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Issue No. 172 28 March 2003  

Vale: Rule of Law
As the US attack on Iraq continues, the Howard Government fires a $60 million shot at the CFMEU and bemused onlookers begin to wonder what the ‘Law’ means any more.


Poetry: If I Were a Rich Man
Through a distortion in the time-space continuum, we have found a recording showing how people a few years into the future will deal with health care.

Interview: League of Nations
ICFTU general secretary Guy Ryder on the war, core labour standards and why Australia is an international pariah.

Industrial: 20/20 Hindsight
A retrospective analysis of the Accord is needed to help develop future strategies. Is it worth trying again? And if so, what would need to be different?

Organising: On The Buses
A new rank and file leadership team is standing up for the harried bus driver in the run-up to the NSW State Election

Unions: National Focus
A gaze around the country reveals some inspiring and innovative organising initiatives, a fruitful connection with young workers in South Australia and some typically robust industrial campaigns reports Noel Hester.

History: The Banner Room
On the eve of it’s refurbishment, Jim Marr ventures into one of Trades Hall’s best kept secrets; the room that houses relics of labour’s halcyon days.

International: The Slaughter Continues
Chilling new statistics from Colombia's main trade union confederation CUT: nine trade unionists assassinated in the first two months of this year.

Legal: A Legal Case For War?
Aaron Magner looks at the legal implications of the crusade of the Coalition of the Willing

Culture: Singing For The People
When there’s a struggle for social justice, when a war is brewing or rights are being eroded, the first ones to pen, paper and protest are often the folkwriters.

Review: The Hours
On the eve of International Women’s Day Tara de Boehmler follows the tale of three women who would rather choose death than a life devoid of personal choice.

Poetry: I Wanna Bomb Saddam
Scarier than Star Wars, the latest weapon to be deployed in the battle for Iraq is the Singing Dubya.

Satire: Diuretic Makes Warne's Excuses Look Thin
Australian cricketer Shane Warne today admitted that he was still feeling the after effects of the diuretic he tested positive to.


 Cole’s Bad Medicine

 Unions Condemn Protest Violence

 Hospitals Pick Sweatshops Over Chain Gangs

 New Faces Part of Labor ‘Rejuvenation’

 Cobar Draws Line in Sand

 Test Case – UK 26, Australia 0

 Uncle Sam and the Union Busters

 Calling All Artists – May Day Poster Comp

 Nipping Surveillance in the Bud

 Bus Drivers Back Childcare

 Forced Labour Prevails Despite Sanctions

 Union Gains On Display

 Activists Notebook


The Soapbox
Workers Friend
Shock jock Alan Jones snubbed his Liberal mates to bucket the Cole Royal Commission and launch Jim Marr's book

The Locker Room
Boer Bore Boring
In the face of oppression Phil Doyle falls asleep in front of the TV

Guest Report
Dead Labor
The Hawke and Keating legacy is John Howard, Leonie Bronstein argues.

Hands Off, Tony
John Della Bosca argues the NSW Industrial Relations System gives his State a competitive advantage.

Groundhog Day
Another year, another round of corporate excess. Bosswatch returns from its summer slumber to find the same old dogs up to the same tricks.

 Statement on Labor's Response to War
 Tom's Tantie
 Shameless Extremists
 Barbarians at the Gate
 More War Comment
 Back-Slapping Bob
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Letters to the Editor

Statement on Labor's Response to War

Four Labor elders - Michael Costello, Michael Easson, Bob Hogg and Jim Nolan - have asked for this statement to be circulated around the labour movement for comment.


When the war in Iraqi is over - and for the sake of the Iraqi people we must all hope that is soon - new political and policy challenges will be thrown up for Labor.

Consistent with Labor's traditions of nation building, peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance we must commit the party to supporting the Iraqi people. Just as Australia, regardless of our reservations, will have participated in their liberation we must be willingly involved in the hard job of reconstruction.

There are a number of major issues that have emerged in the lead up to the coalition of the willing's war on Iraq that over time must be considered by Labor such as the UN's impotence in tackling major human rights abuses and the nature of the Australian/US alliance.

However, there are three immediate considerations that, in our judgment must inform Australia's reaction to the war. First, an unambiguous commitment to the peace - and a constructive diplomatic and practical role in securing it; secondly, a foreign policy for Australia which gives primacy to human rights in the context of our national interests; and thirdly, a renewed effort to develop international legal rules which are underpinned by an irreducible commitment to the protection of human rights.

Having made the commitment to the war, Australia cannot be indifferent to the peace. Because of its attitude to the war, especially, nor can Labor.

In his final pitch on the war, Howard has tried to swing attention to the humanitarian arguments, which we have argued all along, remain the most compelling justification for intervention. Likewise, humanitarian concerns were the most credible of the reasons advanced against intervention.

The defeat of Bush Snr in 1992 despite the successful prosecution of the1991 Gulf war is a reminder of the manner in which even dramatic history making events are soon eclipsed. Labor's chances to defeat Howard in 2004 may, in all probability, depend upon issues which have yet to emerge, but the need to develop a thoughtful and principled response to the peace in Iraq will nevertheless be an important marker of Labor's credibility.

Humanitarian concerns make it imperative that Australia makes an unambiguous commitment to peace in Iraq. That is a commitment which Labor should be proud to champion. So far, Howard has committed a nominal amount of $47 million - even Australia's access to Iraq's wheat markets would more than justify that - and Howard has ruled out a peacekeeping role in Iraq.

Labor should insist on a significant peacekeeping commitment, but one tied to tangible results.

There is a ready and obvious way in which Australia can make this contribution. Australia's special forces have won the admiration of the world's professional soldiers but that is not the limit of our international regard. Australia, as well, has a justifiable reputation as a peacemaker and as a supplier of expert peacekeepers.

Cyprus, Cambodia, East Timor are three powerful examples of Australia's commitment to peace and reconstruction. Australia's energies must be devoted to making all available diplomatic and practical efforts to see that the peace is won - from the Iraqi peoples' perspective.

Progressive, secular democratic elements in the Iraq opposition can be assisted in this cause. Labor can promote the cause of reconstruction and democracy with conviction. The threat - tentatively made by France - that the Iraqi people might now become the victims of international ostracism because the coalition's intervention should be strongly resisted.

Prime Minister Blair has been insistent that this intervention in Iraq cannot be viewed in isolation. It must mark a step - undeniably important in itself - but a step on the way to an enduring Middle East settlement.

Tony Blair has made the obvious but nonetheless correct point that the reversal, since September 2000, in the apparent progress towards a settlement of the Arab/Israeli conflict, continuing injustice, terrorism and violence, cast a huge shadow across the world. He reminds us that this is "a shadow which all of us in power have a duty to remove". Labor must demand that Australia throw its diplomatic efforts behind Blair's support for a comprehensive settlement by 2005 of the Israeli/Arab conflict, including a permanent two state solution, the end to illegal settlements on the West Bank and Arab attempts to deligitimise and destroy Israel.

In the past, too many efforts such as Former Israeli Prime Minister Barak's plan for a just Middle East peace has been shoved into a bottom drawer after the disappointment of rejection. Labor should be ready to throw its weight behind renewed initiatives like this and through our links with Blair and UK Labour must lend strong support to see it through.

Australia's foreign policy must be re-defined to place human rights in the foreground. We do not agree that there is a clean separation between human rights and the national interest. The support of freedom and liberal humanitarianism everywhere is in our national interest. The concept of 'linkage' of human rights to full participation in the international community - long disparaged by Kissingerite 'realists' - must be re-asserted in the context of gross abuse of human rights.

Genocide within a State's borders is not 'ok', so long as it doesn't cross that country's borders. Respect for basic human rights must be the irreducible minimum for recognition by, and full participation in, the world community.

We argue that the failure of the UN to deal with Iraq and act seriously on the terms of resolution 1441 is a symptom of a wider malaise in international diplomacy. The Security Council long ago failed to deal in a credible manner with Iraq and the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf war. It did nothing in the face of the extraordinary human rights abuses in Iraq - most notably the Iraqi genocide of the Kurds and Marsh Arabs.

This should come as no surprise notwithstanding the view, which emerged that the international community could achieve more in the post cold war era. Yet the Security Council failed to address two other major significant human rights crises since the end of the cold war - Kosovo and Rwanda. A full debate has yet to take place, which fully appreciates the extent to which the human rights dimension should inform, international relations.

Again, Blair's powerful idea of having an 'ethical dimension' to foreign policy should not be cynically dismissed, but remain the standard by which foreign policy is to be measured. It is no cliché to re-assert that the national interest of democracies is promoted, not hindered, by a commitment to human rights and that democratically accountable governments will be more reliable partners for peace.

While this may be a new 'dimension' in foreign policy, there are worthwhile precedents for its operation. For example, the European Union has made some headway in securing concessions as a condition of EU membership and foreign aid is often tied to human rights.

We contend that the necessity for a new debate on Human Rights and strategies for securing them has been underlined by the tragic case of the sanctions imposed on Iraq since 1991. Iraq, Burma and more recently, Zimbabwe, demonstrate that sanctions often mean little to unaccountable, despotic, governments.

Ordinary people are first the victims of their despotic rulers only to have their predicament cruelly compounded by the actions of a well intentioned international community. Renewed efforts must be directed to the development of international legal rules which incorporate a commitment to the protection of human rights and have real traction.

The ultimate test of Australia's strength of commitment to the new human rights agenda in Iraq will surely come if the 'coalition of the willing' falters in its stated commitment to Iraqi democracy. Importantly, Labor should be vigilant in its insistence that the America's feet (and our own) are held to the fire on the promise of both Iraqi freedom and reconstruction as well as a just settlement of the Israel - Palestinian conflict.

This was a solemn commitment given repeatedly by Tony Blair which we believe was given with conviction. It deserves Labor's strong support.

Australian Labor should promote a new debate on these vital topics of human rights, the international legal order and in so doing address the real and urgent issues which will need to be addressed after the immediate drama of the Iraq intervention recedes.

We put these views forward to our colleagues in the party knowing that they may be controversial and likely to spark a debate - especially about what might happen next. If so, we can be proud that the party we love will be engaged in debate at the heart and soul of what it means to be Labor. In international affairs, as everywhere else, the principles of liberal humanitarianism, of practical social justice, are a light to the world.

We four are all long-standing members of the party. Consistent with the last national Conference of the party to encourage debate and greater attention to policy development, we offer these thoughts to our colleagues on the implications of the present debate.

* Michael Costello, former secretary of Department of Foreign Affairs

* Michael Easson, former secretary, Labor Council of NSW

* Bob Hogg, former secretary Australian Labor Party

* Jim Nolan, former NSW Ombudsman


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