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Tuesday, 15 October 2002
Page: 7577

Mr CREAN (2:40 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer to my proposal yesterday to hold a regional summit on the elimination of terrorism that would involve the governments of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines as well as Australia and New Zealand. Can the Prime Minister indicate whether he sees merit in such a proposal in order to develop stronger institutional linkages in the region for fighting terrorism?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —The government is willing to consider that proposal. I do not dismiss it out of hand, but I do not automatically embrace it. I will consider it. When something on the scale of what has occurred happens, you have to be ready to look at a number of responses, but you have to do so in a measured, considered way. We will seriously consider what the opposition has put forward. If we think there is merit in it, we will go down that path.

Of course, we recognise, as I am sure the Leader of the Opposition recognises, that building an alliance against terrorism is something that has to occur both locally and internationally. Terrorism knows no particular geographical, provincial or regional restraint. There is little doubt in my mind that, in one form or another, al-Qaeda is either a major player or an inspiration for terrorist behaviour that is taking place in different parts of the world—as distant as Chechnya and Indonesia. In those circumstances, what is very much needed is a world alliance against terrorism as well as a consideration of regional gatherings. We will give it serious consideration, but along with a number of other things that we need to consider.