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Monday, 15 September 2003
Page: 20014


Mr CREAN (2:54 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister and it follows his earlier answers. Prime Minister, given that you have now admitted that there was an increased terrorist threat to Australia, at least in the short term, as a result of your actions in support of Iraq, at what point did you advise the Australian public at large of this increased threat, apart from just upping the travel advisories?


Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —What I said was that the threat to Australia as such had not increased.


Mr Crean —Right!


The SPEAKER —Order! The Prime Minister has the call.


Mr HOWARD —That is what I said, and I have not admitted anything to the contrary.



Mr HOWARD —You are misrepresenting that I have admitted something to the contrary.



The SPEAKER —The member for Rankin!


Mr HOWARD —What I said—and I am reading from my answer to the Leader of the Opposition—was:

... threat levels against Australian interests in a number of countries overseas—especially in the Middle East—have been raised because of the war in Iraq. The government has been totally open and transparent about this through ... travel advisories.

The Leader of the Opposition asked me how I informed the Australian people of this.



The SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition will hear the Prime Minister in silence.


Mr HOWARD —I would have thought that informing the Australian people is represented by the Prime Minister answering a question in the House of Representatives from the Leader of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition asked me a question on 24 March, and I said that threat levels against Australian interests had been raised because of the war in Iraq. You could not be more black and white, more transparent, than that. In the same answer I made it perfectly clear that we had no intelligence suggesting that the general threat level in relation to Australia needed to be raised. I ask the Leader of the Opposition to understand the difference between heightened threats to Australian interests in Middle Eastern countries because of the war in Iraq and the lack of intelligence suggesting a heightened security risk to Australia as a whole. I made that very clear.

The Leader of the Opposition asked me to say how I informed the Australian people. I informed the Australian people as I am informing the Australian people now—through the national parliament. I do not know how else I can do it. Does the Leader of the Opposition suggest that somehow or other this is not a way to inform the Australian people? The reality is that the Leader of the Opposition formed a different judgment about what ought to be done about Saddam Hussein from the judgment I formed. I accept that—that was his right—and the Australian people will in due course form their judgment about the respective assessments that have been made. I remain of the view that the judgment made by the Australian government back in March was right, and nothing that I have seen or heard since alters that conviction.