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Thursday, 19 June 2003
Page: 17060

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) (3:25 PM) —Mr Speaker, while I am on my feet, can I add to an answer to a question asked of me by the member for Griffith?

The SPEAKER —The Prime Minister may proceed.

Mr HOWARD —I did undertake to check a reference he made to a Canadian travel advice, and I have checked that reference. I might remind the House that the question asked by the member said, in part:

Is the Prime Minister aware that the Canadian government released a travel bulletin on 4 October 2001 stating that the situation in Bali:

... could change and we are advising Canadians not travel there?

Prime Minister, given that Australia and Canada have a longstanding intelligence sharing relationship, why did the Canadian government warn its citizens not to travel to Bali at that time and the Australian government did not?

The clear implication is that differing travel bulletins from the two countries were extant at the time of the tragic events in Bali on 12 October. I have had some investigation made—

Mr Rudd —It was 2001, the year before. Read the—

The SPEAKER —The member for Griffith! Is there some extraordinary way in which standing order 55 does not apply to you? The Prime Minister has the call.

Mr HOWARD —Mr Speaker, I have had some investigation made, and what it reveals is this: it is true that on 4 October there was Canadian advice to the effect of the member's question, but that advice was withdrawn four days later on 8 October 2001. The Canadian advice was changed on 8 October 2001, when this reference quoted by the member for Griffith was removed, and again on 22 October 2001 to match closely the relevant formulation in the Australian advisory and bulletin. From then until the Bali tragedy, the Canadian advice simply said:

Services in Bali and other major tourist centres are operating normally—

which is precisely the formulation that was used in the Australian advisory. What the member for Griffith has done is, by a manipulation of the English language, falsely try to give the impression that the Canadians had warned their citizens not to travel to Bali when we failed to do so. I think on a thing like this his behaviour has been quite reprehensible.

The SPEAKER —Prime Minister!

Mr HOWARD —But let me go on. Let me further add—

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Makin! The Prime Minister is adding to an answer.

Mr HOWARD —Let me further take the opportunity, because we are talking about comparative travel advice, to say that from 8 to 24 October in relation to advice given to British citizens the language was:

Bali remains safe ... Bali remains trouble free.

The United States gave similar advice—

Honourable members interjecting

The SPEAKER —The member for Griffith! Is there some extraordinary way in which standing order 55 does not apply to the member for Leichhardt?

Mr Rudd —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The standing orders provision in relation to adding a supplementation—

Honourable members interjecting

Mr Rudd —This, Prime Minister, is going into a matter not even canvassed in the question, relating to British travel advice—

The SPEAKER —The member for Griffith will resume his seat. The member for Canning!

Honourable members interjecting

The SPEAKER —I will recognise the Prime Minister when the House has come to order.

Mr HOWARD —I was talking about the information in the travel advisories to Australian citizens in Bali and also information to other citizens, and I made reference in the original answer not only to the Canadian advice but also to a comparison with the Australian and British and American advice. The supplementation is totally and explicitly relevant to the original answer, Mr Speaker.

The truth of the matter is that an attempt was made in that question by the member for Griffith to suggest—however he now tries to explain it, what he tried to do was to leave the impression—that on 12 October 2002 there were travel bulletins extant in the name of the Canadian and Australian governments where the Canadians were warning their citizens and we were not. He must have known when he asked that question that that would be the impression left.

Mr Rudd —That's quite wrong.

Mr HOWARD —The truth of the matter is that we have behaved carefully and honourably in relation to this. We have not sought to tragically and improperly shift blame for one of the most tragic incidents—

Mr Rudd —You are just stunned by your inaction.

Mr HOWARD —in the history of this country.

The SPEAKER —The member for Griffith is warned.

Mr HOWARD —It reflects no credit on either the member for Griffith or the Leader of the Opposition, who must have sanctioned this question, that such a misrepresentation would be made to the House. I think the member for Griffith owes this House an apology, and I hope he is man enough to give it.