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Thursday, 26 September 2002
Page: 5003

Senator COOK (2:44 PM) —My question is to Senator Hill as Minister representing the Prime Minister and Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Did the new Secretary of the Department of Defence, Mr Ric Smith, as Australian Ambassador to Indonesia, chair a meeting of the embassy's interagency coordination group on people-smuggling on 13 June 2001? Along with representatives of DFAT, DIMIA, the AFP and Defence, was the meeting also attended by the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, Mr Ruddock? What advice, requests or directions did the minister give this coordination group in terms of the nature or scope of disruption activities to be directed at people-smuggling operations?

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —Not surprisingly, I do not know the answer to that question. To determine whether Mr Smith attended the meeting, I guess I should refer that to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Senator Cook has also asked whether Mr Ruddock was present at the meeting and made certain comments, and I will refer that to Mr Ruddock.

Senator COOK —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I point out that this question is to the minister as Minister representing the Prime Minister. What was the nature of the discussions Minister Ruddock had during this June 2001 visit when he met with the Indonesian Minister of Justice and Human Rights and the Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs? What requests did Minister Ruddock make of these Indonesian ministers in regard to people-smuggling disruption activities? Was the content of this meeting one of the issues of concern which led to the Indonesian suspension of the cooperation protocol?

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —A question asking Mr Ruddock what discussions he might have had with an Indonesian minister is hardly one to be asking the Prime Minister, but, to short-cut the process, I will pass that message on to Mr Ruddock as well.