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Mr CADMAN (Mitchell) (4.42 p.m.)—I was encouraged by some of the remarks of Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister, about Australia’s role in the Middle East and particularly the war in Iraq. As part of the grievance debate, I am obliged to grieve for some of the misinformation in and lack of direction shown by some sections of the media and the Australian community. While I understand the differences of opinion, we have had three leaders make statements over the last few days on this war and the circumstances in which Australia finds itself in the Middle East. Those leaders have been democratically elected by great nations.

Here within Australia I can say that all of us endorse the goals of the Australian forces in Iraq, no matter what our political view. Differences have arisen about whether or not we should be in Iraq but, having achieved some success in Iraq, I believe that everyone in this parliament wants to see the Australian contingent, those men and women who are seeking to build a new life for Iraqis and a new democracy in the Middle East, succeed.

Tony Blair’s comments must enliven us to reconsider where we stand. I hope that those who are strongly opposed to us being there will take note of his words. He is a man of commitment and when he talks of values one realises that he has aspirations for the great good of all mankind. Some may disparage President George Bush, but when you combine what he says with what Blair says and what Howard and Beazley say—the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition—you have a balance. I refer to some of the comments made by the British Prime Minister. He said:

Here are Iraqi and Afghan Muslims saying clearly: democracy is as much our right as yours; and in embracing it, showing that they too want a society in which people of different cultures and faith can live together in peace. This struggle is our struggle. If the going is tough—we tough it out. This is not a time to walk away. This is a time for the courage to see it through.

And later on in his speech in the Australian House of Representatives he said:

The danger with America today is not that they are too much involved. The danger is that they decide to pull up the drawbridge and disengage. We need them involved. We want them engaged.

The reality is that none of the problems that press in on is can be resolved or even contemplated without them.

He went on to expand on the involvement of United States in solving the world’s problems in regard to security. He also spoke of our misunderstanding the importance of Iraq and Afghanistan and the role for the future of justice and fairness as well as security. The Prime Minister, over a period of time, has made statements, as we are aware, in regard to Iraq. I will pick up just a few words of the Prime Minister’s as he addressed the special forces returning to Australia on 25 February this year. The Prime Minister said:

There will be times when people will wonder whether it is worth the effort. But let me say to you that it is worth the effort because the sort of way of life that we are opposing is a way of life that would never win any acceptance in our country, it’s a way of life which is completely anathema to everything that this country stands for.

That was picked up as well by Brendan Nelson, the Minister for Defence, when he was addressing the Defence Magazine conference in Canberra just a week or so ago on 14 March. The Minister for Defence said:

In the space of three years we’ve gone from an environment where clearly the overwhelming majority of Iraqi people want democracy. Unlike us they actually risk their lives to vote. The Sunni participation increased in the space of a year from 5% to more than 70%. If you reflect on the dreadful bombing in Samara, the bombing itself was dreadful, as were some of the retribution bombings.

He also said:

There are now more than 200,000 Iraqi security forces, army and police ... To basically oversee and support the Iraqi security forces, and the local Iraqi Governments, and also to support provincial reconstruction and indeed training.

We have a responsibility as Australians who value freedom, and people being free to choose their own destiny and future. As much as we do to fight terrorism, wherever it occurs, we have a responsibility to be there until the Iraqi Government says to us, thank you for your help, we can now care for ourselves.

I put those comments together with some of the recent remarks made by President George Bush. I commence by picking a quote that he made on 20 March in his discussion at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel in Cleveland, Ohio. He said:

Last December, four short months ago, more than 11 million people expressed their opinion. They said loud and clear at the ballot box that they desire a future of freedom and unity.

That is what the whole process is about. It is about being able to create that opportunity for others. As Tony Blair has said, if you believe in it and are committed to it, you need to fight for it. I pick up again some of his words. He said that there is still full support from the United Nations for the forces in Afghanistan and in Iraq. And why is there that support? He says:

They know if they lose a message is sent out across the Muslim world that strikes at the heart of their ideology.

Later in the same speech the Prime Minister of Britain said:

To win this struggle we have to win the battle of values as much as arms. We have to show that these are not Western still less American or Anglo-Saxon values, but values in the common ownership of humanity, universal values that should be the right of the global citizen.

This is the challenge I believe we face, and ranged against us are of course the people who hate us;

… … …

If we want to secure our way of life, there is no alternative but to fight for it. That means standing up for our values not just in our own countries but the world over.

He said later:

The immediate threat is from Islamist extremism.

George Bush in his comments pointed out some of the extreme measures that are undertaken by the forces at work in Iraq such as the use of improvised explosive devices. He indicated that the coalition forces have cleared nearly 4,000 improvised explosive devices, uncovered more than 1,800 weapons caches and bomb-making plants and killed or detained hundreds of terrorists and bomb makers.

In 2005 the Iraqi economy grew an estimated 2.6 per cent in real terms, and the IMF has estimated it will grow more than 10 per cent in 2006. In nominal terms, Iraqis’ per capita income had dropped from $3,800 in 1980 to $715 in 2002, which was lower than that of Angolans. In 2005, per capita income is estimated to increase to over $1,000. The story of increasing success goes on in the story of increased access to education and improved water supplies and health conditions. All in all, it is a cause that is difficult but one in which we dare not fail. I want to thank the Prime Minister of Britain for the comments he made in our parliament. (Time expired)

Author: Hon Alan Cadman MP
Source: House Hansard - 29th March 2006
Release Date: 22 Jun 2006


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