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Minister should apologise

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k v t. I oil ic lee r Media Release r Hon Arch Bevis MP

Shadow Minister for Defence

2 September 1997

Minister Should Apologise

The Federal Opposition has called on Defence Minister Ian McLachlan to apologise to Northern Territory troops following revelations that their personal details were released to the Country Liberal Party for campaign purposes.

Shadow Defence Minister Arch Bevis said the Minister's response in Parliament today that questions about the release of this information were 'childish' illustrated a total lack of understanding about the seriousness of the situation.

'The release of this information is very probably a breach of the Defence Act and the Privacy Act,' Mr Bevis said.

'The Minister for Defence is supposed to uphold the law and protect the rights of our troops -instead he is trampling on them.

'Mr McLachlan should not only provide a proper answer, he should apologise to the Australian Defence Forces,' Mr Bevis said.

Since last week, when Mr Bevis raised the issue in the House, two conflicting stories have come to light.

Yesterday, in response to Mr Bevis's question, the Minister for Defence Science and Personnel Bronwyn Bishop's office provided an answer which stated that Defence HQ Northern Command had provided the information.

'The answer said that any other candidate in the Northern Territory election would have received the same response to such a request,' Mr Bevis said.

'But this is in complete contradiction to the experience of the Northern Territory Opposition Leader's office, who were told by Defence PR that the information was confidential and could not have come from Defence.

'The fact is, someone provided the information and Mr McLachlan's failure to take the issue seriously is not only an indictment of his suitability for leadership, it raises questions over whether he is protecting himself, his staff or one of his mates.'

For further information: Arch Bevis 277 4518 John Crawford 041 968 5789 or 277 4505