the ‘cedar revolution’. Democracy is kicking along quite nicely! Against that criterion—this domino theory of democracy across the Middle East—it would be interesting to see what the benchmarks of success are as well.

We were also told when we went to war that the function of this operation was also to send a clear, unequivocal, intimidatory message to any other country out there in the wider Middle East contemplating a WMD option. That worked well with Iran, didn’t it? That has gone an absolute treat with Iran! This government’s comprehensive foreign policy failure has achieved the unique strategic policy outcome of emboldening the government of Iran into an order of magnitude that the world has never seen since the Persian empire. This takes singular talent to, basically, better Darius, Xerxes and the whole crew back there. A mega state has been created in Iran which now dominates the geopolitics of the Middle East. What a terrific outcome! And you wonder why people do not believe your strategy.

We were given another benchmark—that our troops would be in Iraq for a matter of months, not years—but that was 3½ years ago. That was also $1.9 billion ago. We were also told that we could go to a war in Iraq without depleting the rest of our strategic engagements in the region and beyond. What we did not know at the time, of course, was that that was the basis on which they cut and ran from Afghanistan. When I visited Afghanistan with the member for Bruce, guess how many Australian Defence personnel were in Afghanistan at that stage? There was one; I think his name was Ted—Ted, the Australian. He was looking after Australia’s strategic policy interests in Afghanistan and doing a fine job. They cut and ran from Afghanistan in order to backfill into Iraq. Then, on top of it all, we had the great granddaddy of them all: the $300 million wheat for weapons scandal, in which the foreign minister of Australia was responsible for signing off on each contract. All that cash bankrolled the dictator he then proceeded to bomb, and could be used for buying bombs, buying bullets, providing cash to the Rafidain Bank in Oman and Jordan and funding the Palestinian suicide bombers—and this foreign minister sits here smirking and giggling. His hands are guilty through the negligence he demonstrated in the discharge of his office as foreign minister, because that money went to cross-subsidise terrorism and buy guns, bombs and bullets for later use against Australian troops. (Time expired)


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