Howard adrift in Iraq, needs a reality check from Clark

” Since Australian Prime Minister John Howard has shown himself open to free and frank discussions with international politicians about the wisdom of military involvement in Iraq, Prime Minister Helen Clark should not hold back on urging Mr Howard to withdraw Aussie troops immediately from Iraq,” Green Party Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Keith Locke says.

” At times, friends have to tell home truths to friends regardless of the diplomatic niceties. In this case, John Howard seemed to relish his debate with US presidential candidate Barack Obama and felt very free to offer unsought advice.

“The real problem with John Howard’s advice on Iraq was that it was the wrong advice. It was a sign of just how out of touch the current Australian leader is with international opinion, and with a large number of Australians who want to see a speedy timetable for bringing the Australian troops home.

“Clark should be urging the immediate withdrawal of Australian troops, consistent with her opposition to the invasion of Iraq and to a war that has proved to be a disaster. From Gallipoli onwards, New Zealanders have always been ready to help out their Aussie mates when they get into strife. In this case, John Howard has been listening to the wrong crowd. The best advice he could get from his real mates here in New Zealand is : get out of Iraq now.

“In her formal talks with Mr Howard, Helen Clark should also be willing to back the call of her Australian Labour counterpart Kevin Rudd, for David Hicks to be brought back home from Guantanamo Bay. The existence of Guantanamo Bay continues to be an outrage against UN human rights standards and conventions that New Zealand supports.

“The treatment of David Hicks has been an example of the Howard government’s stance on human rights that New Zealand needs to be willing to publicly denounce, and distance itself from,” Mr Locke says.

“It is also hard to see how the formal talks on Friday can afford to ignore Australia’s continued attempts to bypass the Kyoto process. In particular, Helen Clark should be stressing to Mr Howard that clean coal technology is neither an immediate nor a realistic response to the climate change crisis, and that any workable Transtasman carbon trading system has to include a cap and trade mechanism as its central feature. ”