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Fiji crisis: review of intelligence required.

Fiji Crisis: Review Of Intelligence Required


Laurie Brereton - Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs


Media Statement - 22 May 2000


The Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Laurie Brereton, today called for a review of Australia's diplomatic and intelligence assessments preceding the attempted coup in Fiji.


"The revelation that the Howard Government was taken completely by surprise by the attempted coup in Fiji necessitates a thorough review of Australian diplomatic and intelligence assessments ", Mr Brereton said.


"While it may be the case that the events in Suva last Friday could not be predicted, the lack of forewarning from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Australia's intelligence organisations should be the subject of thorough investigation."


Interviewed in Cambodia last Friday, Foreign Minister Downer said the attempted coup came as a complete surprise, saying 'I mean, that's not to say there hasn't been rumblings about the [Chaudhry] Government and there hasn't been some concern about the Government and there aren't tensions since the election -- but no, we had absolutely no warning about this at all.'


"There were widespread rumours of an imminent coup attempt against the Chaudhry Labour Government", Mr Brereton said.


"Diplomats in Suva have been reported by the Fijian press as saying they were aware that a shipment of arms had been landed in Fiji in the lead-up to the events of last Friday. The reported involvement of members of the Fiji Army's Counter Revolutionary Warfare Unit in the attempted coup also suggests that intelligence indicators may have been missed or not followed up."


"A comprehensive inquiry is all the more necessary when one recalls the failure of Australia's diplomatic and intelligence services to give any warning of the 1997 Sandline crisis in Papua New Guinea."


"Labor called then for an inquiry into Australia's diplomatic and intelligence reporting and assessments. Notwithstanding numerous overseas and Australian precedents, Foreign Minister Downer refused to commission any inquiry saying the idea was 'ridiculous and irresponsible'. Three years later, the Australian Government has again been completely surprised by dramatic events in a South Pacific country."


"While it is premature to say whether there has been an intelligence failure in respect of the present crisis in Fiji, there is clearly a requirement for a thorough review of Australia's knowledge and assessments of the events leading up last Friday's attempted coup in Suva.


Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.