Interview: Bruce Haigh, former Australian diplomat

MARK DAVIS: Bruce Haigh, why are you listed on the warrant? Were you in

receipt of information from Government sources?

BRUCE HAIGH, FORMER DIPLOMAT: Yes, I received information from various

people about what was happening in East Timor and in Indonesia over the period.

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And what was the nature of that information? What`s at the base of their searches

at the moment?

BRUCE HAIGH: That was the sort of information which the Government itself was a

recipient of, which was information concerning what was happening inside East Timor,

what the Indonesian Army was doing, the composition of the militia, the sort of training

they received from Kopassus, that type of information.

I assume you`ve seen the warrant. What is the material that the warrant is

concerned with, and why is it so important? Why is there such an effort to track this

down?

BRUCE HAIGH: Well, I don`t know. I`m not in receipt of that information. But I can

speculate along the lines that I think the Government was very angry about the fact

certain individuals were making – in terms of articles and public comment, were

embarrassing the Government, were making statements which were embarrassing to

the Government, because they were seeking to put the lid on the situation in East Timor

and Indonesia, and they still are.

One thing that`s noteworthy in this document, in this warrant, is the number of people

who`ve been left off, rather than the number of people that are on. And there`s a whole

range of journalists and other public commentators that were also in receipt of this

information and have been excluded, and you have to ask why.

What do you suspect?

BRUCE HAIGH: The Government`s bullying. I mean, this is a Government that

bullies, and this was an act of intimidation that sought to silence people. And it`s

misfired badly. It`s inept – the whole exercise is inept. The warrantor and I have had a

look at that warrant, and they say it`s just a fishing exercise.

The Government has a right, though, to secure its intelligence sources. What`s

wrong with clamping down on public servants who are leaking?

BRUCE HAIGH: Nothing at all – absolutely nothing. And the amazing thing out of

this is they`ve gone and listed 70-odd documents they claim have gone missing – we`ve

only got their word on that, and their word`s not particularly good. But there`s something

wrong with their system that allows that number of documents to disappear.

Now, every government has the right to hold onto secrets – say, secrets concerning the

Collins-class submarine or other hard military information. But this was not. This was

information that was embarrassing to the Government. This was a government that was

seeking to avoid a course of action that a lot of observers – and particularly people

inside its own organisations, and I say inside Defence – could see was wrong.

As far as I can see, they were ideologically motivated, because the Government was so

wrong-headed and so bloody-minded about defending the Indonesian regime.

One of those who`s been accused, or in fact whose house has been raided, is

Captain Clinton Fernandez, an intelligence officer with the Department of Defence.

What do you think he is suspected of?

BRUCE HAIGH: I don`t know – I haven`t got any information on that. But if I was to

speculate, I would presume that they suspect him of handing out certain information –

one can only presume that. He`s not been charged with anything and there`s been no

public statement; all that`s happened as far as I can see, with respect to Captain

Fernandez and Laurie Brereton`s principal private secretary, is that their names have

been blackened in public. This is like South Africa. This Government has no

understanding of how to protect democracy.

Who are these figures that were leaking this material, and what motivated them?

BRUCE HAIGH: I would say what motivated them was a sense of decency and

idealism. As far as I can see, from talking to other people that are concerned with this

matter, there was no money changed hands, there was nothing that was done in order

to advance the careers of these people.

This was done purely because there was a vacuum, because the Government was

failing to follow a certain course of action – which it did in relation to East Timor, but

having done it in East Timor, it`s now buckled at the knees and it`s not doing it

anywhere else. We`ve got all these other situations – West Papua, Ambon, Aceh.

You`ve got a collapsing Javanese empire, and this Government is standing there

gobsmacked.

Now, people are saying, “You`ve got to come up with a policy.” You`ve got to come up

with a policy that takes into account what`s happening to our north and looks at the

whole strategic question, because you`re going to get your defence policy wrong if you

don`t. You`re going to go down a certain track which is irrelevant to what needs to be

done in terms of this situation. They`ve got their heads in the sand.

This is very interesting, that it`s coming from figures within Defence. What is their

perspective on this? Why are they leaking?

BRUCE HAIGH: Defence is the department that`s divided amongst itself, as far as I

can gather, and there are certain people inside Defence who`ve taken a certain line for

a long period of time – the Paul Dibb line, if you like, which is high-tech, US-alliance –

and you`ve got others who are saying, “No. We`ve got the situation to the north- we

need to have more people in uniform, we need to have them trained, we need to have

nigh-vision equipment provided for them.

So you`ve got this quite divided department now, and the Australian Army can see what

needs to be done, but many of the civilian Defence personnel, who`ve built their careers

on playing up to this particular line, are arguing the other case, and feeling increasingly

isolated, because they are not facing reality. That`s the problem.

I doubt they`ll be talking out now. In some ways, I`m sure it`s an effective way to

squash this dissension.

BRUCE HAIGH: No, I don`t think so. In a situation like this, you may try and bully

people or intimidate them, but if the Government – and there`s very few people in this

Government that have got any understanding of history – but if they have read the

history of the Soviet Union or South Africa or any other country, they`d realise there`s

always somebody who`s reasonably well-motivated, for the right reasons, who will take

risks.

Are you waiting for an early-morning raid?

BRUCE HAIGH: They`d have to be up very early to get up before I do. This is silly

stuff. This is really puerile stuff. For Australia to descend to this level is a sad day.