Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Robert McClelland joins 7.30 -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: 11,000 Australians live in Tokyo and around a quarter of a million more
visit each year. The Government's trying to track down Australians who are so far unaccounted for
and this afternoon Cabinet's National Security Committee met to discuss the situation in Japan.

With me in the studio is the Attorney General Robert McClelland.

Has that meeting of the National Security Committee authorised any particular action today?

ROBERT MCCLELLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: We basically received a report of the urban search and rescue
mission. The efforts being made, as you indicated, by DFAT to locate Australians in the area. We're
still concerned about 140 Australians who are in the area as well as receiving a briefing of course
on the nuclear issue, which your news and coverage tonight has covered.

LEIGH SALES: I'll go through all of those things in detail in a second. I just wanted to ask
though: the fact that the National Security Committee is meeting, does that imply that the
Government believes that there is some sort of national security threat to Australia from what's
going on in Japan, particularly given the nuclear situation?

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: The national security meeting will meet if there is a threat to the safety and
security of Australians either at home or abroad. And clearly there is a threat to the safety, and
indeed there'll be Australians in distress, possibly injured, possibly worse abroad, but we're also
concerned obviously with unfolding developments. So it's quite appropriate that the National
Security Committee will look at these matters.

LEIGH SALES: On the unfolding developments around the nuclear threat, is Australia providing any
assistance to Japan in terms of that?

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: We've offered the assistance of four experts to work with the International
Atomic Energy Agency to assist Japan. We haven't had a feedback as yet on that, but our officials,
our experts are talking one to the other about the various issues. So, I think your coverage has
accurately pointed, which was the formal advice to National Security Committee: it's too early to
make a definitive prediction on what might happen there.

LEIGH SALES: You said you also had a briefing about the Australians who are unaccounted for at the
moment. Just give us a sense of how many of those are still missing?

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: Yes, well, the - we have about 140 that we're very concerned about in the area,
but of the 11,000 Australians that reside there or visit, there could be any number who aren't
registered. There are about 3,124 Australians who have registered. Normally that's only about 10
per cent of those who are in the country. So, ...

LEIGH SALES: So it's quite hard to tell, in other words?

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: It's very hard to tell. Not only do we try to find those who have registered,
which is much easier - we have contact numbers, but we try to ask other Australians and officials
of Australians they may know in the vicinity. So, I mean, it's - we're doing radio ads, our DFAT
officers are going around to hospitals, to morgues, generally to make inquiries as to Australians
who may be in the region.

LEIGH SALES: And we're talking there about people who live there. What about tourists?

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: Well you've got to about 225,000 tourists who go from Australia to Japan. The
area is a popular skiing destination. So it's not an easy task. I think we've received something
like 7,000 calls that have provided information, but it's a big, big task.

LEIGH SALES: You've been speaking this afternoon to some of the people involved in the search and
rescue mission. What sort of things are they telling you?

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: Yeah. It's headed by a fellow called Rob McNeill. They're about to embark on the
journey, it's about a 12-hour journey up to the badly-affected province, "Migayi" (phonetic
spelling) Province, I think the pronunciation is. The last third is going to be particularly
difficult. They are timing that to arrive at that difficult part at first light. They - obviously -
and we've been at pains to ensure that they are away from the nuclear concerns, that they have
sufficient protections. And we're working through the taskings that they'll have, which are
obviously going to be distressing, grim in many circumstances, but they're prepared for that.

LEIGH SALES: Mr McClelland, thankyou very much for joining us tonight.

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: That's my pleasure.