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Thursday, 19 October 2006
Page: 101

Mr BEVIS (4:30 PM) —In June of last year, ASIO and the Australian Federal Police were involved in raids on suspected terrorist locations in Melbourne and Sydney. We know this because we all saw it on the news. Amazingly, someone had managed to tell TV crews exactly where to go and what time to be there to witness the ASIO and Federal Police officers raiding those particular premises. At the time it caused a great deal of consternation in the community and public comment.

This week the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security released his annual report, in which he comments on a range of activities over the last year including that particular incident. The report reveals some alarming activities. The report says:

ASIO and the AFP conducted investigations into whether any leaks had come from their respective organisations.

That is in relation to those raids.

Since then I have sought and obtained access to the records of that ASIO investigation. The conclusion reached by the investigation was that there was no indication that any leak was from ASIO. Having examined the investigation records personally, I am satisfied that the ASIO investigation was conducted thoroughly and professionally and I saw no reason to question the conclusion reached.

So what has transpired since that very public expose of the raid—a raid that should have taken place in confidence and with sensitivity but did not—is that the Australian Federal Police and ASIO have conducted thorough investigations into whether their officers were responsible for tipping off the media to get some cheap publicity. Their investigations have been audited by the inspector-general, who confirms their finding that no-one in the AFP and no-one in ASIO was responsible for that leak.

That leaves the question open: who was responsible for tipping off the media, quite improperly, so that journalists were there at the house when Federal Police and ASIO agents arrived to enter the premises with their warrant? There are only a small number of people who would have had advance knowledge of that, and they include the Attorney-General and his staff and perhaps a couple of other senior ministers. Has there been an investigation in the last year into what the Attorney-General and his staff and other senior ministers knew or did in relation to this? No, there has not. The ASIO investigation was into the activities of ASIO and the AFP. The only people in the last year who have not been subject to an inquiry into their role in this are the government ministers involved—the government ministers who had prior knowledge of this raid.

A raid by ASIO and AFP officers is not something that is widely broadcast. There are only a small number of people who are privy to that knowledge in advance. On this occasion someone who was privy to that knowledge decided it would be a good idea to have the TV crews out there to embarrass the people who were the subject of these raids—or perhaps they thought it was a clever idea to get a bit of additional political advantage. At the time, the Sydney Morning Herald reported concerns that Mr Ruddock himself, the Attorney-General, had been the source of the leaks. The Sydney Morning Herald on 29 June 2005 recorded a response from Mr Ruddock:

… Mr Ruddock said there was no legal basis that would support the allegations against him or his staff.

That is cute—there is no legal basis to support them. The reason is that not all warrants are subject to secrecy by law. The only ASIO warrants that are subject to secrecy by law, that you are not allowed to talk about, are questioning warrants, and the act this parliament adopted makes it an offence to tell people of the operation or existence of those questioning warrants. But the warrants that were used in June last year were not questioning warrants; they were enter-and-search warrants. So the cute splitting of hairs by the Attorney-General is that there is no legal basis that would implicate his office because no legal offence has been committed.

But there is a grave miscarriage of decency and justice. The execution of warrants by ASIO and the AFP in antiterrorism matters is a highly important and sensitive matter. It should not be politicised. What we have from this government and what we have in this case from this Attorney-General is political spin and tabloid headlines getting precedence over the balanced administration of what are sensitive antiterrorism laws. The Attorney-General should come clean. He should allow the AFP and ASIO to conduct a thorough investigation of his involvement in that sorry affair, and the people who were unjustly exposed to the scrutiny of the media, and who at that stage had done nothing at all wrong, deserve an apology. (Time expired)