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Mr Downer a liability for Australia's national security.

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Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Security 15 August 2004


Mr Downer’s contradictory statements on the North Korean missile threat underline yet again how our Foreign Minister has become a liability for Australia’s foreign policy interests.

Mr Downer’s gaffe on North Korea comes after his blunders on the Philippines and Spain only two weeks ago. What will it be next week?

Mr Downer assured Parliament last year of North Korea’s Taepo Dong-2 missiles that:

“Operational deployment of the Taepo Dong-2 is probably still some years away.”

Yet on Friday Mr Downer casually mentioned in a talkback chat that as of today:

“They [the DPRK] could fire a missile from North Korea to Sydney.”

That means Mr Downer has formed the view that North Korea’s long-range missiles have not only been developed, they have now been fully tested and are actively deployed - so they can now effectively target metropolitan centres in Australia.

Either Mr Downer has blurted out a new strategic truth about Australia’s national security on talkback radio, or he has misled the Australian people about the current status of the North Korean missile threat and contradicted his statement to Parliament.

This is blundering incompetence by a man responsible for Australia’s national security interests.

All this occurs barely a week after Mr Downer announced his trip to North Korea to act as a broker between the Americans and the North Koreans.

Federal Labor has wished Mr Downer well in this mission. But if Mr Downer is going to act as an international negotiator, he should not be committing one diplomatic gaffe after another in the general discharge of his responsibilities.

Australia’s national security interests demand a Foreign Minister with a safe pair of hands. Regrettably Mr Downer is rapidly becoming a foreign policy liability for this country. Ends. 15 August 2004

Media contact: Alister Jordan 0417 605 823