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Transcript of doorstop: Canberra: Wednesday 18 June 2003: Bali terrorist warnings.

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Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs




RUDD: I’d like to talk further about the Bali matter and intelligence warnings on Bali. This whole Bali saga gets murkier and murkier as each day goes by. Let’s put it all into context. What the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister have said is that they had no responsibility to change travel warnings for the Australian public unless they had specific intelligence information, which they seem to define as specific intelligence that there was going to be the likelihood of a bomb attack on a specific date at a specific place at a specific time.

Frankly, if that is the straw-man argument that Mr Howard and Mr Downer are advancing as the only basis upon which you would tell the Australian public about possible threats to their security abroad, then we would have very few travel advisories changed at any time.

The reasonable test is this: if the Australian Government has in its possession information which says that there is a grave risk of a terrorist threat or strike at a particular location, then they have a responsibility to put that information into the public domain.

Mr Downer and Mr Howard say, “Well, look, we had no specific intelligence on Bali”. Let’s just look at that very closely. The Office of National Assessments, this Government’s number-one intelligence agency, first of all requested a specific briefing for the Foreign Minister. Secondly, it requested that that briefing occur over a two-day period. Thirdly, that the subject of this briefing is the enhanced terrorist threat by Jemaah Islamiah against Australian interests in Southeast Asia. Fourthly, the Office of National Assessments tells the Foreign Minister that Bali represents an attractive terrorist target for Jemaah Islamiah. And, finally, that nightclubs in particular were high on the terrorist targeting list.

These are specific pieces of information, and Mr Downer and Mr Howard say they are not specific enough to put out into the public domain. This is absolute nonsense. Mr Downer has some fundamental questions to answer.


What has Mr Downer’s defence been overnight? “Well, there was only one ONA analyst who came forward with this information, the context of a two-day briefing on terrorist threats against Australian interests in Southeast Asia.”

Well, I know something about the Office of National Assessments; I was once offered a job there in the past. I used to work in the Department of Foreign Affairs. When it comes to Indonesia, you don’t have teams and teams of analysts working on it. You have actually only a handful people, highly qualified people, working on individual countries.

The fact that an analyst from the Office of National Assessments briefs the Foreign Minister and says that Bali is an attractive terrorist target for Jemaah Islamiah and, furthermore, that nightclubs in particular are high on the terrorist targeting list surely should have rung some bells for the Foreign Minister for him to go and do something about it.

JOURNALIST: Are you saying Mr Downer was negligent?

RUDD: And one final point before we get onto this question of Mr Downer’s responsibilities.

Yesterday we had the Office of National Assessments producing a document which says that it specifically told Mr Downer four months before the Bali bombings that they thought Bali was an attractive terrorist target.

What we have overnight is a statement from Mr Wilkie, the former senior intelligence officer of the Office of National Assessments, that he saw directly a document prepared by an ONA analyst which specifically referred to Bali as a potential or attractive terrorist target. Mr Downer issued a statement yesterday saying that, whatever he may have been briefed orally by the Office of National Assessments in June last year on Bali, that there was nothing in written form to cause him to be concerned.

Mr Wilkie has now said that he has seen directly a written report. He saw that report immediately after Bali, but his recollection was that it was prepared by the Indonesian intelligence analyst well before the Bali bombings. This, again, represents a question to be answered by Mr Downer. And what we have from Mr Downer at present is duck and weave and him saying, “It wasn’t my job”. Well Mr Downer, I think, has now some fundamental questions hanging over his credibility.

JOURNALIST: Are you saying he was negligent?

RUDD: I think what we need to establish through the upcoming Senate inquiry is precisely what was known by the Australian intelligence community, what was communicated to Mr Downer, and what Mr Downer chose to tell the Australian public, and why. So far, it’s not looking all that flash for Mr Downer.

Let’s see what this inquiry unfolds, an inquiry Mr Downer has rejected from the outset. It is only because Labor called for the establishment of the Senate inquiry that


we have had produced this document yesterday by the Office of National Assessments which tells the world that Australian intelligence informed the Australian Foreign Minister four months before Bali that Bali was an attractive terrorist target for Jemaah Islamiah.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

RUDD: If you look at the foreign-policy chronology of last year, as of the middle of last year, Mr Downer went into what I could only describe as “Iraq overdrive”. Mr Downer’s principal preoccupation on the foreign policy of this country for the last six months of last year and the first six months of this year has, in fact, been Iraq. I suspect that Mr Downer had his eye off the ball when it came to what was going on about security threats to Australians here in our own region, our own neighbourhood, our own backyard.

Furthermore, the Defence Minister, Senator Hill, is not responsible for conveying travel advice to the Australian public. That is the responsibility of Mr Downer. And on that, could I just add this? This appalling exercise by Mr Downer and Mr Howard yesterday in the Parliament to say that the Office of National Assessments did not recommend a change to the travel advice - look, the truth of the matter is that the only person responsible in Australia for changing travel advices is the Foreign Minister.

And the Foreign Minister, in making decisions on whether or not to change travel advice, is required to draw on multiple sources of information from ASIO, the Office of National Assessments, as well as our own diplomatic reporting from the region.

Frankly, for them to somehow shaft or try to shaft the Office of National Assessments and say, “Well, they didn’t tell us to change the travel advice,” misses the entire point. ONA exists under statute as the provider of intelligence information to the Australian Government. It has no statutory obligation whatsoever to determine what this country’s travel advices should be. That is the responsibility of one person, and one person alone, and that is the Foreign Minister.


Further information: Alister Jordan 0417 605 823