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Wednesday, 17 November 2004
Page: 87

Senator CARR (2:53 PM) —My question without notice is to Senator Hill, the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Can the minister confirm that the Prime Minister's office instigated the Remembrance Day raid by the Australian Federal Police on the offices of the National Indigenous Times? What was the nature of the complaint by the Prime Minister's office and did it concern the leaking of cabinet-in-confidence documents? Did the warrant specifically mention the National Indigenous Times or did it mention other newspapers? Given that at least two newspapers other than the National Indigenous Times ran reports on leaked cabinet-in-confidence documents about the government's proposals regarding Indigenous programs and the legal impediments to the government's administrative changes to ATSIC programs, why did the government single out this Indigenous newspaper as the subject of a raid by the AFP? Why didn't the government ask the AFP to search the premises of the other newspapers?

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —This is, of course, a police investigation and the police determine how to carry out their own investigation. The advice that I have got is that the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet referred the unauthorised disclosure of cabinet documents to the Australian Federal Police in line with normal procedures. The AFP accepted the referral for investigation and as part of its investigation executed a search warrant at the premises of the National Indigenous Times in Canberra and took documents from the premises pursuant to the warrant. Decisions for the conduct of an investigation are, as I said, for the police to make, including decisions on whether and when to seek and execute search warrants. Any suggestion, as is being put by Senator Carr, that the Prime Minister ordered the raid is obviously completely wrong. As this is a continuing investigation, it would be inappropriate to make any further comment.

Senator CARR —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Why did the raids on the Indigenous Times not occur until after the reports of the cabinet-in-confidence documents appeared in another newspaper, the Australian Financial Review? Why was the office of the Financial Review not raided by the AFP? Further, why wasn't the journalist Andrew Bolt raided when the leaked national security information appeared in the Herald Sun via his column? Are there any charges pending against any newspaper or journalist for breaches of the Crimes Act in relation to conveying cabinet-in-confidence material?

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —I do not think Senator Carr listened to a word of the answer that I gave or else he would have heard that I said that this was a matter for the police. They determine how to conduct their own investigations. He could better direct the question to the police. I think that the police would respectfully tell him that they will do the job and do it well.