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Tuesday, 25 March 2003
Page: 10077

Senator GEORGE CAMPBELL (3:11 PM) —I rise to support the motion moved by Senator Ludwig. We have a government that says it would like to the Australian population to be alert but not alarmed. You have to question whether or not that is the case when this government will not tell the people of Australia what the threats are that they are facing. This is a government that has refused to reveal the threat assessment level and is keeping Australians in the dark.

Yesterday we had Senator Ellison tell this chamber that the level of threat assessment is not classified. If that is the case, why won't he tell the people what sort of threat it is that we are facing? Why won't he tell the people what the heightened level of threat that Australia now confronts is? The Minister for Justice and Customs has stated that the threat assessment levels have been heightened, but he still will not tell us what level they have been heightened to. What is it he means by `the threat levels have been heightened'? What is the definition of a heightened threat level? What is the difference between the level now and what it was, for example, six months ago? Senator Ellison has not attempted to explain any of these questions that have been put to him or to even set the parameters for the Australian people in terms of the nature of the threats we may be facing.

One has to wonder, having listened to Senator Ian Macdonald's answer today and to Senator Ellison's answers, whether or not there is some confusion within the government, because Senator Ellison has said that the level of threat has heightened, yet Senator Macdonald said that there has been no change to the threat levels since 19 November 2002. When was the threat level heightened in Senator Ellison's eyes? Is he talking about a level that was established in November 2002, or has that changed from 2002 to now? Or is he talking about a different set of threats facing the Australian people from the set of threats that Senator Ian Macdonald is aware of? These are questions that obviously this chamber and the Australian people are entitled to answers to. We can only speculate that the reason this government will not tell the people what the threat assessment level is is that it would mean admitting that Australia has become a bigger target for terrorists as a result of the Prime Minister's rash and reckless decision to commit troops to the invasion of Iraq.

The US government's statement that, as a result of the invasion of Iraq, there is a certainty that terrorists will try to launch multiple strikes against the US and its allies confirms this. They have put it foursquare on the table that, as a result of the activities now occurring in Iraq, there is a greater threat to the US and its allies, one of which is Australia. For example, in answers in this chamber over the past few days Minister Hill has admitted that defence facilities increased the level of security at their establishments once the war began. He has not told us to what extent they have increased them, but he has admitted there has been an increase in the security at defence establishments. You would expect that to occur. All these actions, in fact, contradict Prime Minister Howard's statement last month that he did not think Australia had become more of a terrorist target as a result of our commitment to the coalition of the willing.

However, the Leader of the House in the other place, Mr Abbott, has put the lie to all of that. He has admitted that our commitment to the war in Iraq would increase the risk of a terrorist attack, contradicting what the Prime Minister said in his statement. The refusal of the government to detail the threat level contrasts with the United States, who at least have made the threat level very clear and have implemented a homeland security plan known as Operation Liberty Shield— something that has not been done by this government. This government has not laid on the table the security plan it has drawn up to ensure the protection of the Australian people and the Australian homeland. It has not identified in this chamber what it believes to be the heightened threats, and it has not detailed the sorts of actions—(Time expired)