23 March 2004

Censure Debate 22 March

[Federal Opposition Leader] Mr LATHAM All the rhetoric about the axis of evil was their big neoconservative contribution to the war against terror, and now they cannot stomach the truth. They cannot stomach the truth of their policy failings. Having committed Australia for a core purpose that was not realised - a core purpose that was not true in Iraq - they now cannot stomach the truth when it comes from the mouth of the Australian Federal Police Commissioner.

The real truth, Prime Minister, is this: the war against terror is primarily an intelligence war. It is not a war primarily against nation states. We have to target the terrorists. In fact, the conflict in Iraq diverted resources away from that process of targeting the terrorists - al-Qaeda and bin Laden. The capacity of intelligence to track them down and do something about them is the key to winning the war against terror. It is not the folly of Iraq; it is not the errors that this government made in committing Australia to that conflict. Now the government should simply accept the truth of what Commissioner Keelty has been saying - the truth that, sure, Australia was a target at the time of September 11 but the conflict and policy making for Iraq has made the situation even worse.

This is the thing that we need to appreciate. This is the reason why the Prime Minister should be censured by the House. You cannot trust the Howard government with Australia's national security. It is always playing politics, instead of putting the national interest first. The Prime Minister's actions have disgraced the high office that he holds. He should not put narrow political interest ahead of the national interest - never. That is never in the best interests of our great country, and he should be censured by this parliament accordingly.

The censure was (of course) rejected on party lines, but this is a powerful critique. Today's Newspoll confirms it as a critique Australians accept by a majority of 2/3. Tim is blogging up a storm on the Clarke allegations while Obsidian Wings has interesting stuff confirming those allegations.More on the issues side of the Newspoll later.

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