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Transcript of doorstop: Canberra: Thursday, 19 June 2003: Iraqi WMD Inquiry; Bali bombings; Burma.

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Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs

Further information: Kevin Rudd, MP 0418 796 931 or Alister Jordan 0417 605 823


TRANSCRIPT 0F DOORSTOP CANBERRA, THURSDAY 19 JUNE 2003 E & OE - PROOF ONLY Subjects: Iraqi WMD Inquiry; Bali bombings; Burma Rudd: Reports today that the Prime Minister and the Government is seeking advice about whether or not it needs to cooperate with the Joint Intelligence Committee investigation on pre-war intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction is profoundly disturbing. It seems that what Mr Howard is saying loud and clear to the Australian intelligence community is that he is not all that keen on them cooperating with the Joint Intelligence Committee of the Parliament. The Joint Intelligence Committee of the Parliament was established under law in Australia to provide oversight to our intelligence agencies. Why is it that Mr Howard now sees it as being appropriate to take advice on whether or not, for example, the Office of National Assessments should cooperate with the Joint Intelligence Committee? There is a very basic test alive in all of this - and that is, if Mr Downer and Mr Howard had nothing to hide, then why don’t they submit themselves to this open inquiry by the Joint Intelligence Committee? Reporter: Do you fear it will be another, say, children overboard? Rudd: Well the Government has a bad track record in terms of the abuse of intelligence information for political purposes. The Government abused intelligence information during the last election campaign in their efforts to paint a picture that asylum seekers had thrown their children overboard. We subsequently found out that was simply untrue. This Government has form on this question. That is why they have a double responsibility to cooperate with the Joint Intelligence Committee and ensure that doubts in the Australian community are put to rest about how cleanly they translated the intelligence information they had on Iraqi WMD into the public debate. Reporter: [Inaudible]

Rudd: Mr Howard is beginning to show contempt for the parliamentary process.

After all, it is a law of this Parliament which establishes the Joint Intelligence Committee to provide oversight for our intelligence community and our intelligence agencies. Again I ask the question, what is Mr Howard, Man of Steel, Honest John, got to hide on this question? I don’t really understand.

In February Mr Howard said to the Australian Parliament that he had concerns about Iraq’s nuclear weapons program because Iraq had sought to import uranium from the African state of Niger. Yesterday Foreign Minister Downer writes in the Sydney Morning Herald that, in fact, that intelligence on Iraq’s attempt to import uranium from the African state of Niger was erroneous. So yesterday we have Foreign Minister Downer saying clearly in black and white that what John Howard told the Parliament of Australia only three months ago was a complete furphy. Well, Mr Howard is beginning to have some questions to answer of his own - quite apart from Mr Downer’s problem on the question of Bali.

Reporter: So this inquiry is far too secretive and we may not know any of the outcomes?

Rudd: Well the pattern of this Government’s behaviour is always to be dragged kicking and screaming into proper parliamentary scrutiny of their behaviour. Now Mr Howard has sent out two very loud signals to the intelligence agencies about his disinterest in cooperating with this particular parliamentary inquiry. Yesterday he described the Joint Intelligence Committee proposed investigation on pre-war WMD intelligence as political opportunism. And today the report is that Mr Howard is seeking legal advice or the Government is seeking legal advice as to whether the Joint Intelligence Committee has appropriate terms of reference to in fact prosecute this investigation.

Reporter: On Bali, if you tell people not to travel to everywhere where you have some piece of intelligence, no one would travel anywhere, would they?

Rudd: No one is pretending that Mr Downer could have prevented Bali. But what we are saying is that Mr Downer had a responsibility to put the information he had on Bali out into the public domain; people could have then made up their own minds.

Let’s just recount the record on that very quickly. Mr Downer had two specific pieces of intelligence on Bali in his possession, one dated September 27 2002 which was in written form and the second dated June 2002 which in oral form. Both of them said that Bali was a terrorist target, specifically in the case of the June intelligence briefing, that it was a terrorist target for Jemaah Islamiah.

Now the Australian people are simply saying “why didn’t you put that information out into the public domain?” So far, we have a very thin response from the Foreign Minister as to why he didn’t.

Reporter: Mr Downer says he gets pieces of information all the time as to possible threats. Do you concede that it is difficult to put out advisories on every bit of that advice?

Rudd: Well let’s put all this into context. First of all we had the terrorist attacks on

September 11 by al Qaeda. Secondly, over the summer of 2001-2002 we had Australia go to war against al Qaeda in Afghanistan to destroy al Qaeda. Three, we then have al Qaeda’s cousin terrorist organisation, Jemaah Islamiah ,off and running throughout South East Asia in the first half of last year. All of that is on the public record. We get to June last year and Mr Downer is provided with specific intelligence information which says that Bali is a desirable terrorist target and, furthermore, that nightclubs are high on terrorist targeting priorities.

Now if this was simply a piece of isolated information, completely unattached from what was going on in the broader terrorism environment, you can understand Mr Downer perhaps putting it to one side. But Mr Downer received specific intelligence on Bali on the back of this mounting terrorist threat by Jemaah Islamiah building up over the previous six months. He should have put it out into the public domain, and he knows it.

Reporter: If you were Foreign Minister at the time, would you have changed the travel advice?

Rudd: If I had the information available to me that Mr Downer had available to him, and if I had a clear understanding of the emerging general threat from Jemaah Islamiah after Australia went to war against al Qaeda, frankly, I would have had no alternative but to put this information into the domain. Mr Downer knows that. Why do you think Mr Downer is hyperventilating in his press conferences in Phnom Penh at the moment? He knows that he should have done this differently. It is time Mr Downer had the guts to admit that he just got it wrong.

One final thing on Burma. Mr Downer is currently in South East Asia. Mr Downer has yet to back away from his Government’s policy “constructive engagement” with the Burmese military regime. The Burmese military regime has placed under protective custody Aung San Suu Kyi and members of her political movement. Frankly, this demonstrates once and for all that when it comes to dealing with the Burmese military regime it is simply not possible to conduct business as usual. I’m calling upon Mr Downer to formally abandon his policy of so-called “constructive engagement” with the Burmese military regime. It is time Australia took some tough action. It is time Australia engaged in implementing appropriate targeted sanctions against the Burmese regime.

Reporter: What sort of sanctions would they be?

Rudd: When it comes to the definition of appropriate targeted sanctions there are a type which deal with the international financial transactions of members of the regime, their personal international travel, that also of their families, and it is possible to go beyond that as well. That is the menu of targeted sanction options which Mr Downer should be implementing now, as well as considering broader sanctions as well.


Further information: Alister Jordan 0417 605 823