Robert Hill says the Security Council has failed the world community badly
PM - Wednesday, 9 April , 2003 18:30:00
Reporter: Catherine McGrath
MARK COLVIN: Australia will have a small but important role in the reconstruction of post-war Iraq. There'll be six Australian officials on the agency set up by the US Military to rebuild the country.
But just as Tony Blair has got George W Bush to grant the UN a role, Australia has expressed strong hostility to the UN today, with Defence Minister Robert Hill reportedly saying the Security Council has failed the world community badly.
From Canberra, Chief Political Correspondent Catherine McGrath reports.
CATHERINE MCGRATH: The Howard Government has been critical of the UN Security Council ever since the divisions over Iraq emerged. Today, Defence Minister Robert Hill went further, indicating the Security Council had failed the world over Iraq, and the deep divisions between the permanent members had led to the current war. And he said he didn't believe the UN was up to the task of organising the post-war reconstruction.
ROBERT HILL: I was critical of the Security Council. I think the Security Council failed the world community badly in this instance. You know, it passed 12 years of resolutions, but it wasn't prepared to enforce them. That sends a very unhelpful message to dictators who develop weapons of mass destruction, are prepared to use them on their own people and on their neighbours.
CATHERINE MCGRATH: And he says itís up to the permanent members of the Security Council to make the organisation work.
ROBERT HILL: The big five have really got to address that issue for themselves. If as a result of them being so deeply divided, the Security Council is not going to meet its international responsibility, then I think that's a loss. So, I think there's got to be a lot of hard thinking after this conflict.
CATHERINE MCGRATH: It was perhaps no coincidence that in the same city of Brisbane, a few hours after Robert Hill's comments, the Prime Minister outlined his vision for a post-war Iraq and who should lead it. There was no confusion there. The Prime Minister believes it should be lead by the United States.
JOHN HOWARD: There will be an interim administration, and it will be led by a General J. Garner of the United States Forces, and there has been established what's called an "office of reconstruction and humanitarian affairs", and that body's already established a headquarters in Kuwait.
CATHERINE MCGRATH: And Australian public servants are already in place there.
JOHN HOWARD: We have an Office from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which is attached to the Chief of Staff's Office, and be working very closely with General Garner.
We have an Ausaid officer. We have a defence representative assisting with contingency planning for the post-conflict phase in Iraq. We have an agricultural expert preparing the way for a larger Australian advisory team.
We have, inevitably of course, a macro-economist from the Treasury advising on overall macro-economic issues, as a part of the process of re-establishing a viable Iraqi economy. A petroleum sector expert from the Department of Industry Trade and Resources will join the body this weekend, to help redevelop the Iraqi petroleum industry.
CATHERINE MCGRATH: Mr Howard maintains that he isn't sidelining the United Nations.
JOHN HOWARD: And I'm just stating the obvious that, Saddam Hussein's regime toppled, the occupying force is the military of the United States and the United Kingdom, and it follows from that that that is the immediate source of authority and power. There's no United Nations presence there to do anything.
But that doesn't mean to say that the United Nations canít be part of that interim period. It doesn't mean to say you can't have special UN representatives working with the Americans. It doesn't mean that the United Nations doesn't have a major role in relation to humanitarian and other issues.
CATHERINE MCGRATH: So, clearly, Australia's view is that the United Nations could and should have a role, but it won't be in charge. That, the Australian Government maintains, isnít even on the table.
But Democrats Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs Natasha Stott-Despoja says Australia is simply giving in to the United States.
NATASHA STOTT-DESPOJA: Well, it looks like this is the second time that the Government, and indeed the Coalition, has closed the door on the Untied Nations, and I don't think that the Australian Government should just passively agree with the notion of a US-led administration in Iraq.
MARK COLVIN: Natasha Stott-Despoja ending Catherine McGrath's report.