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Howard Rejects Call For Royal Commission On Intelligence Services

The Prime Minister, John Howard, has rejected a call by a senior security official, Lieutenant Colonel Lance Collins, for a Royal Commission into Australia’s intelligence services.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, John Howard, leaked to The Bulletin magazine, and reported tonight by Laurie Oakes on Channel 9 news, Collins alleges a long list of intelligence failures:

“Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, delay in the (Willie) Brigitte case, warning of the Bali bombing, breakdown of order in the Solomons … the independence of East Timor, death of an intelligence officer in Washington, resumption of Indian nuclear testing, fall of Suharto, the media-reported Indonesian capture of an ASIS officer, the Sandline affair and the testing of sarin nerve agent on an Australian farm by a Japanese religious sect”.

The Prime Minister said tonight that he will provide Lt. Collins with a detailed reply, but rejected the call for an inquiry.

Transcript of the doorstop interview given by the Prime Minister, John Howard, in the federal electorate of Page.

JOURNALIST:

What’s your response to Lieutenant Colonel Collins’ letter?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I have received a letter from him and I’ve sought some advice on that letter and I’ll give him the detailed and considered reply that the person in his position deserves.

JOURNALIST:

It’s pretty damning though, isn’t it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, it’s a letter, I’m not going to comment one way or another on the contents. I don’t think people should start jumping to conclusions. He’s expressed views, he’s entitled to express them. I’ll give him a detailed and courteous reply. I continue to have full confidence in our intelligence agencies, they do a very good job for Australia. He’s entitled as an Army officer to write to me and I respect his right to do that. But I’ll give him a detailed and courteous reply.

JOURNALIST:

A Royal Commission. Will you consider that?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don’t think a Royal Commission is necessary. We’ve had many investigations in the past into our intelligence services, we’re having one now. It was recommended by an all party committee, both Labor and Liberal, recommended the very inquiry we are now having. That committee included people from the Labor Party such as Mr Beazley and Senator Ray, as well as members of my own party and the National Party and the Democrats. So we’re doing what all parties have suggested and I don’t believe a Royal Commission is necessary. But, as I say, I’ll give the Colonel a detailed and courteous and comprehensive reply and he’s served his country well and I respect that. And I’ll treat the letter with the respect that it deserves given who wrote to me.

JOURNALIST:

It is fairly embarrassing though, isn’t it Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, no, I’m not embarrassed. People are entitled to write and express views, it is always a robust democracy and it’s a principle of the way we run things in this country that any person serving in the forces has a right to express concerns to the political head of the government. There’s nothing strange about that. It’s a long and honoured Australian tradition.

JOURNALIST:

One of the questions he raised was about the DIO just saying what the Government wanted…?

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh, well, look, I’m not going to get into the detail of it except to say that the Jull Committee found in relation to Iraq that we hadn’t sought to influence the intelligence agencies. So, I’m not getting into that. Thank you.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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