Nelson admitted that Australia's potential access to Iraq's oil reserves lay at the heart of the Liberal Party (Australia's "Liberals" approximate US neo-cons) government's support for Bush's war on Iraq. The Liberal Party government is headed by John Howard, who has served US interests in the Middle East and the Far East avidly.
Nelson further listed protection of the "prestige of the US and the UK" as factors, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
The newspaper quoted Nelson as saying:
"The entire (Middle East) region is an important supplier of energy, oil in particular, to the rest of the world. Australians and all of us need to think well what would happen if there were a premature withdrawal from Iraq?"
In this statement, Nelson strips away the West's pretense of concern for Iraq's security, the escalating civil war, the failure to make substantial progress in reconstruction efforts after 4 years, the economic plight of Iraqi's facing massive unemployment, or even for Iraq's national sovereignty over its resources.
Nelson gets straight to the point: continuing the occupation is about securing access to Iraq's oil.
But today Australia's ultra-right government's story is different.
The opposition Labor Party spokesperson Robert McClelland called the Howard government out:
"Oil was a factor in their considerations. It's taken them four years to acknowledge the fact."
So today, Howard government spokespersons denied Nelson's statements and insisted that democracy is the real reason they have supported the Bush administration's war on Iraq.
But then Howard himself proceeded to include Australia's access to Middle Eastern oil as among "key reasons Australia needed to remain involved in the Middle East," according to today's Sydney Morning Herald.
Aren't there ways to "be involved in the Middle East" without militarily occupying Iraq? The Australian government needs to make a decision about why they are in Iraq.
I suspect Nelson spoke the truth. I suspect the Bush administration's big push to privatize Iraq's oil, allowing foreign companies to control up to two-thirds of that country's oil resources, is one of the big reasons the Bush administration is refusing to end the occupation of Iraq. And countries like the UK, Australia, and Japan are staying in lock-step (without actually risking many military casualties) with the policy to ensure, at least in part, their share of the oil dividend.