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Monday, 20 October 2008
Page: 9528


Ms LEY (2:46 PM) —My question is to the Attorney-General. Can the Attorney-General confirm, as revealed in Senate estimates today, that the Smith review on national security and border protection was handed to the government on June 30, almost four months ago, but cabinet has yet to make up its mind on how this will inform any future national counterterrorism strategy? I ask the Attorney-General: why is he dithering and delaying on decisions that go directly to national security?


Mr McCLELLAND (Attorney-General) —I thank the honourable member for her question. The defence of the safety and security of the Australian people is the primary responsibility of government. That is unquestionably the case, and I thank the honourable member for her question. In that context, upon coming to office the Prime Minister engaged Ric Smith, a former Secretary of the Department of Defence, to conduct a review of Australia’s national security arrangements. Obviously it is vitally important that we ensure our arrangements enable agencies individually and, most importantly, collectively and across government to be as effective as they possibly can be. Mr Smith has provided his report to government. That has been made public. The government is giving careful consideration to the contents of that report.

At the end of the day, the vital thing is to make sure Australia’s national security arrangements are as effective as they possibly can be, not only to enable individual agencies to act in accordance with world’s best practice but also, more significantly, to enable agencies across the board and cooperatively to act in accordance with world’s best practice. The government is clearly giving consideration to the contents of that review. It is a practice of both sides of parliament not to comment on deliberations, but these are important matters and a national security statement regarding these matters will be forthcoming shortly.