Aus­tralian min­is­ter ‘not a spy’ for US: col­leagues

The Pak Banker - - 6international -

SYD­NEY: Se­nior Aus­tralian politi­cians in­sisted Thurs­day the coun­try's sports min­is­ter was not a "spy" for Washington af­ter Wik­iLeaks ca­bles re­port­edly re­vealed he was a "pro­tected" source for the United States.

Mark Ar­bib, a key fig­ure in June's over­throw of for­mer leader Kevin Rudd, was a val­ued con­tact in Can­berra and met US di­plo­mats "re­peat­edly" ac­cord­ing to Wik­iLeaks memos pub­lished ex­clu­sively by the Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald.

Ar­bib is­sued a state­ment say­ing he was "pub­licly known as a strong sup­porter of Aus­tralia's re­la­tion­ship with the United States."

"I, like many mem­bers of the fed­eral par­lia­ment, have reg­u­lar dis­cus­sions about the state of Aus­tralian and US pol­i­tics with mem­bers of the US mis­sion and con­sulate," he added. El­e­vated from mi­nor port­fo­lios to the Sports Min­istry fol­low­ing Aus­tralia's Au­gust elec­tions, Ar­bib was de­scribed as a "right-wing power­bro­ker and po­lit­i­cal ris­ing star" who was in­flu­en­tial in Rudd's in­ner cir­cle.

He kept US of­fi­cials briefed on the in­ner work­ings of Aus­tralia's govern­ment and rul­ing La­bor party, ac­cord­ing to the Her­ald re­port, in­clud­ing can­did com­men­tary ahead of Rudd's over­throw by his deputy, Ju­lia Gil­lard.

"(Rudd wants) to en­sure that there are vi­able al­ter­na­tives to Gil­lard within the La­bor party to fore­stall a chal­lenge," Ar­bib re­port­edly told US di­plo­mats, some eight months be­fore the coup.

Se­nior politi­cians were quick to de­fend Ar­bib, in­clud­ing fel­low coup ar­chi­tect Bill Shorten, now the as­sis­tant trea­surer.

"I com­pletely re­ject the idea that he is a spy, I just think that's non­sense," Shorten told Sky News. "I think that the com­men­tary I've seen this morn­ing in the news­pa­pers is din­ner party gos­sip mas­querad­ing as US in­tel­li­gence... Each week some­one's got to send a re­port off to Amer­ica, so they jot down gos­sip and con­ver­sa­tion," he added. -Afp

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