Australia's Attorney General Robert McClelland has warned that the Federal Government intends to go to any lengths to mitigate the fallout from the release of classified U.S. diplomatic cables.
McClelland announced today the forming of a whole-of-Government taskforce to review any material pertaining to Australia, its relationship with the United States and its role in global conflicts as Wikileaks releases them.
The taskforce has been asked to "go through each and every incident to see what impact it may have and what action should appropriately be taken to firstly reduce any adverse impact" and to "see what can be done to rectify the situation," the Attorney General said in a doorstop interview.
Each Federal Government agency will assess those documents that impact their operations, before convening with the whole-of-Government taskforce, he said.
"There had previously been a specific Defence taskforce looking at a Defence documentation, but obviously, the documentations insofar, it suggested, could relate to issues broader than simply Defence strategy," he said.
McClelland said the so-called Cablegate documents "could be damaging to the national security interests of the United States and its allies, including Australia".
He said he has asked the Australian Federal Police to assess "whether any Australian laws have been breached."
The Federal Government would then "look at any remedial action that will be taken," he said.
Assange on notice
McClelland warned that Wikileaks' founder, Australian Julian Assange, was unlikely to get a great reception should he set foot back in his home country – even hinting at cooperation with the United States to extradite him.
"Certainly from Australia's point of view, we think there are potentially a number of criminal laws that could have been breached by the release of this information," McClelland said, referring to "giving away national security information or publicising national security-sensitive information and documentation, but also potentially offences relating to places and the source of documentation as well.
"The United States authorities are looking at law enforcement action as the lead country; and we're providing every assistance," he said.
McClelland expected Australia's relationship with the United States to remain strong, regardless of what sensitive or potentially embarrassing information is released.
He said that "no apology was sought" from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she contacted Australia's foreign minister Kevin Rudd to warn him of the impending release of documents.
"We mutually regretted that these events had occurred," McClelland said. "No formal apology was sought and I wouldn't expect in that formal sense, given the closeness of our relationship, that one would be offered in that context."