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Tuesday, 15 October 2002
Page: 5120

Senator NETTLE (2:28 PM) —My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Hill. Can the minister explain to the Senate to what extent there was a difference between the advice offered by the US embassy in Jakarta and the advice issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade with regard to the information received from Omar al-Faruq, the alleged al-Qaeda operative arrested in Indonesia on September 26?

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —The language of the consular advice is slightly different. I am not sure of the extent to which the American consular advice might have been changed subsequent to the arrest of that particular individual. I will seek advice and come back on that. Neither the American nor the Australian advice was to defer travel to Bali. They were both basically in terms of, `Take care during your travel,' which is what we have been saying generally in the post September 11 environment unless there was a specific threat scenario that we believed would require some further action to be taken, such as protection of embassies or strategic sites or the like.

In recent times some extra security arrangements were put in place in Indonesia, as I recall, in relation to what were referred to as US interests—that is, primarily government facilities such as consulates and embassies. I am not sure whether that adequately answers the question, but I will certainly look up the issue of any change to the American advice subsequent to that arrest. But, if it occurred, I do not think that it was in significant terms.

Senator NETTLE —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister for his answer and I am sure that he will be able to pursue that further. Could the minister assure the Senate that the government will not be using the horrendous events that happened on the weekend as an excuse to justify a further crackdown on civil liberties in Australia?

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —We certainly will not crack down on civil liberties, but we do believe that, in effectively responding to terrorism, there is sometimes a need for us all to accept that the extent of our traditional freedoms needs to be modified in these circumstances. That is why we have put legislation before this parliament which has that effect. We seek to do no more to modify those traditional liberties than is absolutely necessary to attack this terrorist threat, but if ever we need an example and illustration of how real this threat is we have had it in the last few days. We must do everything possible to effectively respond to it and to protect our people.