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"L-plate" Latham clumsy on regional security.



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MEDIA RELEASE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS ALEXANDER DOWNER

September 17 2004

“L-plate” Latham clumsy on regional security

Labor is already backtracking after Mr Latham’s inexperienced and clumsy attempts to make political mileage over counter terrorism policy in our region.

On Sunday night Mr Latham was flagging a hairy-chested role for Australia in the region with Australian defence personnel, aircraft and vessels directly involved.

“…for goodness sake, we’ve got to start the real security job in our part of the world. We should be part of that maritime security effort, disrupting and breaking up JI.”

Just last week the Opposition Defence Spokesman, Mr Beazley called for: “…active patrolling…”. (Press Conference after Shadow National Security Committee, 11/09/04)

But last night after talks in Singapore, Foreign Affairs Spokesman Kevin Rudd was backing away. Mr Rudd promises to continue implementing Howard Government policy.

“TONY JONES: All right, you are clearly trying to gauge whether there'll be regional support for Labor's policy of actively patrolling in the straits of Malacca, presumably to intercept vessels which have something to do with terrorist activity, is that right? KEVIN RUDD: Well, not so much a question of gauging support, Tony…”

TONY JONES: What sort of reaction are you getting, though, to those specific proposals of Australian military presence in the region? KEVIN RUDD: Well, these things are to be taken step by step…”

Labor’s policy of talking tough to the Australian electorate is an insult to the region. I wrote to Mr Beazley on July 19 explaining the importance of not imposing solutions on sovereign countries in our region including on sensitive issues such as the maritime security of the Malacca Strait. Australia already has offered appropriate assistance in this crucial task.

Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, India, East Timor and Cambodia are all cooperating with Australia already under Memoranda of Understanding on Counter Terrorism. Australia and Indonesia have co-hosted a regional summit on counter terrorism. The Howard Government will continue to lead regional cooperation efforts against terrorism.

Mr Latham’s inexperience and clumsy rhetoric only jeopardise that cooperation.

Media Inquiries: Chris Kenny 0419 206 890