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Monday, 22 March 2004
Page: 26764

Mr LATHAM (2:36 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Did the Prime Minister or any member of his staff see Commissioner Keelty's clarifying statement or any draft versions of it prior to the statement being made publicly available on 16 March?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —I have already indicated that there were discussions. I have already indicated that there is nothing unusual about that. The Leader of the Opposition carries on as if there is something extraordinary about communication between a Prime Minister's office and the office of the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police. I would remind the Leader of the Opposition that the commissioner has stood by the statement, the commissioner is totally supportive of the statement, it was the commissioner's statement. It would not have been issued without there being not only a statement that the commissioner believed correctly represented the facts—

The SPEAKER —The member for Ballarat always questions the authority of the chair and is about to discover what it is.

Mr HOWARD —but a statement that he has subsequently fully supported. The Leader of the Opposition refers to it as a clarifying statement. I point out to the Leader of the Opposition that on the Sunday evening of the day of the commissioner's interview, which was 14 March 2004, the Channel 9 news bulletin in Sydney—which is the most widely watched news bulletin anywhere in Australia—carried this comment by the newsreader Mark Burrows:

... other allies, that includes Australia. Put another way, our top cop believes our involvement in the Iraq war has made us a possible al-Qaeda target.

Our top cop did not say that on the Channel 9 program when he was being interviewed, and that is an illustration of why clarification was needed.

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER —Order! The Prime Minister has the call.

The SPEAKER —The member for Fowler is warned!

Mr HOWARD —The reality is, as the Leader of the Opposition himself knows, because he said in an interview that he thinks there has been a risk since 11 September—and it is a new world—that that claim attributed to the Commissioner of the Federal Police by that newsreader was wrong, and that alone is reason why a clarifying statement was necessary.