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PM announces Royal Commission to be held into abuse at NT youth detention centre -

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MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Well for his response to that story the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull joins me on the line now.

Prime Minister, good morning.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Good morning.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: What did you think when you saw that?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Like all Australians, I've been deeply shocked. Shocked and appalled by the images of mistreatment of children at the Don Dale centre.

I have been speaking overnight and early this morning with the Chief Minister Adam Giles, with my Attorney-General Senator Brandis, with the Minister for Indigenous Affairs and Northern Territory Senator Nigel Scullion, and also the Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs.

We will be establishing a Royal Commission into these events - into this centre. We intend to do so jointly with the Northern Territory Government.

We will get to the bottom of what happened here. We want to know how this came about. We want to know what lessons can be learnt from it.

We want to know why they were inquiries into this centre which did not turn up the evidence and the information that we saw on Four Corners last night.

This is a, this is a shocking state of affairs, and we will move quickly to establish what happened.

As Gillian Triggs said last night, this needs a thorough inquiry. We need to move quickly on that, get to the bottom of it and expose what occurred and expose the culture that allowed it to occur and allowed it to remain unrevealed for so long.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: When will this be established and how long will it take, do you think?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: It will be established as soon as possible. I've just got off the phone with the Attorney-General and the Chief Minister and the Senator that I mentioned. We'll move on it very quickly.

And the aim will be to have a swift inquiry into the Don Dale centre with a report on that as soon as possible.

It is a, this is, and the reason obviously for having the structure of a Royal Commission, and it will be, it is because the commissioner can compel the production of evidence and compel people to give evidence and so forth.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Of course it is now more than 25 years since the Royal Commission into deaths in custody, and it does seem that many of those recommendations have largely been ignored.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well that's another - that is an important issue to examine. It is - this has come, this program, the program last night and the images there relate to events in 2014 - that is only two years ago.

This centre has been a controversial one in the past, and there have been, as we know, inquiries into it in the Northern Territory, and yet this evidence was not revealed in those inquiries.

So there are many issues of concern here and we will get to the bottom of it and we will appoint a very thorough, meticulous examination of this.

We will appoint obviously a royal commissioner to undertake this and the Attorney-General will be setting about that in consultation with the Northern Territory Government in the course of the next few days.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: I guess the question is what happens after the royal commission because as many have noted the Royal Commission into Deaths in Custody was an incredibly powerful and strongly worded document, but it does seem that many of those lessons haven't been learnt.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well that is why it's important to maintain strong, you need leadership and you need a culture of, you need a culture in any system, in any organisation, in particular when you're dealing with children, that is one that is focused on ensuring that children are protected.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Is some immediate action required? What should be done with children in detention right now?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well the - in terms of - well children in detention should be treated humanely wherever they are.

That is the, Michael, there's no question about that.

The issue, however, that we're presented with relating to this Don Dale centre is a specific one, and there will be issues that arise, questions that arise as to whether there is a culture that spreads across the detention system, the corrections system in the Northern Territory, whether it is specific to that centre and so forth.

But the most important thing is for me to say as Prime Minister that, like all Australians, we are shocked by the report, by that evidence that was shown on Four Corners last night, deeply shocked.

We've moved swiftly to get to the bottom of it. I've spoken with the Chief Minister Adam Giles. I've spoken with the Attorney-General, the Minister for Indigenous Affairs and Northern Territory Senator. I've spoken to the Human Rights Commissioner. And we're all agreed that we need to move on this swiftly and we need to get all the facts out as swiftly as we can.

We need to expose the cultural problems, the administrative problems that allowed this type of mistreatment to occur. And we need to understand how it was that there were inquiries into Don Dale as a place where there had been allegations and claims of abuse, there were inquiries, but did not produce the evidence we've seen last night. So we need to know why that occurred.

I won't - yes, that's the, so that is the action we need to take immediately.

And as you've just heard here in the extract from Q and A, that's what Gillian Triggs, who I've just spoken to, called on governments to do, and that's exactly what we're going to do.

We will get to the bottom of this swiftly, and we will identify the lessons that need to be learnt from it.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Who would be an appropriate person to lead the royal commission?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well that's, I've talked about that with the Attorney-General. It is obviously a lawyer; typically it would be a senior lawyer, often a retired judge.

But it's, we will, that's a question that the Attorney will be looking into now to identify the right person to undertake it.

You need to get to the bottom of this to find out exactly what happened, and of course a royal commission has the ability to compel people to give evidence and compel the production of physical evidence.

The Northern Territory, while it does have as I understand the ability to set up inquiries, does not have a Royal Commissions Act. So by doing this jointly we will have all of the power, the very considerable power under the Commonwealth Royal Commissions Act.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Should the royal commission also investigate the Northern Territory Government's handling of this?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: The Royal Commission - well again, the terms of reference, Michael, will be settled but the...

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Sure.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: ...meet the - let's say I'm not going to draft the terms of reference on the radio with you this morning.

But the important thing is to get to the bottom of what happened at Don Dale and there may be other matters connected to that to be looked into.

But the important thing, it's very important with inquiries that they have a clear focus so that the, you get the answers to the specific problem.

And we have here a very troubled, troubling state of affairs where you have clearly there has been mistreatment of young people. There's no question about that. We've seen the pictures.

There have been, this has been going on for some time. Well, these events obviously relate to two years ago. It had been going on for some time.

There had been inquires into it which had not revealed this wrongdoing, and that, that, the concern that there had been a failure to, of transparency and accountability is also very troubling because when there are allegations of wrongdoing, and that happens in, you know, from time to time, when the public are entitled to expect that when governments inquire into it they will get to the bottom of it and those that have done the wrong thing will be identified and dealt with.

So that is what we are undertaking. This is, we're going to move swiftly and decisively to get the bottom of this and ensure that we learn, the lessons that emerge from it are ones that will ensure that this type of mistreatment or mistreatment of children in detention cannot occur in the future.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Okay, just in the first instance though, should this centre, the Don Dale centre be closed?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: The, I'll leave that to the examination of the inquiry, Michael. I know you're keen to ask me about all of - every step of the process. I'm taking the initial action here to get an inquiry underway to get to the bottom of what occurred.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Sure.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: And I've consulted as I said to you with the Attorney-General, with the Minister for Indigenous Affairs and also, of course, with the Human Rights Commissioner, and of course, the Chief Minister of Northern Territory.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Of course, but people are concerned about the children who were there in the footage that was shown. You can understand surely, something should be done about them.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Indeed, and we'll be dealing with those matters in the course of the day.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Okay.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Okay. Thank you very much, bye.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Prime Minister, thanks very much for joining us.