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Tuesday, 4 November 2003
Page: 21911


Mr JULL (2:14 PM) —My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In light of the Brigitte case, what is the nature of Australia's counter-terrorism—



The SPEAKER —The member for Fadden will resume his seat. The member for Fraser is better aware than most people of his obligations in this place, and he will adhere to them.


Mr JULL —My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In light of the Brigitte case, what is the nature of Australia's counter-terrorism cooperation with France?


Mr DOWNER (Minister for Foreign Affairs) —I thank the honourable member for Fadden for his question and make this point: I do not think there has been very much focus in this parliament on the intelligence relationship with France, or on almost any other facet of our relationship with France, on the grounds that there does not appear to have been, in my view, sufficient interest. The fact is that the Brigitte case does bring into the open the very successful cooperation that Australia has with France on security and intelligence issues, including those in relation to very specific terrorism matters. The information on Brigitte provided by the French authorities enabled Australia's security and intelligence agencies to take action to investigate his activities here in Australia and those of his associates and to prevent any potential threat he presented to the Australian community. This illustrates very clearly to anybody the value of the intelligence relationship that we have—and we have had for many years—with the French.

Australian intelligence and security agencies share a strong and longstanding relationship with their French counterparts. There are regular exchanges of information and intelligence, and there have been for a long time. Information sharing with our partners, including France, gives us the international dragnet we need to disrupt terrorist networks and activities. France has also been a valuable partner for us in supporting the war against terrorism not only generally but also very specifically in the Asia-Pacific region. For example, France is helping to build the capacity of countries in South-East Asia to fight terrorism in areas such as antiterrorist financing, border management and intelligence gathering.

We also work very closely with France in relevant multilateral forums, including the recently established G8 Counter-Terrorism Action Group, which France currently chairs and of which Australia is a standing member. The second meeting of this group is to take place in a couple of weeks time on 17 November in Paris. It is going to focus on counter-terrorism capacity building in the countries of South-East Asia. So that is another very clear illustration of how closely we are working with the French government. Australia has participated in a number of regional coordination meetings of the Counter-Terrorism Action Group to discuss counter-terrorism needs, and in October there was a meeting in Indonesia. Just in case some people think that there has not been a sufficiently close relationship with France on counter-terrorism intelligence, the points that I have made today illustrate that, on the contrary, it is a very close and successful relationship, obviously demonstrated and brought into the open by the success of the Brigitte case.