As opinion polls show few Australians support involvement in unilateral American action to achieve what President George W. Bush calls "regime change", the Prime Minister, John Howard, last week committed his government to a debate in the House of Representatives.
The debate will be preceded by a statement from the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer.
The Labor Opposition has set out a 5-point plan for the United Nations to move towards a resolution of the impasse with Iraq over the removal of "weapons of mass destruction".
This is the text of a statement released by Kevin Rudd, the ALP Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, on September 13, 2002:
Labor argues for a five-point approach
Today's speech by US President George W. Bush on Iraq opens the next phase of the international debate on how the international community should now deal with Iraq.
The fundamental significance of the President's speech is that it underlines the fact that the US Administration has now decided to make recourse to the United Nations Security Council on the next steps with Iraq.
The Federal Opposition welcomes this decision by the United States and congratulates President Bush for making it – as well as others in the international community such as Prime Minister Blair for their critical role in bringing the decision about.
The exhaustion of UN processes has been a part the Federal Opposition's policy on Iraq since we formally adopted it on 22 April 2002.
The critical question which now arises is - what next?
The Federal Opposition argues that the international community should now move towards a five-step approach, broadly characterised as follows:
While some circumstances may change in the weeks ahead, the Federal Opposition hopes the Howard Government will now adopt this same approach on Iraq – given that both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister in the course of the past week appear to have rediscovered the existence of the United Nations.
- The early convening of a United Nations Security Council meeting to discharge its responsibilities under Resolution 1284 of December 1999 on the removal of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, missiles and production facilities, and the consideration of any other relevant resolutions.
- Second, the Security Council should determine a reasonable but finite timeframe for the return of UN weapons inspectors.
- Third, the UN Security Council should not tolerate any Iraqi non-compliance or partial compliance with the execution of UNMOVIC's mandate in Iraq.
- Fourth, the Security Council should reconvene immediately to form a conclusion as to whether Iraq has complied or not.
- Fifth, if Iraq does not comply, the Security Council should resolve the most appropriate form of collective action against Iraq – including under Article 42 of the UN Charter.
This is the text of a media statement released by the Leader of the Opposition, Simon Crean, on September 13, 2002:
I welcome United States President George W. Bush's commitment to work through the United Nations to see all UN Security Council resolutions complied with immediately and in full and the possibility of a further UN Security Council resolution or resolutions to achieve that outcome.
Labor has consistently called for this approach since April this year.
Last night, President Bush set out, in clear and compelling terms, Iraq's persistent breaches of UN Security Council resolutions since 1991. These include Iraq's continuing failure to comply with resolutions relating to:
the possession and development of weapons of mass destruction;
the repression of the Iraqi people and minorities within Iraq;
the refusal to account for Gulf War prisoners; and
the circumvention of economic sanctions and the impeding of the 'Oil-for-Food' program.
I also welcome the speech made last night by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Mr Annan powerfully set out the case for collective action in relation to Iraq, noting the clear link between the global interest in collective security and the national interest of each State.
Iraq must immediately comply with all UN resolutions in full, in particular by allowing the unconditional return of weapons inspectors. The UN should ensure this occurs.
Australia has a clear national interest in supporting the UN's mandate for collective security. The Australian Government must join Labor in actively lobbying for and supporting this principle.
Support for collective action needs to be built both at home and abroad. Australians are still waiting for the Prime Minister to take them into his confidence.
President Bush has now addressed the UN General Assembly and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair is recalling his parliament to make a statement and to allow full debate. John Howard must do likewise. Australians deserve nothing less.
The Prime Minister must now provide the Australian people with the Government's own assessment on Iraq.
This should include the release of all information that either has been, or can now appropriately be, declassified.
In particular, the Government should set out its own independent assessment as to whether there are any links between Iraq, al Qaeda and September 11 and the current status of Iraq's possession of, and attempts to acquire, weapons of mass destruction.
It is time for the Prime Minister to lead on this issue, not merely to follow.