Australian Federal Police

Schapelle Corby
FLASH BACK - 24th June 2005

ALLISON, Lynette (Lyn) Fay
SENATOR for Victoria 1996-2008 - Australian Democrats

SENATOR ALLISON - I want to ask about Australia' s response to the situation for Schapelle Corby. Minister, you said that the government is unable to intervene. Mr Keelty, your comments some weeks ago were to the effect that there was no intelligence to back up Ms Corby' s version of the events. Can you explain why you made those comments at that point in time and on what basis?

SENATOR ELLISON - Can I say firstly, Madam Chair, that if questions of this nature are to be put they can at least be put on the right premise. I do not think that is exactly what was said. I would say to the committee that this is a matter which is before an Indonesian court which is listed to hand down its decision this Friday. It is at a very sensitive stage of the hearing and I think that the committee should exercise due care in the way it deals with this issue, having regard to the fact that this matter has now reached the stage of proceedings that it has. If this were in Australia, the matter would be sub judice. I think it would be unhelpful if this matter was canvassed in detail and matters trawled over in the fashion that I suspect people might want to. I believe the committee should carefully give thought to the questions it wants to ask on this matter.

CHAIR - I take that very seriously, Minister. I would also encourage committee members to do the same. I understand the sensitivity regarding the point in proceedings to which you refer. I am cognisant of the implications and ramifications of any discussion this committee may entertain. At the same time I am not in a position to explicitly restrict committee members in the asking of questions. I am sure that, between you and the commissioner, in terms of the questions that are asked, you will make an appropriate assessment of what it is possible to say or not, as the case may be.

SENATOR ELLISON - As is the standard practice, we can take on notice those questions that we need to. 
CHAIR - Indeed.

SENATOR ALLISON - It does go to that central question of whether the government has exercised due care. I am glad you used those words, Minister. I wonder whether, Mr Keelty, before making the comments that you made about this case, there was discussion with the minister or other members of staff. What advice did you receive?

Mr Keelty - The media statements I made were in respect of specific issues. Whilst on each occasion we advised the minister' s office that we were to make a statement, we did not advise the minister' s office on the content of that statement. Obviously, the content was dictated by the questions that were being asked.

SENATOR ALLISON - I am sorry; what questions?

Mr Keelty - Questions of me.


Mr Keelty - Questions of me.

SENATOR ALLISON - Questions from the media to you?

Mr Keelty - That is correct.

SENATOR ALLISON - Did you feel the need, after answering those questions, to clarify them in any way or modify them?

Mr Keelty - No.

SENATOR ALLISON - Because they were, to the best of your knowledge, true?
Mr Keelty - That is correct.

SENATOR ALLISON - So regardless of whether or not they were helpful in the circumstances, you made those comments?

Mr Keelty - I do not think that is a question I can answer.

SENATOR ELLISON - Madam Chair, the question is an ambiguous one. Helpful to what? The commissioner has said that he answered questions which were put to him, questions which he answered in a truthful fashion, and that is what the commissioner has said. I really think that is an answer which is a satisfactory one for the purposes of this inquiry. To go further than that would be to delve into the facts of a matter which has been and is in court.

CHAIR - And is awaiting judgment.

SENATOR ELLISON - And also has been the subject of a police investigation in Australia. In that regard we can certainly take the line of questioning on notice and see if there is anything we can add to it, and we will do that. But I do not think anything further can be expanded on usefully at this point.

SENATOR ALLISON - To what extent were those comments at odds with the subsequent letter which was provided to the Indonesian court with regard to airport arrangements and the concerns - I think that was the way it was expressed - about drug smuggling activities in airports?

SENATOR ELLISON - Which letter are you referring to?

SENATOR ALLISON - I have not seen a copy of the letter, but press reports were to the effect that, in the late stages of the court case, the government provided a letter to the Indonesian court expressing some concerns about baggage handling and drug smuggling.

SENATOR ELLISON - As I understand it - and I raised this with the Attorney-General for Indonesia - the Indonesian law allows for these sorts of representations to be made. I did not want to do anything improper when I spoke to the Indonesian Attorney-General. I put to him a number of matters which had been asked of me by the defence team for Schapelle Corby when I saw them in Jakarta. I made it very clear that I could only put to the Attorney-General of Indonesia those things which were appropriate and within the bounds of the law. As I understand it, the letter - which has been delivered on behalf of the Australian government by our mission in Indonesia - is in accordance with appropriate action that can be taken. If your question is that we have done something improper by making that submission 

SENATOR ALLISON - Not at all. I will rephrase my question. It is the extent to which the content of that letter is at odds with Mr Keelty' s remarks some weeks earlier.

SENATOR ELLISON - I do not have a copy of the letter with me. We would need to take that question on notice, and I will have to have a look at the letter again. I do not have a total recall of the content of that letter, and I would have to check that. SENATOR Allison has put a question forward as to whether there is any contradiction between the two. We will take that on notice and look at it.

CHAIR - Thank you, Minister.

Mr Keelty - There is no contradiction at all between what I said publicly and the contents of the letter. In fact, I support the provisions of the letter, and I have said that publicly as well.

SENATOR ELLISON - I think you have your answer there, Madam Chair.

SENATOR ALLISON - I am not sure, Minister, whether the letter has been made publicly available, but could it be?

SENATOR ELLISON - I think there has been one in the press. We will have a look at that and very quickly get back to you. It could be something that we can resolve very quickly. The secretary tells me that he thinks there was a photocopy of it in the press. I am just conscious of the fact that it was a letter from DFAT, albeit to a court, not a government. It was between Australia and another country.

CHAIR - This is creating a lot of work for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, for which I am sure they will be ever grateful, but we will pursue that. If you could have your officers check that, Minister, we would be grateful. Is there anything further?

SENATOR ALLISON - Not on that point.

CHAIR - Thank you

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