Hon Stephen Smith MP, Minister for Defence:” In general terms, of course, the unauthorised release of any classified military documentation is a matter of most serious concern. In the example that the Member has referred to, not just Australia but the United States, the United Kingdom, NATO and ISAF have all condemned the unauthorised release of such materials. That is for the very obvious reason that the release of such materials can put security operations at risk. That means it can put Australian lives at risk. It can also put at risk the lives, safety and wellbeing of individuals who assist, in general terms, in theatre either in Afghanistan or previously in Iraq.
As the Member has referred to, in July of this year WikiLeaks released some 90,000 documents in respect of NATO and ISAF military efforts in Afghanistan. My predecessor the Minister for Defence, Senator Faulkner, established a Defence Task Force to painstakingly examine those 90,000 documents to see whether any prejudice arose to Australia’s interest, to see whether any adverse implications arose for the security of our operations and whether any adverse interest arose so far as individuals were concerned.
As I indicated over the weekend, I am very pleased to advise that that the Task Force has now completed its deliberations. It provided me with its report on Friday and later this afternoon Defence will formally release the findings of that review.
In general terms, there have been no adverse implications for our national security interests.
Over the weekend Members would have also seen a subsequent release by WikiLeaks of some 400,000 documents relating to Iraq dating back from 2004 to 2009. With the benefit of the experience we have had over the Afghanistan documents, that Task Force will now continue its work in respect of those documents for precisely the same reason.
There has been a lot of publicity arising from the release of those documents so far as detainee management is concerned. Can I say as a general proposition, Australia takes its responsibility, so far as detainee management is concerned, very seriously. At all times we want to ensure that not just our domestic legal obligations but our international legal obligations are catered for and met.
In the case of Iraq, of course, we were not responsible for any detainee or detention facilities at all. When, in the past, questions of detainee management have been raised in respect of Iraq, Defence effected a review, and in June 2004 that review was reported to the Senate, which drew to attention that there were no adverse implications so far as Australia or Australian personnel were concerned with respect to detainee management matters in Iraq.
Of course if any matters of concern arise in this context, they will be exhaustively investigated in the usual way. In due course – and it will take some time given the volume of documents – a similar public announcement will be made on any implications in respect of the recent documents for Australia’s national security interests.”
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