Extract from Tasmanian House of Assembly Hansard [4/4/91]:

Dr BROWN (Denison) -Mr Speaker, I move -

That this House abhors the abandonment of the Kurd people by countries involved in the Gulf War. The House calls on the Prime Minister, Mr Hawke, to act immediately to put pressure on Australia's allies to intervene in Iraq to stop the slaughter of the Kurds and establish their right to self-determination.

I thank members of both sides of the House for allowing this motion, to be brought on, because of the extreme gravity' of the situation in Kurdistan.

In this 'morning's Age the news begins:

'As a vengeful Iraqi army continued its slaughter of retreating Kurdish rebels, world powers maintained indifference to the plight of Kurds fleeing in their thousands from northern Iraq toward the Turkish and Iranian frontiers.

At the United Nations, representatives of the United States, the Soviet Union and Britain said that the Kurdish question should be set aside until negotiations were completed on a formal Gulf war ceasefire …

The US representative, Mr Thomas Pickering, told reporters that "the Security Council focus is on the (Gulf war) resolution at this point".'

Last year I met Mr Pickering in New York and I only wish I could speak to him now about the Kurds, because here we have a slaughter of people beyond the pale of description.

There are estimates of up to 500 000 Kurds being caught in the mountains in the north of the Iraqi part of Kurdistan, with the borders closed in both the Turkish and the Iranian directions. In fact on one snow-capped ridge on the Turkish border 100 000 people are trying to obtain entry to Turkey; there are 25 000 vehicles in convoy. It is the end of winter over there. The Turkish troops have fired over the heads of these people to stop them crossing the border. From the southern approach in Iraq Saddam Hussein's forces are moving rapidly north.

We in this country, which took part recently in the Gulf War to free Kuwait, are in the disgusting position of sitting on our hands while these people are absolutely slaughtered. The Western reporters in Kurdistan have been taken to the former torture houses of the Saddam Hussein regime in Kurdistan, the rape rooms and the other almost unspeakably inhumane reminders of the savagery of Saddam Hussein's regime, and yet the world which came to the assistance of Kuwait is now denying assistance to these Kurdish people who have every bit the same claim to sovereignty that Kuwait had.

The difference, I submit, is oil. The difference is a monetary interest in the southern part of this area of terrible turmoil and the failure of the Kurds, unfortunately, to have their country sitting across oil wells.

The Prime Minister, Mr Hawke, without reference to his own Cabinet, sent Australian frigates to take part in the blockade of Iraq at the time of the invasion of Kuwait. Now, in the United Nations - which includes Australian representatives of course - the UN Security Council has turned down a French resolution which says those sanctions should not be lifted from Iraq until Saddam Hussein gives an assurance that minorities will be treated properly within his own country. So the United Nations is not even applying sanctions to provide some sort of protection to the Kurdish people.

I remind the House that hundreds of thousands of women, children and men are now holed up in the mountains in the north of Kurdistan to be slaughtered by this army approaching from the south. One has only to read the papers to know of the shocking situation of the people in Kirkuk, the largest city in Kurdistan and the now Kurdish headquarters of Salahuddin in the north of the country - if it is still in their hands. They have spoken in the past few days to Western journalists about the fact that when the Saddam Hussein forces arrive from the south they are dead.

My motion is put forward, I can only say with great anguish, to the Prime Minister of this country to say for goodness sake let Australia give vent to its anguish to the international community, which is sitting on its hands while this slaughter takes place. Let there be no doubt about it: in so far as we do nothing, the blood of the Kurdish people is to that degree on our own hands.

I am pleased that the House has allowed this motion to be brought forward as essentially an urgent matter because nothing on the planet as far as human beings are concerned is more urgent today than that we speak up for these people who deserve all the rights of dignity, let alone life, that we are enjoying in this peaceful, secure state on the other side of the world. My heart goes out to them. I urge the House to give its full backing to this motion because the least we can do is get our Prime Minister to speak up, act and put the full weight of this country towards the protection of these innocents, as they now are, in the northern part of Iraq.

Mr BARKER (Denison) -The Opposition supports the motion. We too abhor the actions of what we would believe is the Iraqi madman, Saddam Hussein. I wonder just how long our world leaders will ignore Hussein's latest slaughter of the Kurds. I think it was in July-August 1988 that he and his regime murdered at least 3000 Kurds with very little world reaction at that time and it is feared already that a minimum of some 20000 Kurds have been murdered in this instance.

Hussein's blood lust continues. As we know after his war with Iran he invaded Kuwait where he suffered a massive defeat by the United Nations forces. It seems that Hussein is intent on wiping out the Kurdish race in Iraq which represents some 23 per cent of Iraq's population of in the vicinity of 15 million people. Saddam Hussein is desperate for a win, at the cost of Iraq's Kurd population, to reassert his dictatorial role in that nation.

I implore the House to support this motion as Hussein must be stopped before it is too late. It is obvious he is not going to stop and the Australian Government must show its consistency by supporting intervention. In conclusion I must say however that it is somewhat ironic that the mover of the motion and others who opposed United Nations intervention in the recent Middle East conflict are now seeking intervention in this matter. I must also remind the House -

Dr BROWN -Point of order, Mr Speaker. I have been misrepresented and I would like the opportunity to correct that misrepresentation at the appropriate time.

Mr SPEAKER -At the end of the debate.

Dr BROWN -Thank you.

Mr BARKER -I also remind the House that we should not forget the political rape and occupation of the Baltic states by the USSR when again our world leaders have shown a reluctance to act.

The Opposition expresses its sympathy to the Kurdish people and joins with this House in condemning Saddam Hussein's actions.

Mr CORNISH (Braddon) -I rise to support the motion and I am very pleased the member for Denison, Dr Brown, brought this motion before the House.

I really have nothing to add to the sentiments that have been expressed by both speakers - Dr Brown and Mr Barker -on this motion. It seems to me horrific and horrendous that the United States could go to the assistance of Kuwait and hand out a bit of a thrashing to the 'Butcher of Baghdad', Saddam Hussein, and then stand by idly while that same army and that same man are persecuting the Kurdish people.

I certainly want my name recorded in the annals of this House and in any message that goes to the Prime Minister to express my very deep concern about this issue and to call on the Australian Government to do something very positive about it. That is why I have much pleasure in joining with the other two speakers in expressing my concern at the current situation.

Mr PATMORE (Bass -Deputy Premier) -I have been reading with interest of the plight of the Kurdish people. It seems to me that they have been a convenient political pawn for hundreds of years and it also seems that Turkey has made a decision that it does not want the Kurdish rebels to be successful in Iraq because that will mean, from their point of view, an uprising in Turkey. Iran has the same views, as probably has the USSR.

I noticed also that the Israelis were using the Kurds as a convenient arm of Mossad for some time previously when Iran was causing concerns. When the Shah left the Peacock Throne, Israel lost its influence there and was unable to use them as convenient pawns.

The history of the Kurdish people has been an unfortunate one and continues to be. I have noticed that more and more people within Iran are asking obvious questions in that the United States took action and exhorted people to rise up against Hussein, and it now stands back and allows almost genocide within that country. So I also wish to place on the record my concern over what appears to have been an abandonment of a race of people for political purposes. Having been used, they are now being swept aside because of the problems that some politicians perceive with the Middle East. I am quite sure, knowing the Middle East as a hotbed of uncertainty, the abandonment of the Kurdish people will only make the matter worse. I support the points raised.

The only concern that I do have in relation to this motion is the one raised by my colleague, Mr Barker - Dr Brown will comment on that anyway - about what is, in effect, a cry to crank up the war machine again in Iraq. I have concerns about that, having regard to the military alliance which has been spectacularly successful. If the war machine starts again in Iraq who knows what Israel and the other Arab states may do. It may well be that we are heading for another conflagration. That does not detract from the concerns I have raised but it also, I think, points out the dangers - which are pretty self-evident - in again starting fighting in the Middle East.

Mr SPEAKER -We did allow fifteen minutes and they have not concluded. I will allow the debate to keep running until the fifteen minutes is up. The honourable Minister for Health.

Mr WHITE (Denison -Minister for Health) -I wish to support the motion but on a slightly more personal basis. As a solicitor I once acted for a so-called illegal immigrant who was Kurdish and it was at that time that I became aware of the struggle of the Kurdish people, not only for independence but for a home of their own. This young man had left Iraq because he was being conscripted into the Iraqi army to fight against the Kurdish rebels who at that stage were still trying to maintain a right to sovereignty, a right to call the part of the Middle East known as Kurdistan their own; that is, free self-government away from Turkey, Iran, Iraq or any of the other powers there.

That desire for independence - that cry for cultural integrity - has been denied by the Middle Eastern powers. I believe that we, from this distance, should use whatever capacity we have - the United Nations would be my preferred option - to ensure that the Kurdish people are given that right to their own cultural identity, their own language and their own capacity for self-government. It is on that basis that I support this motion.

Mrs BLADEL (Franklin -Minister for Administrative Services and Consumer Affairs) -I support this motion. However Iwould like to deal with the words 'to put pressure on Australia's allies to intervene in Iraq'. It depends on what we mean by 'intervention'. I think it is very important that we know clearly what we mean by that.

The plight of the Kurdish people is an obscenity and to think that we are now in this post-Iraq/Kuwait/Gulf war period and in the United States of America a couple of weeks ago an opinion poll was taken and the results found that 'Stormin' Norman' was the sexiest man in America! Why is he the sexiest man in America -because unfortunately sex is equated in the minds of people with acts of violence and acts of power. What else? Have members looked at him?

Mr Hodgman -Is this really to do with the motion?

Mrs BLADEL -Yes, it is. It has a great deal to do with the motion and I will address this motion in my own way.

Mr Hodgman -You're trivialising the situation with those comments.

Mrs BLADEL -I am not trivialising. Just wait and listen to what I say because I have not started yet.

America has played a very devious game in this Kurdish situation because America - and Bush himself - gave encouragement to the Kurds to rise against Saddam Hussein. The tragedy of the Kurdish people is that they are scattered throughout a number of countries in that area and nobody really wants to have them united. They want to keep them fragmented because united as a nation they would, like Israel, have a claim to a homeland and nobody wants to pass over a piece of territory.

But nevertheless, in the closing stages of the Gulf War, Bush encouraged the Kurds to rise and they were promised support. Members may not all remember the Hungarian uprising in 1956, but the Voice of America - the Central Intelligence Agency controlled radio system that broadcast to the Eastern bloc - for months pounded the same message: 'Rise up. We will help you. All that you Hungarian people have to do is to make the first move and here we are. We -the Allies, America will come in and support you. We will have weapons standing by. Just take the first step'. And what happened?

Mr SPEAKER -Order. I ask the honourable minister to wind up because there was to be a limited time on the debate.

Mrs BLADEL -The same thing happened. The Hungarian people rose up against the Russians and the Americans did nothing. They were slaughtered and in slavery for many years. The same thing has happened with the Kurds. We have to make this motion powerful and send the message that Australia must put pressure on its so-called ally - and that is America; we know what we are talking about - to go to the United Nations and call for intervention.

Mr SPEAKER -Order. The honourable member for Denison in reply.

Dr BROWN (Denison) -Thank you, Mr Speaker. I might just inform the House that despite the American assurances that any Iraqi planes in the air would be shot down, today there are Iraqi helicopter gunships firing on the fleeing Kurdish columns while the, fixed-wing American reconnaisance planes are flying at a higher level watching what is happening. That speaks for itself.

On the matter of misrepresentation, I supported the United Nations intervention and the sanctions against the Saddam Hussein invasion of Kuwait, and I point out to the House that had those sanctions been applied as a means of resolving the issue we would not be seeing the current slaughter going on in the northern part of that country.

Motion agreed to.

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