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Monday, 30 August 1993
Page: 600

(Question No. 333)

Senator Coulter asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 25 May 1993:

  (1) Was the book entitled The Prime Minister was a Spy a fabrication; if so, was the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) involved.

  (2) Was the short story published by Pascoe Publishers Victoria and written by the former Prime Minister (Mr Hawke), entitled Shiny Brass Coffin Handles, related to matters raised in the book in (1).

  (3) Were there United States Executive orders linking the Central Intelligence Agency, ASIO and the Australian Government with respect to the late Hon. Harold Holt; if so, will the Government introduce legislation with respect to interference by foreign government intelligence agencies.

Senator Bolkus —The Attorney-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question.

  (1) The Attorney-General has not seen this book and so cannot comment on whether it is a fabrication.

  (2) The Attorney-General has seen this short story but can see no connection with any of the matters the Honourable Senator has raised.

  (3) Section 19(1)(c) of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Act 1979 (the ASIO Act) provides that the Attorney-General may authorise the Director-General of Security to liaise with specified authorities of other countries. Consistent with the practice of successive Commonwealth Governments in the interests of security, the Attorney-General does not propose to comment on any matter concerning ASIO's operations, such as whether it has any relationship with foreign authorities.

  In respect of legislation to deal with interference by foreign government intelligence agencies, the Attorney-General advises that subsection 17(1)(a) of the ASIO Act already provides that one of ASIO's functions is to obtain, correlate and analyse intelligence relevant to security, one aspect of which involves the protection of, and the people of, the Commonwealth and the several States and Territories from acts of foreign interference.