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Howard must allow Royal Commission on Intelligence.



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DEMOCRATS MEDIA 04/292 WEDNESDAY 14 APRIL 2004

SENATOR ANDREW BARTLETT LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN DEMOCRATS AND SPOKESPERSON ON DEFENCE

HOWARD MUST ALLOW ROYAL COMMISSION ON INTELLIGENCE Leader of the Democrats, Senator Andrew Bartlett said today the Government's treatment of intelligence whistleblowers including Lt Col Collins, was appalling.

The Australian Democrats have called for a Royal Commission into intelligence agencies and their relationships with Government.

"There are now a number of credible claims of systemic failures with our intelligence agencies and political interference. To fail to act on these concerns is a dereliction of duty," Senator Bartlett said.

"The Democrats welcome the ALP joining the calls for a Royal Commission into Australia's Intelligence agencies. If the ALP gains Government we will hold them to that and ensure that the Royal Commission looks not just at the last 8 years, but events under previous ALP governments as well," said Senator Bartlett.

"This isn’t a matter for political point-scoring, it's a recognition that top quality intelligence is more important than ever in ensuring the security and safety of Australians.

"The Prime Minister claimed this morning that the current Flood inquiry into intelligence agencies was recommended by an all party parliamentary committee. It was not an 'all party parliamentary committee'. It did not include the Democrats who have been a Parliamentary Party for 21 years now. While some valuable revelations came out of the Parliamentary inquiry, about intelligence agencies telling the Government it was unlikely Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, it was still a highly secretive process.

"The Flood inquiry is not a judicial inquiry and there is no indication it will look at the Government's role. When the Flood inquiry was set up, the Democrats called for it to look at the broader issue of the Government's role in using intelligence, as well as the activities of the intelligence agencies.

"The previous Hope Royal Commission into Intelligence was almost 3 decades ago. The major threats to Australians do not come from traditional military threats, but from terrorism and regional instability. We cannot hope to meet these threats without properly functioning intelligence agencies.

Senator Bartlett said criticism of intelligence agencies should not be used to let the Howard Government get away with misleading the public over the Iraq war. The safety of Australians is at risk from terrorism, and it is vital the Government receive and listen to frank and fearless intelligence.

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