Interview with Kieran Gilbert – Sky News AM Agenda – Wednesday 20 November 2013







Subjects: Australia’s relationship with Indonesia, Government’s border security secrecy

KIERAN GILBERT: Joining me now the Shadow Minister for Communications and former National Security Minister, Home Affairs Minister for three years in the Labor Government, Jason Clare. How serious is this rift now with Indonesia? It looks like this could be very damaging and not just in the short term.

JASON CLARE: Well it is serious. This is one of our most important relationships, everybody has said that. It’s how we deal with it. We need to deal with this quickly. It can go one of two ways. We can restore trust by working closely with Indonesia, quickly. Or things can go bad. Things can get very bad if trust is broken and we don’t work together. If cooperation between our two governments and our two agencies doesn’t continue, then that has serious implications for the work that we do together: people smuggling, counter terrorism, the work we do to facilitate trade and so forth.

GILBERT: Marty Natalegawa has said they’re already reviewing cooperation on counter terrorism and on border protection and that the overall relationship. Are you worried this will lead to an upsurge in boat arrivals if this does collapse?

CLARE: I am confident that the good will between our two countries and senior officials on both sides, and our two governments will work closely to restore trust. We have to do that. But if we let it fester and things do get worse then there is the risk that there will be a break down in cooperation. We just can’t let that happen. I saw as a Minister the close work that our two police forces do and our two sets of national security agencies do to tackle people smuggling and the new government has talked about that as well and so they should. The Indonesian police and the Indonesian law enforcement agencies work to intercept boats, interrupt people getting onto boats. If they stop doing that that means more people get onto boats and more people losing their life.

GILBERT: Should Tony Abbott apologise?

CLARE: Look I’m not going to tell the Prime Minister what to do. As Richard Marles has said he’s in the chair, he’s got access to the national security agencies, he’s got access to the cables, the best people around him to provide that advice. We do have an example though about how to approach this issue. Snowden has released this information that’s affected the relationship between the US and Germany. Now we see this example and there’s the threat of more information to come. The way that the Chancellor of Germany and the President of the United States tackled this issue is a good template for us to follow. Friends pick up the phone and talk to each other and that’s a suggestion that we think the Prime Minister should pick up.

GILBERT: What about the US, should they apologise to us because how did Snowden get his hands on this Australian intelligence? He wasn’t a very senior official in the NSA.

CLARE: There is a long standing tradition that we do not talk about national security matters. I’m not going to depart from that. Our countries work closely together, the US and Australia, all five eyes agencies the UK, Canada and New Zealand that’s a good thing, it’s in our national interest for that to continue. Long-term Kieran, what we would like to see is closer cooperation not just between the five eyes countries but between countries like Australia and Indonesia and the sharing of more information and more intelligence there. Make no mistake Indonesia is an extremely important relationship and we need to take action quickly to fix this before it festers anymore.

GILBERT: Finally, Angus Campbell has confirmed that no boats have been bought but he made it very clear that this is in the context of listening to Indonesia and its concerns. Are you happy at least that the Operation Sovereign Borders is happening in that way, which is sensitive to Indonesian issues on these things like buying back boats?

CLARE: Well I thank General Campbell for his honesty. I thank him for answering the question. The Government’s refused to give that information in the Parliament saying that it’s operational. The General has proved that’s false last night. He wouldn’t have given that information if he thought it was operational.

Let’s be clear about it Kieran, John Curtin gave more information to the Australian people during World War Two than this Government is telling us now in the Parliament. They claim it’s for operational reasons. The reason is because their policies aren’t working, they’ve been told they can’t buy back boats, that’s a stupid policy and it’s a good thing that Indonesia has told them they can’t do it. And when they tried to turn a boat back last week, the boat broke up, people went into the water and their lives and the lives of Australian personnel were put at risk. We said this before the election, they didn’t listen. We said that the way to stop people drowning at sea was the PNG Agreement. That’s what’s stopped a lot of boats from coming to Australia not the policies they put before the election.

GILBERT: Jason Clare we are out of time unfortunately but I appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.

CLARE: Thank you.