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Thursday, 5 December 2002
Page: 7290

Senator SCULLION (3:17 PM) —I must say I was somewhat miffed and concerned when I heard the question from the other side that started with something about a joke. It is a bit funny, something we are doing! The government are attempting to do something that is somewhat humorous!

Senator Jacinta Collins —They were laughing on the government side of the chamber too.

Senator SCULLION —Well, I was not laughing, and I did not see too many people laughing on this side. It certainly was not humorous. In the environment where we still have not identified some of the bodies in Bali, let alone brought them home and buried them, to be making light and humorous critique at this moment is inappropriate. I would suggest that when the members opposite leave this place they should start talking to the first people they meet and ask them if they think it is humorous. I can assure you the answer will not be in the affirmative. I think it is absolutely absurd to criticise this government for taking very necessary steps in the most pragmatic way possible to help Australians contribute to their own safety. After a comprehensive review of the counterterrorism arrangements in this country, it is obvious that this government is committed to ensuring a bipartisan approach to this issue.

The Commonwealth-state summit in April 2002 demonstrated that we are working in a bipartisan way throughout the jurisdictions. If the opposition are unaware of that, perhaps they should talk to their state colleagues about the agreements on a whole range of issues associated with ensuring that we have the capacity to ensure that terrorist acts do not happen in this country. There is a whole range of issues that we have dealt with, including legislation in relation to aviation security, border protection and incident response. We have to deal with the jurisdictions in the states on those matters. There has been comprehensive discussion to ensure that those matters have been dealt with.

People from the other side have made the slur that this advertising will perhaps be used for some party political purposes. They have suggested that, in what they call a bipartisan approach, we should lay forth all this advertising campaign to ensure that there is nothing in it that could possibly lead to us talking about the pathetic performance of the Labor Party rather than terrorism. All I can say is that that is absolutely absurd. They have to understand that in the last election they came second. In regard to all of these matters the government has the very clear right and preserve to continue to pursue these issues in the way that it has. I have certainly seen nothing to indicate that this government is going to use its position, in putting this legislation and these very strong policies in place, to somehow score some small political point by advertising something that is out of line. That is just preposterous.

This call for a bipartisan approach is really a thinly veiled wedge. This government is trying very hard in very trying circumstances to ensure that all Australians have ownership of this issue—that all Australians can contribute in the way that people in other countries in the world who have been faced with similar threats in the past have. In his answer the minister, in a very articulate way, referred to his personal experience in the United Kingdom when travelling there as a young man. He spoke about how the processes of advertising and ensuring that everybody understood some of the risks they could actually alert people to were in place and working. He shared with this place his experience there that if you left your bag unattended someone would tap you on the shoulder. It has been well documented that that level of concern in the United Kingdom led to ensuring that there was a lower risk level, because everybody was aware of the most simple things.

Coming through Canberra Airport the other day there was a bit of a kerfuffle in the corner. I asked the driver what it was about and he said someone had left a bag there. Whilst this campaign has not yet started, people in the security business have very properly started going down the line of ensuring that this is a safer place in which to live. This advertising campaign will ensure—not with a casual `What are you doing there, mate?' sort of flippancy—that those issues that are anomalous to our everyday life, those issues that are somehow not exactly the way things should be, are reported. It will give people a sense of confidence that they are not going to look like a bonehead because they say, `Excuse me, mate, what is that over there?' They will be doing it in an environment that recognises the very important role Australians can play. It will give them ownership in the security of their country and the security of their children. (Time expired)