Kevin Rudd, the Australian foreign minister, condemned the release of confidential US diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks and confirmed that Australian Federal Police are investigating the matter.
The founder of the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, 39, is an Australian citizen.
A breach of security on the scale of the latest leak makes it “harder to deal with intractable problems” facing the international community, Mr Rudd, who was in Dubai on a trip to the region, said.
“Our attitude, like most governments, is one of absolute condemnation – the reason being, diplomacy exists for a purpose,” he said. “It’s not just an idle chat on a Saturday afternoon. Diplomacy exists for the purpose of conducting the confidential business of states – one state to another.
“There are certain problems which can only be dealt with, eliminated or reduced per medium of private conversations. That’s why it’s been around for centuries.”
On Monday, Robert McClelland, the Australian attorney general, said he would instruct the Australian Federal Police to investigate whether any Australian laws had been broken by WikiLeaks.
“The Australian government, like other governments, is looking at full recourse to its legal jurisdiction, in terms of whether any of these actions have breached the Australian criminal law as well,” Mr Rudd said. There has been speculation that Mr Assange, who is believed to be in London, may have his passport confiscated upon his return to Australia. Mr Rudd, however, stressed that any such decision could be taken only “on the basis of the advice of the federal police and the Australian customs authorities”.
Mr Rudd, a former Australian prime minister, was in the UAE yesterday as part of a five-day overseas trip that will also take him to Kazakhstan and Bahrain, where he is due to participate in the Manama Dialogue, an annual regional security summit.
Yesterday he attended the Afghanistan International Investment Conference in Dubai, as well as the World Economic Forum’s Summit on the Global Agenda. He also met with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.
The Australia-UAE relationship has traditionally hinged on commercial ties between the two countries. However, as the relationship has evolved, the links have expanded into other areas, Mr Rudd said, including environmental, political and military co-operation.
Australia’s regional military headquarters is located at Dubai’s Al Minhad Air Base.
“I think there’s an increasingly common political-security view which we have of the world, and our friends in the Emirates do as well,” Mr Rudd said, citing issues including “terrorism in the region”, Iran and efforts to foster the emergence of a stable government in Afghanistan.
In the past year, Australian and UAE law enforcement bodies have worked together investigating the assassination in Dubai of Mahmoud al Mabhouh, a senior Hamas leader.
In the weeks following the murder it emerged that forged Australian passports were among those used by the assassins, suspected to be members of Mossad, the Israeli spy agency. “All I can say is that the Emirati security forces and the Australian security intelligence forces for a long, long time have liaised closely on a whole range of matters, including this one,” Mr Rudd said.
The two countries are finalising an extradition treaty.
Mr Rudd was named the Australian minister for foreign affairs in September, after serving as prime minister following the 2007 federal election.
In June of this year Julia Gillard became Australia’s first female prime minister after Mr Rudd was ousted from the position. Ms Gillard went on to win the federal election in August.