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Transcript of interview with David Penberthy and Will Goodings: 5AA Adelaide: 19 July 2017: National security; Home Affairs Ministry; Greens resignations; Cassie Sainsbury



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THE HON. MALCOLM TURNBULL MP PRIME MINISTER

TRANSCRIPT

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Interview with David Penberthy and Will Goodings

5AA Adelaide

SUBJECTS: National Security;; Home Affairs Ministry; Greens Resignations; Cassie Sainsbury

E&OE…

WILL GOODINGS:

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull - good morning to you.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good morning, great to be with you.

DAVID PENBERTHY:

Thanks very much for joining us Mr Turnbull. Look, we really want to spend most of this interview talking about the creation of what’s been dubbed an Australian version of the Home Office. But before we do that, can we just ask you one question that is exercising the minds - particularly here in Adelaide - of a lot of our listeners locally; about this young Adelaide woman, Cassie Sainsbury who has landed herself in strife in Colombia? Now in jail there for about 3 months, awaiting drug trafficking charges. Her Colombian lawyer has issued a call today for the Australian Government to provide her with monetary assistance, legal aid to help her fight the case. Is that something that you think the Australian people would be prepared to entertain?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well David, what I can say to you is that we have very established procedures for supporting, helping Australians who get into trouble overseas. As I’m sure Julie Bishop has said to you on many occasions, a lot of Australians do at any one time. There are plenty of Australians in strife with law overseas and I just say that everyone should remember that when you are overseas, obey the law of the country that you’re in. So as far as Cassie Sainsbury is concerned, she will be provided with consular assistance in the normal way, but I can’t go into any further details about her particular case.

WILL GOODINGS:

To the proposed new Home Affairs portfolio, Prime Minister, can you explain to us how it is different from the former Labor Party policy of the creation of a Department of Homeland Security? An idea that you described as a cheap copy of an American experiment, crafted to capture campaign headlines.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well look, I can’t comment on what the Labor Party was proposing years ago.

WILL GOODINGS:

But you did, you have.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well thank you David, let’s focus on the security of Australians today, because that’s what I’m interested in. I think that what your listeners want to know is what I’m doing to make sure they are safe.

Now in this very connected world in which we live, the terrorists that are seeking to undermine our way of life are working in very agile ways, they’re innovative, they are a constant threat and we cannot have a set and forget approach to national security. We can’t wait for a crisis to improve the way we operate.

So what I’m doing, as you observed at the outset, improving the way Defence can support counterterrorist actions by state and territory police. We are ensuring that we take on the challenges of encryption so that our agencies can get access to what the terrorists are plotting online. And what we also need to do is ensure that our domestic security agencies, ASIO, the Australian Federal Police, Border Force, are able to work together even more closely than they do today.

Now they’re doing an outstanding job. We have the best agencies in the world but I want them to be even better. And so my focus is to ensure that you have them working together in one department so that because they’ve got the same mission to keep Australians safe, with one Cabinet Minister sitting there at the Cabinet table - this will be Peter Dutton - and of course as George Brandis, the Attorney-General said yesterday, this will be the first time you’ve got one minister who has no priority other than preserving the domestic security of all Australians and that is a clear focus and it is a rational, logical change. It’s consistent, as you also said, with the way the British Home Office operates. And I think it reflects both logic from an operational and policy point of view. So this will ensure that we are keeping Australians safe and we’re doing it better every day. That is my only focus.

DAVID PENBERTHY:

Prime Minister, the fact that all of these new, sort of, not powers, but the lines of command are going to be largely sort of pointing in the direction of the Immigration Minister. Does that reflect the fact that -and probably the worst example of system failure involves Man Haron Monis in the Lindt Café siege. The fact that that guy was going to, was able to play Australia off a break, coming here as a refugee, sort of sneaking his way into the country and then being known to ASIO but not probably being treated with the level of gravity that he deserved. I know that the official line from ASIO and indeed from all arms of government is that there is no link between the refugee intake and terrorism. But there have been instances, a number of instances where people who are bad people have come to this country and have ended up doing abominable things - is that a bit of a concession that maybe we do need to pay a little bit closer attention to the type of people that we are letting in?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we pay very close attention, David, I can assure you. I mean, take the 12,000 refugees we took in from the Syrian conflict zone. National security checks that ASIO supported by other agencies conducted on them were extremely intense.

Can I tell you - you cannot compromise on national security. You have to be, as Prime Minister, relentless.

DAVID PENBERTHY:

I know but with Monis, I’m not blaming you for Monis, that happened way way back in the past.

PRIME MINISTER:

Sure.

JOURNALIST:

But that was an example of failure at large surely?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, there’s plenty to criticise about the way Man Monis was handled, not least the fact that he was on bail at all.

DAVID PENBERTHY:

Yeah.

PRIME MINISTER:

This was an extremely violent person on charges who should not have been given bail. But you know, what I’m looking at is I’m not responding to particular incidents.

We take into account every terrorist incident or attack whether it’s in Australia or of course internationally. We discuss them with our international counterparts. I was over in London the other day talking about these issues with the British Prime Minister and her Home Secretary.

You know, we are constantly seeking to improve the way our agencies operate. You know, it is common sense and logic that the agencies which operate, which are focused and are collaborating and should be supporting each other on domestic security, should be in the same Department. That’s how they are in other countries. The reason they’re scattered between three agencies, three Departments I should say, in Australia, is really you know a function of history and the way these things have developed.

Now other Prime Ministers have looked at doing this, both Liberal and Labor. It’s a long overdue reform. I’m tackling it, taking it on. Not in response to a particular event of a failure or a crisis but because I’m constantly seeking to improve our national security. So whether it’s giving our troops the ability to target and kill terrorists in the field whether they are you know carrying a gun or a knife or not. I’ve changed the law to do that. Whether its ensuring that terrorists who are in jail and have completed their sentences, won’t get out of jail if they’re still a threat to society, we’ve changed the law to do that. Whether it’s ensuring that where somebody has terrorist connections or advocacy or a history of that, there is a presumption against giving them bail or parole, again you saw I secured the support of the Premiers and Chief Ministers to keeping those people off the streets.

So every day, David, my focus is what can we do to improve the way our excellent agencies operate, whether it’s with law or money or structures, to keep Australians safe.

DAVID PENBERTHY:

Just before we let you go PM, there’s been a lot of discussion this week about some of the comments that have been made by the former New South Wales Liberal Premier Nick Grenier about the need for the Federal Government to get a bit more focus and cohesion. Have you had any sort of discussions with Nick Greiner about how you make that happen and could that potentially include giving some sort of ministerial role to your predecessor Tony Abbott to smooth things over?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the most important thing to focus on for me - and Nick Grenier understand this and agrees with this - is to focus on doing my job, delivering on my commitments to deliver security and opportunity for Australians.

And look at what we’ve achieved in 12months. You know the election as a year or so ago, look what we’ve done.

We’ve got through so much more through the Senate than anyone predicted, anyone imagined was possible.

We are governing, we are delivering, we’ve dealt with schools funding - national, transparent, needs-based funding for the first time in the Commonwealth’s history.

We’ve made huge changes in terms of national security.

Again, always optimising and improving the protections Australians have.

We’ve got through the big changes to industrial law, restored the rule of law to the construction sector in the teeth of ferocious opposition from the CFMEU and the Labor Party.

So many more changes, child care, you know we’ve talked about a lot of them before. So this is a Government that is delivering, that is governing. Yes, we’ve got a slim majority in the House of Representatives. Yes, we’ve only got 29 votes out of 76 in the Senate. But we are getting on with the job and delivering on our commitments to the Australian people.

DAVID PENBERTHY:

Just finally PM you haven’t had to have a quick conference call with the Government Whip to make sure that you haven’t got any dual citizens kicking around in the Party Room have you?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I’m sure everyone who was born overseas is checking that they don’t have dual citizenship. But you know, it is extraordinary that two out of nine Greens Senators made that mistake. I mean it’s not as though it’s a secret. It is in the Constitution. That’s one thing, but also when you nominate for Parliament there’s actually a question that says please confirm and tick the box and confirm that you are not in breach of Section 44 and the various provisions that are set out there.

DAVID PENBERTHY:

Should we change it do you think? I mean it’s hardly like Canada and New Zealand are part of the Axis of Evil.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it’s in the Constitution, so you know it’d be a big deal to change it.

But frankly David, I think if you’re a member of the Australian Parliament you should be a citizen of only one country and that’s our country.

DAVID PENBERTHY:

Yeah.

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, these two Greens Senators were careless and they’ve paid the price for it. Australians expect, they’re entitled to expect as the Constitution says, that their parliamentary representatives have allegiance to one nation and one nation only and that is our nation.

DAVID PENBERTHY:

Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister. Thanks very much for joining us on 5AA Breakfast.

PRIME MINISTER:

Okay, thank you.

[ENDS]