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Monday, 21 October 2002
Page: 5473

Senator CHRIS EVANS (2:10 PM) — My question is directed to Senator Hill, the Minister for Defence. Can the minister confirm reports that at least one alert, issued by virtue of an email on 27 August 2002, was issued to military personnel in his portfolio who were intending to travel to various parts of Indonesia? Would the minister confirm that military personnel who were contemplating travel to Indonesia after 27 August were told by the principal security adviser in the Defence security branch that the normal state of alert for the country had recently been upgraded or heightened? Was Bali or any other particular Indonesian province assessed by the minister's own department as involving a higher level of security threat to personnel than Indonesia more generally?

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —No, unless the honourable senator is referring to something I have not seen. There has been nothing that I have seen that would suggest that. There was the issue of the interpretation of an email that was referred to in the press over the weekend. That, with respect to the journalist, was misinterpreted in the report. The Defence security people do not have any information other than that which comes through the range of intelligence agencies. They would have access to all of that information in communicating with Defence interests but they certainly did not have any additional information. They did not reach an alternative different to that of other agencies.

Senator CHRIS EVANS —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister for his response. I am not clear from his answer whether he was confirming that an alert was issued by Defence, warning military personnel against travelling to Indonesia. If so, what was the nature of that alert? When was it issued and why had they taken the decision to issue an alert that had a heightened sense of security? I ask the minister to confirm that that was issued, when it was issued and what the rationale was behind changing that advice to Defence employees.

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —As I said, I do not think that is the case, but it is very difficult to respond to a reference to an alert when I am not aware of the alert to which the honourable senator is referring. I interpreted his question to relate to the article that appeared in the Herald Sun. My advice is that, in that instance, it is simply the Defence security people responding to questions that are asked by Defence personnel regarding visits to Indonesia. The conclusions that were reported in that advice were taken from the advices of other agencies and added nothing new. In fact, I think the email response guided Defence officials to the travel advice issued by DFAT.