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5550Enjoying Latham

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  • Peter Boyle
    Apr 1, 2004
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      I have enjoyed Mark Latham's war of words with Howard around bringing
      Australian troops out of Iraq, especially the exchange below (from
      Hansard) on Wednesday March 31.

      Further, Socialist Alliance comrades in the Stop The War Coalition were
      quick to help get out a statement welcoming Latham's championing of
      "troops out" since March 23 (though we are told "immediate withdrawal"
      was the shadow cabinet's policy since 12 months ago). Socialist Alliance
      also welcomed Latham's promise. Both statements are on the list.

      Latham's stand is a great oening for the anti-war movement here, as as
      doers and no just gasbaggers, Socialist Alliance comrades and other
      anti-war activists are moving fast to act on this opening. I outlined
      the orientation I thought that the anti-war movement should take on this
      list, the day after Latham's interview with Carlton (and included the
      transcript).

      I'll add another line to that. IMO, the June 30 anti-war rallies should
      invite Latham to speak on their platforms on the theme of bringing the
      troops home.

      I am also enjoying Latham's "Aussie larrikin style" (and try to imitate
      it when taunting Bob Gould on the list -- just for fun).

      But none of this convinces me to join the conga line of suckholes behind
      the ALP leadership. Why? Because he is still a right-wing neo-liberal
      ALP hack who runs a totally undemocratic, corrupt and increasingly
      discredited neo-liberal capitalist party with a bureaucratic hold on the
      trade union movement.

      Even his bring the troops home call today is based on a conservative,
      isolationist and nationalist rationale.Does Bob Gould dare to dispute this?

      Peter Boyle

      From March 31, House of Reps Hansard:

      Mr LATHAM—The Prime Minister has systematically misled this House time
      after time after time in the contribution he has just made. I know the
      Prime Minis-ter has a pretty big opinion of himself. He has tried to
      turn the Australian Public Service into a sub-branch of the Liberal
      Party. He thinks he has this born to rule right to make all sorts of
      decisions around the country, but he really does take a step too far—he
      goes a bridge too far—when he presumes to know more about the Australian
      Labor Party and our policy-making processes than we know ourselves.

      There is the Prime Minister trying to convince the House of
      Representatives that I have invented—and that was his word; a heavy
      claim—the proposition that, 12 months ago, our shadow cabinet made
      decisions on the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq. Why would the
      Prime Minister, the head of the Liberal Party, think that he knows more
      about the decisions and recorded minutes of the Labor Party than the
      Australian Labor Party itself? This is someone who has got so far out of
      control and has such an inflated opinion of himself—who thinks that he
      has some born to rule mandate to run every single organisation in the
      country and centralise power and authority in his own hands— that now he
      somehow thinks he is the minute taker at the Labor shadow cabinet. He is
      the minute taker—the little chap—at the Labor shadow cabinet.

      Where was the minute taker, the Prime Minister, on 17 March 2003 when
      our shadow cabinet resolved, ‘A Labor government would immediately bring
      the Australian troops home from Iraq’? Do you understand that, Prime
      Minister? Do you understand the proposition that was moved in the Labor
      shadow cabinet and carried on 17 March 2003 that a Labor government
      would immediately bring the Australian troops home from Iraq? Prime
      Minister, if you were the minute taker at that meeting, you have missed
      the point. You have been asleep at the wheel. You did not really know
      what was going on. The Prime Minister has misled the House in suggesting
      that I have invented the proposi-tion in black and white in our minutes
      for the shadow cabinet.

      It is not all that usual in parliamentary debate that a leader would be
      quoting minutes from a cabinet or shadow cabinet decision, but given the
      gravity and the hysteria of the Prime Minister’s claims, I just want to
      put these things straight on the record. He does not know what he is
      talking about. He is spinning around in a total state of confusion. He
      does not know what he is talking about. On 17 March 2003, we said, ‘A
      Labor government would immediately bring the Australian troops home from
      Iraq.’ The very next day there was a Labor caucus resolution. Okay, let
      us go beyond the shadow cabinet and ask the caucus what was decided on
      Tuesday, 18 March. The proposition was: ‘Labor opposes the use of
      military forces and urges their withdrawal. Furthermore, a Labor
      government would immediately bring the Australian troops home.’ So there
      is the second proposition. Where was the minute taker, the Prime
      Minister, at the Labor caucus meeting? He has this huge inflated view of
      himself. Where was he at the Labor caucus meeting on 18 March?

      Where was our little mate the minute taker at the Labor shadow cabinet
      meeting on 24 March 2003, when the shadow cabinet resolved, ‘A Labor
      government would immediately bring the Australian troops home’? This is
      the fantasy of someone who thinks he knows everything. When it comes to
      the Australian Labor Party, as ever, he knows nothing at all. He has
      totally got it wrong, and he has misled the House accordingly. Where was
      our little mate the minute taker on 12 May 2003 when the shadow cabinet
      passed a lengthy resolution on the postwar Iraq situation, which
      included a commitment in relation to security operations in Iraq to
      return the ADF to Australia as soon as possible?

      So there are not one, not two, not three, but four resolutions from the
      Australian Labor Party rebutting the point that the Prime Minister has
      tried to make in the House today. The Prime Minister knows nothing about
      the workings of the Australian Labor Party and, as a consequence, his
      ignorance and his inflated opinion of himself have led him to mislead
      the House of Representatives today. Prime Minister, it is a shameful
      thing when, for political point scoring, you mislead the House of
      Representatives.

      Then we come to his other claim about the nature of advice that has been
      given to me by intelligence agencies out of the Department of Foreign
      Affairs and Trade and the Department of Defence. Of course, you need to
      understand that the government was saying time after time in question
      time, ‘The Leader of the Opposition over here hasn’t had any discussions
      about Iraq with officials from Foreign Affairs and Defence.’ That is
      what the Minister for Foreign Affairs was say-ing time after time last
      week and again in the debate about Iraq yesterday. That is what the
      Prime Minister has been saying.

      So I was asked a question about it at a press conference yesterday, and
      I said, ‘I have had discussions with officials from Foreign Affairs and
      Defence about the situation in Iraq.’ Then the Prime Minister comes into
      question time and goes back to his assertion: ‘Oh, no, the Leader of the
      Opposition has had no discussions about Iraq with officials from Foreign
      Affairs and Defence, it is just fundamentally untrue—by his own
      admission. Even the material that he has presented demonstrates that I
      have had discussions—lengthy discussions— with officials from the
      Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Defence about the
      situation in Iraq.

      It is interesting to go to the Prime Minister’s personal explanation in
      the House last night. It is interesting to go to his explanation at 7
      p.m. last night, be-cause he states, first of all, that on 5 January I
      received a briefing from the deputy director of the Department of
      Defence. He has his title wrong, so that was his first error. Then he
      goes on to say, ‘I have seen the record of interview and there is no
      reference in that record of interview to Iraq.’ Then he says, ‘I am
      sorry—I have not seen the record of interview.’ So a second mistake

      from the Prime Minister. Has he seen the record of in-terview or hasn’t
      he seen the record of interview? Today in the House, it was instructive
      to listen closely to him—you always have to listen closely to him. What
      was last night a record of interview is now a file note. So first of all
      he has seen the record of interview, then he has not seen the record of
      interview and then there is no record of interview, it is a file note.
      Well the reason there is no record of interview is that there was no-one
      there recording the interview. It was a one-on-one discussion between me
      and Mr Ron Bonighton where there was no note taker. He was doing the
      talking, and I was doing the listening and ask-ing the odd question.
      There was no record of interview because there was no-one there to
      record the interview. So the Prime Minister has been caught out again
      mis-leading the House. First of all, he has seen the record of
      interview, then he has not seen the record of inter-view and then there
      is no record of interview and it is downgraded to being a file note.

      Then, if you listened closely also to what he had to say in the House
      today, he pointed out that in my dis-cussions with Mr Ron Bonighton we
      discussed the in-telligence provided to the ADF in Iraq, and then he
      quickly said that we discussed weapons of mass de-struction— as if
      weapons of mass destruction and the lengthy discussion about that would
      not have been re-lated to Iraq. Well of course it was.

      I suppose, Mr Speaker, given the Prime Minister’s tactics, I have the
      right to defend myself here. I sup-pose I wish there was a record of
      interview giving word-for-word what Mr Bonighton said about the
      government’s record on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq—what he
      actually said about the government’s failure to find weapons of mass
      destruction in Iraq. I give the government and I give the House this
      guarantee: I walked away from that briefing knowing and understanding
      the government’s policy in Iraq was a fiasco—an absolute fiasco. What is
      more, I concluded that the faster Australia could get out of Iraq the
      better— in response to that policy fiasco, in response to the problems
      that the government caused in relation to weapons of mass destruction in
      Iraq, the sooner Australia could get out of Iraq the better. So if the
      government wants to ask me about the information I have gathered, I am
      giving you the conclusions I have made. I am giving you the conclusions
      I have made from the briefings I have received from officials of the
      defence department and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

      Of course, in relation to the ASIS briefing, it is extraordinary that
      the Prime Minister makes public a confidential security briefing given
      to the Leader of the Opposition. I did not want to mention ASIS; he has
      mentioned them now on the public record and he has produced the letter
      from Mr Irvine, saying: According to my recollection there was no
      discussion on strategic policy relating to Iraq. There was no
      substantive discussion on the role of the ADF in Iraq.

      Of course that does not rule out what actually happened: discussion of
      ASIS security matters relevant to Iraq. So my claim, my truthful
      proposition, that I have had discussions with officials from the
      Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade about matters relevant to Iraq
      stands up. The government’s repeated claim that I have had none of these
      discussions with officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and
      Trade is just plain false; it is just plain untrue.

      In relation to the conversations with Mr Bonighton, I stand by my
      personal explanation to the House earlier today when I said that I met
      with Mr Bonighton in my electorate office at Ingleburn on Monday, 5
      January. The meeting was scheduled to go from 5 p.m. to 5.45 p.m., and
      my recollection is that it went longer than that. Mr Bonighton briefed
      me on several subjects. One was the situation in Iraq—and the Prime
      Minister has confirmed that—the intelligence support provided to the
      Australian defence forces in Iraq and the govern-ment’s failed policy in
      relation to weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. That was my claim: that
      I was briefed on the situation in Iraq, intelligence provided to our
      troops—and the Prime Minister calls that ‘inciden-tal’— and the
      government’s failed policy in relation to weapons of mass destruction in
      Iraq—and he regards that as incidental.

      I mean, what has this debate been about for the last 12 months? It has
      been about the policy failings of this government in relation to weapons
      of mass destruction. None were used in the conflict and none have been
      found since. Your government, Prime Minister, sent Australian troops to
      war for a purpose that was not true, and you regard that as incidental.
      When I get a briefing from a defence intelligence official about that
      serious matter of public policy concern, about that serious matter of
      national concern, the Prime Minister says, ‘That’s incidental.’ Prime
      Minister, it is the core of the debate about Iraq. It is the core of the
      debate about Iraq—that you sent Australia troops to war for a purpose
      that was not true. And I have had that con-firmed to me in a briefing
      from a Defence official, and I am supposed to say, ‘Oh well, that’s just
      incidental to the debate.’ I should just wipe that. I should just wipe
      that out of the memory bank. That does not matter. That was not really
      about Iraq. That was not about Australian policy in Iraq. That was not
      about our military commitment. That was not about our military
      engagement in Iraq. That was something that the Prime Minister would
      call incidental. I should just wipe that in terms of my public policy
      decisions and considerations. Well, Prime Minister, I am not wiping it.

      The SPEAKER—Order! The Leader of the Opposi-tion should address his
      remarks through the chair.
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