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Downer ducking and weaving on the truth.

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Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs

DOWNER DUCKING AND WEAVING ON THE TRUTH Why can’t Downer rule out his office’s involvement in the unauthorised release of a top-secret document?

Foreign Minister Downer is plainly dodging the truth.

Last night Mr Downer was asked on Lateline whether his office had provided information from a top-secret national security CODEWORD document to an unauthorised person.

Mr Downer refused to rule this possibility out.

The trickiness of Mr Downer’s defence lies in his response to an earlier question in the Lateline interview when he was asked:

Can you state to us right now that to your knowledge no one in your office passed on any such material?

To this, Mr Downer answered:

Well, look to the best of my knowledge no one gave the document to Andrew Bolt.

But when Lateline pursued the matter by asking not whether Mr Downer’s office had actually passed the top-secret national security document itself on to an authorised person, but instead passed on the contents of that document, the blood drained from Mr Downer’s face and he ran for cover.

TONY JONES: Or information related to the document, taken from the document in some detail and then passed on?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, look, you know, in the end I think the best thing to do here is to allow people in my office to talk to the Federal Police and in my department and in other ministers' offices ... it's the best way to handle it.

It is simply untenable for the Foreign Minister of Australia to continue to occupy his office when he cannot provide the Australian people with an absolute assurance that his office has not been responsible for the unauthorised release of top-secret national security CODEWORD documents.

The office of the Foreign Minister is responsible for the custodianship of a vast array of top-secret national security documents. If we cannot have confidence that the Foreign Minister’s office is using these documents with full security, then our national security is at risk.

Not to mention the possibility of a fundamental breach of the law.

Mr Downer cannot continue to hide behind an investigative process. Mr Downer must start to answer some questions - now.

Ends. 10 October 2003

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