Maxine McKew To Contest Bennelong For ALP

The former ABC journalist and presenter, Maxine McKew, is to contest the Prime Minister’s seat of Bennelong for the ALP in this year’s election.

Maxine McKew, ALP Candidate for BennelongMcKew retired from broadcasting last year and became an adviser on strategy to the Opposition Leader, Kevin Rudd, last month. Her partner is the former ALP National Secretary, Bob Hogg.

McKew’s candidacy will attract media interest and focus attention on the Sydney North Shore electorate which has been held by John Howard since 1974.

The ALP requires a swing of 4% to win Bennelong. Redistributions and demographic factors have made the seat more marginal in recent years. Some commentators believe the seat will swing to Labor when Howard departs.

McKew’s candidacy could produce a number of outcomes:

  1. McKew wins Bennelong and the coalition loses the election. Howard would become only the second prime minister to lose an election and his seat since Stanley Melbourne Bruce in 1929. McKew would become an instant Labor legend.
  2. McKew wins Bennelong and the coalition wins the election. This would be an unprecedented result. No prime minister has ever been defeated in this manner. Peter Costello would probably be chosen as Liberal leader and become prime minister.
  3. McKew loses Bennelong and the ALP wins the election. McKew would be well-placed to contest a by-election for Bennelong if the defeated Howard decided to retire from Parliament. Alternatively, she could expect a senior position on Rudd’s staff.
  4. McKew loses Bennelong and the ALP loses the election. McKew might continue on Rudd’s staff as a more experienced political operative. She would be seen as a future candidate now blooded in battle and might go hunting for a safe seat. If the ALP lost the election by a significant margin, she would be quickly forgotten as another failed celebrity candidate.

This is the text of Maxine McKew’s statement announcing her ALP candidacy for Bennelong.

Today I’m announcing my intention to nominate for preselection as Federal Labor’s candidate in the seat of Bennelong.

If Kevin Rudd is to lead Federal Labor to victory at the next election he has to make a net gain of 16 seats.

One of the seats within that swing pendulum is Bennelong. It has been held by Mr Howard since 1974, however, after the 2004 election and subsequent redistribution the seat requires a swing of more than 4 per cent to become Labor.

I’m nominating for the seat of Bennelong because I want to make whatever contribution I can to help bring about a change of government.

I sense that Australians are hungry for a different kind of political leadership.

It’s a style of leadership that understands Australia’s future challenges require long-term solutions, not short term political fixes. It’s a style of leadership that is focused on the future, not the past. It’s a style of leadership Kevin Rudd offers.

I believe that Kevin has the intelligence and passion that will help forge strong and positive solutions around challenges such as climate change and how we develop a first-rate education system for the 21st century.

My decision is supported by my partner Bob Hogg.

As I am seeking to represent the electorate of Bennelong I will attempt to do so in every sense. We are planning to sell our home and buy in the area.

*

This is the text of a statement from the Leader of the Opposition, Kevin Rudd.

I am delighted to support Maxine McKew’s decision to nominate for the seat of Bennelong in the upcoming federal election.

I commend Ms McKew on her determination and courage to contest a seat held by the nation’s most formidable politician.

This will be a difficult election for Federal Labor.

History is against us. Rarely has a political party ever won 16 seats to claim government. It is almost an Everest-like challenge. That’s why I am taking nothing for granted. That’s why I am supporting first-class nominees and candidates like Ms McKew.

I intend to give Federal Labor the best possible chance of winning the next election by assembling the best possible team.

I expect Ms McKew to join other outstanding Federal Labor candidates including Gary Gray (Brand), Peter Tinley (Stirling) and Damian Hale (Solomon).

The fact is this year’s federal election is the most important in a generation. It represents a fork in the road.

Australians will face a choice. It is a choice between Federal Labor which is determined to embrace the challenges confronting Australia’s long-term future and the Coalition which is stuck in the past.

Federal Labor has begun the long road to earn the respect and trust of the Australian people in the lead up the 2007 federal election. I welcome Ms McKew’s decision to participate in this journey.

*

This is the biography of Maxine McKew, taken from the ALP’s website.

Maxine McKew is a special adviser on strategy to the Federal Labor leader Kevin Rudd

Before making the switch to politics, Maxine spent thirty years as a broadcast and print journalist.

She began her career as a cadet on This Day Tonight at the ABC’s Brisbane office.

She is a Walkley and Logie award winner and through coverage of national and international events, earned a reputation as one of the country’s most authoritative interviewers.

For many years she was seen regularly on the ABC TV’s flagship current affairs programmes, the 7.30 Report and Lateline.

In 2003 she was awarded a Centenary Medal for services to broadcasting.

Between 1999 and 2004 she was also a regular writer for the Bulletin magazine.

Lunch with Maxine McKew produced countless candid conversations with Australia’s policy makers and resulted in her inclusion in the Australian Financial Review’s Power List for 2003.

In her time in journalism Maxine has also interviewed a host of international figures including Tony Blair, Madelyn Albright, Colin Powell, Richard Armitage, Shimon Peres, Benjamin Netanyahu, Fidel Ramos, and Sir Julius Chan.

Maxine has covered state and national politics, business reporting and a period as foreign correspondent that took her to postings in Washington DC and to New York.

As a result of her time in North America, she maintains a strong interest in U.S. politics and is a regular participant in the privately funded annual Australia/U.S. Leadership Dialogue, which brings together a trans-Pacific top tier of policy makers and business figures for a Chatham House style symposium.

Maxine has always been a strong advocate of opportunities for women, both in her own industry and in the wider workforce.

Her voluntary activities include the chairmanship of the Advisory Council to the National Breast Cancer Centre, and membership of the University of Sydney’s Research Institute for Asia Pacific.

She is also Patron of Osteoporosis Australia and is a member of the Sydney Symphony Council.

Maxine was born in Brisbane in 1953 and attended All Hallows’ School and studied at the University of Queensland.


War On Terror Is Battle Of Ideas: Cheney

The ‘war on terror’ is more than a contest of arms, and more than a test of will, according to the United States Vice-President, Richard Cheney.

Vice-President Richard CheneyAddressing the Australian-American Leadership Dialogue in Sydney, Cheney said the war on terror “is a battle of ideas”. He said: “We now know to a certainty that when people across the Middle East are denied all freedom, and left to the mercy of fanatical tyrants and false prophets, that is a direct strategic concern of free nations everywhere. By taking the side of moderates, reformers, and advocates for democracy; by providing an alternative to hateful ideologies; we improve the chances for a lasting peace, and we advance our own security interests.”

The Vice-President’s speech depicted the battle with terrorism as a struggle for the future of civilisation. Arguing that “the terrorists have adopted the pretense of an aggrieved party, claiming to speak for the powerless against modern imperialists”, Cheney said the terrorist ideology rejected liberal ideals whilst adopting modern and sophisticated methods. “They believe we lack the resolve and the courage for a long struggle,” Cheney said. Rejecting the concept of negotiation with “an enemy with fantasies of martyrdom”, the Vice-President said: “The only option for our security and survival is to go on the offensive – face the threat directly, patiently, and systematically, until the enemy is destroyed.”

Cheney singled out the former Labor leader, Kim Beazley, in his remarks to the gathering, describing him as an “old friend”.

This is the text of Vice President Cheney’s Remarks to the Australian-American Leadership Dialogue, at the Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney.

Good morning, and thank you for the warm welcome, and for letting me spend some time with you today. It’s good to be here. I started out this trip in Washington on Monday, been in Tokyo since then, and stopped in Guam, as well, before arriving here late last night. It was a short night, but I’m delighted to begin the day in such fine company.

This is a wonderful country, and Sydney is one of the world’s great cities. I’ve been fortunate to visit many times over the years, and I’ve been looking forward especially to this return visit. I’m especially pleased to be able to have the opportunity to spend some time with an old friend, your Prime Minister, John Howard.

I always recall – looking down out of the hotel on Sydney Harbor this morning – the events 15 years ago when we marked the 50th anniversary of the Coral Sea Battle, and I came down as Secretary of Defense and brought an aircraft carrier battle group with me. The Independence was docked here in the harbor for some time. As I recall, we sent the various ships with the Independence, married them up with Australian vessels and then visited ports all around the continent. The sailors had a very good time. (Laughter.) They still reminisce about it.

I’m delighted to see my old friend Kim Beazley here this morning, as well, too. We shared some time together as defence secretaries in years past.

Let me thank Ambassador Robert McCallum for his introduction. As Robert noted, I did serve in the U.S. Congress from Wyoming. I was elected six times. I always like to tell the story about that last campaign, you know after you’ve served 10 years, you’re running the sixth time for office, you’ve been on television, name has been in the newspapers, you assume everybody knows who you are, but you never wanted to take a vote for granted. And my last campaign, I always remember walking down the street in a small town, wanting to shake all the hands of the folks there. I walk up to one old cowboy with a cowboy hat pulled down over his eyes, and reached out and grabbed him by the hand, said, hi, I’m Dick Cheney. I’m running for Congress. I’d like your vote.

He said, you got it; that fool we got in there now is no damn good.

I understand that here in Australia, you also have a place called Wyoming a little north of here, and I’ll bet they know how to keep their politicians humble, too.

Your country and mine are filled with people who speak plainly and honestly. And surely that’s one of the reasons we’re natural friends. When Americans think of Australia, we think of a place with a pioneering spirit much like our own. We think of a country that shares our founding commitments to liberty and to equality, and to our traditions of justice and tolerance. We think, above all, of the character of the Australian people – self-reliant, practical, and good-hearted. President Ronald Reagan stated the case very well. He said, Australia and America “see the world from similar perspectives, though no two countries could be more opposite on the ends of the globe… we were born in the same era, sprang from the same stock, and live for the same ideals. Australia and America share an affinity that reaches to our souls.”

Over time, that deep affinity has grown into a great alliance. Together we’ve confronted common dangers. We’ve given generously to the relief of suffering from famine, disease, and natural disaster. We’ve defended democratic ideals; worked for regional stability and security; and added to the prosperity for both our countries. Yet the United States and Australia do not take each other for granted.

This alliance is strong because we want it to be, and because we work at it, and because we respect each other as equals. That’s the spirit of the Australian-American Leadership Dialogue – and I thank the men and women of this organization for your tremendous contributions to the good of our alliance.

In this year 2007, our two countries are enjoying wealth and prosperity on an unprecedented scale. This did not come about by chance. It results from the energy and effort of millions – and from common sense, pro-growth policies on the parts of our governments. By rewarding enterprise and encouraging risk-takers, we have turned loose the productive genius of our peoples. And they have responded with new inventions, more small businesses, and many new jobs. Americans and Australians believe in free enterprise because we have seen its good effect on our own countries, and on our own lives. And we’ve shown a watching world that the best way to ensure long-term prosperity is to preserve individual freedom.

Our two countries provide another kind of example, as well. In the words of Prime Minister Howard, we have “demonstrated to the world that values based on freedom and individual liberty in the end win acceptance. But they only win acceptance if behind the commitment is a determination . . . to defend those values, if necessary fight for them, and always to be ready to repel those who would seek to take those freedoms away.”

John Howard spoke those words on September 10th, 2001, on a visit to the city of Washington. He stuck to those words one day later – and he has stuck to them every day since. Prime Minister Howard and the nation he serves have never wavered in the war on terror. The United States appreciates it – and the whole world respects you for it.

The business of our alliance goes forward, and it begins with the fundamental duty to protect our people from danger. Having stood together in every major conflict of the last 100 years, the U.S. and Australia now stand together in the decisive struggle against terrorism.

We’ve learned many lessons since September 11th, 2001. We have learned that threats can gather across oceans and continents and find us at home. The notion that free countries can turn our backs on what happens in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, or any other possible safe haven for terrorists is an option that we simply cannot indulge.

The evil that appeared on 9/11 has returned many times since. And we have learned that terrorist attacks – whether in New York, or London, or Madrid, or Casablanca, or Jakarta, or Bali – are not merely criminal acts by tiny bands of men. Instead, they represent a movement that is global in scope, that formed over a period of decades, and that is determined to sow chaos and destruction within civilized countries.

We have learned the nature of the enemy’s beliefs, and the extent of his ambitions. The terrorists have adopted the pretense of an aggrieved party, claiming to speak for the powerless against modern imperialists. The fact is they’re at war with practically every liberal ideal – and in their vision, everyone would be powerless except them. Their ideology rejects tolerance and denies freedom of conscience. They would condemn women to servitude, gays to death, minority religions to persecution. An ideology so violent, so hateful, can take hold only by force or intimidation, and so those who refuse to bow to the tyrants face brutalization or murder – and no person or group, not even fellow Muslims, is exempt.

And it is they, the terrorists, who have ambitions of empire. Their goal in the broader Middle East is to seize control of a country, so they have a base from which they can launch attacks against governments that refuse to meet their demands. Their ultimate aim – and one they boldly proclaim – is to establish a caliphate covering a region from Spain, across North Africa, through the Middle East and South Asia, all the way to Indonesia. And it wouldn’t stop there.

Their creed is narrow and backward-looking – yet their methods are modern and sophisticated. The terrorists use the Internet to spread propaganda and to find new recruits, and they’re employing every other tool of communication and finance to carry out their plans. They have proclaimed, as well, the goal of arming themselves with chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons. So armed, they would attempt to impose their will by mass murder and blackmail – and no argument, no principle of moral law, and no appeal to reason or mercy could be expected to stop them.

Nor, indeed, does self-preservation even concern them. The terrorists value death in the same way you and I value life. Civilized, decent societies will never fully understand the kind of mind set that drives men to strap on bombs, or fly airplanes into buildings – all for the purpose of killing unsuspecting men, women, and children who they have never met, and who have done them no wrong. But that is the very kind of blind, prideful hatred we’re up against.

As Prime Minister Tony Blair has pointed out, these enemies believe they have two paramount strategic advantages: terror and time. They believe we lack the resolve and the courage for a long struggle. And they are absolutely convinced that with enough acts of horror, they can wear us down, force us to change our policies, and get us to abandon our interests in the world. Because free societies are open and tolerant, because we respect every life and mourn every loss, the terrorists have concluded that we are decadent in spirit, weak in character, and conquerable.

We’ve never had a fight like this, and it’s not a fight we can win using the strategies from other wars. An enemy that operates in the shadows, and views the entire world as a battlefield, is not one that can be contained or deterred. An enemy with fantasies of martyrdom is not going to sit down at a table for peaceful negotiations. The only option for our security and survival is to go on the offensive – face the threat directly, patiently, and systematically, until the enemy is destroyed.

The war on terror is more than a contest of arms, and more than a test of will. It is a battle of ideas. We now know to a certainty that when people across the Middle East are denied all freedom, and left to the mercy of fanatical tyrants and false prophets, that is a direct strategic concern of free nations everywhere. By taking the side of moderates, reformers, and advocates for democracy; by providing an alternative to hateful ideologies; we improve the chances for a lasting peace, and we advance our own security interests.

In the last two years, we have seen hopeful changes, as men and women showed their desire to live in freedom. And we have seen the enemy’s fierce reaction. In 2005, the people of Lebanon proclaimed their Cedar Revolution and chose new leaders. That same year, the people of Afghanistan elected a parliament. And in Iraq, citizens voted in three national elections – turning out in the millions, defying killers and car-bombers, and electing a government that serves under the most progressive constitution in the Arab world.

In 2006, freedom’s enemies struck back with new tactics and greater fury. In Lebanon, terrorists sowed regional conflict and worked to undermine that country’s government. In Afghanistan, Taliban and al Qaeda fighters waged new offensives against Afghan and NATO forces. In Iraq, Sunni and Shia extremists engaged in an escalating sectarian struggle that continues to this day.

Free nations must face up to all of these challenges with realism, and with resolve – and we are doing so. In Iraq our goal remains a democratic nation that upholds the rule of law, respects the rights of its people, provides them with security, and is an ally in the war on terror. But for this to happen, Baghdad must be secured. So we’re pursuing a new strategy that brings in reinforcements to help Iraqi forces secure the capital, so that nation can move forward and the political process can turn toward reconciliation.

We are determined to prevail in Iraq because we understand the consequences of failure. If our coalition withdrew before Iraqis could defend themselves, radical factions would battle for dominance of the country. The violence would likely spread throughout the country, and be difficult to contain. Having tasted victory in Iraq, jihadists would look for new missions. Many would head for Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban. Others would set out for capitals across the Middle East, spreading more sorrow and discord as they eliminate dissenters and work to undermine moderate governments. Still others would find their targets and victims in other countries on other continents. Such chaos and mounting danger does not have to occur. It is, however, the enemy’s objective. And for the sake of our own long-term security, we have a duty to stand in their way.

There is still a great deal of work to be done – not just in Iraq, but in Afghanistan and other fronts in the war on terror. And very fortunately, ladies and gentlemen, the nations of our coalition are defended by some of the bravest men and women our societies have ever produced. From my own experiences as Vice President, and previously as Secretary of Defense, I have only grown in admiration for the skill and the toughness of the Australian Defense Force. From engineers to SAS, from aircrew to logisticians, from infantry to armor, mechanics to medics – Australian Defense personnel are not afraid of work that is difficult, pressing, and often dangerous. And they have a right – of getting the job done right.

Later today I’m going to meet with some members of the Australian military. My purpose is simply to thank them and their comrades for extraordinary service in a time of testing. Americans know that for this country, “standing by your mate when he’s in a fight” are more than words in a song, and they signify a way of life. Having Australia’s friendship makes my country very grateful and very proud.

As leading democracies, Australia and the United States feel a deep sense of responsibility for security and peace in our world. The cooperation between our governments has risen to a new level, with stronger ties of defense and counterterrorism, and much broader cooperation on intelligence and information sharing. We’re working closely on the Joint Strike Fighter and on Ballistic Missile Defense. Together with other nations, we founded the Proliferation Security Initiative, with the urgent business of keeping nuclear technology out of irresponsible hands.

To this end, the six-party process has produced agreement on specific actions that will bring us closer to a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons. We go into this deal with our eyes open. In light of North Korea’s missile tests last July, its nuclear test in October, and its record of proliferation and human rights abuses, the regime in Pyongyang has much to prove. Yet this agreement represents a first hopeful step towards a better future for the North Korean people.

China has played an especially important role in the six-party process, because the Chinese understand that a nuclear North Korea would be a threat to their own security. We hope China will join us in our efforts to prevent the deployment and the proliferation of deadly technologies, whether in Asia or in the Middle East. Other actions by the Chinese government send a different message.

Last month’s anti-satellite test, and China’s continued fast-paced military buildup are less constructive and are not consistent with China’s stated goal of a “peaceful rise.” For our part, the United States and Australia have the same hopes for the future of China – that its people will enjoy greater freedom and prosperity; that its government will be a force for stability and peace in this region.

In this neighborhood of the globe, millions look to our countries to promote security, economic progress, and democratic ideals. As President Bush said when he spoke to your Parliament, America will continue a forward presence in Asia, and continue our close partnership with Australia. And we’ll help to build a better world through our strong and continuing friendship with Japan.

Earlier this week in Tokyo, Prime Minister Abe and I reaffirmed the commitment of both our nations to the trilateral security structure with Australia. I hope Prime Minister Howard feels the same way, and will underscore that commitment on his visit to Japan next month. The growing closeness among our three countries sends an unmistakable message – that we are united in the cause of peace and freedom across the region.

Success for our countries, and for our principles, depends on our willingness to act where action is required. Australia has shown that willingness throughout this area. You’ve provided military and civilian authorities to help maintain peace and stability in East Timor, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea. Your government has provided critical leadership on counterterrorism in Indonesia, the Philippines and other lands. And Australia’s contribution to security and good governance in the Pacific island countries is principled; it’s effective and it’s indispensable.

Australia has been equally effective in promoting free market values. The free-trade agreement between our countries, now in its third year, is creating jobs on both sides – and it’s a model of the kind of integration that can lift up economies across the region and beyond. Australian leadership brought about the first gathering of APEC nations nearly two decades ago. The APEC Summit returns here this year, and I know President Bush looks forward to the journey. Every step we take to promote economic development and free market ideals will add not just to our prosperity, but to the safety of the environment, and the health of our world, and to the long-term security of us all.

Vigorous, growing economies generate the technologies and the means to fight hunger and disease, and to provide better stewardship of the land and the life around us. Vigorous, growing economies offer upward mobility, and give people the hope of a better life for themselves and for their children. And everywhere those hopes are realized, men and women will turn their creative gifts to the pursuit of peace, and ideologies of resentment and violence will lose their appeal.

Ladies and gentlemen, our two countries have great objectives before us, and our alliance is as important now as it has ever been. One of America’s great historians, David McCullough, has noted that “among the most difficult and important concepts to convey in teaching or writing history is the simple fact that things never had to turn out as they did. Events past were never on a track. Nothing was foreordained any more then than now.”

Whether in Battle of Hamel in 1918, or 65 years ago in the Coral Sea, Americans and Australians were not mere witnesses to the unfolding of events. They were acting – bravely, decisively, and together – to turn events toward victory. And so much of the life we know today is a credit to the decisions and the actions of those who came before.

Our generation, here and now, is also writing history. Present events are not on a track. In the war on terror, one side will win and the other will lose. Civilization will continue its upward course, or go in a different direction.

It can be sobering to take stock of all the serious work that needs doing; to realize all the duties that fall to us in a perilous time. Yet it’s no reason to be afraid. Rather, it’s a reason to be confident. We are not hostages to fortune. Our forbears were not the sort to be intimidated, or worn down by adversaries – and neither are we. Today, as before, Australians and Americans are people of determination, of moral courage, and decency. We are strong countries that have sacrificed greatly for peace and freedom at home and on distant shores. Our purposes in this world are good and right.

So we have made our decision. Once again, we choose to face challenges squarely. And once again, we go forward – as allies, as comrades-in-arms, and, above all, as friends.

Thank you.

  • Source: http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/02/20070223.html

US House of Representatives Passes Resolution Opposing Iraq Surge

After several days of debate, the US House of Representatives has passed a non-binding resolution expressing disapproval of President Bush’s Iraq “surge”.

The resolution was passed by 246 votes to 182, with 17 Republicans joining with the Democrats and 2 Democrats voting against.

The resolution expresses support for members of the armed forces but opposes the January 10 announcement by Bush of a “surge” of 20,000 additional combat troops.

The resolution will be voted on in the Senate tomorrow.

This is the text of the concurrent resolution passed by the US House of Representatives.

Disapproving of the decision of the President announced on January 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq.

Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That—

(1) Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect the members of the United States Armed Forces who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq; and

(2) Congress disapproves of the decision of President George W. Bush announced on January 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq.


Australia To Accept New American Military Base At Geraldton

The Federal Government has agreed to host a ground station for a US strategic and military satellite communications system in Geraldton, Western Australia.

The announcement was made by the Minister for Defence, Brendan Nelson. The government used today’s Question Time in the House of Representatives attack the ALP over its attitude to the US alliance, particularly that of Peter Garrett. Nelson quoted from lyrics from Midnight Oil songs and other writings by Garrett.

This is the text of a media release from the Minister for Defence, Brendan Nelson.

AUSTRALIA-US JOINT COMMUNICATIONS FACILITY TO BE HOSTED AT GERALDTON

The Government has agreed to host a ground station for a US strategic and military satellite communications system at the Australian Defence Satellite Communication Station (ADSCS) located at Geraldton in Western Australia. The new ground station will be sited within the grounds of ADSCS but will be unrelated to the existing activities of ADSCS which will remain under separate Australian control.

The ground station will form part of the Mobile User Objective System (MUOS). MUOS, in simple terms, will be a satellite-based mobile phone network. MUOS will support US and Australian users, including deployed forces. The ground station at Geraldton will comprise three small buildings housing the electronic infrastructure, power and spares, three 18 metre satellite dishes and two smaller antenna covering an area of approximately 12,000 square metres or less than the size of two and a half rugby fields. Once complete, it will be unmanned requiring only call-out contractor maintenance support.

It will be a joint Australia – US ground station, it will not be a US military base. The facility will be hosted as all other Australian-US joint facilities – on the basis of our full knowledge and concurrence.

Final details are expected to be agreed soon between the US and Australian Defence Departments.

Other joint facilities already hosted by Australia are the Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap and the Joint Geological and Geophysical Research Station and in addition, the US has access to the Naval Communication Station Harold E Holt.

BACKGROUND:

JOINT DEFENCE FACILITY PINE GAP

The Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap is a satellite ground station whose function is to collect intelligence data which supports the national security of both Australia and the United States. Intelligence collected at Pine Gap contributes importantly to the verification of arms control and disarmament agreements.

NAVAL COMMUNICATIONS STATION HAROLD E HOLT

Harold E Holt is a radio relay station, passing messages between Australia and US command centres and their respective ships and submarines in the Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific. It became a joint facility in 1974 and since May 1999 it has operated as an Australian facility to which the US has full access.

JOINT GEOLOGICAL AND GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH STATION

The Joint Geological and Geophysical Research Station is a seismic monitoring station originally established to monitor nuclear explosions during the Cold War. It still does monitor such explosions as part of the International Monitoring System (IMS) of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). It also monitors earthquakes. It is jointly operated by Geoscience Australia and the US Air Force.


U.S. Ambassador Hasn’t Read ANZUS Treaty

The United States Ambassador to Australia, Robert McCallum, has admitted he has not read the ANZUS Treaty.

Robert McCallumIn a wide-ranging address to the National Press Club in Canberra, McCallum was asked about Article 4 of the treaty which states that “each Party recognizes that an armed attack in the Pacific Area on any of the Parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional processes.”

Asked what the US constitutional process would be to invoke the ANZUS Treaty, particularly if there were a conflict between the President and the Congress, McCallum reminded his audience that he was a lawyer with 30 years experience and said:

“The answer is I don’t know. I have never read the Treaty. I have not done the Constitutional analysis and I would imagine that there would be a vast difference of opinions among academics and practising lawyers and politicians as to what might be required, so I’m not able to give you a good answer on that.”

Prime Minister John Howard invoked the ANZUS Treaty on September 14, 2001, following the September 11 terrorist attacks on the US.

McCallum has been the US Ambassador since August 2006. The post was vacant for 18 months following the departure of Tom Scheiffer.

  • Listen to Ambassador Robert McCallum’s National Press Club Address:

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  • Full Text of ANZUS Treaty

This is the transcript of the Address to the National Press Club by the US Ambassador, Robert McCallum Jr.

Ken Randall (Chair): Ladies and Gentlemen welcome to the National Press Club and today’s National Australia Bank Address. It’s a great pleasure to welcome the American Ambassador Robert McCallum and his wife, Mimi.

As you’ve just heard, Ambassador McCallum was the third ranking officer in the Department of Justice before this appointment and was twenty-eight years in private sector legal practice and he’s also been – he attended Yale at the same time as George Bush Jr and was a Rhodes Scholar with a Degree from Oxford as well and at both Oxford and Yale he was a very keen sportsman, although he insists now that he’s retired to spectator status. This, this appearance today has been sometime in the making but it could hardly be more topical I suppose this week. Our relations with the United States have been on the forefront of our news for the last several days and it’s a very appropriate time to welcome Ambassador Robert McCallum.

McCallum:

Thank you Ken. I’d like to acknowledge obviously the – Ken Randall for the warm hospitality, Members of the Board, Members of the Fourth Estate I will call it, Distinguished guests, and Australians around the country.

It’s my real pleasure to be here today and I very much appreciate the opportunity to continue to broaden my interaction with members of the Australian media and to communicate directly to Australians across the Commonwealth.

As the British writer Anthony Sampson once said: “In America, journalism is apt to be regarded as an extension of history and in Britain, as an extension of a conversation.” As a new arrival to Australia, it was suggested to me to consider journalism in Australia as an extension of Aussie Rules football. It’s a contact sport without pads, there’s no offside rule, you’re likely to be poked in the nose during the course of a match, and a good story or a good scoop like a great mark is highly prized.

With that in mind, I’d like to set the right tone for this discussion before we have the opening bounce if you will and put the ball in play by wishing all of the journalists here Happy Valentine’s Day.

It’s not my intention though to spread love among the journalists and the media here. My real intention is to remind all of those blokes like me who have forgotten Valentine’s Day. It’s not too late to pretend that you remembered. Rush out and buy a present and never let it be said that the United States Ambassador was not doing all that he could to promote domestic tranquility in the Commonwealth of Australia.

I also want to remind all of you that I’m doing my utmost to support commercial and business activities in Australia so florists, candy merchants and jewellers, be aware. And that decent but forgetful bloke who heeds this reminder should remember one thing out of all of my comments, you owe me.

In fact, who knows – as they say in America he might just get lucky later today. And if so, you owe me big time.

Now the President told me that I – when I came to Australia, I needed to do my utmost to support relations within the Commonwealth but I’m not sure this is exactly what he had in mind.

In all seriousness though, I want to say that I do have great respect for the media even though I may not always like what is said or written about me or my country. I am impressed in Australia by the variety of the analysis and opinions expressed in the media on significant issues of the day. It seems like nobody agrees with anybody else. The media clearly intends to be independent, provocative, controversial which results in a robust and spirited public debate on the issues of the day. And that’s a good and healthy thing in a democracy. It’s a concept that Americans embrace. The style may be different here, but the function and substance is the same.

I’ve heard it said that journalists are more attentive to the minute hand of history than they are to the hour hand. That journalists must be responsive to those daily deadlines rather than to some broader annual calendar. And this is understandable to me. Given the focus on immediate events of the day, now even immediate events of the hour because it’s not limited to journalists. It fact it’s the focus that we all share in this technological age of instantaneous communications around the globe.

We, as societies, in your nation and mine, demand immediate information and the availability of such information no doubt influences the opinions of our citizens and the actions of our governments in both our nations in many different beneficial ways. In the free market place of ideas which is democracy. Accurate and timely information is critical to be accountable and responsible for the decisions made.

However, I confess to you that I worry about an excessive emphasis on the events of the day, that they may sometimes obscure the longer term perspective, a broader perspective. I worry that journalists, government officials, and citizens in general, in our two democratic societies, are sometimes at risk of not seeing the forest for the trees. Some might even say, not seeing the forest because of our focus on individual leaves in particular trees.

What I’d like to do today is to add to the public debate within Australia on some important issues affecting the national interests of our two countries by suggesting a long term analysis and view of policies and goals. These issues arise in the context of extremely positive changes generated by economic globalization and that has occurred over the past decade or so. We are presented with great opportunities but those opportunities are threatened by the contrasting, disruptive impact of international terrorism and transnational crime. We exist in an international environment that has great potential for peace, increased stability, increased prosperity because of globalization. But it’s also one that is fraught with the risk of domestic turmoil, economic dislocation, random, ruthless, indiscriminate violence against innocence that is the ultimate hallmark of terrorism. Our globally interconnected economic, political, financial, and energy systems have brought increased prosperity to many and can do so for many more in the future.

But that interdependence also guarantees that no country is immune from the consequences of terrorism ’cause terrorist attacks can have significant impact far beyond the geographic location directly affected.

On the other hand, the development of responsive governmental institutions in a free market economy can provide the hope and opportunity which can effectively eliminate one source of the dissatisfaction manipulated by proponents of extremism and thus provide an antidote to the poisonous ideology of terrorism. Let me start from an historical perspective since history affects the way both our nations view the world and informs our decision making processes. Our two countries share an abiding faith in the democratic process including importantly an independent press and media and in the free enterprise system. And that combination allows citizens to require governmental institutions to be accountable and responsive to the needs of people and allows individuals to seize control of their own destiny, to develop their talents and abilities to the fullest, and to seek a better life for themselves and for their children.

Looking back over our common histories with long term perspective – that faith in democracy and free enterprise is validated.

With the sixty-fifth anniversary of the bombing of Darwin next week, I’m reminded that Australia and the United States made great sacrifices in World War II to defeat fascism, and, after winning the war, made additional sacrifices to win the peace through aid to Japan and Germany which supported – that aid supported – new democratic governments and free enterprise economies.

The United States, Australia, and other democracies spear-headed the post-war creation of new international organizations – the World Bank, the IMF, the GATT, now the WTO, critical organizations that became the intellectual and institutional architecture for a more open international market-based system which has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty around the world and served as the foundation for the global economy that benefits us all in reality today.

I’m also reminded that our two nations faced dark days in the 1950s as we dealt with the invasion of South Korea by communist forces. Both our nations experienced domestic controversy about sending troops into the Korean peninsula. However, democracy and a free enterprise system was preserved in South Korea at considerable sacrifice by both our nations, and the result fifty years later is a strong and prosperous ally and friend, whose Foreign Minister has been selected to become the next Secretary General of the United Nations. When one compares the prosperity and freedom enjoyed in South Korea against the deprivation and hardship experienced by those to the north, one can easily understand our shared faith in democratic institutions and free enterprise.

I submit to you that it is in the national interest of both Australia and the United States to promote the creation of stable, democratic governments that generate greater prosperity for their own citizens through the development of more efficient and open markets. Let me describe to you just a few ways in which the United States and Australia are working together to accomplish that.

In the bilateral context, the U.S. and Australia are vigorously implementing the Free Trade Agreement. The Free Trade Agreement presents tremendous potential for both the United States and Australia in terms of increased trade, better and less expensive goods and services for both of our nation’s consumers. It also affords the potential for increased economic activity in the entire region, and there are direct and indirect beneficial consequences of that for other nations in East Asia and the Pacific Islands region.

In the multilateral context, the U.S. and Australia work side-by-side in APEC and the WTO seeking ambitious outcomes that further a common goal of making the international market place a more open, level playing field for commercial activity. APEC is the critically important forum for regional economic cooperation as APEC’s twenty-one members span four continents and represent 60% of the global GDP and roughly 50% of world trade. President Bush and Secretary Condoleeza Rice have made clear in the recent Leaders’ Summit in Hanoi that APEC remains the pre-eminent channel for U.S. economic engagement in this region. In every meeting, in public event, they stressed that the U.S. vision for APEC transcends customary co-operation and looks to the emergence of a true Asia-Pacific Economic Community, spanning the public sphere, the private sector, NGOs, academia, and civil society. They also proposed that APEC should be in the forefront of regional economic integration and begin serious consideration of a Free Trade Agreement – Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific as a long term goal. Importantly, the Leaders formally endorsed that proposal.

Australia has already kicked off its year of leading APEC with a highly successful series of senior official meetings in Canberra last month, and, in the coming year, the United States will work under Australia’s leadership with other APEC members to develop concrete initiatives to advance these goals.

On the WTO DOHA Development Round, the APEC Leaders also issued a strong stand-alone statement urging APEC members and others to renew efforts to complete negotiations. One of the strongest passages in a pointed, one-page document was this: “We are ready to break the current deadlock: each of us is committed to moving beyond our current position in key areas of the Round.”

Make no mistake about it, the DOHA Development Agenda remains the U.S. number one trade priority and the United States Trade Representative Susan Schwab and the Australian Trade Minister Warren Truss have been working to keep the WTO talks alive. They most recently held talks in Davos and in Washington, and the United States still holds out hope that their efforts and the efforts of others will result in an ambitious outcome of increased market access and reductions in subsidies.

Like Australia, the United States recognizes its responsibility to assist emerging democracies and developing countries. The United States has been and remains the largest single country donor of foreign aid. Our official development assistance nearly tripled from 10 Billion dollars in 2000 to 27.5 Billion dollars in 2005. Of that, 10%, or 2.7 Billion dollars went to combat HIV/AIDS pandemics that are decimating populations in Africa, the Asia/Pacific region, and the Caribbean. Around the world, the United States provides food, medical care, education, and disaster relief to millions of people. Our development assistance program is an essential element of our policy to support and promote effective government and free enterprise. Economic development, responsible governance, domestic stability, and individual liberty are inter-related.

Moreover, we coordinate these efforts with Australia and like-minded countries to ensure that our mutual goals are achieved in an effective manner. A perfect example of this was President Bush’s rapid decision, following consultations with Australia, to commit a Billion US Dollars for reconstruction and development following the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami, supplementing Australia’s leadership contribution of 1 Billion Australian dollars.

Terrorism though, presents a grave threat to the positive development potential afforded by these activities and the global economy. It presents significant, ongoing national security risks not only to Australia and the United States, but also to emerging democracies and developing countries in this region. The U.S. policy to combat and defeat terrorism is well defined and it’s well-known to all of you journalists. Iraq is the central front of the global war on terror, and the challenges and difficulties encountered in Iraq have provoked heated political debates on the policy, both in the U.S. and here in Australia.

A vigorous debate on this Administration’s policies is to be expected because the issues are critical to both nations. There is no easy, immediate solution to complex problems presented in Iraq, to complex problems presented in the war on terror. All the proposals addressing these issues involve significant challenges, and the consequences of all of them must be considered over the extended time horizon that I mentioned at the outset of my speech. All have potential adverse consequences because the future is never clear. We don’t have the opportunity as we do with German, Japan and Korea to look back fifty years.

However, there appears to be three factors on which there is a general consensus about Iraq. First, the vast majority of the Iraqi people desire peace, security, individual rights and liberties, and an opportunity to determine their own destiny. We all remember the millions of Iraqis who gave witness to these aspirations by voting in repeated elections over the past several years, despite the very real threat of terrorist violence. Risking their lives, both at the polls and possibly later in retribution for having voted at all, Iraqis turned out in astounding numbers. There is no mandatory voting so familiar in Australia, and yet the Iraqis proudly displayed their blue thumbs and fingers showing their courageous exercise of the right to vote in the selection of leaders for their new government.

Second, it is an undeniable fact that the duly elected government of Iraq has largely been unable to achieve its goals of domestic stability and tranquility. Although the government is trying to deliver peace and freedom to its citizens, terrorists – inspired and assisted by the forces of al-Qaeda – are trying to destroy the elected government of Iraq and, through the fomenting and manipulation of sectarian conflict, to destroy the willingness of Iraqis to work together in a democratic system.

Third, even those who propose the withdrawal of U.S. troops concede that, if the United States and other coalition partners were to leave Iraq before the Iraqi government is capable of defending its people and providing for its own domestic security, the consequences to the Iraqi people would be dire. The current sectarian violence would likely turn into a bloodbath with increased retaliatory carnage and loss of life on all sides. Additional adverse consequences outside Iraq, including the Asia/Pacific Island region, would also have to be considered.

Given those facts, the U.S. and our coalition partners remain committed to helping Iraq realize the goal of freedom, peace and prosperity for its citizens.

President Bush’s new ‘surge’ strategy has three elements to it and General Peter Pace, the Chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, was here in Canberra this week to discuss this strategy with Air Chief Marshall Angus Huston with the Defence Minister Nelson and with Prime Minister Howard. First, a temporary U.S. troop increase will assist the Iraqi government in stabilizing the situation in Baghdad which is the locus of the most violence. The reduction in the sectarian violence between Sunni and Shiites will require disarming violent extremists in both communities and establishing a presence to secure those neighborhoods.

Second, the Iraqi government has committed to assume greater responsibility for its own security and government services and has agreed to perform certain defined benchmarks within a given time frame. The Iraqi government is on schedule to meet these benchmarks.

Third, the Iraqi government has committed to spend 10 Billion dollars in economic investment programs to revitalize the Iraqi economy. These programs will provide jobs and rebuild needed infrastructure.

All three elements are necessary for the long term stability of the Iraqi nation. There is no cookiecutter format for democratic government. The development of democratic institutions is a dynamic and continuing process, and it depends upon the creation of confidence within the society in individual rights, the rule of law, the integrity of government officials, the freedom of speech, the independence of the media, and domestic stability and security. Democracy cannot be imposed. Citizens of conviction must choose it.

The global war on terror is not limited to Iraq. Having denied terrorists a safe haven in Afghanistan, the U.S. is determined to prevent al-Qaeda and associated forces from re-establishing safe havens elsewhere. As part of that effort, the United States has detained numerous captured al-Qaeda fighters at Guantanamo Bay, and the designation and detention of those illegal enemy combatants has provoked great controversy and debate in the United States and in Australia. In Australia, the debate has focused on the case of David Hicks who’s been designated as an enemy combatant and detained at Guantanamo Bay for five years awaiting trial before a military commission for alleged war crimes.

There are numerous issues that have been raised in the media with regard to Mr Hicks and given time constraints, I would like to address in my remarks the issue which appears from the media coverage to be the one of greatest interest to Australians. However, I look forward to discussing all other issues that you might have on your mind during the question period following these remarks and I will stay there after as well if we run out of time there.

I’ve also brought with me copies of an opinion piece which I submitted to both The Age and The Australian last November on detainee issues in general. In it, I provide a more detailed analysis of various issues concerning the U.S. treatment of detainees. Those present can take a hard copy with them when they leave the premises. I believe that The Age has also posted it on their website so those who are not present here in Canberra who may be listening to my remarks can access it if they are interested in doing so.

The issue which appears to me to be of the greatest interest to Australians is why has a trial on these alleged war crimes been delayed for so long?

Australians are understandably angry at the delay. Australians believe, as Americans believe, that an accused should have a fair go through a trial under the rule of law.

And the Australian government is also angry at the delay. The Attorney General, the Foreign Minister, and the Prime Minister have all been in regular contact over the past several years with officials at the United States Department of Justice, at the Department of State, and at the White House expressing in no uncertain terms Australia’s demand that Mr Hicks be brought to trial as expeditiously as possible.

The United States understands and shares this dismay at the lengthy delay. But the U.S. has not sought the delay. The reasons for the delay is the opportunity afforded detainees under the United States rule of law to challenge before an independent civilian Federal Judiciary the very process of their adjudication. Various enemy combatants have exercised that important right. As the appellate courts considered these issues, the trials were stayed by court order pending outcome of the appeal. The United States Congress then responded to the court decision by enacting new legislation to address the legal deficiencies found by the Supreme Court. The resolution of novel and important issues before U.S. appellate courts and through Congressional action admittedly takes time. But it is time well invested for the rule of law in clarifying a specific body of law in controversial areas such as war crimes.

We should all remember that the U.S. provided, at government expense, for the counsel for the detainees and private counsel can and did also participate in the challenge process and the appeals.

There are, of course, numerous volunteer lawyers from American Bar groups who also provide free representation to detainees. Since John Adams’ represented the British soldiers who fired on colonial protesters on the Boston Green before the American Revolution, history has shown that American lawyers take seriously their responsibility to be zealous advocates for controversial clients.

And I believe that no one in Australia can claim that Mr Hicks has not been represented by zealous advocates. Given the different results reached in closely divided opinions in the United States Supreme Court and in the Circuit Courts of Appeal terrorist cases, counsel for detainees have pursued every possible defense, procedural or factual, that imaginative and talented lawyers can devise. And certainly they should have done so because that is their responsibility and obligation to their client. Issues relating to the designation, processing, treatment and trial of detainees intersect at the very crossroads of individual rights and national security, and, in America, these issues have been, are being, and will continue to be addressed by our independent Federal Judiciary as they should be in a free, democratic society that is committed to the rule of law. It is that pedigree of process, if I can call it that, with multiple judges passing upon the complex issues of the day in our appellate courts in the United States which results in the American people accepting the ultimate decision as the law of the land and complying with it. Some assert that the United States has abandoned the rule of law in this area. But rather than abandoning the rule of law, I submit to you that America is embracing the rule of law in the midst of war as no nation in history has ever done.

We Americans certainly do not agree always among ourselves on what is the ‘right’ decision, but we always recognize the legitimacy of whatever the decision may be at the end of the process. It’s one of the enduring strengths of our system of government, checks and balances, and it’s one of our enduring strengths of our people, even if it results in significant delay in the outcome of any particular case.

We’re living in challenging times. Australia and the United States are presented with remarkable opportunities to affect the entire region in a positive way based upon the burgeoning global economy. It’s a potential which could hardly have been imagined decades ago. At the same time, both our nations face continuing, serious threats from international terrorism which will not disappear without action on our part. It’s therefore distresses me when I read surveys like the January BBC/Age poll indicating a view that the United States has a negative impact on world affairs. I suggest to you that such a perception reflects a profound misunderstanding of United States’ goals and the policies that are designed to reach them. The U.S. is in fact attempting to use its influence and its resources to promote global prosperity and stability and to encourage other responsible nations to do the same. No single country has the capability to succeed in that effort on its own. The United States must work together with other nations, particularly with one of its closest allies – Australia.

The relationship between our nations is stronger, broader, and deeper than ever. At times, we have and we will in the future have disagreements and conflicting opinions. Yet, our shared devotion to democratic principles and ideals unites us and together we can bring hope and opportunity not only to Australians and Americans but also to so many others in the world. For that reason, I am honored and privileged to be the United States’ representative here in Australia.

Thanks for allowing me to share some thoughts with you and I’ll be happy to answer any questions that you might have.

Chair:

Thank you very much Ambassador. As you indicated, it is time for questions. The first one today is from Cynthia Banham.

Question:

Ambassador, Cynthia Banham from The Sydney Morning Herald. Do you think that the relationship between Australia and America is so close today that it is okay for an Australian leader to make an intervention into domestic political issues in the U.S., namely a Presidential election? Or do you think there are limits on the interventions that foreign politicians can make on domestic U.S. issues? Thank you.

McCallum:

You will note that that issue was conspicuously absent in my remarks, no doubt. The – what you are requesting me to do is what you are raising as an issue and that is for me to engage myself in the domestic political issues that relate to Australia and the internal debate within Australia. So it would – I remember coming over here to Australia and reading about criticisms of Ambassador Schaeffer being engaged in what was conceived to be interference in the Australian internal political system. So I will politely, although I’m a recovering lawyer, I have had now four months of diplomatic training and I, I will politely decline to make any comment related to it. [Applause]

Chair:

Peter Hartcher.

Question:

Well Mr Ambassador, I, I don’t know what your diplomatic training would have taught you on this particular point, but just to follow up on my colleague’s question. As recently as the APEC meeting in Hanoi, your Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said that the Australian Labor Party policy in Iraq was irresponsible. Is that a position that you would agree with or would you disassociate yourself from that? And if I may also ask you a question about what you have called the hour hand of history, the ANZUS Treaty. The ANZUS Treaty is being invoked by Australia after the September 11 attack, never been invoked by the U.S. Can I ask you a question about your understanding of the operative clause, clause 4 which says that the countries, the parties to the Treaty would meet the common danger in accordance with their Constitutional processes. What would the Constitutional processes be for the U.S. to invoke the ANZUS Treaty? In particular, if there were a conflict between the Executive Branch and the Congress?

McCallum:

Right. Two questions, Peter. I don’t know whether the Chairman will allow you two questions but I’ll try and answer them both if I can. Number one, with respect to Secretary Rice’s comment. I have not seen that comment. What I have seen was Secretary Rice defining United States’ policy. Policy that’s well known to you. The United States’ policy is that the coalition of the willing and the United States being one of those, should do their utmost to assist the democratically elected government of Iraq in positioning itself and building its capacity to provide for its own domestic tranquility and stability. Now, in relation to that as I have seen the quotation, she was asked well – you know – how does the United States then view the removal of troops from that? And her response was well we obviously are grateful to those members of the coalition of the willing who have troops there. And then I found the headline the next day of Ambassador blasts Labor policy. She was not interfering in domestic politics. She was not commenting on a policy of any party as I understood it and as I have seen it, any party that was engaged in their own political debate internally. She was talking about what U.S. policy is. And I think that that was entirely appropriate. The news media tends to puts its interpretation into its own internal political process and that was not, as I understand it, the Secretary of State making any comment on internal political debate in any country, including Australia.

Second question is the ANZUS Treaty and the Constitutional analysis that I, as a lawyer from thirty years ought to be able to give you, the answer is I don’t know. I have never read the Treaty. I have not done the Constitutional analysis and I would imagine that there would be a vast difference of opinions among academics and practising lawyers and politicians as to what might be required, so I’m not able to give you a good answer on that.

Chair:

Roger Hausman.

Question:

Your Excellency, I’d like to congratulate you on your succinct views on Australian football codes and to bring the discussion…>

McCallum:

But the terrible thing was that just as I began to understand it, the season ended and I had to start learning cricket.

Chair:

They’ll both be going next week.

McCallum:

Yes, shall we talk about fifty overs and…?

Question cont’d:

Indeed, I was going to bring the debate probably to a more Hollywood perspective and just to keep a simple question. Could you elucidate to us the role of a Deputy Sheriff within the context of APEC?

McCallum:

I have – I have heard people in the media trying to focus on a, on a Deputy Sheriff comment and I don’t know exactly where that came from. The context that it’s been asked to me previously is in the context of Australia taking the lead and defining its national policies in Asia-Pacific region and the United States following and supporting that. So I don’t use the term and I’m not familiar with the context in which it came about, but I don’t think it’s an accurate term in any way, shape or form.

Chair:

Next question’s from Lincoln Wright.

Question:

Ambassador, Lincoln Wright from News Limited, Sunday Publications. Welcome to the Club.

McCallum:

Thank you.

Question cont’d:

A very fine speech. I really wanted to ask you today but I don’t think you’re going to answer. Your membership with skull and bones with the President’s 1968 – the Class of 1968. I wanted to ask you, is it the secret society that runs America? But I’ve heard that it’s more secretive than the President’s daily intelligence brief, so let’s not go there.

McCallum:

I’ll be happy to answer that question.

Question cont’d:

Oh really?

McCallum:

That’s the one question that you get.

Question cont’d:

Oh okay. Well.

McCallum:

You know a card laid is a card played.

Question cont’d:

This is not skull and bones. The serious question – the serious question is Daniel Ellsberg when he was working for Robert McNamara in the mid-sixties, stumbled across a secret document which ultimately got him fired for reading which sort of said that the U.S. war plan is [indistinct] ‘I knew the war was lost in ’67, the President was saying otherwise.’ I wanted to ask you, is the War – is the War lost in Iraq? Does the leadership in the United States really think you can win this war or are you playing a clever political game until the Bush Administration finishes?

McCallum:

This Administration really believes that it can win the war in Iraq. It is not won without challenges. It is not won without risks and it is a strategy that will take time.

Chair:

Sandra O’Malley.

Question:

Ambassador, Sandra O’Malley from AAP. If at any stage Australia decided to withdraw its troops from Iraq.

McCallum:

I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear.

Question cont’d:

If at any stage Australia decided to withdraw its troops from Iraq and if this withdrawal occurred prior to any American pull out, would the U.S. view Australia as having let the side down at all?

McCallum:

Well I’m not going to get involved in speculating about this or that, of what ifs. I don’t get paid for speculating, you all get paid for speculating. So I’ll let you speculate on all of that and what, what we in government have to do is deal with the reality of things. And so until that sort of event occurs, no one’s in a position to really say what the consequences would be or what the perceptions would be.

Chair:

A question from Mark Riley.

Question:

Mark Riley, The Seven Network, Mr Ambassador. I’ll have a go. Is al-Qaeda praying for Barack Obama and the Democrats to win next year’s U.S. Presidential election?

McCallum:

I have absolutely no idea what, what al-Qaeda’s views on those subject are and – but I do think that as was reflected in my remarks today, and it is the view of this Administration, that a withdrawal of troops from Iraq prematurely before they are in a position to provide for their own domestic security, would have remarkably dire consequences and I have – I said in my speech that I’ve seen no one who disputes that. That there would be a blood bath far worse than the civil disturbances and sectarian violence that exist now. But I have just this day read something by Representative [indistinct] in the United States where he didn’t think that would happen. So I revise my comments to say there is a general consensus and I only know one person in the whole world who’s basically said it would not be bad – there would not be as much sectarian violence if the United States prematurely withdrew.

Chair:

David Denham.

Question:

David Denham Ambassador, from Preview Magazine. I’d like to tease out a little bit more about the Military Commission.

McCallum:

Please.

Question cont’d:

Under which the Guantanamo detainees are being processed.

McCallum:

Yes.

Question cont’d:

Because it seems to me, as you said earlier, that Australia and the U.S. are very close on many things. We fought the Second World War, South Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq. So we’re pretty closely related to this. But it seems to me unfair and unjust that U.S. citizens who might be a member of al-Qaeda don’t have to go through that Commission, where as any alien, even if they’re really closely related to the, to the U.S., any alien citizen has to go through a different process. Where you can use coercion, evidence from coercion, evidence from hearsay evidence. You can’t necessarily appeal to the – cross-examine the accused. So it seems to me very unfair that you’ve got a different process for the same crime. So I wonder if you could explain to the audience why that Military Commission process was adopted when it seems to me to be blatantly unfair and also, finally, if we’re going to win the hearts and minds of the war on terror, do you really think it’s good to incarcerate people for five years with no charge, when some of them all that they might have been is a driver to one of the high ranking al-Qaeda people?

McCallum:

Okay. Two questions. I appreciate very much your asking that question because, with all due respect, I think it confuses the legal systems that are applicable under established law. The legal system that you are familiar with is the domestic criminal law system. The domestic criminal law system generally involves what we will call recognised crimes, assault, fraud, you know burglary, robbery, murder, within the geographic boundaries of the nation state and under those circumstances if the Police come out, they put yellow ribbons around everything, they collect evidence, they – they interview witnesses, they provide information for the Prosecutor. The Prosecutors go out. It’s a process that we are all familiar with and therefore when we think of illegal enemy combatants we all tend to think of the domestic criminal law system that relates to punishment.

Now, there is a separate system that relates to armed conflict and it has been in existence for decades and it has to do with the difference between domestic criminal law and international armed conflict. Armed conflict, the rules of law related to war generally occur outside the geographic boundary. Often times by people, most often by people who are not subject to your jurisdiction ie they are not citizens. It occurs in a context in which there is the fog of war, the chaos of war. People are shooting at each other. It’s not possible to capture an enemy soldier on the battlefield, put a yellow tape around where you captured him and begin to interview people that might happen to be passing by. If you happened to be in a circumstance in which there were witnesses to all of this, they’re not subject to the jurisdiction of your courts and you are going to have to bring somebody over from Afghanistan or from Iraq or from some other foreign jurisdiction to be present to testify like you would have to do in the domestic criminal law system. The exigencies of war are that you eliminate the combatant immediately and for the safety of your own troops and for the military objectives of your armed conflict. Number two you detain that individual and you detain them for what purpose? Both to prevent them from returning to the battle…killing other people, and number two for intelligence purposes.

So, the United States Supreme Court in the Hamdi decision H A M D I, not H A M D A N which is the, the other decision, in a decision written by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, now, now retired from the United States Supreme Court, held that it was in fact within the President’s powers to designate enemy combatants, number one, and number two, to detain them for the entire course and duration of the hostilities.

For instance, remember back to the Second World War, there were irregular partisans fighting on behalf of the Japanese who were not Japanese soldiers, they weren’t in uniform and they were doing damage and killing Australian troops and if you captured one of those people, you didn’t then say, well we’re just going to let you go. You detain them for the duration of the hostilities. And remember this, that on September 11 2001, eighty-eight Australians died in the attack in the United States. Imagine what would have happened, imagine what the reaction would have been if eighty-eight Australians had been killed by al-Qaeda in the geographic boundaries of the Commonwealth of Australia. You would be interested in detaining those dangerous people during the entire course and duration of the hostilities.

The, the problem that that raises for many people is when do the hostilities stop? Can you detain someone for two years but not two years and a day? Or five years? That’s too long, but four years is the right amount of time to detain somebody and then you have to let ‘em go. Whether they’re going to join the conflict, whether the conflict is going on or not, you let ‘em go and they go back and they shoot at you and try and kill you. There are answers to that.

Number one, when Australians detained the Japanese irregulars or the partisans supporting the Japanese, Australia didn’t know how long the War was going to last. Didn’t know whether it was going to be five years, ten years, fifteen years. Number two, with respect to that, there are theories out there that the, the duration of the hostilities can be declared over by the United States Congress. Number three, the United States does not wish to be the world’s gaoler. The President has in fact said we’d like to close Guantanamo Bay but the detention of those ideologically ruthless fanatics who would kill Australians and Americans without blinking an eye, the detention of those people is really an – of benefit to the international community and the United States is open and willing for the international community to take responsibility for detaining those people who may kill, not in Australia, not in the United States, but in many other areas of the globe.

Lastly, the United States has not been detaining people who were adjudicated as enemy combatants any longer than is necessary in order to assure that they will not return to armed conflict against the United States. There’ve been more than three hundred and fifty people released from Guantanamo Bay and they do it under a – under an administrative system that is beyond anything that has ever been done by any nation before and is not required by any international rule of law or any treaty.

The United States sets up a combat status review tribunal to determine whether or not someone is an enemy combatant and that the detainee can say I’m not an enemy combatant and can provide whatever information they want and it’s three people that do that and they make a determination. Then the enemy combatant decision made by the three person panel sworn to be objective and independent, military commissioned officers, goes through a reviewing authority. Then after that, the individual who is determined to be an enemy combatant can contest that in a United States court of law, a civilian court of law. If the determination is appropriately made that the individual is an enemy combatant, then, each year, there’s an annual review by an administrative review board, sort of like a parole board. Is this individual still a danger. And what sorts of things do you think they would consider? They allow the countries to participate in that and the countries can get information from the families.

Number two, it’s – it’s a situation in which you would look at things like what do we know about what this individual said about their motives before they ever were involved in the conflict? Were they an extremist who was saying for instance, they thought beheading infidels was a good deal. Ought to be done.

Number two, what action did they take to obtain the sort of training that would be necessary in order to put into action the professed extremist terrorist ideology that they had previously been professing? Did they train in a terrorist camp, perhaps in Pakistan and then train some more in an al-Qaeda camp? Perhaps in Afghanistan. And then after that, did they go back for additional training in sophisticated, military matters, such as improvised explosive devices, rocket propelled grenades, mortars, things of that nature?

Furthermore, did they take action after they received training to enter the fray and to kill people? For instance if someone was not in a theatre of war on September 11 and announced that they were pleased with the terrorist attacks and the killing of Americans and Australians and many other nationalities and then came into a theatre of a war and reconnected with al-Qaeda which had professed responsibility for the attack, that might be an indication that one should reasonably consider about the dangerousness of that individual and therefore consider whether to detain them because of the dangerousness.

Finally, one might consider whether the individual was co-operative and compliant during the detention. Telling you I’m an innocent person and I – you know was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or do they cooperate in efforts to provide resistance and to communicate about various ways to impede the stability and good order of the prison facility? All of those things might be considered. Now the United States as I said has released over three hundred and fifty of those people. But you have to understand that there should be a degree of skepticism because al-Qaeda in its manuals talks about using – quote – or I call it this – they talk about using the American legal system. I call it lawfare as well as warfare – as part of warfare. And so, al-Qaeda is trained or trains its people in deceit, deception, and denial to obtain the ultimate ends, ultimate terrorist goal. So it would not be surprising that after the three hundred and fifty people have been released, over twelve have been either recaptured or killed and identified, returning to the battlefield and trying to kill Americans. Trying to kill Australians.

So when one talks about the criminal justice domestic system, one is ignoring the exigencies of war and the chaos of war. One is ignoring a decades old system that recognises exactly how one goes about dealing with those issues, which like I said in my remarks, is a delicate area of intersection between national security and between individual liberty. And the Bush Administration believes that it’s got its right, but you know we are certainly pleased to test those things in the courts of the United States so that we are assured that we’ve got it right. Okay. Five years incarceration? I think that I previously answered that in terms of the dismay that the United States has about it having taken that long. But would you – would you then say to me well you can hold him four years, eleven months and thirty days? But when five years occurs, bingo, the doors open and people leave. There is no easy answer to that and if – if the international community is willing to take that responsibility then the United States would gladly co-operate and participate in an international detention regime that was effective to prevent terrorists from killing people around the globe.

Chair:
Thank you for that. The next question’s from Robyn Fitzimmons.

Question:

Robyn Fitzimmons Freelance. If I could go to the question of Korea and the six party talks which have just concluded in Beijing. There appears to be a difference of opinion between Secretary Rice and until very recently, UN Ambassador Bolton as to the significance of the outcome with I think Ambass – Mr Bolton very much down playing it. Could you explain why there is such a difference between two such imminent learned diplomats? And I think Mr Bolton said the outcome could have been achieved six years ago and in that context what have been the nuances of Sino-US diplomacy and for that matter diplomacy in Vietnam at APEC which have enabled this to come about?

McCallum:

Okay. Number one, I am not privy to the nuances of the diplomacy relating to China and others. China deserves a lot of credit for having initiated the six party talks and I think the United States and other members of the responsible international community give them a lot of credit as well. They should. Number two, how do I explain the difference of opinion between two Australian journalists? Once I figure that out then I may start to try and figure out how I explain the difference of opinion between Mr Bolton and Secretary Rice. I don’t know what those differences of opinion are. I haven’t seen the, the quotes from Mr Bolton but in the United States, I mean one of the things that I think is – allows me the opportunity to comment on, there is a perception that the Bush Administration does not take in diverse views. You tell me what I want to hear or you’re out of here is sort of the attitude that most people say exists within the Bush Administration. That is not so. The President is one who solicits diverse views but the President is not hesitant to make decisions. That’s what he says his job is, to make decisions. And on any complex issue. On any complex issue, there are going to be multiple decisions, I mean multiple views of what the decision ought to be and they will be nuanced and they will be stark. And so what one has to do is to listen and the President does this. Listen to the divergent views and come up with what he and his National Security Advisor, his Secretary of State, his Cabinet members, whoever he happens to be relying upon, use them as a basis for the decision.

Chair:

Next question’s from Gerard McManus.

Question:

Ambassador, also on North Korea. The ink has barely been signed on this latest agreement with North Korea which has weapons of mass destruct – real weapons of mass destruction rather than trumped up weapons of mass destruction, but already having secured plenty of oil supplies over the next few months, always the regime is talking about a temporary suspension – their understanding of the agreement is a temporary suspension of their nuclear facilities. How many times is the United States going to play sucker to this murderous -murderous and despotic regime?

McCallum:

What I’m a little bit confused on is what your view is of the situation? I have – have not seen the agreement as I’ve indicated. I am not privy to the negotiations. Assistant Secretary Chris Hill led those negotiations on behalf of the Department of State, on behalf of Secretary Rice and, and the President, so I’m really not in a situation to debate with you the specifics of the agreement, the consequences of the agreement and where things go from here, because I simply don’t have that information. I’m sorry.

Chair:

Malcolm Farr.

Question:

Ambassador, Malcolm Farr from The Daily Telegraph. Senator Obama in response to the Prime Minister said words to the effect that well if he wants to have comments on this he ought to put in another twenty thousand troops. Isn’t that an indication that there are senior people within the American political system, including a potential Presidential candidate, who have a low opinion of Australia’s contribution to Iraq and following on from that, wouldn’t it mean that it wouldn’t hurt Australia that much if we did pull out?

McCallum:

I can’t tell you what Senator Obama’s view of Australia is. I do not know. I do know what the view of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States is. General Peter Pace, the U.S. Marine Corps. He was here this week and some of you here in this room were at a news roundtable in which he lauded and praised Australia for its contribution and for the effectiveness in two provinces in Iraq which have been turned over to the Iraqis and, and which the Iraqis have assumed responsibility for the stability and security in those areas with Australian back up. And General Pace was unequivocal in his statement of the importance of the contribution that Australia had made and the gratitude that the United States Military had for being able to work with some of the finest men and women in uniform in the world. Period.

Chair:

Mark Kenny.

Question:

Mark Kenny from The Adelaide Advertiser, Ambassador. Our Prime Minister John Howard has spoken of the need to protect American prestige and he says of course this would be seriously damaged if America were to pull out of Iraq in circumstances that could be seen as defeat. In your speech you also spoke of faith in democracy. I’m wondering whether, going back to Guantanamo Bay for a moment, whether you would concede that the apparent indefinite incarceration of people in Guantanamo Bay has had any negative impact on that faith around the world, and therefore on American prestige?

McCallum:

Well I’m sure that there are people in Australia, just as there people in the United States, who are concerned about the risk of indefinite detention. But as I indicated, there are remedies that are made that relate to that which should, if recognised, eliminate that concern. And I return to the Combat Status Review Tribunals, in which there is a process that is unlike one that has ever existed before and which has ultimately an appeal to a civilian Federal court in the Circuit Court for the District of Columbia. And then has annual reviews to determine the continuing risk to the United States. Now every situation of every detainee is obviously unique. But, I would – I would hope – well let me put it this way. I suffer no illusions from the fact that people are going to hear me say that who have already made up their mind, slap themselves in the forehead and say I now see the light. I just wish I’d understood it earlier. What I do think may happen is that people can say I strongly disagree with this policy of the United States, but I can understand how they reached it because they suffered three thousand dead, eightyeight of them who were Australian, in the United States on one day and therefore they believe that this individual still poses a risk not only to the United States but also to innocents all over the world. Terrorist attack don’t just occur in the United States, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Australia well knows this from having experienced Australian deaths in other areas outside the continent of Australia and the island of Tasmania. So, you know, it is a matter of not just significance for the United States in Australia. It’s a matter of protecting innocents who may happen to just be in the wrong place at the wrong time to create social turmoil and stability problems.

Chair:

Question from Clinton Porteous.

Question:

Hello Ambassador, Clinton Porteous from The Courier Mail. You were talking about deaths there. On the issue of Iraq, Australia’s been very lucky in that it’s suffered no direct deaths in Iraq whereas I know in your country it’s been three thousand. In both countries the opinion polls are against the war. In your opinion, how much role has that – those deaths, the grieving family played in turning the opinion polls in America against the Iraqi war effort?

McCallum:

Gee, I – you know, one death of any military service man or woman is too many. And I have no way of gauging or even assessing the impact of that on public opinion. I suppose there are pollsters that could do that but I have no answer to that.

Chair:

Mark Dodd.

Question:

Ambassador, Mark Dodd from The Australian newspaper. How would you characterise the, the value of the Australian military deployment in Iraq given the number of boots on the ground, if you take out the Warship and the Embassy guard which are about a hundred and twenty, leaves about five hundred troops, all of which are removed a safe distance from high intensity combat operations? Thank you.

McCallum:

Well I – I hope that I had previously answered that with respect to the comments that General Pace made when he was here to Air Chief Marshall Angus Huston, to the media, to everyone that would listen and that is that the Australian troops have made an outstanding contribution and it is, it is something for which the United States is extraordinarily grateful and it’s something that I think the Australian people ought to be extremely proud of, their military and how they have performed. If you, if you talk with an American service man and whatever the branch who has been involved in operations with Australian counterparts, they will tell you that their Australian mates are among the best there are, period.

Chair:

Chris Johnson.

Question:

Chris Johnson from The West Australian, Ambassador. What is your understanding of what the reaction would be in Washington, if the Australian government just simply asked for David Hicks to be returned home?

McCallum:

Well I – I don’t know what the reaction of the United States government would be. I do know that anything that is of importance to Australia will be considered at the highest levels of the United States government and if that means the President, the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defence, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, you name it. The – I personally when I was at the Department of Justice, sat in on telephone conversations that Attorney-General Philip Ruddock had with Attorney-General Alberto Gonzales, you know stressing the significance of expediting any charges of war crimes against Mr Hicks. When Australia speaks on an issue that is important to them, they are listened to at the highest levels of government. What the ultimate decision would be, I can’t comment on.

Chair:

Graham Dobell.

Question:

Ambassador, Graham Dobell from Radio Australia. First of all, thank you very much for your forceful reminder on Valentine’s Day – it reminds me that I must use this platform…

McCallum:

Looks like he’s a forgetful bloke.

Question cont’d:

No, no. I’m actually – I actually want to owe you one. It reminds me that I have to use this platform to wish a very happy birthday today to my little girl Jacqueline Dobell.

McCallum:

Oh right.

Question cont’d:

And a diplomatic endorsement would…

McCallum:

Let’s give her a round of applause. [Applause]

Question cont’d:

So I definitely – I definitely owe you one on that. On – on Korea, does the six party agreement though suggest something of victory for what might be called traditional diplomacy. The sort of argument that the Chinese have been making about traditional diplomacy. Does it in fact mark something of a failure for the muscular pre-emptive rhetoric that we heard in earlier times from the Bush Administration and particularly, that – that phrase which now rings quite hollow, the phrase about the axis of evil?

McCallum:

Well I – I think what one has to, to consider is that the United States makes an assessment at whatever the issue is, whether it be Korea or Iraq or otherwise, on what is the best way for it to achieve its national interests and to protect its national security and I would say that, that the initiation, the re-initiation of the six party talks and although I don’t know the terms and haven’t reviewed the documents yet, regarding the agreement that has just been, been reached. The successful conclusion of at least a first step in the six party talks validates the United States’ assessment as to how it ought to proceed in this particular circumstance.

Chair:

Two more questions. The first from Brendan Nicholson.

Question:

Brendan Nicholson from The Age, Ambassador. General Pace who you mentioned just made the observation slightly enigmatic that Iraq was not the war we chose but it is the war that we’re in, during that briefing the other day. Do you believe that if the United States had anticipated that Iraq would turn out to be as complex and as bloody as it is, that you would have proceeded with the invasion? And partly, leading on from that, there’s a concern in countries like Australia, that even among people who are close allies, or feel we’re very close allies to the United States, but have concerns about Iraq, that the United States could emerge from this experience badly bruised and unwilling to play a role on the international stage. Do you think that’s a real danger?

McCallum:

Let me, let me answer the last question first and that is – do I anticipate that the United States under any circumstance will become isolationist and disengage from the East Asia Pacific Islands region? And I do not. I think it is impossible for the United States not to be engaged in this area of the world because of the globalization that exists, because of the potential that exists for raising standards of living for millions and millions of people, and because it’s in the United States’ own best interest to participate in that growth and to address a number of the problems that are going to exist and going to develop over time. On the first question, that is, sort of a, a question of you know – what if pigs had wings and could fly? It’s not possible to look back and say well gee, if this then that. What one can say is as General Pace did, this is where we are, and this is what our interests are and how do we get to achieve our national interest. And General Pace – I heard his comment and I interpreted him to say this is – the debate about whether the war should have been undertaken, whether there were weapons of mass destruction, where there was manipulation of this, intelligence information? All that’s irrelevant. We are where we are and now what do we do? And that’s what General Pace was addressing and General Pace has a very clear view as you well know from, from sitting and interviewing him. As to what needs to be done and that it can be done.

Chair:

Our final question’s from Laura Tingle.

Question:

Laura Tingle from The Financial Review, Ambassador. You’ve emphasised repeatedly today as has our Prime Minister, the risks of a premature withdrawal from Iraq as being catastrophic for Iraq and he’s also made the point that it would be catastrophic for the prestige of the United States and of the West. I just draw your attention to an analysis by Thomas Ricks in his book Fiasco where he talks about one of the strategic errors being the cost of being backed by a phony coalition that – that in the – in a sense the US had run into troubles in Iraq because it had the appearance of a coalition of the west but it didn’t have its resources and thus it’s increased the risk of withdrawal for the prestige of the west. And in that context I’d like to ask you when would a withdrawal from Iraq not be premature? And given the importance of the coalition, should the actual question being – be being asked in the Australian government now not that it withdraw its troops, but that it actually increase its number of troops committed to Iraq?

McCallum:

Let me, again, because I’ve got short term memory, I’m going to answer the second question first and that is, the question was about an increase in troops by Australia in Iraq. That is an internal matter for Iraq to determine based on what its national interests are and what its resources are. And so I make no comment on, on that whatsoever. That’s an internal matter which will be, will be determined by Australians. The, the – you know – question – what was the first question again? Short term memory.

Question cont’d:

The first question was about when will it not be premature?

McCallum:

I think Justice Potter Stewart had a, had a great phrase in one of his opinions in the United States Supreme Court when he was asked to define obscenity. He says I know it when I see it.

Chair:

Ambassador, thank you very much.

[Applause]

Ambassador, congratulations on your performance today. Thank you very much. We’d like to give you a membership card to entice you to come back here fairly soon and a pen to just sign yourself in and out and I’m sure you didn’t forget St Valentine’s Day, but we’d like your wife to have this, irrespective of …

McCallum:

Thank you so much Ken.

[Applause]

I appreciate it very much.

[Applause]


Murdoch’s New York Post Supports Howard Against Obama

The New York Post newspaper has editorialised in support of John Howard in his spat with 2008 presidential aspirant, Senator Barack Obama.

Accusing the Illinois senator of “breathtaking naiveté”, the populist tabloid said that Howard “gets it”, whereas Obama “may be on the steepest foreign-policy learning curve of any major presidential candidate in recent history”.

The New York Post is owned by News Corporation, headed by the Australian-born American citizen, Rupert Murdoch.

  • Listen to Howard’s comments on Obama

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This is the text of the New York Post’s editorial.

New York Post - click to visit

BARACK’S BLUNDER

Senator Barack Obama, all of 25 months removed from the Illinois state legislature, announced his candidacy for the presidency of the United States on Saturday – and immediately began trading harsh words with the leader of one of America’s oldest and most reliable allies.

In the process, the freshman senator revealed truly breathtaking naiveté. [Read more...]


Howard Attacks Obama and US Democrats

Less than twenty-four hours after Barack Obama announced his candidacy for the 2008 United States presidential election, the Prime Minister, John Howard, has attacked the Illinois senator over his policy of withdrawal from Iraq.

Responding to a question about Obama’s policy of withdrawing US troops by March 2008, Howard said: “If I was running Al-Qaeda in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008, and pray, as many times as possible, for a victory not only for Obama, but also for the Democrats.”

The attack is unusual because it is considered undiplomatic for a head of government of one nation to intervene in the electoral process of another.

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This is the transcript of John Howard’s Comments on Barack Obama. They were made during an interview with Laurie Oakes on the Channel 9 program, “Sunday”.

Oakes:

Proposition two for your comment: Australians are increasingly opposed to the Iraq War, and it’s starting to bite electorally, undermining the advantage you’ve had over Labor on national security issues?

Howard:

Once again commentary but I’ll address the substance of the issue. The Australian people have always been, when you ask them in a poll, against our involvement in Iraq. I accept that. As one of the answers I give to those who say I’m a poll-driven politician. It was about the least poll-driven decision I’ve taken in my entire political life but I believed in it; I believed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. So, incidentally did Mr Rudd. Mr. Rudd in fact said it was an empirical fact that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. His argument with us was whether we should have tried to get another United Nations resolution but I’ve got to now look at the current situation, and the impact on the alliance, the impact on the future of Iraq, if we were to get up and go, and Mr Rudd can’t slip and slide and have it both ways, as he tried to do this morning. You either go or you stay, you either rat on the ally or stay with the ally, it’s as simple as that. And, if it’s alright for us to go, it’s alright for the Americans and the British to go, and if everybody goes Iraq will descend into total civil chaos …

Oakes:

On that very subject,

Howard:

…and there’ll be a lot of bloodshed.

Oakes:

On that subject, Senator Barack Obama’s announced overnight he’s running for the Democrat Presidential nomination, and he says if he gets it he has a plan to bring troops home by March, 2008 and his direct quote is “Letting the Iraqis know we’ll not be there forever is our last, best hope to pressure the Sunnis and Shiah to come to the table and find peace”. So, basically he’s agreeing with the Labor Party.

Howard:

Yes, I think he’s wrong, I mean, he’s a long way from being President of the United States. I think he’s wrong. I think that would just encourage those who wanted completely to destabilise and destroy Iraq, and create chaos and victory for the terrorists to hang on and hope for Obama victory. If I was running Al-Qaeda in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008, and pray, as many times as possible, for a victory not only for Obama, but also for the Democrats.

Oakes:

If he wins, and you’re still there, bad news for the alliance.

Howard:

Well I tell you what would be even worse news for the fight against terrorism, if America is defeated in Iraq. I mean, we have to understand what we are dealing with. We’re dealing here with a situation where if America pulls out of Iraq in March 2008. It can only be in circumstances of defeat. There’s no way by March 2008, which is a little over a year from now, everything will have been stabilised so that America can get out in March 2008. And, if America is defeated in Iraq, the hope of ever getting a Palestinian settlement will be gone. There’ll be enormous conflict between the Shi’a and the Sunnis throughout the whole of the Middle East. Saudi Arabia and Jordan will both be (destabilised), Al-Qaeda will trumpet it as the greatest victory they’ve ever had and that will have implications in our region because of the link, the ideological link at the very least, between the Al-Qaeda and JI. Proposition Three.

Oakes:

..the proposition is the incarceration of David Hicks is biting as an electoral issue because it’s seen as evidence of an obsequious attitude to George W Bush and the Americans.

Howard:

Laurie, I’m very frustrated about the length of time it’s taken. I have to take up something Ray Martin said in that intro, where he said, there’s five years and they’ve found no charges against him. That’s not right. There were charges laid against David Hicks, but because the Supreme Court in the case of Hamden and Rumsfeld said the military commission had not been established in accordance with the constitution, they had to start again, so it’s not quite right to say they never, at any stage, reached a view that they had charges against him. We are pressing the Americans, almost on a daily basis, to bring this man before the military commission. I am very unhappy.

Oakes:

What if they don’t meet your mid-February deadline, we are just about there.

Howard:

Well, Laurie, the charging process has begun, but we will be watching, on a daily basis, progress towards the commission hearing starting and in the last few hours, Mr Downer has raised this issue in the meeting he had with Robert Yates, the new American Defence Secretary in Germany. And Mr Downer spoke to me on the phone about an hour ago and reported on the discussion, and he drove home again to the Americans, the concern that I’ve expressed to President Bush, and will go on expressing it; we are unhappy, frustrated with the amount of time it’s taken. I don’t think the Americans have handled that part of it well and it has made people legitimately concerned, even those who feel very strongly, as I do, that somebody accused of training with Al-Qaeda and returning to them in the full knowledge of what happened on 11 September, is nonetheless should not be held indefinitely without a trial and that is a view we’ll press very, very hard on the Americans.