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Transcript of interview with Kieran Gilbert and Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer Steve Ciobo: SKY News AM Agenda: 24 June 2014: national security; climate change

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SUBJECTS: National security; Climate change.

KIERAN GILBERT: With me on the program now the Shadow Employment Minister Brendan O’Connor, and also the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer Steve Ciobo.

Gentlemen I want to look at another issue now and this relates to a report in the Daily Telegraph today, it follows on from one yesterday. Steve Ciobo, the suggestion is today that ASIS, our foreign intelligence agency, is also going to have expanded surveillance powers on the - electronic, digital surveillance powers. What are the details? Can you give us any hint or indication as to what the Government’s going to do here?

STEVE CIOBO: Well, we’ve got proposals that we’ll look at and ultimately make a decision about what we think is the correct course of action. But let’s look at what we’re focussed on here, Kieran. These are ostensibly Australians, people with Australian citizenship, that have travelled overseas to work with terrorist organisations. They are a clear danger to Australian society.

The notion that someone could participate with a terrorist organisation internationally, on a battle front, and then just happily come back and be happily living in Australia I think is farcical.

These people clearly are people who have been corrupted in terms of their democratic agenda. People who don’t hold dear the rule of law. People who we’ve seen allegations now of participating in complete barbarity when it comes to the way in which some of these atrocities have been carried out in Iraq. And I think appropriately Australians would want them to be subject to very close scrutiny, would want to know we have agencies in place that are going to look at these people, not once but look at them multiple times and really, we need to throw the book at these people frankly if they’re coming back to Australia.

GILBERT: This is the equivalent though - I’ll get to that in a moment though, what punishments you might see fit, but in terms of - this is the equivalent of our CIA, basically, ASIS, that they would now have the capacity to look at Australians abroad. How far is that going to go?

CIOBO: Well, there’s two prongs. I mean there’s the domestic front, ie: agencies that are responsible for helping to secure Australia’s future. They’ll protect Australians from threats from within. And then we’ve got another agency that looks at threats from abroad. Now obviously if we’ve got Australians that are participating with terrorist organisations, or we’ve got other individuals who may not be Australian but are looking to visit their terrorism in to Australia, then frankly what we need are to have well-resourced, focused and committed professionals who can look at these people, gather intelligence, and work out if there is a threat.

GILBERT: What do you make of this debate at the moment? Labor has said it wants look at anything that doesn’t go too far in terms of infringing them upon everyday Australians’ freedom. How do you get that balance? Are you confident that can be struck?

BRENDAN O’CONNOR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS: I think you need to weigh up what is in the national interest. Namely, protecting our citizens and our nation from threats.

And indeed if people, as Steven said, have been engaged with activities with known terrorist organisations, and then seek to return to this country and then somehow just simply absorb back in to normal life, I think that is a potential threat for the Government and its agencies must assess.

But the Opposition of course stands ready to look at and work with the government on these matters. And we’d like to look at the legislation. I mean,

clearly, the assumption is that the powers required are because there are deficiencies with existing laws so we’d like to weigh that up.

But on issues like this Kieran, Labor and the Coalition do work closely to ensure that protection of this country.

GILBERT: Steve Ciobo, I know that you in the past, at an individual level have called, as a Member of Parliament, for the citizenship of someone like those fighting for in Syria and in Iraq for the ISIS or ISIL as its being referred to - that their citizenship should be revoked.

Is there any precedent for that to happen? And do you stand by that argument today?

CIOBO: Look I absolutely stand by comments I’ve made in the past. And my view - if someone is a dual citizen, and they take a decision to leave this country, even if they stay in this country frankly, and support a terrorist organisation, then they should lose their Australian citizenships. I absolutely believe that.

There’s no reason why we would have Australians, who pretend to be Australians, who profess to be Australians, supporting terrorist organisations, whether that is through themselves actually being involved on the battlefront or whether it’s raising money for terrorist organisations.

As far as I’m concerned if you’re a dual-citizen you clearly have conflicted loyalties. You should lose your citizenship and as far as I’m concerned you should be deported.

GILBERT: Brendan, what are your thoughts on that?

O’CONNOR: Clearly there are a whole range of grounds in which you would revoke someone’s citizenship. It gets more complicated if they’re only an Australian citizen -

CIOBO: - That’s why I said only dual-citizens.

O’CONNOR: I understand that.

But of course if there’s capacity to either return a person to the country of origin or extradite a person because they’ve committed crimes overseas. There’s an array of Commonwealth powers that can rid ourselves of people who would endanger our society. I think we want to look at those.

But the powers of the Immigration Minister and the Foreign Minister with respect to revoking citizenship, and in the case of the Immigration Minister removing a passport from a citizen and all of those powers should be exercised, where required.

But in the end it comes down to the merits of the case and you’re normally working with another sovereign nation too.

I think the tenor of Steve’s argument is correct, we need to not be soft on responding to such individuals who could cause harm to our society.

GILBERT: Let’s move on to the domestic legislative agenda. It seems there’s a bit of a holding pattern until the new Senate takes its position on 7 July. And a holding pattern too for the Member for Fairfax, Clive Palmer, we don’t know what his conditions will be. It must be a tricky time for those in government trying to make the numbers add up.

CIOBO: And he’d be hating being the centre of attention too Kieran. It’d be a real problem for the Palmer Party I’m sure.

Look, I mean what we will have is a delay in the Senate because frankly we continue to see filibustering from the Labor Party and the Greens. I mean they spent the period from November through to March debating the Carbon Tax and its repeal without a clean mandate from the last election. We are trying to save Australian households $550 a year.

The Labor Party keeps running around saying we’re really concerned about the cost of living but when the rubber hits the road, when Labor has the opportunity to actually abolish the Carbon Tax and bear in mind the Carbon Tax is going to have a whopping increase in just a matter of weeks. Labor is doing nothing when it comes to abolishing the world’s biggest carbon tax, they’re all talk, no substance and frankly I think they should just shut up and get on with the job they were elected to do, which is to pass legislation through.

GILBERT: Ok, your response to that?

O’CONNOR: Clearly we have a mandate, I think, to ensure this country has a way to reduce emissions in an effective manner.

GILBERT: But you also said you were going to terminate the tax.

O’CONNOR: Predicated, Kieran, as you know on an efficient way to reduce emissions for economic and environmental reasons. And the Government’s, at this point, Direct Action plan is something that is an international joke.

It’s also good to remember that the scare campaign by the Prime Minister about Whyalla being wiped off the map and roast lamb being $100 and all of those sorts of things turned to nothing because the scare campaign was exactly that - no truth in it.

Let’s not get hysterical about this. We’ve made clear that we’ll discuss this with the Government but it is incumbent upon them to put an alternative to reducing emissions and currently their Direct Action plan, as I say, is not supported by an economist or an environmentalist.

GILBERT: Gentlemen, unfortunately we’ve got to wrap it up this morning we’ve got a news conference with the Prime Minister to play for our viewers after the break. Steve Ciobo, Brendan O’Connor, as always, thanks for that.