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Transcript of doorstop interview of the Attorney-General: Hyatt Regency Hotel, Adelaide: Jemaah Islamiyah and al Qaeda; David Hicks.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL THE HON PHILIP RUDDOCK MP
HYATT REGENCY, ADELAIDE
10.30AM MONDAY 1 AUGUST 2005
Subject: Jemaah Islamiyah and al Qaeda; David Hicks
JOURNALIST: Minister, firstly, could you tell us what you know of links between Jemaah Islamiyah and al Qaeda? RUDDOCK: Well, we know over a long period of time that al Qaeda has been supporting and funding some of JI’s operations.
And, what we’ve learnt from the questioning on Indonesia is that those linkages remain in place. I don’t put a great deal of store in observations that suggest that the justification for a terrorist attack can be related to any one particular event, such as our engagement in Iraq. We know that Australia was targeted by Jemaah Islamiah’s operations well before 2001. In fact, Australia’s interests, and American and British interests were the subject of the planning of a major terrorist operation in Singapore in the year 2000. We know that many people left Australia well before 2001 to train with al Qaeda. We know that these organisations mutate and change from time to time. Their justifications for what they do will often be related to our responses. But we were on the horizon long before we attempted to respond, and we would still be on their horizon, even if we had never responded. JOURNALIST: Now that this is confirmed though, what concerns does this, do
you have for the Australian security situation? RUDDOCK Well I’ve made it clear over a period of time that we know we are targeted, and that means a terrorist attack could occur in Australia
at any time. I don’t, I don’t regard it as inevitable. Some people do. The reason I don’t regard it as inevitable is I think we have to do everything that we can possibly do to secure Australia from such
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an attack. And, that’s what we are seeking to do - with good intelligence; with an appropriate framework of law; with strong border protection. Another one of the matters that I noted, particularly given some comments I made in the United States last week, about the extent to which Australia had a better handle on movements in and out, both lawfully and unlawfully than Europe and North America have - there’s those who were saying, oh there’s Ruddock up to his old tricks, blaming asylum seekers, asylum seekers would never be involved in something like this. Well, one of the tragedies that we see in the United Kingdom is that some of those; at least one of those, is named as an asylum seeker. A number of the others are people who have been settled in the United Kingdom as refugees. They don’t have a refugee resettlement program. So you can only be speaking about people who have made asylum claims. And, all I say is, while there can be home-grown terrorists, strong border protection has been one of the measures that we’ve had in place that others are now looking at, to see whether they can emulate it. You have probably seen in the United Kingdom they’re now talking about having alert systems attached to their databases when people travel in lawfully. We’ve had those sorts of alert systems as part of our movement arrangements, long before I ever became the Minister for Immigration. JOURNALIST: Are you actually saying that we’ve been aware for some time that
bin Laden financed the bombing of the Jakarta Embassy…? RUDDOCK: No, I’m saying that it’s been well known that there have been strong linkages between bin Laden and Jemaah Islamiyah over a
period of time. That’s what I’m saying. JOURNALIST: Mr Ruddock… RUDDOCK: So I’m saying that if somebody alleges that there was funding,
that doesn’t surprise me, given those linkages have exist for as long as they have. JOURNALIST: Mr Ruddock, Terry Hicks, you’ve just spoken with him about his son, he’s said… RUDDOCK: Now we’re moving to a different issue are we? JOURNALIST: Sorry… RUDDOCK: Can I, can I - before we do, just see… JOURNALIST: …sorry [indistinct]. RUDDOCK: …well, we’ll just see whether the other matters are exhausted, and
then I’ll come to Hicks.
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JOURNALIST: Does it make any difference to whatever plans we have of going back into Afghanistan? RUDDOCK: No. In fact, I think our engagement there initially was very helpful in substantially dismantling their effective operation, not
in its entirety, as we now know. And the extent to which it has been rebuilding is something that is of concern to us, and it’s one of the reasons that we are actively engaged. And when you know that there, and remain, continuing linkages with JI, and this region, I think it ought to further validate the decision we’ve taken. Okay? Mr Hicks. JOURNALIST: Now, yes, apparently a couple of the [indistinct] presided at the
tribunal have resigned. The officers involved are saying that the whole thing is a bit half-arsed, I think was one of their quotes, and Terry Hicks this morning said this confirms more or less what he’s been saying all along, that it’s a bit of a put up job this whole military tribunal issue. RUDDOCK: Well, I would expect him to say what he’s been saying all along,
because, I mean, I guess his view is that [break in recording] one can understand [break in recording]. I have broad responsibilities, and those responsibilities go to the, go to the protection of the Australian community, as well as accountability for actions that people take. Now [break in recording] and unfortunately, when you go by one news report, sometimes you don’t get the information accurately. I initially thought from the news report that the suggestion was that these were people who were formerly members of the body that was going to try Mr Hicks, who were disaffected and making some statements. I now understand that that’s not the case. They’re certainly not people that I’ve dealt with. They’re certainly not the major players in relation to the prosecution, and the Americans have had something to say about the, about the veracity of the comments that have been made. My situation is quite clear. The Americans have assured me that they have a substantial case against Mr Hicks; that it needs to be dealt with before a tribunal that can protect security-related information; that in the context of war, war crimes tribunals have always been the mechanism for securing that protection, as well as bringing people to trial. And in that context, while they are not precisely the same as our civilian courts, dealing with criminal matters, they are an appropriate medium for doing so. Now there are some people who are wanting to attack them, and some people who will say almost anything about them. There are good reasons for using a military commission process, when we
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are still engaged against al Qaeda. And, and the fact is, some of the evidence that will undoubtedly have to be adduced, is from people who have been engaged in those matters. And whether you put that into the public arena is a significant, a significant matter [break in recording]. …dealt with some of those matters [break in recording], want to say the same thing, at this stage I can’t [break in recording]. …that any trial is fair. Mr Hicks has [break in recording], and I have to say, from what I have [break in recording]… …in reasonably good shape, and [break in recording], subjected to abuse, who has been a [break in recording] at Guantanamo Bay [break in recording]… …happy about it. Look I, I am not happy about the fact that an Australian was in the situation where he [indistinct], and where the prospect of him being charged and found accountable for actions he’s taken, looms large. JOURNALIST: But you’re happy with the process [indistinct]? RUDDOCK: Look, I understand the reason for the process, and I, I simply say
that when you have the two overriding objectives that are competing - (1) to give people a just trial, but (2) to protect security-related information that might help in dealing with terrorist threats that we face, you have to try and achieve both, and the military commission becomes the most effective way of being able to do that. JOURNALIST: Were you briefed on the situation while you were in Washington
RUDDOCK: No I wasn’t, but… JOURNALIST: Should you have been? RUDDOCK: Well, if other people knew of it, perhaps, but I only learnt of it this morning when you did.
JOURNALIST: And what next then, will you be pursuing this matter? RUDDOCK: Well, obviously in relation to matters where certain claims are made, before I speak at them, or speak on them at length, I like to, I like to get further advice. And that’s what I’m pursuing.
I’ve answered those questions that I believe I can answer, with the information that’s available to me. Okay? JOURNALIST: There’s mounting evidence though that Hicks will face an unfair trial. Is the US denying… RUDDOCK: No, I don’t think there is at all. I think there is a, there is a trial
that we want to see occur as quickly as possible. There are some people who have a view that it doesn’t really matter if you put people to their trial and compromise security-related information, which may save people’s lives.
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There are some people who think that putting all those things into the public arena is the only way in which you can deal with these questions. And I’m saying, you need to be able to deal with both, and that’s why the military commission process is appropriate. Okay? JOURNALIST: Would you hope the trial occurs this year, or when would you
hope it occurs?
RUDDOCK: Well look, the Americans tell me that if there are no further legal challenges likely to delay it, that it could be on as, in as short a time as three weeks. And that’s where I’d prefer to see it be, but we’ve seen to date that challenges by Mr Hicks - he has a habeas corpus challenge before the American courts - challenges by Mr Hamden, who was another person who is slotted for a military commission trial, have been the reason for the delay up till this point in time. Alright? Thank you.