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Remarks at National Security Discussion: speech, Parliament House, Canberra



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Joint Remarks at National Security Discussion, Parliament House, Canberra May 29, 2013

EO&E...........................................................................................................................................

TONY ABBOTT:

National security is the absolute first priority of government.

Government has no heavier responsibility then to protect its citizens and preserve the security of the country and as a Director-General of ASIO under John Howard and also under Kevin Rudd, before taking up your more recent Ambassadorial position,

there is no better person to give us absolutely firm advice without fear or favour. So, thank you for being here.

Obviously, we have got a significant issue with ASIO’s funding as revealed by the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee, Mr Byrne. We have also got the additional workload on our security agencies, particularly ASIO, as a result of the explosion of illegal

boat arrivals. We are getting 3,000 illegal arrivals a month. Each one of them does need to be checked out by ASIO and this is an unprecedented level of demand on our security services at a time when the terrorist threat remains as we have seen in London

particularly but also in our own country.

So, these are difficult and testing times for our security agencies. We are determined as a Coalition, should responsibility fall on our shoulders, to make sure that our agencies have the resources to do the job that is necessary.

So George, you might like to just add something and then it will be over to you, Paul.

GEORGE BRANDIS:

Thank you very much. Can I join with you, Tony, in thanking you, Paul, for making yourself available for this meeting and for the

counsel that you are giving the Coalition as the immediate past Director-General of ASIO.

Tony mentioned the Byrne report, which was tabled in the House of Representatives on Monday and I think that brings into very sharp relief the problem that not just ASIO but all of the national security agencies face.

It’s a very unusual thing for a senior government backbencher to describe his own government’s treatment of the national security

agencies from a resourcing point of view as “disgraceful” and yet the Parliamentary Oversight Committee - which Mr Byrne chairs and which operates, of course, on a bipartisan basis - on the basis of its review of the administration and expenditure of national

security agencies recently undertaken, came to that conclusion.

The pressures as Tony has said on ASIO, particularly the conduct of threat assessments, the enormous volume of irregular maritime arrivals, was a problem that ASIO didn’t have to deal with five-and-a-half years ago because there were no irregular

maritime arrivals to speak of. ASIO has had to or is obliged to conduct threat assessments for some 34,000 individuals which as we know in the Coalition is a tremendous weight and pressure upon its resources and inevitably will, unless it is properly

resourced, result in a degradation of other capacities. That is a matter of great concern to us.

We look forward to your counsel and to discuss with you how ASIO might best be put on the best professional footing it can be.

[ends]

© Tony Abbott MHR 2010 | Authorised by Tony Abbott MHR, Level 2, 17 Sydney Rd, Manly NSW 2095

www.tonyabbott.com.au

Tony Abbott Federal Member for Warringah | Leader of the Opposition

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