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Monday, 18 November 2002
Page: 6579

Senator EGGLESTON (2:07 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Ellison. Will the minister update the Senate on the cooperative efforts between Australian and Indonesian law enforcement agencies to bring those responsible for the Bali attack to justice? Will the minister also comment on suggestions that the government might have had some prior warning of the Bali bombings?

Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) —I thank Senator Eggleston for a very important question. I will start by referring to the latter part of Senator Eggleston's question first, and that is the question of prior notice in relation to the Bali attack. The weekend Sydney Morning Herald implied that the Australian government might have had some prior warning of the Bali bombings. Mr President, this is incorrect. The Attorney-General has made a statement in relation to this, as has the Prime Minister. The government had no warning of the Bali attack. If they had of course everything possible would have been done to divert it. As the Attorney-General has said, he has gone back to the agencies concerned, he has checked again, and he stands by his previous statements. The government was aware of a potential threat in the region and of course we made public a number of statements in relation to that. As has been stated previously, advice from intelligence agencies is that the only possible reference to Bali in recent intelligence reporting was its inclusion, along with a number of other tourist and cultural locations across Indonesia, in possible terrorist activity against Western interests. This intelligence was assessed by the relevant agencies and the view formed by them was that the existing high threat assessment level applying to Indonesia should not be altered.

Since the attack, the United States government has also made clear that it had no specific information in relation to a planned bombing in Bali. In fact, when I was in Jakarta, the United States ambassador indicated to the foreign minister and me that he had staff who were in Bali on the weekend of the attack. No doubt there will be continued speculation in relation to warnings and security arrangements, but it should be made clear that there was no prior warning in relation to this attack. Bill Blick, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, has been asked to examine all the relevant intelligence material and to report to the Prime Minister on his findings. And of course we will act on anything that is reported to the government in that regard.

As far as the investigation is concerned, we are now entering our sixth week and there has been progress I believe which we had not envisaged. Amrozi still remains in detention. Yesterday, photos and sketches of six suspects were released to the community in an attempt to help identify the whereabouts of the suspects. A cache of firearms has also been located. It included three military style firearms, two older style weapons, two pistols and approximately 5,000 rounds of ammunition. Whilst these have been linked to the suspects, they are not directly linked to the Bali bombing. I would add that the cooperation we have received from the Indonesian police has been crucial in the progress of this investigation. Six weeks ago when the attack occurred I do not believe that people envisaged we would be this far down the track.

As far as victim identification is concerned, 56 Australians have been repatriated and returned to their next of kin. Sixty-nine Australians have been confirmed dead and there are now 18 whom we have serious concerns for. As we have said before, we are now getting down to the more difficult stages with disaster victim identification and the process, unfortunately, will be slower than that experienced to date. We still have experts in Bali who are working on this and we have some 87 law enforcement officials from the Australian Federal Police and around the country who are working continuously not only on disaster victim identification but also in relation to the investigation into the bombing.