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Wednesday, 16 October 2002
Page: 5281

Senator CHRIS EVANS (2:25 PM) — My question is directed to Senator Hill, Minister for Defence and Minister representing the Prime Minister. Can the minister indicate what the government's assessment was of the threat to Australians in Bali at the time of the terrorist bombings? Can the minister indicate whether the security risk to Australians in Bali before the bombings was assessed as being higher than in other Indonesian provinces or in South-East Asian countries more generally? Can the minister also indicate what the current threat assessments are for Australians in Bali and elsewhere in Indonesia and the wider South-East Asia region?

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —The threat assessment has been high and, as I recall, has been high since 11 September 2001. I do not think that that was changed in the period between 11 September 2001 and the bombings in Bali. In addition to that threat assessment, there have been travel advisories. As a matter of interest, on 10 September 2002 DFAT highlighted the level of travel warning for Australians visiting Indonesia. Basically, the travel advisory has been, throughout this period, to take care. There has not been a travel advisory not to travel to Indonesia, but there has been a travel advisory to take care. On 10 September, DFAT highlighted that level of travel warning for Australians visiting Indonesia. This included advice that, in view of the ongoing risk of terrorist activity in the region, Australians in Indonesia should maintain a high level of security awareness, and warned of the threat of bomb explosions, including in areas frequented by tourists. DFAT had also issued travel bulletins, most recently on 3 October 2002, advising of the threat of terrorism in South-East Asia, including Indonesia. These relayed warnings issued by the US to its citizens and advised Australians to maintain a high level of security awareness in light of these.

Senator CHRIS EVANS —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister for his answer. I wonder whether the minister can answer the last part of my question, which went to the current threat assessment for Australians travelling either in Bali or Indonesia or in South-East Asia more generally. What is the current threat assessment? I also ask: what prompted the change in the travel advisory on 10 September? Was that brought about as a result of the information which saw the US embassy in Jakarta close, I think, and people put on high alert? Was that what brought about a change in the assessment on that occasion?

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —The risk assessment continues at the high level. What has changed since the bombings in Bali is that the travel advisory suggests that travellers defer travel to Indonesia. In relation to the matters that led to the particular travel warning issued on 10 September 2002, I will need to seek advice from DFAT. I will do so and report back.