Opposition parties unanimous on Iraq troops

The ALP

Statement at the HMAS Kanimbla Farewell Ceremony by Simon Crean, Federal Labor leader, 23 January 2003

Governor-General, Prime Minister, Head of Defence Forces, Head of the Navy, men and women of the Kanimbla and their families who are gathered here today for us to farewell you and to wish you God speed and a safe and speedy return.

I don't want to mince my words because I don't believe that you should be going. I don't think that there should be a deployment of troops to Iraq ahead of the United Nations determining it. But that's a political decision, that's an argument that the Prime Minister and I will have, no doubt, over coming weeks and months.

But having said that I don't support the deployment of our troops in these circumstance, I do support our troops and always will, and that distinction is fundamentally important. The men and women of our fighting forces in a democracy are expected unquestioningly to accept the orders of the government of the day. You don't have a choice and my argument is with the government, not with you.

I know that you will give, through service and through your training, to the best of your ability. You are a magnificent fighting and Defence Force, you have been trained for it. You've been trained in circumstances in which you hope the politicians of the day can avoid, circumstances in which you are called on to exercise those skills, particularly the combat skills. I also believe that it's fundamentally important in this complex world that more and more we've got to resolve these issues through the United Nations collectively. Understanding the complexity, but fundamentally understanding that no one country has got the right answer here.

But if in fact the United Nations is capable of getting a unanimous resolution to get Saddam Hussein to disarm, if that task is being performed through the Weapons Inspectors, let them finish the task. My point to you is this, I wish you well and the reason I am here today is to support you. To support you in your efforts and to signal to the families that while there may be debates raging in this country as to whether or not it's appropriate for you to be there, that argument should be directed to the government of the day not to our great men and women who are prepared to give of themselves to serve the country.

I know talking to the families out there that there is a lot of anxiety, this is a very poignant day. But I know at times we tend to hold emotions and it's only through talking to people personally that you understand the fears, the anxieties, the reservations. Understand this again, and I repeat it, the people going on our behalf don't have a choice. But in the circumstances I wish them Godspeed and I will be doing everything that I can, everything possible to ensure that they are returned safely and quickly. God bless all of you and to your families we will share with you the concerns and the anxieties. But we know that the people that are being sent have been trained to the best of their ability and we know that they will serve in a professional, outstanding manner. I wish you well, God speed.

The Greens

Press release by Greens Senator Bob Brown, 23 January 2003

This precipitate deployment by Prime Minister Howard has neither the authority of parliament nor the backing of the people. I have asked the Labor Party, Democrats, government and independent Senators to support a recall of the Senate next Tuesday to debate this issue because of its importance to the nation's present and future wellbeing. Mr Howard should recall the whole of parliament.

On the first day of sittings, whether next Tuesday or on the scheduled return on Tuesday 4 February, the Greens will move that:

  • Noting the opposition by Australians to this nation's involvement in an attack on Iraq,
  • Recognising that the United Nations has not authorized any military incursion on Iraq, and
  • Alarmed by the pre-emptive advocacy and actions of the United States,

The Senate:

  • CONDEMNS the Howard government's unilateral decision to deploy Australian defence personnel to the Iraq theatre of war,
  • RECOGNISES that this deployment effectively commits Australia to any future attack on Iraq by US President Bush and
  • CALLS ON the Prime Minister to reverse his decision immediately and to return the personnel to Australia until a decision has been made by the United Nations to authorize military action against Iraq and that decision had been endorsed by our national parliament.

The Democrats

Press release by Senator Andrew Bartlett Parliamentary Leader and Democrats Senator for Queensland, 21 January 2003

The government is wrong to send Australian troops to the Iraq region, and hypocritical in denying a decision to go to war has been made.

The decision about Australia's involvement in a war against Iraq has effectively been ceded to US President George W. Bush.

By sending troops to the region, the government has guaranteed Australia will be at war, if it occurs. This is happening without a vote of Parliament, without the support of the Australian people and without any case being put to explain this insanity.

There is no case for a war on Iraq and no case for Australia to be involved in a US-led war.

You do not send troops to increase diplomatic pressure, you send troops when diplomacy has failed and there are absolutely no other options. We are not anywhere near that point yet.

Amassing troops at the border is more likely to see diplomacy fail. If the Iraqis believe war is inevitable they will not continue to engage in talks and they will certainly halt the weapons inspections.

There is potential for trouble in our region, particularly East Timor where Australia has to carry the load more than any other country.

The Australian Democrats support service personnel but we do not support the decision to send them to the Iraq region.

The troops that leave tomorrow and those already in the Gulf have our support and I urge all Australians who are campaigning for peace to be sensitive to their loved ones left behind.

The ACTU

Statement by ACTU President, Sharan Burrow, 23 January 2003

John Howard's actions are contemptuous of the United Nations and subservient to the United States. He does not have the support of the Australian people, the parliament or the international community.

Labor and the other opposition political parties should be congratulated for standing up for Australia's national interest against the Howard government's servile rush to be involved in United States-led war.

Instead of rushing to war, the Australian government should be working for disarmament and peace through the United Nations.

Union members across Australia have been expressing their opposition to Australian involvement in a war that is not in the national interest, would destroy thousands of lives and cause international instability.

The international Save the Children Fund has warned that a war would exacerbate a humanitarian crisis in Iraq, where nearly half the population is under 14-years-old and one million families are already displaced.

The ACTU Executive passed a resolution last November to oppose any unilateral declaration of war with Iraq, condemn terrorism and support United Nations actions to disarm countries with chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.


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