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Transcript of doorstop interview: ACT Emergency Services Authority Headquarters, Curtin, ACT: 28 November 2008: National Emergency Volunteer support fund; Mumbai; same-sex legislation; Clarke Inquiry.



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ATTORNEY-GENERAL THE HON ROBERT McCLELLAND MP

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28 NOVEMBER 2008

DOORSTOP , ACT EMERGENCY SERVI CES AUTHORITY HEADQUARTE RS, CURTIN, ACT.

TIME: 14.00

TOPICS: NATIONAL EMERGENCY V OLUNTEER SUPPORT FUND; MUMBAI ; SAME -SEX LEGISLATION; CLARKE INQUIRY .

QUESTION: So, this is the first of three grants. Is the A CT likely to see the same amount of money [indistinct]?

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: Yes. They'll - certainly, the same amount of money will be available. Indeed, this year, for the first time, the grant has been provided as part of the core funding of Emergency Man agement Australia. So , we're committed to the recruitment of volunteers as being a core function of Emergency Management Australia, i n conjunction, of course, with their state and territory counterparts .

QUESTION: When will they receive the money?

ROBERT M CCLELLAND: Well, the grants close on the ninth of March. There's an assessment, a ranking, of the applications. All of those which we think will be

ATTORNEY-GENERAL THE HON ROBERT McCLELLAND MP

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successful. And as has been mentioned earlier, the good thing about the applications that have been in the p ast is that they’re there for an example for other emergency responders to have regard to. For instance, the Cultural and Linguistically Diverse program.

But we'll rank the applications that come in and provide grants on the basis of those which we think are to some degree innovative, to some degree going to be successful. So, there'll be those criteria factored into consideration. And then the funds flow very shortly after the selection panel, which is selected in accordance with consultation between the Federal and the State's government s, after that's signed off on.

QUESTION: How important do you believe the culturally, linguistic and diverse aspect of this is?

GREGOR MANSON , ACT EMERGENCY SERVICES AGENCY :

Well, certainly from a day to day perspective, w e need these emergency managers to get messages to the community. And by involving volunteers to the members of our organisations is one sure way to ensure that we get the messages into the communities that we don't normally target. So this is very, very i mportant to us.

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As I said earlier, 22 per cent of the ACT people are from overseas. So in a community like Canberra, this can be very important. If you go to parts of Sydney and Melbourne and to rural Australia where various groups from overseas have esta blished themselves in Australia, it's very important that we target these people and welcome them into the emergency service volunteer program in Australia.

QUESTION: What can you tell us about the situation in Mumbai [indistinct] the Indians are requestin g the assistance of the AFP?

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: Certainly, there is discussion between the AFP and Indian law enforcement authorities. I can't update on anything further , other than those occurring.

And Emergency Management Australia is obviously making pl ans to receive Australians returning from Mumbai and those plans are now well and truly activated.

QUESTION: Are you anticipating requests from Indian authorities [indistinct]?

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: Well, again, I wouldn't like to pre -empt the outcome of thos e discussions. Not only is the Australian Federal Police liaising with them, they're obviously liaising with the police forces of other

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countries that have their citizens involved in the crisis.

And, equally, the Australian Federal Police is liaising with the broader police community internationally as well.

QUESTION: Mr McClelland, could I ask you about the same sex reforms that have passed Parliament. How important do you believe those reforms are and what does it mean for same sex couples?

ROBERT MCCLELL AND: I'm really quite proud to hav e been responsible for introducing those same sex law reforms.

They remove from Commonwealth legislation, affecting about 88 different acts of the Commonwealth Parliament, remove discrimination against same sex couples.

That means that for the first time that people in a same sex relationship will be treated equally as those in a heterosexual rel ationship. Equally as important , it means each and every child in Australia will have the same rights, irrespective of what the m ake -up of their family is. That's very important.

I think it's also symbolically important because removing those last vestiges of discrimination is entirely consistent with Australia's respect for the fundamental human rights of each and every Australian .

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And I think it reinforces that discrimination in any way, shape or form , is unacceptable and is no longer part of the Australian legal system.

So I think that being achieved in the first year of the Rudd Government not only is consistent with our electi on commitment, but I think is very symbolic and obviously will make a real difference to the lives of a great number of our fellow Australians.

QUESTION: Could you ever see gay marriage being on the agenda?

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: It's the Labor Party policy th at a marriage is between a man and a woman, and the Prime Minister's indicated a commitment to that and I have as well.

QUESTION: On the Clarke inquiry, you've got the report and you've read it and…

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: Yes.

QUESTION: … you've digested its f indings. Do you have concerns about the way any of our agencies conducted themselves in the investigation?

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ROBERT MCCLELLAND: Without commenting on the report, our desire is to make that public as soon as possible. There's no internal procedural reason why that can't be made public as soon as possible. I've said the report is detailed, I think it's balanced, I think it's considered and, indeed, I think it's broad.

The only impediment to the release of it is the fact that we don't want to prejudice the Brit ish trial taking place.

And indeed I've had correspondence - a specific discussion with the British Attorney General - and reassured her that we won't be releasing it so as not to prejudice those proceedings.

Having said that, I'm on the record as saying that I had concerns with the detention of Dr Haneef in respect of those matters , which were the subject of the inquiry.

Clearly there were things that could have been done better. There have, in fact, been a lot done in the period since Dr Haneef was detai ned to improve the cooperation and coordination between the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.

But certainly the report will enhance on our ability to achieve that. There was also, in accordance with the terms of reference, some sensible and sound

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recommendations in respect to a possible legislative reform and we'll certainly be looking at those issues as well.

QUESTION: How brutal is the report - how brutal is Mr Clarke with the AFP?

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: Mr Clarke certainly looks at the conduct from a micro level, that is from the individual officers inv olved, to systemic levels, that is the

interrelationship, the conduct of agencies and the interrelationship bet ween agencies. But I think it's better if that is left to when I actually release the report.

QUESTION: Can you guarantee the future of Police Commissioner Mick Keelty?

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: Yes. The Government has said that it has complete faith in Commissio ner Keelty and that remains the case.

QUESTION: So he's not going anywhere?

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: He's not going anywhere. And indeed when you see him in operation, in the context of the events in Mumbai, in the context of the events that are happening in Tha iland, you see the sophistication that

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he has, the competencies that he has and, indeed, you see the relationships that he's been able to build, which unquestionably provides a tremendous service to Australia in these times of need.

QUESTION: What sort of changes do you anticipate announcing on the back the Clarke Report when you do [indistinct]?

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: What we will be doing, we will be looking at areas where we can further enhance that cooperation between agencies. There are already -indeed Mr Clarke notes that the agencies already have in place a protocol for cooperation in investigations, and that is important. They also have in place, or the Director of Public Prosecutions also has in place, prosecution guidelines for the prosecution of coun terterrorism offences.

We will be specifically looking at areas where we can enhance that. And we will certainly be looking at areas, which we've said we are reviewing, the

counterterrorism legislation in light of several inquiries that have taken place. And we will add Commissioner Clarke's recommendations to those matters which we will be reviewing for possible legislative reform.

ENDS