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Tuesday, 6 December 1983
Page: 3242

Mr CHARLES —Has the Minister for Foreign Affairs noted the complaint of the Victorian Premier, John Cain, that the Australian Secret Intelligence Service is stalling and preventing police inquiries into the ASIS fiasco at the Sheraton Hotel last week? Has he noted also that ASIS is reported to have claimed that it cannot offer co-operation to the Victorian Police until it receives a ministerial direction to do so? Therefore, will the Minister give a firm undertaking to ensure that there is co-operation between ASIS and the Victorian police on this matter?

Mr HAYDEN —The short answer to the question is that the Government will take every step it can to reasonably extend that co-operation to the Victorian State Government and also to the Victorian police. I will come back to that in a tick. I think a few things should be put in context so that honourable members will understand developments in relation to this matter; that is, insofar as one can discuss this matter. I think honourable members understand that Mr Justice Hope has already commenced his investigations into this matter. Indeed, today he is hearing, on oath, evidence from various people who have been associated with this incident. In that context, there is obviously some restraint on what one should properly say.

To put it in context, yesterday afternoon, and well before Premier Cain of Victoria conducted his late afternoon Press conference, I had a discussion with him on the telephone. I then explained to him that it was my inclination to provide as much information as I could, to divulge the identity of all of the people who had been involved in the ASIS exercise at the Sheraton Hotel on the night of 30 November. However, I went on to outline to him that I felt I had certain responsibilities to the Cabinet and, therefore, it would be necessary for me to take the matter up with the Cabinet and that would be done a little later in the afternoon at the Cabinet meeting. Further to that, there were considerations about the inalienable rights of all people in this country before the law, including the people who participated in the ASIS exercise.

In that regard I felt a need to have discussions with the Attorney-General, Senator Gareth Evans, who is our chief legal adviser. Those things have been done and late last night I spoke to Premier Cain and I pointed out that the Government is prepared to divulge the identity of the people who were involved in the exercise at the Sheraton Hotel and to arrange for that information to be passed on to the Victorian State police. As I understood Mr Cain's response, he accepts the circumstances in which that information can and would be passed on. I will be talking to him later this afternoon. He was not available earlier today when I sought to talk with him. He was absent from the city of Melbourne. He did ask me to give some of the details of the exercise beyond those which were provided in the House last week. He made that request because, he pointed out, various speculations were rife in the community and he felt it desirable that an accurate account should be given-as far as one can go in detail-of what took place.

The first thing that one needs to reassure the public on is that all of the information passed to me confirms that it was an exercise. There was no other motive or any other association. It was not related to any other exercise or to any other operations and ASIS was not on a standard of alert, which is not an arrangement which ASIS has anyway, as has been suggested. I gave some of the details of the exercise in the Parliament last week. I propose not to go beyond that except for one matter which I will refer to in a second. I propose not to go beyond it because the incident is being investigated in full detail by Mr Justice Hope. But there was some reference to a medical swab. Some of the more lurid descriptions in the newspapers suggested that it might have been an envelope for something else. In fact it was an antiseptic swab and it was used in a simulated endeavour to carry out a hypodermic injection-but I stress the word 'simulated'-for the purpose of immobilising the two guards who were holding the 'hostage' as part of this exercise. I am not canvassing the rights or wrongs , the wiseness or unwiseness, the reality or otherwise of what was done. I am giving an account of what took place. There is nothing more sinister than that in relation to that matter. I have now established that the total number of people involved in this exercise was 12, at the maximum. They were the people who were involved in the planning and preparation-

Opposition members interjecting-

Mr HAYDEN —Honourable members may be interested to know that these organisational arrangements were not initiated by me but were arrangements which were put in place by my predecessor. If honourable members of the Opposition wish to challenge me on this--

Mr Peacock —Not by me.

Mr HAYDEN —No, it was not the Leader of the Opposition, it was his successor. However, his successor merely concentrated the arrangements for exercises of a physical nature conducted by ASIS, as I understand it, into a new organisational arrangement, which also developed new capabilities. They were developed by my predecessor. I ask honourable members to bear that in mind.

Mr Anthony —Not this particular exercise.

Mr HAYDEN —Does the right honourable member want to hear the details of who was involved or not? There were four ASIS officers, six ASIS trainees and two members of the Army from Headquarters, 1 Commando Regiment which is detached to Swan Island. The actual application of the exercise involved four ASIS officers, six ASIS trainees and one Army member. I have two things to say about the Army member, who is a sergeant. Firstly, his role was to remain in the foyer of the hotel and, should any untoward development take place, to advise people on a higher floor. All I can say is that he was overtaken by events. My colleague the Minister for Defence has been most attentive and importunate in asking me to explain why these members of the Army were out of the immediate control and authority of the Army and were operating with ASIS under arrangements put in place before this Government came to office. Apprehended by the police were two ASIS officers and three ASIS trainees. Not apprehended were two ASIS officers, three trainees and the Army observer. I do not believe I can properly add any more to the matter at this stage. I believe I have gone more than far enough in an effort to accommodate the understandable concern of Premier Cain and the need to provide more information to this Parliament. I believe we must respect the inquiry which is currently under way.