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Transcript of press conference of the Leader of the Opposition: Caucus Room, Parliament House, Canberra: 8 November 2005: Terror raids.\n



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LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION THE HON KIM C BEAZLEY MP

TRANSCRIPT OF PRESS CONFERENCE, CAUCUS ROOM, PARLIAMENT HOUSE, 8 NOVEMBER 2005

E & O E - PROOF ONLY

Subjects: Terror Raids

BEAZLEY: I’d like to acknowledge today Australia’s Law Enforcement and Intelligence Agencies involved in the overnight raids. I understand those agencies to be ASIO, the Federal Police, Victoria Police, the New South Wales Police and the Crime Commission. These men and women do very difficult tasks. They work at it with great diligence. And we need to thank and acknowledge them for the often unsung work that they do. And to see this sort of cross agency cooperation between the States and the Commonwealth and their various agencies on these important matters of national security is comforting and very gratifying.

I’m not going to comment on the nature of the alleged offences those and the evidence that currently is being offered. There are, of course, presumptions of innocence considerations on the part of those who have been arrested and these matters will ultimately be appropriately placed before the courts. But I do note, and will comment on this fact today, that the single amendment that passed through the Federal Parliament last week, with the support of the Opposition, played some role, at least in the character of the charges being laid.

The Labor Party will always act in the interests of national security. We believe that both the government of the day and the alternative government must be reliable in terms of their willingness and their capacities to protect the interests of the people whom they seek to serve. National security issues are very important for members of the Australian Labor Party and to the Federal Opposition. That is why, in this instance, when properly briefed we are prepared to support the change to the legislation and to seek its rapid passage through Parliament.

I though I might comment on one other thing which is in fact not related to this though it is related to a general issue of terror and counter-terror activity. The Labor Party Caucus had an opportunity this morning to finalise its position on the

Bill before the House. What the Labor Party Caucus determined to do was basically that which had been suggested by the front bench a couple of weeks ago to the Caucus and then debated after the Bill had been appropriately

introduced a short while ago. What we are concerned to do is to get the balance

right in this legislation. To ensure that our national security is properly protected. And to ensure that basic Australian values are sustained.

This has always been fundamental to our approach and that remains the case. So, whilst we support the basic thrust of the legislation, we are going to be moving a substantial amendment, both in the second reading character and of the substantive character to the Bill itself. Those of course will be revealed as the debate unfolds I understand from tomorrow onwards. And we will bear in mind matters which are put to us by the more extensive Senate Committee consideration. The basic approach that we will take will be to move those amendments, if those amendments fail not to take that as a reason to oppose the ultimate passage of the Bill. But those amendments will then subsequently become policy for which we will campaign in a normal electoral contest.

We acknowledge the role of the Premiers in getting the balance in the parts of the Bill that deal with the questions of detention and the questions of control orders. Of course, in the part of the Bill which deals with sedition, the Premiers were not involved. And we have substantial issues in that regard. And we would seek to separate out or to not have the debate on the sedition issues, which we don’t see as central to the struggle with terror. And a more considered approach will be taken to the consideration of those matters. If again, we don’t succeed in that regard, that won’t be as far as we’re concerned, a rationale for voting against the Bill. But we would take the objections that we had to the specific elements of the change in the sedition laws subsequently through to the next election campaign.

Getting the balance right - that’s the real challenge in a democracy. Protecting your people - protecting their values. That’s the real challenge. And any piece of legislation that comes before us has to be approached that way. The Labor Party has always, having met that challenge, determined that the balance will always include a priority given to the need to protect the lives and livelihoods of our people.

JOURNALIST: Given what happened last night did some of your front benchers go a little too far in questioning John Howard’s motives maybe to the point when they could be a tad embarrassed today?

BEAZLEY: I think we were expressing the view and the concerns, some of our people on the front bench, about the possibility that people might have been tipped off or whatever from the passage of the legislation in such a public

way. I think it’s a matter of relief that seems not to have been the case. As I said at the time: only time will tell and hopefully what the time is now telling us is that emphatically was not the case. So it’s a good thing.

JOURNALIST: But questioning his motives?

BEAZLEY: For so long now there’s been a question mark over the Government’s handling of national security issues in a political context. And that goes back to the kids overboard issue and the rest of them so it’s on a piece with that. But where we stood on this Bill and where we stood on what we knew, at least, the two of us who were briefed, of the circumstances associated with this particular action we believe that the Government was correct to seek amendment to the Bill. And that we’re relieved that the timing of the seeking of that correction has in no way apparently impeded the inquiry.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) your position on this - but not all of your Caucus members supported it?

BEAZLEY: Sorry, on the counter-terror legislation? Well of course not and nor do all the member of the Liberal Party back bench support Mr Howard. Our two parties are a very broad church. They have different views on the balance. There are some people who think that the advice that the front bench gave got the balance right. And I must pay a very strong tribute to Arch Bevis and to Nicola Roxon who have worked their way through the minutiae of this detail and have also been putting out there, into the public domain, very sensible,

balanced suggestions about the direction in which the Bills might go. I do pay them tribute. They have, not me, they have had basic carriage of this issue. Yes, there will be people in the Caucus, obviously who, from time to time, will have a different view from the leadership on these matters. We’re broad churches, both our political parties.

JOURNALIST: When did you find out the raids were going to take place?

BEAZLEY: When they were reported this morning. It’s not appropriate that the Opposition Leader is briefed on the raids per se. What I was briefed on at the time the passage of the Bill was requested was the processes of investigation to that point. The question of the raid is held very closely between the services engaged themselves and naturally enough, the Minister responsible.

JOURNALIST: Would it have been appropriate for the Prime Minister to have been told before the raids that they were going to occur?

BEAZLEY: Yes, that would be alright I don’t have a problem with that. You also want to understand that sometimes that would not be the case. You would find if you went back through roles that ASIO and the Federal Police had played over the years, examples of both the Prime Minister having being informed beforehand and not having been informed beforehand. I don’t know what was the situation and application here but if the Prime Minister was informed that would have been appropriate.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, apparently the Government’s made a decision on the terror laws tomorrow to allow debate to run for five or six hours and then gag it which has come out this morning. What’s your reaction to that?

BEAZLEY: That’s hopeless. It has to be said there is a better Senate Committee process proceeding and we have been asking for that for some considerable period of time. Previously it was intended to be a one day discussion and now, it is in fact going to be a number of weeks. That’s a good thing. It’s a good thing that a good Senate Committee is looking at the Bill. It will give people who have got doubts and concerns about it opportunities to put those concerns forward.

And we will be taking note of that and when we subsequently move amendments to the Bill we’ll be taking note of what the Senate Committee produces in that regard. However, the House of Representatives is important too and I think it would be appropriate for a longer debate in the House of Representatives. Let me say: it is perfectly possible for a Senate Committee to operate on the legislation simultaneously with the House of Representatives debate. It would be possible for the House of Representative debate to go longer and it should.

JOURNALIST: You told the Labor Caucus that you believe that the Iraq war has made the problem of terrorism worse. Can you just explain why you believe that and how you believe that it’s made Australia at greater risk of terrorists’ attack?

BEAZLEY: Of course the Iraq war has made us a higher priority in the minds of people who want to attack this country. I never said that it is the only factor involved. We have in the case of the role we played in East Timor and the role we play in Iraq also drawn ourselves to the attention of people who would commit terrorists’ acts against this country. As I’ve said before I supported both and continue to support in the case of Afghanistan - not Iraq sorry - Afghanistan both those particular endeavours. Now, in the case of Iraq, that has, without question augmented still further the level of risk and the priority that the international fundamentalist terrorist movement pays to this country.

Because these events are always likely, at least possibly always have that effect, you’d have to think though very carefully each action you take and determine, whether on balance, it advances the security of your people and of your friends and of parts of the globe that are affected or detracts from it. Now, in the case of Timor and in the case of Afghanistan, on balance, we think it is to our advantage. In the case of Iraq, on balance, we think it isn’t. Therefore it ought not to have proceeded. However, having said that there’s another side to that coin. If Iraq has done this and our involvement in Afghanistan and Timor as well has given us a higher profile with the terrorists doesn’t mean you just simply note that. It’s the circumstances you now have to live with and therefore it ought to make you just

that much more vigilant when it comes to dealing with the problem at least as it might manifest itself here domestically.

JOURNALIST: In light then of what happened last night did it perhaps not come as a shock but rather a surprise?

BEAZLEY: It did not come as a surprise to me that there were raids it’s as simple as that. When those raids were to occur I would not know. I would not have known and did not know and of course, naturally enough, that was not part of the briefing - and shouldn’t be part of the briefing. It’s the facts as they knew them to that point which underpinned the briefing.

JOURNALIST: Have matters evolved as you expected from the briefing?

BEAZLEY: It would be difficulty to say. You’d have to see the charges that were laid and the content of them and the evidence offered - haven’t really had a chance to come to a conclusion one way or another on that.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, could you clarify your position in the legislation. Apart from the sedition offences which you want taken out, you said that you will be moving substantial amendments to the Anti-Terrorism Bill. Can you clarify in

what areas? Is it across the board?

BEAZLEY: You’ll see them of course as they emerge and we’ll be moving more in the Senate than in the House because there’ll be more time to consider it and we’ll also have the advantage of having had a look at what the committee, the Senate comes up with. There’ll be two types of amendments however. One type will be dealing with what you might call a second reading amendment which will broadly lay out where we think firstly practical measures ought to be

undertaken by the Government to protect the Australian people we have a substantial argument with the Government on those practical measures. And then where we think, in terms of the protection of peoples’ freedoms the balance

might not have been got right. That’s the character of the second reading type of amendment.

More explicitly there’ll be amendments moved starting with an attempt to excise from the Bill, that portion which deals with sedition and if that is unsuccessful more explicit amendments in relation to that. There’ll also be other amendments that relate to broader aspects of the Bill - it’s a very complex, broadly based Bill. We will be moving some of those in the House and we’ll be moving more of them, subsequently, in the Senate. So, those are the two characteristics of the two types of amendments that we will be moving.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) apart from sedition -You just mentioned there’ll be amendments dealing with other -

BEAZLEY: Yes there’ll amendments dealing with other aspects - we’ll go into them when we move the amendments.

JOURNALIST: On the sedition, as I understand it, you’re saying now the sedition part of the Bill should be deferred -

BEAZLEY: We think it should be.

JOURNALIST: How does that rests with what you said a couple of weeks ago which was that the sedition provisions were too weak to tackle the kind of racial and religious vilification that was been used as a recruiting call for terrorists?

BEAZLEY: There unrelated to the sort of vilification issues that we have been concerned about. The vilification issues which are issues closely bound up with mutual respect in the community - respect for each other we would see as more appropriate here. The Government is not proceeding with that, they’re proceeding instead with the sedition laws. We think that the process that the Minister is talking about which is to look at these sedition laws more closely, apparently that’s a promise he’s made to Senator Brandis and others on their back bench. Or rather than passing the material through now given it’s not very specifically related to the sorts of issues of catching and holding and successfully prosecuting terrorists.

We think that that would be appropriate for them to set to one side. If however, they don’t, we’ll move a set of amendments. As I said, at the end of the day, all these things won’t be showstoppers as far as our approach to the Bill is concerned. Any remaining concerns that we have with this Bill, either in that part or in others of it will be developed as Party policy and taken to the people at the

next election.

JOURNALIST: Are you still going to move your racial vilification amendments (inaudible) and secondly, does this promise to pass the whole Bill, whole, regardless of what comes out of the Senate inquiry once and for all-

BEAZLEY: We will certainly, because we have moved it before that vilification proposition we will at some point of time move that again. It would stand best as a separate Bill. But as to the other side of your question - what will

our attitude be? Yes, we will fight for all of our amendments as hard as we can. If we’re unsuccessful, that as I said won’t be a showstopper we wouldn’t be opposing the Bill. But we would nevertheless be taking out continuing objection

as a political consideration in the normal policy way at the subsequent election.

JOURNALIST: I know you’re limited in what can you say about those raids because people have been charged. In terms of the broader issue of people who are found guilty of being a member of a terror organisation or engaging in

terrorist activity who hold dual citizenship, do you believe there should be debate on whether or not those people should be deported?

BEAZLEY: I really think that if you’ve got terrorists here and people engaged in terrorist’s activity you charge them with that offence and you put them in jail. That’s what you do - you put them in jail. I think if you’ve got sufficient

evidence to be able to pursue that here why send them to another country to commit terrorist’s acts against our people there?

JOURNALIST: Are you at all embarrassed by the comments made by Arch Bevis at the weekend given that he was also part of that briefing? He went on to say the Prime Minister’s conduct is a sort of smokescreen?

BEAZLEY: Not a bit of it. I’m enormously proud of the contribution that Arch has made. I might say that Arch was of enormous assistance to me in convincing the Caucus that we ought to get that Bill through as quickly as possible. And also, enormous support to me when saying we should have done in on the darn day we introduced it. Straight off -put it through. So, I think Arch has performed a fine role in this.

ends