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Wednesday, 10 September 2003
Page: 19701

Mr CREAN (3:09 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer to the leaked top-secret national security report on Iraq prepared by the Office of National Assessments.

Government members interjecting

Mr CREAN —The government members jeer about this. This is national security, and it has been leaked.

The SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition will come to his question.

Mr CREAN —Prime Minister, isn't it the case that the entire document, not selected parts of it, is covered by its top-secret classification because disclosure of any part of the document could be expected to damage Australia's national security interests? Can the Prime Minister also confirm that all documents similarly classified as top secret have exceptionally limited distribution within the Australian government and that they are individually numbered and provided to recipients on a strict, time limited, destroy or return basis only? Accordingly, will the Prime Minister ensure that the Australian Federal Police will have access to the full distribution log for the leaked top-secret report?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —In answer to the Leader of the Opposition, there is a police inquiry, and the police will of course do what they think fit. I will not be telling the Australian Federal Police how to conduct an inquiry. They operate quite independently.

The SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition has asked his question.

Mr HOWARD —In relation to the question of confidentiality, the point I made yesterday in answer to the Leader of the Opposition's question was that the Office of National Assessments, in transmitting a request to the Australian Federal Police, had expressed a view that the newspaper report did not specifically quote any intelligence material.

Mr HOWARD —The question of what is covered by particular classifications is a matter for the Office of National Assessments. The Leader of the Opposition inquired about the distribution. I understand that the distribution of this document was in the order of 300. That is not to suggest that it is not an important document. I am not in any way trying to trivialise the importance of the document—I do not do that. But I make the point that the distribution was about 300.

I also repeat two points I made yesterday. The ONA expressed the view to the AFP that the Melbourne newspaper article did not specifically quote any intelligence material. I note, incidentally, on going back over the transcript of my answer that I did not misquote the Leader of the Opposition. In fact, in one spot I find that I misquoted myself. I take the opportunity in defence of myself to correct that misquotation, where I mistakenly in one of the answers said that the Office of National Assessments had made the judgment that the report quoted by Bolt did not specifically quote any intelligence material, although in other places I correctly said that Bolt himself did not specifically quote any intelligence material. The matter is in the hands of the police. I frankly do not have anything to add beyond what I have said.

Mr Crean —Are you going to give them access to the full log? You won't answer that, will you.

The SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition knows that he has no licence to interrupt.