Cabinet papers from 2001 reveal Howard government was concerned by length of Afghanistan war

the Howard The government was concerned about committing Australian forces to a protracted war in Afghanistan, according to official cabinet records released for the first time.
Three months after September 11 Terror attacks in the United States, the National Security Committee has been briefed by the chief of defense as the government considers sending more Australian troops.

The Cabinet paper issued on 10 December 2001 notes that “the government has not been inclined to commit significant assets or personnel in the ADF to any stabilization or peacekeeping force in the medium or long term.”

Former Prime Minister John Howard. (nine)
At the same time, just two months after Australia joined the coalition’s efforts in Afghanistan, Cabinet was told “the possibility of United States of America You might consider counterterrorism-related military operations outside Afghanistan” and “you might want to share ADF assets.”

Speaking to mark the release of Cabinet papers 20 years later, former Prime Minister John Howard told Nine News: “Initial exercises in Afghanistan worked very well. The Taliban were eliminated, al-Qaeda was eliminated and the troops returned home. Later (and The situation deteriorated and we brought back some forces.”

Cabinet documents also provide insight into how the government is moving to implement stricter security measures at airports and to place armed guards on board aircraft.

The decision was made on October 2, three weeks after the attacks in the United States that killed 2,977 people.

Former Prime Minister John Howard interviews Jonathan Kersley about the release of the 2021 Cabinet Papers. (nine)

“I never thought for a moment that we would be immune. One of the first thoughts that ran through my head in Washington was ‘Is this the beginning of a chain reaction of attacks around the world?'” ‘London, Tokyo, Sydney…Your mind amuses all sorts of challenging scenarios,’ said Mr. Howard.

Forgotten deal that didn’t pay off

But the war on terror was far from the only focus of the Howard government in 2001.

The year started with a hike in gasoline prices, with unleaded fuel prices rising to $1 a liter, which was previously unimaginable.

The GST had been in place for six months, and the Howard government was having a tough time in the polls in what was an election year.

The giant of the sky was to be stopped forever.

Ansette was struggling, and on September 12 the administration would enter and eventually lead to thousands of job losses and protests across the country.

The Howard government was against the taxpayer-funded Ansett bailout.

Cabinet papers at a crucial meeting in July show that the government considered a proposal by Singapore Airlines to increase its stake in Air New Zealand, which had controlled Ansett. It was seen as the last chance to inject cash into the struggling airline.

Ansett Australia, Australia’s first interstate commercial airline, collapsed on September 12, 2001, due to mounting pressure on the international airline industry, leaving 10,000 people out of work. (AFP)

Instead, Howard’s government decided it had another “preferred option” – which included Qantas increasing its “stake” in Air New Zealand, Air New Zealand giving up Ansett, Singapore “raising its stake in Ansett, and opening up prospects for a significant capital injection. “.

Then-Treasurer Peter Costello told Nine News: “I wish Singapore Airlines had acquired Ansett because at that point you would have had Singapore International with the local distributor or feeder from Ansett that would be a big competitor to Qantas.”

But it was not the end of worries about the Australian aviation sector.

Cabinet papers revealed that then-Secretary of Transportation John Anderson warned that “the aviation industry remains highly volatile … further failures of domestic or regional airlines cannot be ruled out”.

The National Security Front and Center in the electoral year

Howard’s government also faced challenges at sea, as the number of people arriving illegally by boat rose.

The Australian government decided to send soldiers from the Special Forces on board.

“I thought it would work,” said Mr. Howard.

“Our challenge was to stop the ship’s captain violating Australian law and the SAS detachment knew how to deal with it. They could handle it very efficiently without causing any damage, without any loss of life or injury and, as it turned out, he did a great job.”

An Australian naval vessel blocking the Tampa in August 2001 (Mike Powers) (Mike Powers)

“The Tampa’s particular challenge was very clear: people were selected who, under international law should have been taken to Indonesia, but forced the captain to sail to Australia and told them they did not have permission to enter. And when they defied those instructions we acted under international law in accordance with Australian Defense Act about our position.

Then government ministers made claims that asylum seekers had dumped children aboard a separate ship, the SIEV-4, in October.

These issues, the September 11 terrorist attacks, and the war in Afghanistan helped the government frame the debate on national security that led to the November elections.

“We will decide who comes to this country and what conditions they come in,” Mr. Howard said during a campaign event.

There were regional security issues after three navy ships were challenged by a Chinese warship in the Taiwan Strait.

Tampa has rescued more than 400 asylum seekers. ( (Mike Powers)

On May 14, 2001, Howard Cabinet agreed that the Department of Defense must submit every six months “a report listing all ADF activities planned ‘for the next six months'”, including naval movements the defense organization judges to have the potential to attract Protest from others. Country.”

Zinfandel, Mike Tyson and Eminem

Thousands upon thousands of pages of the Cabinet statement go beyond national security to include issues including biosecurity, amid the risk of the spread of mad cow disease and food.

Another business partner’s concerns seemed to be on Cabinet members’ minds when they discussed importing grapes from California.

Cabinet papers indicated that the outbreak of Pierce’s disease in the United States “has increased the risk of introducing[California table grapes]into Australia”.

“This is a very sensitive issue for the United States.”

A temporary ban on fruit entering the country remained in effect.

Newspapers show that the US took the ban seriously.

Mike Tyson boxing in 1986
Mike Tyson, right, deals a heavy blow to Trevor Berbick in the second round Saturday night, November 22, 1986, in Las Vegas. Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion after a brief stint with TKO (AAP)

The newspapers reported that “communications with US officials through diplomatic channels indicated that the announcement of a continuing ban on grape imports is highly likely to lead the United States to move against Australia by the World Trade Organization.”

The government also considered fights in the ring.

Cabinet “suggested” that boxer Mike Tyson should be refused a visa for a match in Australia “because of his high criminal record” and “he is not of good character”, according to a cabinet record.

It was a different story for musician Eminem.

The Cabinet indicated that the minister would take the views of Cabinet members into account, but ultimately left the matter in the hands of then-Minister of Immigration Philip Ruddock.

Eminem’s 2001 Australian tour went ahead.

Eminem attends the rag & Bone X Eminem London Pop-Up Opening on July 13, 2018 in London, England.
Eminem attends the rag & Bone X Eminem London Pop-Up Opening on July 13, 2018 in London, England. (GT)

Mr. Howard’s time as prime minister also continued.

He and his government won the November elections against the Labor Party led by Kim Beasley.

But bigger challenges lie ahead.

A fearsome and largely unknown new terrorist threat has cast a shadow over many aspects of life in Australia and in other Western democracies, and will remain so for years to come.

Young Australians will be killed in Afghanistan, and in 2002 terrorism was taking Australian lives in Bali.

The war on terror had only just begun.

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