Andrew Wilkie speaking at anti-pulp mill rally in 2007
|Member of the Australian Parliament
21 August 2010
|Preceded by||Duncan Kerr|
|Born||Andrew Damien Wilkie
8 November 1961
Tamworth, New South Wales, Australia
|Political party||Liberal (early 1980s)
|Profession||Soldier, intelligence officer|
|Years of service||1980–2000|
|Unit||Australian Army Intelligence Corps|
Andrew Damien Wilkie (born 8 November 1961, Tamworth, New South Wales, Australia) is an Australian politician and independent federal member for Denison. He has been an army officer and an intelligence analyst.
In 2003 Wilkie resigned from his position in Australia's Office of National Assessments intelligence agency in the lead up to the Iraq War, because he said he feared the humanitarian consequences of invasion such as Saddam using his Weapons of Mass Destruction, or assisting terrorists. Following his resignation he said: Iraq's "weapons of mass destruction program is very disjointed and contained by the regime that's been in place since the last Gulf War. And there is no hard intelligence linking the Iraqi regime to al-Qaeda in any substantial or worrisome way." He opposed Australia's contribution to the 2003 invasion of Iraq under the Howard government and ran for Parliament against John Howard as a Green's Candidate in 2004. Wilkie later argued the the Iraq War was based on a "lie".
Since 2003 he has been active in Australian politics. He was a Greens candidate for the federal Division of Bennelong in the 2004 federal election and for the Senate in Tasmania at the 2007 federal election. In 2010 he stood as an independent candidate for the state seat of Denison at the Tasmanian state election, narrowly missing out on the final vacancy. Later in the year, again as an independent candidate, he ran for the federal seat of Denison at the 2010 federal election and won, finishing third on the primary vote but winning the seat after the distribution of preferences. Wilkie finished first on the primary vote at the 2013 federal election and increased his margin.
Wilkie trained at the Royal Military College, Duntroon and graduated in 1984. He joined the Young Liberals while a cadet. He also studied at the University of New South Wales, and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree, a Graduate Diploma of Management, and a Graduate Diploma of Defence Studies. After graduation and being stationed in Brisbane, he became a member of the Liberal Party. His military career spanned 1980–2000 and he rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He was seconded to the Office of National Assessments (ONA), an Australian intelligence agency, from 1999 until late 2000. After a stint with US defence company Raytheon, Wilkie returned to the ONA shortly after the 11 September attacks.
Iraq War and resignation from ONA
In the aftermath of the September 11 Terror Attacks, the United States called upon Australia to assist in enforcing the 1991 Gulf War peace treaty which had been repeatedly breached by Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Iraq failed to comply with demands to allow unfettered arms inspections, and the Howard Government elected to send forces to support the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. While the Government was considering the case for war, Wilkie was asked to report on humanitarian considerations. According to a leaked report published in the Herald Sun, in December 2002 Wilkie had submitted an ONA report on the humanitarian implications of war in Iraq to the Government. In it he cautioned against unpredictable but potentially serious humanitarian consequences of war against Saddam, such as the use of weapons of mass destruction against civilians.
On 11 March 2003, Wilkie resigned from the ONA, asserting that while Iraq likely did possess weapons of mass destruction, its program in this area was contained, that international sanctions were having an effect, and therefore an invasion was premature and also reckless in potentially provoking Saddam Hussein to use those weapons and possibly even begin supporting terrorism. He told the ABC: "I think that invading Iraq at this time would be wrong. For a start, Iraq does not pose a security threat to any other country at this point in time. Its military is very weak, it's a fraction of the size of the military at the time of the invasion of Kuwait. Its weapons of mass destruction program is very disjointed and contained by the regime that's been in place since the last Gulf War. And there is no hard intelligence linking the Iraqi regime to al-Qaeda in any substantial or worrisome way." Wilkie later told the press that in the lead up to his resignation he had increasingly encountered ethical conflict between his duty as an intelligence officer and his "respect for the truth". During his later political career, Wilkie said that the notion that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and co-operated with terrorists had been "a lie" and denounced other politicians who had made the claim.
In response to widespread opposition to the war, Wilkie gave extensive television interviews and accepted numerous offers of public speaking engagements. He subsequently gave evidence to official British and Australian inquiries into the government's case for involvement in the Iraq war. In 2004, Wilkie published Axis of Deceit, an account of the reasons for his decision and its results. He describes his views on the nature of intelligence agencies and the analyst's work, the history of the Iraq war, the untruths of politicians and the attempts to suppress the truth.
Following Britain's 2016 Chilcot Report which criticised the Blair Government's prosecution of the war, Wilkie attributed all terror attacks against Australians since the Iraq invasion to the nation's involvement in the Iraq War. Wilkie said that Howard, Bush and Blair should be brought before an international court, and called for Australia to hold another inquiry into the war. Howard rejected Wilkie's proposition and called him "irrational", telling the media: "Andrew Wilkie said the Iraq invasion was responsible for the Bali attack of 2005. What about the Bali attack of 2002? And he blamed it [the Iraq War] on the Lindt Cafe siege. I mean, this is irrational."
Wilkie was a member of the Australian Greens by 2004 and stood unsuccessfully on the Tasmanian Senate ticket in 2007. He resigned from the party in 2008, criticising it for a lack of professionalism.
Wilkie stood as the Australian Greens candidate for Bennelong against John Howard in the Australian House of Representatives in the 2004 federal election. He was a supporter of the 'Not happy John!' campaign which ran during the election campaign. Polling 16 per cent of the primary vote, Wilkie achieved the fifth-highest Green vote percentage across the nation. This result was a considerable increase from the Greens' previous (2001) election figure of 5%. Although Wilkie's vote was nowhere near enough to win the seat, there was a swing of 3.18% against John Howard, the sitting Liberal Party member and prime minister, who achieved a primary vote of 49.89%, which resulted in the seat being decided on preferences. The seat reverted to a margin of 5% in 2007, but Green votes were amongst the preferences that saw Labor's Maxine McKew defeat Howard.
Independent Member of Parliament
- Gillard-Rudd Government
Wilkie stood as an independent candidate in the state Division of Denison, based around central Hobart, in the 2010 Tasmanian state election. He won 8.44 per cent of first preference votes, and was beaten by 315 votes by Liberal candidate Elise Archer after distribution of preferences.
Wilkie stood as an independent for the federal Division of Denison, which has the same boundaries as the state division, in the 2010 federal election and won more than 20 per cent of the primary vote. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation declared Wilkie the winner on election night, predicting that Wilkie would be vaulted into second place on Green preferences and ultimately take the seat on Liberal preferences. On the third count, he picked up enough Green preferences to put him in second place, ahead of the Liberal candidate. On the fourth count, more than 79 percent of the Liberal candidate's preferences flowed to Wilkie, allowing him to win the seat with just over 51 per cent of the two-candidate-preferred vote. Reportedly, Wilkie benefited from a lacklustre campaign by Labor's candidate, Jonathan Jackson, the son of former longtime state Labor minister Judy Jackson; Labor lost almost a quarter of its primary vote from 2007, and Labor theoretically tallied a two-party vote of more than 65 percent.
Following the election, he declared that he would back the Australian Labor Party minority government, in return for the Gillard government committing $340 million to the Royal Hobart Hospital and a commitment to reduce problem gambling. In contrast the Coalition offered A$1 billion in funding for the same hospital in their offer to Wilkie, which was perceived by Wilkie as "almost reckless". Wilkie described this as being part of the evidence that Labor would better be able to offer a more stable, competent and ethical government than the Coalition. The agreement to support the government only extended to issues of supply and no confidence motions.
Wilkie was unexpectedly admitted to hospital on 12 November 2010 to have his gall bladder removed. This did not interfere with his ability to attend Parliamentary sittings and he was present at the debate on same-sex marriage on 15 November, where he seconded the motion raised by Greens member Adam Bandt.
In April 2011 during push for gambling reform initiated by Wilkie, News Limited media reported allegations by a former Duntroon army cadet that in 1983 Wilkie had forced junior cadets to salute to Adolf Hitler on the 50th anniversary of the latter's rise to power. In response, Wilkie said he had been "involved in bastardisation of teenage army cadets" at Duntroon during the 1980s and apologised for this "inappropriate behaviour" but could not recall the specific incident alleged. With regard to the allegation and its publication, he accused pro-Pokies advocates of running a smear campaign against him.
On 21 January 2012 Wilkie announced that he was withdrawing his support for the Labor government after it broke the agreement he had signed with Julia Gillard to implement mandatory pre-commitment for all poker machines by 2014. He stated that he would support the government's alternative plan to trial pre-commitment in the ACT and require that pre-commitment technology be installed in all poker machines built from 2013, but that this fell short of what he had been promised in return for supporting the government. Gillard and Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin argued that there was not enough support in the House of Representatives for Wilkie's preferred option for it to be passed, and that they had been advised it was technically infeasible to implement mandatory commitment within the time frame he had specified. In making his announcement, Wilkie stated that he would only support motions of no confidence against the government "in the event of serious misconduct" and would "consider budget measures on their merits".
- Abbott-Turnbull Government
Wilkie was convincingly reelected in the 2013 federal election, gaining a swing of 15 points to increase his majority to 65 percent.
In October 2014, Wilkie wrote to the International Criminal Court, seeking to prosecute Prime Minister Tony Abbott and the 19 members of his cabinet for crimes against humanity, with particular concerns relating to the treatment of asylum seekers.
Wilkie made the removal of poker machines his primary campaign issue in the 2010 Tasmanian state election. He strongly opposed to the Gunns pulp mill in the Tamar Valley. Wilkie is a supporter of voluntary euthanasia, provided that there are safeguards in place, he is also in favour of same-sex marriage and access to abortion. He is supported a National Broadband Network and opposed the Howard Government's WorkChoices industrial relations reforms.
During Wilkie's maiden speech to federal parliament on 30 September 2010, he called for withdrawal of Australian troops from Afghanistan. He said Australia should be more willing to say "no" more often to the United States. He said that there could be no hope for peace in Afghanistan until foreign troops are withdrawn: "No-one should be fooled by the Australian Government's periodic efforts to tinker around the edges with Australia's commitment to Afghanistan" and that "The reality is that the best plan the Australian Government can come up with so far is simply to continue to support whatever the US Government comes up with and that alone is no plan—it's just reinforcing failure."
Wilkie's comments came amid opposition calls for more support for Australia's troops in Afghanistan. During his speech Wilkie also canvassed his push for legislation to protect whistleblowers, measures to tackle problem gambling and a more humane approach to asylum seekers.
Pokies and pre-commitment
Wilkie campaigned heavily against poker machines (colloquially "pokies") at the 2010 federal election and immediately began forging ties with independent anti-pokies Senator Nick Xenophon. Wilkie claimed that problem gamblers in Australia lose $5 billion each year on pokies. The labour government gave two commitments regarding pokies in exchange for WIikie's support. The first was mandatory "pre-commitment" technology, which required a better to commit how much there were willing to bet before starting. The second commitment was to introduce $1 maximum bet per spin machines that would not require pre-commitment. Wilkie argued these $1 maximum machines would be safer. The Abbott Coalition opposed the plans, with Abbott saying "it is not Liberal Party policy" and it will be "expensive and ineffective". According to polling, Wilkie's proposals were supported by a clear majority of voters across the spectrum. Wilkie and Xenophon argued that "$12 billion a year is lost on the pokies. 100,000 Australians are problem gamblers and an additional 200,000 are significantly at risk of developing a full-blown addiction", and that the legislation is necessary to "[help] those who sometimes lose up to $1200 an hour on the pokies." The Labor government withdrew their support for Wilkies's plan when their strength in parliament improved through a change of Speaker.
The plan came under sustained attack from clubs, hotels and other businesses which financially benefit from pokies. Xenophon responded by accusing them of misrepresenting plans and creating hype around the issue. Strategy papers erroneously placed on the Clubs Queensland public website seem to indicate that clubs are deliberately and purposefully exaggerating the impact that the pre-commitment reforms will have on their services. The same papers outlined some strategies that the clubs could use to exploit loopholes in the proposed reform.
The National Rugby League (NRL) aligned themselves with the campaign in opposing the pre-commitment plans, as did some prominent Australian Football League (AFL) people. Commentators from the Nine Network gave planned political arguments without disclosure during commentary of a Semi-final NRL game, prompting the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to investigate, stating "Channel Nine broadcast political material without adequately identifying it as such during the NRL first preliminary final". One of the accused commentators stated that the remarks were a "directive from up top that it be read by at least somebody". Investigations were predicted to take months. Andrew Demetriou, chief executive officer of the AFL, rejected suggestions that the AFL was joining Clubs Australia in their media campaign despite opposition to the plan by Collingwood president Eddie McGuire. Other high-profile club bosses including Jeff Kennett (Hawthorn) and David Smorgon (Bulldogs), and also stated "The fellow from Clubs Australia, I don't even know his name, but please, stop talking on our behalf, just shut up, that'd be a good help". Activist group GetUp! attempted to counter the anti-pre-commitment campaign by running political commercials during the NRL grand final but all three major commercial television stations refused to air more of them.
Wilkie has two daughters and was married, however separated in 2012, with Wilkie citing stress from a hung parliament as the main cause of the breakdown.
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- Chilcot report: Andrew Wilkie blames Bali bombing, Lindt Cafe siege on Australia's Iraq War involvement; ABC News; 7 July 2016
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- Wilkie, 2004
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- Sullivan, Leanne, ed. (2013). Who's Who in Australia 2013 (XLIX ed.). Melbourne: Crown Content. p. 2405. ISBN 1 74095 190 5. ISSN 0810-8226.
- Wilkie, Andrew (2004). Axis of Deceit. Melbourne: Schwarz Publishing. ISBN 0-9750769-2-2. (The story of the intelligence officer who risked all to tell the truth about WMD and Iraq: cover)
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