Latham says he decided on Xmas troops deadline

Mr Latham had claimed the deadline was decided by shadow ministers 12 months ago.

Now he says their decision had been to bring the troops home as soon as possible, with the actual timing to be set only when they knew when an election was likely to be held.

With the Prime Minister indicating an election the second half of the year, Mr Latham says he was able to decide on Christmas as a potential deadline, without taking the date to shadow cabinet.

But the Opposition Foreign Affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd says Mr Latham did consult him.

The federal government says Mr Latham has seriously damaged the reputation of a high ranking public servant in his efforts to cover up his lie over Iraq briefings.

Mr Latham has denied making misleading statements either about Labor policy, or about the intelligence briefings he received.

In parliament yesterday he referred in particular to a briefing from a deputy secretary of the Defence Department Ron Bonighton after Australian and other troops in Iraq had failed to find any weapons of mass destruction.

Defence Minister Senator Robert Hill says Mr Latham has not only compromised Mr Bonighton but also his own principles.

‘So yesterday Mr Latham just totally invented this story, just totally invented this story and in doing so did serious damage to a highly respected and professional public servant, this is the labor party that was telling us how important it was to protect the integrity of public servants only a week or so ago.’

Mr Latham, is continuing to attack the Prime Minister for playing what he calls reckless politics with Australia’s national security.

He says Mr Howard disclosed the Australian Secret Intelligence Service’s role in Iraq and that could endanger Australian lives there.

But Mr Howard insists it was Mr Latham who started the process.

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