Today during parliamentary question time Australian Treasurer Peter Costello attacked signatories to the invitation to Hugo Chavez to visit Australia. Costello criticised signatories for inviting a leader who has "called the US president a genocidal killer and who went to the UN General Assembly and called the President of the United States the devil".>>
Now is the time to sign our invitation and welcome the man Costello hates! Sign up to invite Chavez HERE
Hear ABC radio coverage of Costello's comments :
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ALP president behind Chavez visit. February 13, 2007 - 6:19PM
Labor's national president and a lineup of Greens politicians are behind a push to bring the world's most outspoken socialist leader and virulent US critic to Australia.
In parliament on Tuesday, Treasurer Peter Costello produced a copy of an online invitation which calls on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to visit Australia.
The invitation, from a group called the Australia Venezuela Solidarity Network, lists ALP national president Warren Mundine and Labor senator Gavin Marshall among its signatories.
"We have watched developments in Venezuela with great interest. We have been impressed by the great effort that your government has taken to improve the living standards of the majority of Venezuelans," the invitation states.
"Although we are on the opposite side of the globe, we feel that our shared ideals of social justice and democracy bring us close together ... what Venezuela has been able to achieve in so little time will be a source of inspiration and ideas for many in Australia."
Other signatories include NSW Greens politicians Lee Rhiannon and Sylvia Hale, Greens senator Kerry Nettle, Democrats senator Natasha Stott Despoja, journalist John Pilger, broadcaster Phillip Adams, Muslim community figure Keysar Trad, and a host of union leaders.
Mr Chavez has recently held meetings with Cuba's Fidel Castro and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, using both occasions to criticise US imperialism and foreign policy.
In a speech to the United Nations last year, Mr Chavez famously labelled US President George Bush "the devil".
Mr Costello said Venezuela's inflation rate of 18 per cent was among the highest in the world, and yet the invitation praised what Mr Chavez had done for the country's living standards.
He called on Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd to discipline Labor's signatories to the letter.
"I would have thought that the leader of the opposition, who is so concerned about the US alliance, wouldn't have his own senators inviting to this country a man who called the US president a genocidal killer and who went to the UN General Assembly and called the
President of the United States the devil," Mr Costello said.
"Now that we're all into the business of protecting the alliance ... we will be looking forward to the leader of the opposition disciplining Warren Mundine, disciplining his own senator Gavin Marshall, and explaining to us what the president of Venezuela could advise us on how to improve Brutopia here in Australia."