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Crean Says Howard Has 'Gate-Crashed' Iraq War And Ignored UN

January 26, 2003

Simon Crean, Leader of the Opposition The Federal Opposition Leader, Simon Crean, has accused John Howard of "gate-crashing" the looming war with Iraq, describing its actions as demonstrating "poor judgement".

In a speech which referred to the community spirit on show in Australia during the bushfire crisis, Crean said "just as we have to recognise community strength here, we have to recognise it in the international framework." He called for "greater emphasis and greater support" to be given to the role of the United Nations.

Crean said that the government was ignoring the provisions of the ANZUS Treaty, pointing out that "the very first article of that alliance says that all efforts should be made to resolve differences through the United Nations."

Crean's speech comes at the beginning of a crucial week in which the United Nations Weapons Inspectors, led by Hans Blix, are due to report on their work in Iraq. The US President, George Bush, will also be closely watched when he delivers the annual State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday (Australian time).


This is the full text of Simon Crean's Australia Day Address at the Springvale Lunar New Year Festival in Melbourne.

Thank you very much. I won't go through all the introductions, but I do acknowledge the traditional owners on whose land this festival is being held – a festival that recognises the cultural significance in so far as the Chinese New Year is concerned. This is now the eleventh such function that has been held under the auspices of SABA [Springvale Asia Business Association Inc] and, again I pay tribute to SABA who, since its inception, has done much to build their involvement and their commitment to the community of Springvale. It's a great celebration of multiculturalism, this festival. And multiculturalism means you don't have to give up your culture to become an Australian citizen. And that's why today is doubly significant, because not only is it the recognition of the significance of the Chinese New Year, it's also being held on Australia Day.

This is time for us as a nation to reflect, to reflect on the qualities, the strengths, the differences that surround us. Today is a day that has already been mentioned that we do have to reflect on the great courage that has been shown by our gallant firefighters. They're fighting on many fronts around Australia today – Victoria, the ACT, New South Wales and Tasmania. The whole of the southeastern part of Australia is threatened.

I've had the opportunity to visit Canberra over the last week on a number of occasions. Canberra is devastated. As you know, there are something like 550 houses have been lost. The firefighters, as brave and courageous as they are, deserve our admiration.

But so too does that community spirit that comes out. It's amazing to go to talk to the people who have all their possessions, but they still will look after their neighbour. They really reach out. A woman whose house wasn't touched, but neighbours in the street lost their houses - she has been out cooking meals for them every day this week. And it's that quality, that dimension, that going the extra yard and recognising that we're not just individuals, we are part of the community. And it's important to reflect, therefore, not just on the strength of multiculturalism and what it does to strengthening the nation, but the courage and the community commitment of our people.

It's also interesting, given that this is the Year of the Goat, a year in which emphasis is on tolerance and on sensitivity that we have regard to that in the context of the conflict that our Prime Minister so readily wants to embrace in Iraq. The Prime Minister, in his undue haste to commit Australian troops in the Iraq theatre, has gatecrashed the war.

That's not diplomacy, it's bad judgement. And it's bad judgement for this reason – that if we are to address these wider situations, we have to do it as part of a community of international citizens. Just as we have to recognise community strength here, we have to recognise it in the international framework. We have to give greater emphasis and greater support to the role of the United Nations.

And I'd say to those that want to question from time to time its authority and significance, I say in particular to our Cambodian friends, look how the United Nations was used effectively to bring peace and democracy to that troubled country. It happened through an initiative of the former Member for Holt – the person who held the seat before Anthony Byrne – Gareth Evans as Foreign Minister. He developed a strategy, and he took it and sold it to the United Nations. The United Nations embraced it, and peace and a peaceful outcome was achieved in Cambodia.

If you look at the areas of conflict that Australia has been involved in over recent years, including Iraq in 1991, it happened under the United Nations banner. So too did our involvement in our War against Terror. So, also, our commitment in terms of peacekeeping in Timor. If it's appropriate to use the United Nations in those circumstances, why not now? Why is it that we have to make this commitment to go it alone. It's the wrong decision and we need to say so.

We need to be honest with ourselves and we need to understand where our strength and our future lies. I've heard in recent days the Prime Minister invoke, as justification, the US alliance. Have a look carefully at the ANZUS alliance between ourselves and the United States. The very first article of that alliance says that all efforts should be made to resolve differences through the United Nations. So if the Prime Minister is to invoke the ANZUS alliance, he should be looking to article 1.

The final point that I would make is this – let's have regard to history. Let's understand what happened after the First World War when the League of Nations was established. The League of Nations was established essentially to stop another war like that happening again, but the League of Nations collapsed. It collapsed because countries, and significant countries, were not prepared to commit to it in the authority through which conflict and tension was addressed. And when the League of Nations collapsed, what happened? We had another world war, the Second World War. And from the Second World War, of course, the United Nations became the new international body.

So there's a message in this today. And the message is that we have to have strength and belief in our ability to work together, not go it alone – to understand the capacity and potential to achieve a peaceful outcome in relation to Iraq, by all means, to insist upon Saddam Hussein disarming. He must do it, though, in accordance with the United Nations resolution to say so, and he should and we should be prepared to back the United Nations in pursuing those resolutions and bring the disarmament to Iraq. What we shouldn't be doing is pre-empting the United Nations, and that's why the decision to send our troops is wrong.

I said the other day when I addressed the troops that whilst I don't agree with the decision to deploy the troops, I do support the troops themselves. That is the other great lesson that we have to learn from the Vietnam War. Soldiers and defence forces have a job to do. They can't question it. They have to accept the orders of the Government of the day. Let's not blame them. Let's turn the attention to the Government of the day and get it to change its wrong decision.

I say to all of you, enjoy the festival today. It's a privilege, as always, to be here. I've been coming here for all eleven of them now. I have a close association, not just with the business community, but the community at large. It's great to see my parliamentary colleagues here today. I think this is what a vibrant democracy is about – recognising the difference but drawing from it, developing strengths through working together. I wish you all a Happy New Year – ‘Kung Hei Fat Choi'.

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