Tony Abbott defends role of Five Eyes intelligence alliance


Tony Abbott has defended the role of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance while on tour in North America, saying it should never apologise for “doing what’s necessary”, and confirmed he is hoping to meet Rupert Murdoch in New York.

The Australian leader has arrived in Canada to meet the country’s prime minister, Stephen Harper, a fellow conservative. Canada is part of the Five Eyes alliance along with Australia, England, New Zealand and the US. Abbott declared the US the “heavy lifter” of the group.

Revelations from the whistleblower Edward Snowden have raised controversy about the alliance’s activities.

“Obviously we have to be intelligent about our intelligence. I mean that goes without saying, but the important thing is not to be deterred from doing what is necessary to protect our citizens, our interests and our values, and what is sometimes forgotten about the work of the Five Eyes is that it’s not just for the benefit of those five countries but it is ultimately for the benefit of the wider world,” Abbott told reporters in Ottawa when asked if Five Eyes should assess its spying practices.

He added: “Sure, our intelligence gathering has got to be done in a way that is decent and fair and which doesn’t betray the fundamental values that we are doing our best to uphold, but we should never, ever apologise for doing what’s necessary to protect ourselves and to help our friends, and that’s exactly what the Five Eyes arrangements are designed to do.”

Abbott has come under fire for not committing to meetings with the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Christine Lagarde, and the World Bank president, Jim Yong Kim, when he moves on to America, but has confirmed he is hoping to meet with Murdoch while in New York subject to their schedules.

“As I said, the program is not entirely finalised but I hope I do, because he is a very distinguished Australian and the last time I was in New York certainly I did meet with him,” Abbott said.

Asked if Murdoch was pencilled in, Abbott replied he was not going into “precise” details. He called reports about him cancelling meetings with finance chiefs “greatly exaggerated” and he was yet to finalise a schedule.

Abbott did not rule out barring Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, from the G20, to be hosted in Brisbane in November, and supported comments made by Harper calling Putin an “extreme nationalist” and an “imperialist” who was threatening global security.

“Canada probably has more involvement in the affairs of Europe than Australia often does, but nevertheless let’s not minimise the affront to international stability and the affront to the ordinary norms of behaviour between nations which Russia has been responsible for. I mean it’s bitten off the Crimea, it’s obviously interfering in Ukraine and this should stop. This should stop. No country has a right to bully another country just because it can,” he said.

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