Senator apologises for spy documents

Tony Abbott's first visit to Washington DC as Prime Minister has elicited an apology - of sorts - for the embarrassment caused by rogue American analyst Edward Snowden.

Republican senator Saxby Chambliss acknowledged the massive security breach caused by Snowden leaking thousands of documents, including those produced by Australia's spy agencies.

Documents released by Snowden included revelations that Australia had eavesdropped on the mobile phones of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, his wife and inner circle.

Relations between Australia and Indonesia, poor because of the coalition's hardline asylum-seeker policy, became frigid and only recently started thawing.

It is understood Senator Chambliss had a "tone of remorse" when discussing the Snowden leaks with Mr Abbott along with other members of the House of Representatives foreign relations committee.

Senator Chambliss, who chaired a committee that investigated intelligence issues related to the September 11 attacks, told the Prime Minister that Australia was critical to the "five eyes" intelligence community that comprises the US, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Mr Abbott told the committee Australia wanted the US to have a sustained engagement in the Asia-Pacific to maintain security and prosperity.

Later, at a reception at the Ambassador Kim Beazley's residence, Mr Abbott said Australia would never apologise for the five eyes partnership or doing what was needed to protect its national interest and help its friends. America's three top national security officials attended, including the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and CIA chief John Brennan.

He had a similar message for the American Chamber of Commerce, urging the US not to "begrudge" China its rise.

"As citizens of a great power, it's understandable Americans should be wary of potential rivals," Mr Abbott said.

"One day China will liberalise more than its economy because people who are free to get rich will apply that creativity to other aspects of their lives."


The West Australian

Popular videos

Compare & Save

Our Picks

Compare & Save

Follow Us

More from The West