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Thursday, 30 November 2017
Page: 9312

Senator PATRICK (South Australia) (11:06): This is not my first speech. National security is a matter that NXT takes very seriously. Indeed, it's a matter of paramount importance—for me, in particular, noting my defence background. Before I speak in relation to Senator Dastyari, I want to clear the air on a matter that relates to me such that other senators can see that I stand on very solid ground when I say what I say. Back in 2013, I received a disc from a foreign national that included data that described in great detail the combat system on India's new Scorpene submarines. At that time, I did the responsible thing. I had a security clearance. I had the opportunity to meet with a senior naval officer inside the parliament, and I attempted to hand back that disc. There were certain conditions that I expressed in relation to handing over that disc, which the officer wasn't prepared to acquiesce to, and as such I took the disc—it was encrypted—and I put it in a locked filing cabinet.

Last year, when the DCNS won the CEP to be our partner for the Future Submarine, I became concerned. I knew that there was a security breach inside DCNS and so I, in consultation with my then boss, Senator Xenophon, went to the media. In fact, I went to Cameron Stewart of The Australian. I did so because he had a defence intelligence background. I showed him some of the material that I had in my possession. I then provided him redacted copies of some of the documents that I had in my possession. I never provided anything to The Australian newspaper that was classified. When the story broke, Senator Xenophon and I contacted the office of the Minister for Defence and made them all aware of who had the disc—that being me—and we made it very clear we were going to return that disc to Senator Payne's office at the first available opportunity, and that's exactly what we did. At no stage was classified information ever passed to anyone other than the defence minister. I will briefly also describe the motive for doing what I did. The motive was to make sure that security around our Future Submarine was not jeopardised. With that in mind, I wanted to clear the air to say that I take security extremely seriously.

I now want to talk very briefly about the matters that have been raised in the chamber this morning. The allegation that Senator Dastyari provided countersurveillance information to a foreign national is very disturbing. At the very best, it shows a lack of judgement. I'm glad Senator Wong acknowledged that there was a problem with what happened. However, I'm of the strong belief that people can and do make mistakes, but the rule is that you should only make new mistakes. There have been previous incidents with Senator Dastyari and the Chinese. They were dealt with, in my view appropriately, by Mr Shorten. This is a repeat and, perhaps in some sense, more serious. To Mr Shorten, and perhaps to the Labor Party: Lieutenant General Morrison once said, 'The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.' This is a very serious matter, and I respectfully suggest that a temporary suspension on a second incident is probably not enough.