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Wednesday, 5 February, 2003, 10:22 GMT
Australian PM censured over Iraq
Australian Prime Minister John Howard walks past an anti-war sign at the Australian Parliament in Canberra
Mr Howard's stance on Iraq has been met with protests
The Australian Senate has passed an historic no-confidence motion against the prime minister over his handling of the crisis in Iraq.

John Howard and his conservative Liberal/National coalition were censured for deploying troops to the Gulf ahead of a possible war.

John Howard has let this nation down

Senator Bob Brown

Opposition and minor parties joined forces to pass the motion against Mr Howard by 33 to 31 votes.

The vote has no legislative clout, but is considered an important symbolic gesture as it is the Senate's first vote of no-confidence in a serving leader in its 102-year history.

Mr Howard - a staunch US ally - has insisted the deployment of troops does not mean Australia has decided to support any war with Iraq.

But so far, Australia and the UK are the only countries to have joined the US in deploying forces to the Gulf region.

Support for troops

During the heated debate, which started on Tuesday, Mr Howard was accused of deploying troops without reference to parliament and against to public opinion.

Australian deployment
HMS Kanimbla leaves for the Persian Gulf
150 combat troops
1,350 other personnel
3 ships
180,000 US and British troops also in the region
"The prime minister has made a unilateral decision and sent 2,000 of our defence personnel off to a war undeclared in the northern hemisphere without any cogent explanation of his actions," said the Labour Party's leader in the Senate, John Faulkner.

Senator Bob Brown, head of the left-wing Australian Greens, said the no-confidence vote marked an "historic condemnation of the government" and its leader.

"His gross mishandling of Australia's involvement deserved the strongest parliamentary rebuke," Mr Brown said.

While the motion declared opposition to any unilateral US attack on Iraq, it did not go quite as far as the Greens had hoped.

The party's bid to condemn any Australian involvement, even with a United Nations mandate, was defeated.

And a no-confidence motion similar to that passed in the Senate was defeated in Australia's lower House of Representatives on Wednesday.

The conservative majority ensured the motion fell by 82 votes to 63.

Public opinion

About 400 anti-war protesters demonstrated outside the national parliament on Tuesday, angry at Mr Howard's stance on Iraq.

Recent opinion polls show that 76% of Australians oppose their country's participation in a US-led war, while 57% support joining military action that has UN backing.

In an interview with Australian magazine The Bulletin, Mr Howard admitted the decision to deploy troops had put him under huge pressure.

"It's the first thing I think about when I wake up, and that has been the case for the last few weeks," he told the magazine.

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See also:

23 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
19 Dec 02 | Asia-Pacific
08 Dec 02 | Asia-Pacific
03 Dec 02 | Asia-Pacific
01 Dec 02 | Asia-Pacific
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