15 September 2003

PM - Labor uses UK intelligence report to attack PM

CATHERINE MCGRATH: Four months ago, US President George W. Bush declared the major combat phase of the war in Iraq over, but still the argument rages over whether the decision for Australia to go to war was the right one.

Today the new element - the report by the British Parliamentary inquiry into pre-war intelligence made public in London last week - became a feature of the Australian Parliament.

The particular information the Opposition seized upon: that Britain's Joint Intelligence Committee warned back in February that war in Iraq would increase the threat of terrorists gaining weapons of mass destruction and that al-Qaeda remained the greatest threat to western interests, and that threat would increase through war.

That was enough for Simon Crean.

SIMON CREAN: Mr Speaker, the findings of the British Joint Intelligence Committee demonstrate beyond doubt that the Prime Minister sent this country to war based on a lie.

(Hear, hear)

SIMON CREAN: The Prime Minister did not tell the Australian people the truth when he committed us to war. And by his actions, the Prime Minister increased the threat of terrorism to the Australian people. He made us les safe and worst of all, he failed to protect us.

CATHERINE MCGRATH: He was supported in his attack by Shadow Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd.

KEVIN RUDD: The Prime Minister asked this question: is it reasonable to expect that he would read a document such as this provided by the British Joint Intelligence Committee? I say yes, Prime Minister, because you were on the verge of taking this country to war.

(Hear, hear)

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Member for Griffith.

KEVIN RUDD: And the problem with this document is that it torpedoed amidships a large part of the rationale you'd put to the Parliament and the people for going to war, and you knew it.

CATHERINE MCGRATH: John Howard says that key British intelligence report was handed onto Australian authorities but he said it was not directly given to him.

It seems to me that Howard now has exactly the same problem as Blair. If there was a British JIC report tearing his major war premise in tatters he at least needs to publish the contrary advice which persuaded him and explain why the JIC report weas never mentioned. Of course, without the whole Kelly scandal, the existence of that report would never have become public knowledge in Australia or Britain.

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