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Transcript of interview with Michael Brissenden: ABC AM Program: 23 March 2016: Brussels terror attacks; ABCC Bills; Tony Abbott comments



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SENATOR THE HON GEORGE BRANDIS QC

ATTORNEY-GENERAL

L

EADER OF THE GOVERNMENT IN THE SENATE

23 March 2016

TRA

NSCRIPT - ABC AM PROGRAM, WITH MICHAEL BRISSENDEN

T

opics: Brussels terror attacks, ABCC Bills, Tony Abbott comments

E&OE………………………………………………………………………………………………….

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Well Australia’s security alert remains unchanged but this attack does show yet again how vulnerable soft targets like airports and transport systems are to these sorts of terrorist attacks. For more on how this is being viewed by authorities here and what impact it may have, I’m joined by the Attorney General, George Brandis.

Senator Brandis, welcome to the program.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Good morning Michael.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Security has been tightened again around the world. Our national security alert level is still at the mid-range of probable. Is that likely to be reviewed?

ATT

ORNEY-GENERAL: These alert levels are kept under review at all times, and in light of an event of this kind obviously the officials who make these judgments will turn their mi

nd to this question. But at the moment the Australian terror alert level remains at probable, whic h is where it has been since September of 2014.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: This is again an example of the problem that vulnerable democracies have isn’t it, faced with this sort of threat? What is the answer, even better int

elligence and surveillance?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Intelligence and surveillance are absolutely critical in keeping our community safe there is no question about that. That is why the Government in the last couple of

years has very significantly reformed Australia's national security laws. We've done so in a targeted way, always mindful of considerations of privacy and liberty, but nevertheless to give the national security agencies and the Australian Federal Police and State and Territory Police the powers they need to keep the community safe.

Now Michael, to put this into context, we have had three individual terrorist events in Australia since September 2014. Each of those has been in the nature of a lone wolf attack. During the same period, we have disrupted six other imminent terrorist events.

So the fact that we have disrupted six imminent terrorist events in each case in one way or another on an intelligence-led operation should indicate to you the necessity of appropriate intelligence-gathering capability in preventing this occurring in Australia.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: And I understand the issue will be discussed again at the COAG meeting with the States next week.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Yes.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Will there be a move to change or tighten our preventive detention regime at that meeting?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, that's a matter that - the scope and design of Australia's law s to deal with the question of the threat of terrorism is always a matter which is the subject

of

discussion between first ministers.

The preventive detention regime is something that has been the matter of some discussion for some time, and no doubt it, among other things, will be a matter of discussion among first ministers.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Because at the moment, when someone is under a preventive detention order the person isn't to be questioned by police but merely held without charge, while police investigate further, but I understand there is a push to change that to allow questioning of those being held before they're charged. Is that something that should be looked at?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: There is a variety of views about this. As I say, the state of the laws is always kept under constant review and the way in which the preventive detention order regime is structured is one of those things.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Because this - I mean, if there was - I mean this idea is based on the UK laws, as I understand it, where they do have this ability to question people prior to charging?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: You're asking me, Michael, about what may happen in the future. This is a matter that is under constant review but I want to assure you and to assure your listeners that as a result of the measures that the government has introduced in the last couple of years, building upon measures that previous governments introduced, in particular the Howard Government introduced, in the first decade of the century, we are satisfied that we

are doing our utmost, both in terms of the legislative architecture and also in terms of the resources made available to the intelligence and policing agencies, to keep Australians safe.

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ICHAEL BRISSENDEN: But you are indicating as well this will be discussed and there could be changes

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: What I've said to you Michael is that these matters are always kept under review.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Okay. Domestic issues mightn't seem so pressing today but it has been 48 hours now since the challenge was laid down to the crossbench on the ABCC Bills in the Senate. Have you had any indication that their views will shift?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well Michael, we are bringing the Parliament back for three weeks, commencing on 18 April, for the very purpose of enabling the ABCC bills to be de

bated, to be given a full and thorough parliamentary debate. And during the course of that debate, the government will be seeking to persuade the crossbench senators that they ought to support the le

gislation.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: And what do you think of Tony Abbott saying that you're going to the polls prosecuting his government's agenda?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, this is a Coalition Government. And when there is a change of leader of a government from the same side of politics, then there is always an element of continuity, as well as there is an element of change or renewal. So there are many of the policies of Mr Abbott's Government which of course the Government of Mr Turnbull embraces, but equally, Mr Turnbull has a new and different approach as well. That's what you would expect when on one side of politics, there's a change of leadership.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Would you like to see him temper that language somewhat?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, the most important point to be made, I think Michael, is that Tony Abbott has said time beyond number that the most important thing this year is to secure the re-election of Mr Turnbull's Government because the election of a Shorten Labor Government dominated by trade unions, dominated by economic views that frankly don't belong in the 21st-century would be a catastrophe for this country.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Okay, Senator Brandis, we will leave it there, thanks so much for joining us.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Thank you Michael.

[Ends]