Wednesday, 18 October 2006
Questions without Notice
Firstly, I thank the honourable member for Casey for his question and congratulate him on his excellent speech in the Main Committee today, where he stood up for the ordinary people of Iraq.
President Bush spoke to Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki this week and reassured him of America’s full support. He said that the United States would back his efforts to continue building democracy in Iraq and do tougher, necessary work going after the militias and the terrorists. It is the wish of the Iraqi government for the coalition forces to stay the course in Iraq. Particularly noteworthy was a statement made by Prime Minister Tony Blair, a Labour leader, overnight, who made clear his commitment. He said:
What we are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan is important. It is important for the security of our country, for the security of the world ...
Mr Blair stressed the point that is often made that if the terrorists win in Iraq they will be emboldened everywhere. Prime Minister Blair stressed the need to continue working to support freedom and democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan despite the reaction in those countries of the extremists. He said:
... if they are going to use that as an excuse to cause further extremism or violence, that is a reflection on them, it is not a reflection on the work we are doing in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Both President Bush and Prime Minister Blair—and, indeed, Prime Minister Maliki—understand that the sort of weakness we heard about from the Labor Party this week will get us nowhere. Mr Blair said:
You don’t defeat them by sending a message saying we are prepared to walk away.
Let me repeat that, because I do not think everyone heard it. Prime Minister Blair, the Labour leader, said:
That is why it is important—as I say, we want to withdraw from Iraq when we can, but it has to be done with the objective secured. There speaks a leader of a labour party. There speaks somebody who has strength and who shows leadership, who is not just trying to chase a popular position.
I am reminded, when I listen to what the Labor Party says, of George Orwell’s famous words—after all, he was a socialist, but not a weak one. He said:
The quickest way to end a war is to lose it.
The Labor Party says it would like us to lose the war, to surrender, and, as Mr Blair says, that will only give great comfort, great support and great encouragement to terrorists.
My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and follows the answer he has just given. Why won’t the foreign minister stand up and admit that he has failed in Iraq—failed to test the prewar intelligence, failed our best friends in Washington by urging the folly of war, failed in planning for the post-combat phase, failed to make Australia safer from terrorist attack and failed to protect at least 50,000 Iraqi civilian lives? Why won’t the foreign minister admit his failures and that he got Australia into this hole, and why won’t he stop digging?
This is a Leader of the Opposition who has changed his position on the Iraq issue many times. He claims that we went to war in Iraq on a lie; he claimed that today. The Jull committee produced a report which made it clear that the government did not distort the intelligence. Indeed, it concluded that the presentation by the Australian government was more moderate and more measured than that of either of its alliance partners.
We should take note of the interjections of the Leader of the Opposition, because I am going to get to the end of my answer to his question and people will be interested in the end of my answer. The Leader of the Opposition went on to say—
The Jull committee’s conclusion went on to say:
I mention this and the moderate and sensible conclusions of the Jull committee because it is relevant to this question. This committee produced a bipartisan report signed by coalition members and Labor members and it made it clear that the government did not lie about the WMD intelligence. The Jull committee makes that perfectly clear. One of the signatories of that report was none other than the Leader of the Opposition himself. Today he has a new line.
Have we failed? There are 36,000 new teachers who have been trained in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime. That is not a definition of failure. Seventy per cent of eligible children have been vaccinated against measles and 42 per cent against polio. Fifty-four commercial television stations have been set up from virtually zero in 2003. There are now more than seven million mobile phone—
It is not a failure for new television services to be set up. It is not a failure for new teachers to be trained. It is not a failure for children to be inoculated. It is not a failure to have seven million new mobile phone subscribers. It is not a failure to get the first World Bank loan in 30 years. It is not a failure to get oil production up to prewar levels. It is not a failure to have trained 302,000 members of the Iraqi Security Forces. I will tell you, Mr Speaker, the last thing that is not a failure: it is not a failure to have put Saddam Hussein on trial.