11 August 04
HIGH-profile Liberal candidate Malcolm Turnbull has told voters the Iraq invasion was "an unadulterated error".
Mr Turnbull, candidate for the blue-ribbon seat of Wentworth in Sydney's east, last night said he had merely told electors history might well judge the Iraq invasion as an error.
But witnesses to the speech insisted his words were stronger and said the former Liberal Party treasurer had condemned Government and party policy.
"He said something along the lines that history will judge [US President George W.] Bush's invasion of Iraq as an unadulterated error," Robert Henry, who helped organise the Wentworth candidates' forum on Monday night, said.
"I think it was quite a firm belief. Certainly people at the meeting would have agreed with the statement."
Mr Henry's recollection was supported by his wife, Dr Margaret McNiven, both unaligned voters, and by Labor candidate David Patch and Green Mithra Cox.
The clash of memories heated up the battle for the seat, in which Mr Turnbull ousted the sitting Liberal Peter King to be the Liberal candidate.
The comments were raised in Parliament by Labor MP for Sydney Tanya Plibersek, who asked Prime Minister John Howard if he endorsed them. "Is the Prime Minister aware of comments made last night by the endorsed Liberal candidate for Wentworth at a meet-the-candidates public forum at Bondi, where he said: 'History will judge Bush's invasion of Iraq as an unadulterated error'," Ms Plibersek said.
"Does the Prime Minister share the views of the endorsed Liberal candidate for Wentworth and immediate past federal treasurer of the Liberal Party? And did the Prime Minister know of these views when he supported Mr Turnbull against the current Member for Wentworth?"
Mr Howard simply replied "no" to a three-part question from Ms Plibersek.