National Party Leader Bill English has just finished a Press Conference at Parliament at which he called on the Prime Minister to come clean on the question of whether or not warnings were received from the CIA concerning a possible attack in Bali.
The press conference followed extensive reporting in the Australian media this morning of an admission from Australian PM John Howard yesterday that, contrary to earlier statements, Australia had indeed received a warning from the CIA mentioning Bali. (See... Scoop Links: Aus. PM Admits Bali Bombing Warning). The Australian PM announced that he had initiated an intelligence agency inquiry into the matter.
This morning Bill English referred to New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark’s statement in the house yesterday concerning the warning which was reported in the Washington Post.
Helen Clark said: “I give the House exactly the same advice that John Howard gave Australians yesterday, which is that Australia was given no warning of the Bali bombing, we were given no warning of the Bali bombing. The Prime Minister of Australia said that it had no warning of a specific attack, nor did we.” (See... PM Answers Questions On Intelligence Failure )
“After the statements from John Howard yesterday, Helen Clark has put herself in a position where she needs to explain this. If Australia had this warning then we should have had it too,” Mr English told the Press Gallery.
“New Zealand must have the best intelligence it can to protect our citizens. The PM gave the impression yesterday that we are still in the best intelligence club. We want to know why we weren’t told about this warning,” Mr English said.
Mr English was asked if the Prime Minister might have misled the media in her statements yesterday, given that the Australian PM too appeared to have changed his story on this issue.
“That’s a question for her to answer. It certainly doesn’t give me the reassurance that the NZ public need.”
What if the information was received, but not passed on to the Government?
“Then she [Helen Clark] ought to have a hard look at that before she comes back to Parliament today. She gave the house and the media assurances yesterday on this and we and you accepted them.”
Mr English was then asked if the price of a closer relationship with the US on such matters would be to revisit the nuclear issue, would the National Party consider doing so?
“The US is certainly sending a strong message on the nuclear issue today, and we would have to consider that. But the Government’s top priority must be to protect New Zealanders today.”
Mr English was also asked what the apparent lack of information said about the United States. “I would be critical of anyone who held back such information,” he replied.
And if Australia had the information and didn’t pass it on?
"Yesterday the PM said we had the closest possible relationship with Australia."
Scoop then asked whether the PM’s latest statements indicated she may be changing her story. This morning a spokesman told Scoop the PM said: “"I do not believe there was any specific information to warrant advising people not to visit Bali".
If the story had changed what would his reaction be? Scoop asked.
“The PM should take this seriously and give straight forward answers,” Mr English said.
Near the end of the press conference Mark Sainsbury of TVNZ asked Mr English if he was concerned about the apparent lack of intelligence given his stated intentions to travel soon.
“I am intelligent enough,” he quipped in response, smiling.