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Transcript of interview with Michael Brissenden: ABC AM: 26 July 2016: establishing a Royal Commission into Northern Territory juvenile justice system and NT Government



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PRIME MINISTER

THE HON. MALCOLM TURNBULL MP

TRANSCRIPT

26 July 2016

E&OE…

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

Interview with Michael Brissenden ABC AM

Well for his response to that story, the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull joins me on the line now. Prime Minister, good morning.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good morning.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

What did you think when you saw that?

PRIME MINISTER:

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 over night 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 in to 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 learned from it, we want to know why there 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 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?

PRIME MINISTER:

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 will 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. This is the reason, obviously for having the structure of a Royal Commission - and 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, it does seem that many of those recommendations have largely been ignored.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well that’s an important issue to examine - 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 learned.

PRIME MINISTER:

That is why it’s important to maintain - you need strong leadership and you need a culture in any system, in any organisation, in particular where you are 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?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the - children in detention should be treated humanely wherever they are. That is - Michael there is no question about that. The issue however that we are 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 was specific to that centre and so forth. 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 have 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 are 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 that did not produce the evidence that we’ve seen last night. So we need to know why that occurred. So that is the action we need to take immediately and as you’ve just heard here in the extract from Q & 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 learned from it.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

Who would be an appropriate person to lead the Royal Commission?

PRIME MINISTER:

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 - 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?

PRIME MINISTER:

The Royal Commission will again - the terms of reference Michael will be settled but the - I’m not going to draft the terms of reference on the radio with you this morning. 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 in to, but the important thing, it’s very important with inquiries that they have a clear focus so that you get the answers to the specific problem. And we have here a very 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. This has been going on for some time, although these events obviously relate to two years ago, it had been going on for some time, there had been inquiries into it which had not revealed this wrongdoing and that - the concern that there had been a failure of transparency and accountability is also very troubling because when there are allegations of wrongdoing and that happens from time to time, when the public are entitled to expect that when Government’s 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, we’re going to move swiftly and decisively to get to the bottom of this and ensure

that 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?

PRIME MINISTER:

I’ll leave that to the examination of this inquiry Michael. I know you’re keen to ask me about 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 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 the Northern Territory.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

Of course, but people are concerned about the children who are there and the footage that was shown. You can understand that surely? Something should be done about them.

PRIME MINISTER:

Indeed and we’ll be dealing with those matters in the course of the day.

Okay, thank you very much.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

Prime Minister, thanks very much for joining us.

ENDS