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Monday, 18 November 2002
Page: 6582

Senator FAULKNER (Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (2:21 PM) —My question is directed to Senator Hill, representing the Prime Minister and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and follows on from the earlier question to Senator Ellison. Minister, was the Prime Minister aware of warnings from a senior Western diplomat regarding specific Jemaah Islamiah plans to mark the anniversary of the war in Afghanistan with the bombing of soft targets, before or after the publication of such claims in last Saturday's Sydney Morning Herald? In promising to have these matters inquired into, has the Prime Minister referred these new claims to the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security? Can the minister say when it is anticipated that the parliament will be informed of the outcomes of all such inquiries?

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —Senator Faulkner must have missed the media reports over the weekend, because the Prime Minister was asked that very question. He repeated the fact that the government had no specific warnings in relation to the bombings in Bali. He indicated that he was not aware of the warnings as had appeared in the media over the weekend, which were put to him by Australian journalists in turn over the weekend. He repeated that all aspects relating to the intelligence are being looked at by Mr Blick, and Mr Blick has the responsibility to use his own enterprise to ensure that he has all available material before him. To the extent that the government can help and facilitate him in doing so, it obviously would wish to do so. I do not think that there is a time limit for his inquiry because, while we want it to be completed promptly, we want it to be done properly. As I have said once before, I would expect that there would be a public statement arising out of his inquiry.

Senator FAULKNER —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. It is true, Minister, that you said once before that you would come back to the Senate in relation to the terms of reference for the inquiry conducted by Mr Blick, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security. In fact, you undertook to do that more than a month ago, in answer to a question I asked in this chamber. When will you, as Leader of the Government in the Senate, provide the terms of reference for the Blick review?

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —When I was last asked that question, I understand that the terms of reference had not then been drafted. I understand that Mr Blick is now working to specific terms of reference, and I will ask that they be made available to the Senate. It might be, as on some other occasions, that they in fact are provided with the response of Mr Blick to the inquiry.