A War Contrary To Australia’s National Interests: Crean

The Leader of the Opposition, Simon Crean, made a nationally televised Address to the Nation this evening and argued that the government’s military commitment to Iraq was “a war we should not be in”.

Crean spoke in response to the Prime Minister’s Address yesterday.

  • Listen to Crean’s Address (9m)

Text of Simon Crean’s televised Address to the Nation.

CreanGood evening.

Sadly, we are tonight a deeply divided nation.

We are divided because the government and the Prime Minister have committed us to a war we should not be in. It is a war contrary to Australia’s national interests.

For the first time in our proud history, an Australian Government has committed our service men and women to war against the clear will of the Australian people.

This war is wrong.

Australia should not be in it.

Saddam Hussein is a brutal dictator, Iraq must disarmed, but this is not the way to do it.

This way is reckless and unnecessary.

Reckless because it puts Australia at greater – not lesser – risk.

And unnecessary because the United Nations weapons inspectors were making progress in disarming Iraq.

War should only ever be the very last resort.

Regrettably, I have to say to you, that from the beginning of this debate over Iraq the Australian people have not been given the full truth.

We all now know that Mr Howard signed Australia up to this war months ago.

When our troops sailed to the Gulf we all knew they were on their way to war.

I thought it was my duty to tell them the truth, face to face. Mr Howard did not.

Mr Howard should have told the men and women he was sending off to war and should have told the Australian people publicly what he had already told the American President privately.

You have heard the saying that “truth is the first casualty of war”.

In these circumstances, I’m sorry this saying has been proved so right, so soon.

Let me set out three important reasons why Labor opposes Australian involvement in this war.

First, no nation on earth has a deeper interest in the success of the United Nations system than does Australia.

We rely on the collective security arrangements to help keep our nation safe.

The fight against global terrorism, for instance, cannot be won by any country on its own – not even a country as powerful as the United States.

As a result of this week’s decisions, the great world coalition against terrorism risks breaking down.

Meanwhile, other threats like North Korea’s plans for nuclear weapons have been virtually ignored.

So, this war against Iraq, without UN authority, and in which only a handful of nations will fight, seriously weakens the UN.

That, in turn, seriously weakens the role that the UN can play in our own security.

Second, nothing in our alliance relationship with the US requires that we join them in this war.

Labor has a strong commitment to the US alliance which was forged in the Second World War by Prime Minister Curtin and has been affirmed and extended by the other Labor leaders who followed him.

Because of the store Labor puts in this relationship, it concerns us that the course Mr Howard is taking our nation may lead some Australians to question the value of the alliance.

In 1991, a Labor Government secured participation in the US-led international coalition to drive Iraq out of Kuwait – but that was a mission endorsed by the United Nations and with a broad range of countries committing their forces.

Labor does not believe that the alliance depends on Australian willingness to support America right or wrong.

Nor do we believe that the Americans see it that way either.

And our relationship, which has stood the test of time in war and in peace, has never been, and should never be, the preserve of any one Prime Minister or any one President or any one political party. It belongs to all our people.

Third, by taking us down this path to war Mr Howard is increasing dramatically the threat Australia faces from international terrorists.

We are making Australia a bigger target for the vicious and indiscriminate attacks of those twisted, criminal minds.

Nobody believes a case has been made to link the Iraqi regime with Osama bin Laden.

Let’s be clear, disarming Iraq is an essential and urgent task for all of us committed to a safer, more secure world.

But we also know destroying Iraq’s weapons will not stop Osama bin Laden or those behind the Bali bombing.

By pointing to the increased risk to Australia we are not saying for a moment we should bury our heads in the sand and hope that international terrorists ignore us.

In fact, we have argued strongly for concerted action by the governments of our region and the international community to break up those networks, to arrest the masterminds.

This war on Iraq will make no contribution to these efforts.

But it will give the international terrorists new rallying cries and new causes.

The shocking truth is that the evil forces of terrorism have been handed an opportunity and a cause beyond their wildest dreams.

With the die of war now cast, we are a nation at significantly greater risk, required to be more vigilant than at any time in the past 50 years.

Let me sum up:

This decision for war isolates Australia as never before.

It places Australia in the frontline as a target for international terrorism.

Yet it destroys the very foundations for international co-operation against terrorism.

It strengthens immeasurably the forces and causes of terrorism.

It will create a generation of hate across the world and in our region.

It undermines the rule of international law and the authority of the United Nations.

It strips Australia of any semblance of independent judgement, and any pretence of independence at all.

Too often in this debate, the national interest has been claimed by Mr Howard and those in favour of war as something owned by them.

In this country the national interest has always been best determined by the Australian people.

And when they have spoken they’ve been right about the real national interest.

Once again, on this issue, they are right.

Now, by this government’s decision, the brave men and women of the Australian defence forces are committed to war.

Our thoughts and our care must turn to them first of all.

Our argument about this war is with the Government, not with our troops.

Our deepest hopes – our united hopes – must be for the quickest possible end to their mission and their safe return home – their duty done quickly, successfully and honourably.

Speed the day when we can welcome them back to the homes they love and the country they serve so well.

On these things we can unite, even in the face of the divisions created by this wrong and needless decision for a wrong and needless war.

Thank you.

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