In a number of statements this month, the Australian Democrats have outlined the party's attitude to a possible war with Iraq and to the nuclear issue involving North Korea. The party's former leader, Senator Natasha Stott Despoja, has questioned the consistency of US and Australian attitudes to North Korea and Iraq, and called for a parliamentary debate on the issues. The party's present leader, Senator Andrew Bartlett, has criticised the "two-faced" approach of the Prime Minister "to continue to claim no decision has been made about joining a war with Iraq, while actually sending Australian troops."
This is the text of a statement released by Senator Natasha Stott Despoja, the Australian Democrats spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, on January 15, 2003.
Recall Parliament: discuss troops, foreign policy
Australia's commitment to diplomacy in dealing with North Korea's withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty should apply equally to our response to Iraq, according to Australian Democrats' Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Senator Natasha Stott Despoja.
Senator Stott Despoja questioned the basis upon which Australia and the United States have chosen to take very different approaches when dealing with Iraq and North Korea.
"On the one hand, the United States and Australia are saying to North Korea 'we are willing to talk', and on the other hand we are amassing military personnel in the Gulf, pre-empting the United Nations processes in relation to Iraq," said Senator Stott Despoja.
"These contrasting approaches bring into question the motivation for military action against Iraq.
"The Prime Minister has a responsibility to justify exactly why he has chosen to commit Australia to such a high risk strategy in relation to Iraq," said Senator Stott Despoja.
"The Democrats do not accept the rationale – proffered by Minister Downer – that Iraq represents a 'test case for global non-proliferation efforts'. The concept of a 'test case' is extremely dangerous when you are dealing with issues involving weapons of mass destruction.
"Minister Downer claims Iraq warrants different treatment because 'if Iraq is let off the hook other countries will be encouraged to defy non-proliferation norms'.
"This reasoning is flawed. It could well be argued that if North Korea is 'let off the hook' the effect will be the same, and in any event North Korea's non-compliance emerged despite the strong stance taken towards Iraq.
"Consistency of approach will be the key to deterring other countries which may be tempted to produce weapons of mass destruction in defiance of non-proliferation efforts.
"The decisions that the Prime Minister makes over the next few weeks in relation to Iraq and North Korea will have very significant implications for the safety and security of the Australian community," said Senator Stott Despoja.
"Such decisions must be made in the context of a full Parliamentary and community debate. While troops are being deployed, Parliament should be recalled.
"Australians must be given the opportunity to participate in these decisions, and yet the Prime Minister seems intent on pursuing a particular course which is at odds with the wishes of most Australians," concluded Senator Stott Despoja.
This is the text of a statement released by the Leader of the Australian Democrats, Senator Andrew Bartlett, on January 13, 2003.
Howard has put Australia on slippery slope to war in Iraq
By sending Australian troops to the Iraq region, the Prime Minister has ensured Australia will be involved in any war, the Leader of the Australian Democrats, Senator Andrew Bartlett said today.
"It is two-faced for the Prime Minister to continue to claim no decision has been made about joining a war with Iraq, while actually sending Australian troops.
"If the Prime Minister did the right thing and put the question of committing troops to the Parliament, a conscience vote could be close.
"Howard will not allow a conscience vote because he knows there are Liberals who would cross the floor.
"Australian troops should not be there. Neither should US or British troops but their Governments are blinded by the perceived geo-political oil incentives. Australia has no good reason to be involved in this war.
"Mr Howard's gung-ho attitude is needlessly making all Australians a greater target for terrorists worldwide."
"The increasing number of US, British and now Australian troops, could cause a tripwire effect, where a small skirmish sparks a large scale conflict.
"With over 100,000 foreign troops on Iraq borders, the chances increase that Saddam Hussein could take desperate pre-emptive action.
"I don't want Australian troops killed because Hussein decides to take a last stand and go out in a blaze of gory," Senator Bartlett said.
This is the text of a statement released by Senator Andrew Bartlett, leader of the Australian Democrats, on January 6, 2003.
Leaders must hold fire
"A war with Iraq could cause thousands more asylum seekers to approach Australia and require millions of dollars in Australian overseas aid, before the military costs are even considered, the Leader of the Australian Democrats, Senator Andrew Bartlett said today. "The UN estimates a war with Iraq will create 900,000 refugees, and around 100,000 will need immediate help," Senator Bartlett said. The 1991 war caused millions of people to flee the fighting.
"Conditions in Iraq, after a decade of sanctions, are far worse than they were before the 1991 Gulf War so deaths can be expected to be higher," Senator Bartlett said.
Thousands of Iraqi civilians were killed during the 1991 Gulf War and an estimated 110,000 Iraqi civilians died later due to infrastructure damage and the collapse of the health system. In Iraq, war will result in civilian deaths not just from military attack but also from starvation, exposure and disease. Infrastructure such as electricity, sewerage, water and food supplies is Iraq is likely to be damaged.
The United Nations' 'Oil for Food' programme which feeds 24 million Iraqis, is likely to be suspended during any military action, leaving them facing starvation or reliant on inadequate emergency food aid. A lengthy interruption in the distribution system would create a humanitarian disaster.
The oil-for-food program is a 1996 agreement that permits Iraq to export oil to buy humanitarian goods, pay for weapons inspectors and pay reparations to governments and businesses for Gulf War damage.
A protracted conflict would certainly interrupt distribution networks. At the worst - no new food will enter Iraq during a conflict. The Iraqi government has boosted food rations to let citizens stock up, claiming supplies would last 3 months. The UN and Aid agencies are hampered because they want to avoid sending a message to Iraq that weapons inspections are futile and war is inevitable. "A war with Iraq will not make the region safer, nor decrease terrorism and could result in the deaths or displacement of more than a million Iraqis," Senator Bartlett said. "The Prime Minister John Howard should keep us out of this war and urge the United States and British leaders to 'hold fire'."