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Transcript of interview with Patricia Karvelas: RN Drive: 12 June 2015: Countering Violent Extremism Summit; Gillian Triggs; border protection; senate estimates

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12 June 2015

TRANSCRIPT - Interview with Patricia Karvelas, RN Drive program.

Topics: Countering violent extremism summit, Gillian Triggs, border protection, senate estimates.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: The Minister joins me now, welcome to Drive.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Good afternoon Patricia.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Now you’ve flagged new laws today and the ABC understands that they will include changes to control orders. Can you tell me why you think our current laws need to be changed further?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well we think our current laws are in very good shape but as with all laws there can always be fine tuning. It’s a sad fact that since the public alert level was raised to high in September last year there have been more arrests for terrorist related crime than there have been in all the years since 9/11. So for that reason we have had, in particular, the need to resort to control orders, which are orders that are unusual and the experience of the last few months has identified certain respects in which the control order regime can be fine tuned. There are other aspects of this as well which the Prime Minister and I will be announcing in coming weeks.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Can you at least then tell us how the fine tuning of the control orders might look?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well I foreshadowed this today but the detail will be announced in coming weeks.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Okay can you then at least give me some idea of the limitations tat you currently see in the current control orders. Existing laws say for instance they can be imposed for reasons including to help prevent a terrorist attack or to deal with someone who has trained…

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: It is not our intention to expand the grounds upon which control orders may be sought. These are essentially fine tuning matters of operational detail rather than grounds.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: How about getting the control orders, will be there be any changes to the way that’s done?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Patricia, as I’ve said, I’ve foreshadowed today that there will be further reform in order to keep Australians safe. The detail of that will be announced in coming weeks.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Were you mainly deciding to change them because you thought there was a failure in the laws or is it also responding to public sentiment that there is an appetite for change?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: What I’ve said at the start of our discussion is that we need to keep our laws under review all of the time to ensure that they are fine tuned to be as effective as possible. That’s what we undertook to do at the time we introduced control orders and that’s what we are doing.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Minister, the Shadow Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Richard Marles, told AM this morning you still haven’t briefed Labor on the other laws on citizenship. You say you want bipartisanship on this issue but they still don’t have any detail; aren’t they allowed to get more detail on laws that you expect them to vote for?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: My understanding, well perhaps there is another fight going on inside the Labor Party but my understanding is that Mr Shorten indicated last week that the Labor Party would support the government’s move to strengthen our citizenship laws by depriving the citizenship of dual-citizens who have committed serious terrorist, have been engaged in serious terrorist activities.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: That’s right and Labor say they support the laws but there’s obviously the potential for there to be lots of devil in the detail.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I didn’t hear Mr Marles’ interview but if he is walking away from Mr Shorten’s commitment then perhaps that’s something you need to ask Mr Shorten about.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: What he is doing, because I did hear the interview and the interview he made it quite clear what he wanted was a briefing. When is he going to get it? When is Labor going to get their briefing?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: That is entirely a matter within the hands of the relevant Minister. These are not, this is not legislation for which I have responsibility but I’m sure the Opposition will be briefed in the ordinary manner in due course so that when the reforms are introduced the Labor Party will be well aware of what they are.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: What conclusions have come out of the Countering Violent Extremism summit?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I think probably the most important insight that emerged from the Countering Violent Extremism Summit was a shared appreciation of the importance of partnerships. Partnership between government, civil society and the private sector - particularly the technology sector. Of course we need strong laws, as the Abbott Government has delivered. Of course we need well resourced national security and policing agencies but to counter violent extremism we need more than that. We need for governments to partner with civil society. We need, we need partnerships with the private sector. So much of terrorist recruitment, terrorist propaganda is now mediated on social media and the internet but we need the cooperation of companies like, for example, we had a presentation from Facebook today whose representative explained what Facebook does to deal with this problem, this is a problem we all own, is not just a problem for law enforcement agencies. It’s not just a problem that will be solved by stricter laws, although we do need stricter laws, it’s a problem in which we need to engage civil society, the private sector, the technology sector in particular, so that we have the full range of possible measures to thwart terrorist propaganda and terrorist recruitment.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Can you share any developments or agreements you have made with civil society groups or social media companies to work on counter terrorism.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Yes, we have today announced yet another series of eight grants to civil society groups to support their efforts in relation to particular programs targeted at particularly young Australians, young Muslim Australians especially, in order to prevent and counter the messages of radical extremists.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: You and your fellow government Ministers have launched an unprecedented attack on the President of the Human Rights Commission, Professor Gillian Triggs. This morning she responded to those criticisms. This is what she had to say on RN Breakfast with Fran Kelly:

“Well I believe that were I to succumb to this highly personalised response to the work of the Commission that would undermine the independence of the Commission. In other words I think it would be the very reverse of what I ought to be doing.”

PATRICIA KARVELAS: She’s refusing to resign, Minister, how will you work with her given you’ve lost confidence in her and she’s going nowhere?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Patricia, I’m sorry to sat the government has lost confidence in Professor Triggs for a very simple reason. The President of the Human Rights Commission must not be a partisan political player, nor engage in conduct which leads people to conclude that she is a partisan political player. Now we know that Professor Triggs delayed conducting an inquiry into what she herself considered to be a very urgent and important issue, that is children in immigration detention, until after the change of government, even though by her own evidence she had decided a long time before that such an inquiry was needed. Every one

of those children was put into detention by Labor Party. She admitted under cross-examination in the Senate Committee last November that she had discussed the matter with Labor Ministers. The fact that that inquiry was denied was interpreted by very many people as doing the Labor Party a favour. You can’t have the President of the Human Rights Commission being seen to be supporting the interests of one side of politics any more than you could have a judge being seen to be supporting the interests of one side of politics.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Senator Brandis, Shadow Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus, on RN Breakfast this morning pointed out that the children in detention report also strongly criticised Labor and Gillian Triggs has denied that the report was delayed.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I’m aware of that but, Patricia, it also criticised the government.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: So aren’t they entitled to criticise the government isn’t that part of their...

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Patricia, if the report, if the inquiry had been conducted when Professor Triggs first decided that it was needed then the only culprit would have been the Labor Party because only the Labor Party put these children into detention. All this government has done has been to release children from detention.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Gillian Triggs said that her concern was over the duration of detention, not just being in detention.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: If Professor Triggs thought that an inquiry into this issue should be conducted urgently, why didn’t she conduct it urgently? Why did she wait until after there was a change of government and then blame both sides for a problem that was the entire responsibility of one side of politics?

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Minister, I accept that you feel this way but I also accept that she’s going nowhere so what I’d like to know is what happens next? How will you work with her because she’s not going anywhere?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, indeed, she’s not going to stand aside. I think her position is untenable but the Human Rights Commission is being, I’m sorry to say, damaged by Professor Triggs’ continuing presence as its President but the government works very constructively with the Human Rights Commission. We work constructively with Mick Gooda, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner; we work constructively with Tim Wilson, the Human Rights Commissioner; we work constructively with Susan Ryan, the Aged and Disability Commissioner…

PATRICIA KARVELAS: So will you refuse to meet with Gillian Triggs in the future. How will it manifest?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: They are doing good and practical work.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: I’m just interested to find out what the dialogue will be, will you still open your door to meetings with her or does your loss of confidence mean that your relationship with her will no longer continue?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Professor Triggs does not have a relationship with the government, the Human Rights Commission does; the President does not.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Tony Abbot has not ruled out that the government has engaged in paying people smugglers but this very different to what Cabinet Ministers were saying yesterday - who’s right?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Patricia I’ve been chairing this important regional summit on countering violent extremism; I haven’t been following what’s in the news today but of course all operational matters in relation to the governments very successful border protection policies are matters that are not appropriate for public discussion for obvious reasons. But what Australians know about this government is that we inherited a problem the Labor Party said couldn’t be solved and we solved it and we stopped the boats, we stopped the drowning’s, we stopped the deaths at sea.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Mark Kenny from Fairfax has published a story saying, or a piece, saying that some of your colleagues want you dumped, that you’re likely to be dumped, that you’re spending too much time reading poetry in Senate Estimates?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I’m not a commentator Patricia.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Well can you at least elaborate on your poetry habit you know that I have an interest in, I do like that you read poetry, is it appropriate that you read it in Senate Estimates?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Patricia I was listening to what was going on in Senate Estimates and for six days I spent my time doing work, as all Ministers who are efficient do, while I listened to what was going on in Senate estimates and responded fully to every question asked of me. After six days I’d run out of work because it had all been done so I glanced at a book. As long as the Minister at the table keeps, pays attention to what is being said at Senate Estimates as I was doing, its not impossible to look at a book and listen to questions being asked; it’s very easy in fact and respond fully to any questions asked of them as I did then I think that’s what is expected.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Do you think more people should be reading poetry at work?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I think that I would encourage all Australians to read good literature, yes I would.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: I do like reading poetry, thanks for joining us on RN Drive.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Thank you Patricia.