In the event of a Labor victory at the next election Latham must initiate two Royal Commissions, both with full and unrestrained powers to subpoena any person the Commissioners wish. The Commissions should have no restrictions to its range and extent of enquiry and must be insensitive to political unease from all sides of politics in its search for the truth.
In recent days 43 high profile Australians of influence and from both sides of politics have voiced their concern over the honesty of the Howard government and, in particular, Howard’s casus belli for taking Australia to war with Iraq. Predictably, Howard has arrogantly dismissed these concerns stating that he respected “…the fact that many Australians opposed the decision to join the operation” and that “…these 43 people are clearly amongst them.” If Howard replaced the word “many” with “most” he’d then be nearer the truth. Before the war got under way, opinion polls, both formal and informal, indicated that the majority of Australians were opposed to our involvement in the upcoming war against Iraq particularly if it lacked UN backing. Yet Howard persisted with his lies and deception and, ignoring the will of the Australian people, took us to war anyway. He refused to debate the decision to go to war in Parliament saying that no decision had yet been made. This too was a lie. Mr Howard goes on in his statement regarding the “Criticisms by former office-holders” to insult the 43 ‘critics’ by inferring that, because almost all of them left office prior to 11 September 2001, they are not qualified to comment on or criticise the government’s handling of the issues. He holds these 43 ‘critics’ with the same level of contempt as he does the rest of Australia’s citizens and their opinions.
Howard also says in this same statement regarding his ‘critics’ that they “…should remember that at the time of the Iraqi operation early last year there was a near unanimous view around the world that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.” This is yet another lie. On 24 February 2001, just six months before 9/11, US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, together with Amre Moussa, the Egyptian Foreign Minister, told the world at a press gathering that: “He [Saddam Hussein] has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbours.” http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2001/933.htm
The farce of Howard’s lies has gone on for long enough. As soon as Howard is out of office he and his leading ministers, Alexander Downer and Robert Hill, should face the full strength of the law if, after a full Royal Commission, they are found to have been deliberately lying to the Australian people and its Parliament.
The second Royal Commission should, with the same broad ranging terms of reference and powers, be convened to fully investigate the warnings given to Foreign Minister Downer prior to the Bali bombings. If such a commission finds that Downer was deliberately failing in his duty to warn Australian travellers of the imminent dangers and, worse, deliberately failed to do so in order to garner a political advantage via a turning of public opinion in favour of a war against terrorism generally and a war against Iraq specifically, then he and Howard should both face the Australian criminal courts to answer such charges.
Only full unrestricted Royal Commissions will be able to uncover the truth regarding these matters. No tightly controlled inquiry or report commissioned by an incumbent government is ever going to find the full truth. The Australian people have had enough of Howard’s lies and, moreover, now demand the truth about why and how we find ourselves as one of the most disliked nations among our neighbours and those that were our friends in Europe.