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Tuesday, 14 October 2003
Page: 21304

Mr RUDD (3:04 PM) —My question again is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to his answer to my previous question and I refer also to the minister's denial that any of his staff had provided the top-secret ONA national security document or a copy thereof to Senator Macdonald. Minister, can you now formally confirm to the House that your staff did not insert any information drawn from the contents of this top-secret national security report into the brief provided to Senator Macdonald?

Mr DOWNER (Minister for Foreign Affairs) —Let me make two points about this. Firstly, I was not at the briefing, but my staff have advised me that all material given to Senator Macdonald was material on the public record. Secondly, there is a police investigation into this absolute fascination the opposition has with what it calls the Andrew Bolt article. Let me make a point about this: I have had a look at the material that has been made public; in the last couple of weeks I had an opportunity to have a look at it. I do not think there is any intelligence material that has been made public that could remotely do any damage to Australia—not remotely. Secondly, I would have thought that the material that had been made public was entirely consistent with a press release that—

Mr Rudd —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order on relevance.

Mr Howard —Oh!

Mr Rudd —Prime Minister, you can laugh about trust and national security—

The SPEAKER —The member for Griffith will resume his seat. The Minister for Foreign Affairs is being relevant to the question asked.

Mr DOWNER —On 13 March the member for Griffith put out a press release in which he quoted extensively from Mr Wilkie, saying that if there were to be a war against Iraq it would be a humanitarian disaster and that Saddam Hussein would pursue a scorched earth policy and could use weapons of mass destruction. Quoting extensively the views of Mr Wilkie—

Mr Rudd —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order which goes to relevance. There was one element to this question and that is how—

The SPEAKER —The member for Griffith will resume his seat. The minister has the call. The minister is being relevant.

Mr DOWNER —I will happily talk later about the member for Griffith's knowledge of Mr Wilkie's opinions, as passed on through an ONA report, because he used those opinions extensively on 13 March. How the member for Griffith got hold of Mr Wilkie's opinions, which had been expressed through an ONA document, I think we would be very interested to know.