Opposition parties unanimous on Iraq troops


Statement at the HMAS Kanimbla Farewell Ceremony by Simon Crean, Federal Labor leader, 23 January 2003

Governor-General, Prime Minister, Head of Defence Forces, Head of the Navy, men and women of the Kanimbla and their families who are gathered here today for us to farewell you and to wish you God speed and a safe and speedy return.

I don't want to mince my words because I don't believe that you should be going. I don't think that there should be a deployment of troops to Iraq ahead of the United Nations determining it. But that's a political decision, that's an argument that the Prime Minister and I will have, no doubt, over coming weeks and months.

But having said that I don't support the deployment of our troops in these circumstance, I do support our troops and always will, and that distinction is fundamentally important. The men and women of our fighting forces in a democracy are expected unquestioningly to accept the orders of the government of the day. You don't have a choice and my argument is with the government, not with you.

I know that you will give, through service and through your training, to the best of your ability. You are a magnificent fighting and Defence Force, you have been trained for it. You've been trained in circumstances in which you hope the politicians of the day can avoid, circumstances in which you are called on to exercise those skills, particularly the combat skills. I also believe that it's fundamentally important in this complex world that more and more we've got to resolve these issues through the United Nations collectively. Understanding the complexity, but fundamentally understanding that no one country has got the right answer here.

But if in fact the United Nations is capable of getting a unanimous re