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Howard and Downer duck for cover on Bali terrorist warnings.

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Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs

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


HOWARD AND DOWNER DUCK FOR COVER ON BALI TERRORIST WARNINGS Why did Mr Downer do nothing for four months after learning of Bali terrorist threat? Foreign Minister Downer’s credibility has been fundamentally undermined by the release of the Office of National Assessments’ submission on the intelligence warnings it provided Mr Downer prior to the Bali bombings. The ONA submission contains five major revelations: 1. ONA specifically requested a briefing session with Mr Downer on the terrorist threat in the region - and specifically the threat posed by JI and al Qaeda. 2. This was not a casual briefing. It took place over two sessions on 18 and 19 June 2002 - itself highly unusual. 3. Mr Downer himself asked ONA to identify possible targets in the region. And in response: “Bali, Riau and Singapore were assessed to be attractive targets for Jemaah Islamiah”. 4. ONA also stated: “international hotels, nightclubs and airlines/airports were assessed as being high on terrorists’ target lists”. 5. The ONA document does not state that it advised Mr Downer not to change the Department’s travel advice for the Australian public. All ONA said was that there was “no specific intelligence” - i.e. on a specific threat, at a specific time and at a specific place. It is beyond belief that nine months after September 11 Mr Downer decided to do nothing with this information in terms of making it available to the Australian travelling public. Mr Howard’s appalling defence on this matter in Parliament today has been, “You adjust travel advisories on the basis of specific information. There was no specific information.” It is time Mr Howard and Mr Downer took a reality check. How did they manage to conclude that a specific ONA briefing on the specific subject of JI terrorist threats in the region, which specifically identified Bali as an attractive JI target, and specifically identified nightclubs as being high on a terrorist target list - was somehow not specific enough for Mr Howard and Mr Downer to tell the Australian people? This is either rank arrogance, rank incompetence, or a very ugly combination of both. This is why it is necessary for the Howard Government’s actions on this matter to be the subject of proper, independent investigation. Kids overboard. Iraqi WMD. And now Bali. The record is less than flash. Ends. 17 June 2003