Australian security

There is a crisis in Australian security because the two main threats to the country - the proliferation of nuclear weapons and climate change - are not being addressed to the degree they could be by the federal government.

The threat of nuclear war is serious and getting worse. Some 30,000 nuclear warheads still exist globally, including in hot spots like Israel, India and Pakistan. Cold War doctrine and safeguards have become less relevant and useful. The United States in particular gives cause for great concern because of the way its reckless behaviour over recent years has encouraged countries like Iran and North Korea to go nuclear in order to deter what they see as US aggression. Australia is part of the problem, including by our support for US security policy and preparedness to co-operate with countries not abiding by the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Climate change is set to become one of the main reasons for intra-state and inter-state unrest and conflict as it increasingly forces the dislocation of people and brings about serious food and water shortages. It will have a disproportionate effect in Asia and could be irreversible in as little as 50 years. Australia's inadequate response is to continue to refuse to join in key multilateral solutions and to stay reliant on the consumption and export of fossil fuels for the foreseeable future, regardless of the current nuclear discussion.

Against this backdrop issues like terrorism seem much less important. That might be just as well, because we are loosing the so-called War on Terror. We have already lost the war in Iraq. By any measure, the federal government has made a mess of foreign and security policy, leaving the country dangerously exposed in ways becoming understood only slowly.

"Issues like terrorism seem much less important. That might be just as well, because we are loosing the so-called War on Terror. We have already lost the war in Iraq. By any measure, the federal government has made a mess of foreign and security policy, leaving the country dangerously exposed in ways becoming understood only slowly."

The speaker: Andrew Wilkie

On 11 March 2003 Andrew Wilkie resigned from the Office of National Assessments - Australia's senior intelligence agency - in protest over the looming Iraq war. He was the only serving intelligence officer from the Coalition of the Willing to do so. The dramatic move was reported throughout the world.

Speaking on national radio shortly after his resignation, Wilkie said that "...invading Iraq at this time would be wrong. For a start, Iraq does not pose a security threat to any other country at this point in time. Its military is very weak, it's a fraction of the size of the military at the time of the invasion of Kuwait. Its weapons of mass destruction program is very disjointed and contained by the regime that's been in place since the last Gulf War. And there is no hard intelligence linking the Iraqi regime to al-Qaeda in any substantial or worrisome way."

Since leaving the shadowy world of intelligence, WiIkie has been called upon to give evidence at official Australian and British inquiries into the war. As a high-profile candidate during the 2004 Australian national election he forced Prime Minister John Howard to preferences and made Howard's own seat officially 'marginal.'

Wilkie's book, Axis of Deceit (Black Inc, 2004, $24.95), explores his reasons for blowing the whistle over the Iraq war and the challenges the act of conscience brought. He writes that the "...personal implications of my decision to stand up to the government are yet to become clear. I've been vilified. I'm emotionally exhausted. I've lost friends. There is no chance of ever returning to a career I cherished. The financial cost is alarming. But even so I have no regrets about what I did, and I would do it all again. Better for me to have done what I could to energise the public debate about the impending conflict than to slip away quietly or to continue with my duties as though nothing were at stake. I wouldn't have been able to live with myself had I failed to act as I did".

Andrew Wilkie was a lieutenant colonel in the Australian Defence Force before he joined ONA as a Senior Strategic Analyst. From 1999 to 2000, he worked on a range of issues including weapons of mass destruction. He returned to ONA shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks to become the Senior Transnational Issues Analyst.

Evatt Foundation in Tassie

This is Evatt's inaugural community forum in Tasmania. Come and join us. We welcome your participation in this important debate.

Event location: GPO Restaurant,68 Cameron Street, Launceston, Tasmania
Event time: 5.30 to 7.00pm, Friday 30 June
Event cost: 12 for wine and savouries from 5.30 to 6.00pm; $5 for entry to only hear speaker 6.00 to 7.00pm.
RSVP: 63 444 666 or faygervasoni@bigpond.com.au