Associated Press | Thursday, May 14, 2009
Australia Accidentally Reveals Treaty Negotiations With Countries
The government acknowledged Thursday that it had made an embarrassing blunder by making public a secret list of Australia’s treaty negotiations with countries around the world.
The list of more than 200 bilateral treaties under negotiation or review includes a pending agreement with China to increase uranium exports and a revised defense treaty being hammered out between Australian and Indonesian officials.
Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said in a statement Thursday that his department "is in the process of advising each of the relevant countries that the document was released in error" to the Parliament on Wednesday.
"The minister has and does accept responsibility for this error," the statement said.
The 58-page list is not classified. But its cover page carries a warning that such negotiations are "potentially sensitive" and that the list should not be "placed on the public record." According to international convention, even the existence of such negotiations should not be revealed without the permission of both countries, it said.
Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop described the slip up as a "shocking breach of security that will undermine Australia’s international reputation."
But Trade Minister Simon Crean said he did not expect countries to complain because most of the information in the document had already been known to the public.
"I don’t think it will raise concerns, but if there are concerns, we’ll deal with them," Crean told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.
The list provides scant detail about most negotiations.
Despite Australia imposing financial and trade sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, the document says "negotiations are ongoing" with Tehran on an investment promotion agreement.
Australia proposed a prisoner transfer pact with the Philippines in July last year but Manila had yet to respond, the document said.
Australia made a similar approach to Singapore, but Singapore replied that "it is not able to commence negotiations at this time," it said.