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Tuesday, 19 November 2013
Page: 640

Mr ABBOTT (WarringahPrime Minister) (14:01): In the past 24 hours there have been calls for Australia to detail our intelligence operations and to apologise for them. The first duty of every government is to protect the country and to advance its national interests. That is why every government gathers information and why every government knows that every other government gathers information.

There is no greater responsibility for a Prime Minister than ensuring the safety of Australian citizens and the security of our borders, and that is why we do collect intelligence. National security requires a consistent determination to do what is best for Australia. That is why this government will support the national security decisions of previous ones, as we will expect future governments to respect ours.

Australia should not be expected to apologise for the steps we take to protect our country now or in the past, any more than other governments should be expected to apologise for the similar steps that they have taken. Importantly, in Australia's case, we use all our resources, including information, to help our friends and allies, not to harm them. Similarly, Australia should not be expected to detail what we do to protect our country any more than other governments should be expected to detail what they do to protect theirs. Others should ask of us no more than they are prepared to do themselves.

I want to make it absolutely crystal clear: Australia has deep respect for Indonesia, for its government and for its people. I regard President Yudhoyono as a good friend of Australia—indeed, as one of the very best friends that we have anywhere in the world. That is why I sincerely regret any embarrassment that recent media reports have caused him. But it is in everyone's interests, Indonesia's no less than Australia's, that cool heads prevail and that our relationship grows closer, not more distant. I pledge myself to build the strongest possible relationship with Indonesia. After all, due to its size, proximity and potential to be an emerging democratic superpower of Asia, it is the most important single relationship that we have.