Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 1 Hansard (19 February) . . Page.. 253 ..
MS DUNDAS (continuing):
What happened on the weekend was impressive-the number of people who piled into Garema Place here in the ACT to show their opposition to a war and to send the very clear messages, "Don't back Bush!"and "Bring our troops home!"It was one of the largest crowds which has gathered in the ACT. I was speaking to members of the community in that crowd who had been part of the Vietnam protests. They said-and reports supported this-that these rallies were bigger. This is before we have fully committed to war.
We do have troops headed for the Middle East, and there are a number of concerns relating to how they are being treated. Even before a firm commitment to war, people are showing that they think there must be another way-that we must find another way-that we cannot, in all good conscience, step into the arena of war.
We had young people, old people and people of all demographics. Bishop Pat Power noted that it had been a long time since all the Christian churches agreed on something. I would add, it was the first time I shared a platform with a bishop, an ALP backbencher and Ms Tucker from the Greens-and we all had the same message.
Protests are a legitimate part of our democracy. They should not be dismissed, as has so readily been done by the federal government. The people who marched on the weekend were exercising their democratic rights and showing, by their presence, that they were not happy with the idea of the bombing of Iraq.
Australians do not want a war. It will affect us both locally and internationally. We already spend $40 million a day on defence. By committing to war with Iraq, this will increase to $15 billion.
At the last sitting of federal parliament, the Senate passed a motion stating that the disarmament of Iraq must proceed under the authority of the UN-and the Senate censured the government. The Democrats then wrote to all members of the United Nations Security Council, conveying the results of this Senate vote, so they would be aware that the Prime Minister does not speak for all Australians. The motion noted that a strike on Iraq will breach international law.
The Australian, British and American governments have repeatedly said that they do not need a new resolution to attack Iraq. That is not true. Leading lawyers and judges have warned that an attack on Iraq, without any UN resolution, would be illegal, as well as-I personally believe-a quite concerning commitment to war. There are alternative avenues, and we must explore a peaceful resolution. Weapons inspections must be given the chance to work-and we should be working towards a change of government in Iraq through legal means.
Members of this Assembly have spoken about the rights of Iraqi citizens, and that they do not have the same rights as we have here. I question how dropping bombs on them will give them more rights. Military action should not be taken without careful consideration of the consequences for stability and security, as well as the cost in human life.