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Thursday, 28 November 1985
Page: 2467


Senator JESSOP —I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to a question I asked on 15 November concerning the activities of Mr Ali Kazak, self-professed Australian representative of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, and his reported threat--


Senator Tate —How many times are you going to ask this?


Senator JESSOP —It is a very important question and I hope that the honourable senator will listen to it. I refer to his reported threat that Australians would be targets of the PLO.


Senator Bolkus —I feel sorry for the Minister.


Senator JESSOP —The honourable senator may not be concerned about this matter, but I am. Does the Minister recall also that on 7 November I asked again about the report in the Bulletin of Kazak repeating his threat and I directed a three-part question on that subject to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I received a bland reply from Senator Gareth Evans.


Senator Bolkus —Mr Deputy President, I take a point of order. This question could go on all day. Could you ask the honourable senator to come to the point of this question?


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —I ask Senator Jessop to continue his question.


Senator JESSOP —I ask the Minister whether he recalls that in answer to that question Senator Gareth Evans said:

The assertion that Australian citizens travelling abroad are in some way at risk is unfounded.

Is the Minister concerned over the recent tragic events associated with the Egyptair hijacking in the last week and the fact that two Australians on board were lined up for execution immediately after the Israeli and American passengers? At the time of the assault of the Egyptian commandos, Mr Lyons and a young lady from Melbourne, Elizabeth Fisher, were next in line for execution. Has the Minister seen the report indicating that Mr Lyons eventually escaped but that the young lady lost her life tragically? Has he gathered from Press reports that she lost her life in the fire resulting from the rescue attempt? I learn now that her relatives were told this morning by the Department of Foreign Affairs that she was in fact executed. I ask the Leader of the Government whether Miss Fisher was in fact executed and whether the Government shares the offhanded attitude of Senator Evans about Australian travellers? Finally, I want to know whether the Government now takes Ali Kazak's threat seriously?


Senator BUTTON —Many years ago I was trained at great public expense to follow arguments, indeed tortuous arguments, but my training is totally inadequate to follow some of the arguments which were contained in that question. For example, Senator Jessop asked me whether I was aware of an answer given by Senator Evans to him, and he identified the answer as being given in a private letter to him.


Senator Jessop —No, in the Senate.


Senator BUTTON —No, the honourable senator referred to two answers from Senator Evans and he said in his question that the second one was given to him in a letter. I am not aware of that. I am aware of him asking a question of Senator Evans on this matter but I am not aware of the second question to which he referred. I am also aware that the Bulletin and newspapers have identified comments, not from Mr Kazak but from others, that Australians may well be targets in international terrorist activities. I did not put those two allegations together in the way the honourable senator sought to do in his question.

The honourable senator asked me whether I am concerned about these things. Of course I am concerned about these things and of course the Government is concerned about them. No Minister in this Government is offhanded, as Senator Jessop chose to suggest in his question, about the very serious situation which, of course, is a threat to all travellers, whether they be Australians or otherwise. It is very difficult for us to identify whether there is a specific threat to Australians. I suspect there probably is. So of course the Government and all Ministers in it are concened about these matters.

The honourable senator then went on to ask a number of supplementary questions, as it were, about Miss Fisher and whether she was in fact killed during the Egyptian commando raid on the Egyptian plane at Malta or whether she was a victim of asphyxia as a result of smoke grenades. I have no up to date information on that. I will endeavour to get a formal answer to that question before the end of Question Time. From the honourable senator's question, the information seems to be available to the Department of Foreign Affairs. Senator Jessop also asked me whether I am concerned about that incident. Of course I am concerned about that incident. Everybody in this Parliament is concerned. I find the phraseology of the question somewhat insulting.