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Monday, 11 November 2002
Page: 5877

Senator HOGG (2:54 PM) —My question is directed to Senator Hill, the Minister for Defence. Can the minister confirm that the WashingtonPost has made claims that the Defence Signals Directorate has intercepted signals from the Freeport mine area in West Papua indicating TNI involvement with the assassination of two Americans and one Indonesian? Whilst not asking the minister to confirm or deny the veracity of the article, what steps does the Australian government take to monitor the nondisclosure of material passed on to other security agencies by DSD? Would material emanating from DSD that later appeared in US newspapers indicate a breach of the normal terms and conditions of the exchange of information?

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —I am aware of the article; I read reports of it in the Australian press. I am pleased that I am not being asked to comment on the assertions within it in relation to Australian intelligence, because I would not be able to do so. If I am then asked the hypothetical question of whether it is legitimate for our friends and allies to release intelligence that we provide to them, I would have to say no. But I am answering that in a hypothetical sense; I do not want you to draw a conclusion from that in relation to the Washington Post article.

However, I also take the opportunity to say that in relation to General Sutarto, who was mentioned in that article, we have no reason to have anything other than confidence in him, particularly his determination to improve the professionalism of TNI. We also believe his views on the appropriate distinction of role between TNI and civilian governance in Indonesia are heartening. So, to the extent that the article was an attack on him, we regret it.

Senator HOGG —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Minister, you missed that part of my question which went to what steps the Australian government is taking to monitor the nondisclosure of material passed on to other security agencies by DSD. Further, has the NSA expressed concern to DSD about the WashingtonPost article or, indeed, has DSD raised any concerns with the NSA?

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —I am not too sure how we would monitor nondisclosure. It may well be that inappropriate disclosure might be monitored, but the intelligence relationship between us and our allies is very good and very professional. It is clearly not only to their advantage but even more so to our advantage. We greatly respect that relationship and will do everything we can to enhance it and build upon it in the future.