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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 4 Hansard (1 April) . . Page.. 1173 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

United Nations. One of the saddest things about this war besides the tragic loss of human life is that it is totally ignoring the international processes that were agreed to so many decades ago to help stop international war. Why don't we send in our troops with the blue berets of the UN that they they have so proudly worn in so many other places around the world, as opposed to sending them in as aggressors?

I would also like to talk about the protests that have gone on around the world. At the most recent protest on the lawns of Parliament House, I was speaking to a young woman who said, "Sometimes I question why we are here. We are already at war and it looks like it is going to be quite hard to change John Howard's mind."My response to her was, "Imagine if we weren't here. Imagine if nobody was speaking out against this war; that the people of the world were saying, 'It's okay to randomly drop bombs on schools, buses and communities. It's okay to randomly march across a desert shooting at busloads of women and children.' Imagine if we were not out here saying that there must be another way. There must be a way in which we can bring peace to our world and support the people of the world to live their lives as they choose and have the real freedom to make that choice."

I am, as are the Australian Democrats, passionately opposed to this war. I would like to pay special tribute today to Ruth Russell. Ruth Russell is a proud member of the Australian Democrats, and a local councillor in the Tea Tree Gully local council in South Australia. She took a huge risk when she went to Iraq as a human shield. She has been based near the wheat silos 20 kilometres north of Baghdad. Symbolically, the silos are used to store Australian wheat.

Ruth is a peace loving activist, a mother of two, and a member of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. As she was leaving, she told ABC Radio:

I'm putting my life on the line and I know that, and that's one of the things I've had to work through. But the nature of war has changed. It's not soldiers fighting soldiers. This will be the bombing of civilians, and we have to say this is not acceptable. I am here to say that I will put my life on the line because we need to stand up and say killing innocent people is not the answer.

Today our prayers and thoughts are with Ruth, as there have been reports that the silos have been bombed. Ruth had been sending emails regularly and speaking of the families she had met and the children that she had helped. But today her silence just adds to our worry. Our thoughts are with her children, Amanda and Ashley, who have been under increasing media scrutiny but have stood by their mum all the way. They are doing their mum proud.

I think it is important to note when we are discussing human lives what it is that is going on in Iraq. I read a beautiful speech by a 12-year-old girl who stood up on the steps in Washington DC and said to the people of America, "Think about what it is you are doing because what you are doing is bombing a child like me, somebody who is just trying to get an education and live their lives."I think it is important that we remember that-that we are all human beings; that to drop bombs on anybody is never good, is never right; and that there must be other ways. We need to remember that the people who are suffering in Iraq, be that at the hands of Saddam Hussein or George W Bush, are people just like us.

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