Australia on Wikileaks

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.”

Press release
Min­is­te­r­i­al Sup­port and Pub­lic Affairs,
Depart­ment of Defence,
Can­ber­ra, Aus­tralia

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