Monday, 31 July 2017

Doorstop Interview, Melbourne

Subjects: Industry summit, border security, Sydney terror plot.



Thanks very much for being here today everyone, it's a very important summit between my department and the industry stakeholders.

The Department, like the Government, is very determined to make sure that we cut our bureaucratic processes, to make sure that we can reduce the burden on businesses in terms of compliance.

We have about 40 million people crossing our borders today and within two or three years that number goes to 50 million. So necessarily we want to concentrate on those very few people who present as a risk at our borders and presumably it's the same story with consignments of cargo or mail etc.

We can allow the vast majority of people or cargo to come across our borders as seamlessly as possible. There's been significant investment in this space by the Government during the course of this Budget, but in recent years as well, and today we announced the release of the discussion paper in relation to further visa reform.

So there's a significant amount happening within the immigration and border protection space and as we're seeing demonstrated over the course of the last few days the security threat to our nation is as prevalent as it's ever been and we need to make sure we are doing whatever we can within government to keep Australians safe and part of that is to secure our borders.

Securing our borders is not just about stopping boats; it's about making sure that we know who is coming to and going from our country. It is absolutely essential in this day and age, given the level of the security threat, that we do everything possible at our borders to keep Australians safe.

I'm happy to take questions.


Do we know if the target was a domestic or international aircraft?


I'm going to let the AFP Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin to provide detail in due course about that, no doubt the Prime Minister will have other advice in relation to the activities of the last few days, but it is abundantly clear that people with capacity to execute a terrorist attack in our country are at work and on this occasion they've been disrupted through the great work of the Federal Police and of ASIO and the other agencies, including the NSW Police, so on behalf of all Australians I want to thank them very much for the work that they're doing.

Obviously the target here it seems, at least on the early advice available, was an airplane and we need to remind the public that this threat is there, its why we've ramped up the security at our domestic and international airports.

And I just want to say to the travelling public, if you are travelling then please try and put into check-in luggage as much as you can and try and reduce the amount that you are carrying on.

We do want people to allow three hours to get to an international airport before their flight takes off and two hours at the domestic airport before their flight is scheduled for departure.

If people aren't travelling, if they are just there to accompany somebody who is on a flight, then if it's at all possible they perhaps can say goodbye, say what they need to, to their loved one before embarking on their plane trip, do that without having to go through security, if it's at all possible to reduce the number of movements through the security line then that's a good outcome as well.


What do you know about the background of the alleged plotters?


Well we know that they have, it seems on the advice we have  received, signed up to this evil ideology which is determined to try to attack innocent men, women and children, but our resolve is always going to trump that and we'll have further to say about the backgrounds of individuals and their travel histories etc in due course.

But at the moment we're not releasing that detail.


Were they born here or overseas?


Well again I don't have any comment to make on that at the moment.


Is this where the Government needs to boost their counter-radicalisation efforts?


It shows that the effort we're putting in at the moment is resulting in disruption of planned terrorist attacks.

We are doing all we can to keep Australians safe, and for all of us involved in keeping Australians safe, we support the work of the AFP, ASIO; all of us have worked very closely with the Prime Minister in recent days and obviously he carries a significant burden in the decisions that he needs to make and we support him in those decisions because they are all designed to keep the Australian public safe.

We do accept that there is an additional delay going through security at the airports now, but I'd just ask people to understand that is a necessary delay because it gives us the best possible outcome in keeping people safe and in dealing with that threat as we know it to exist.


How long will the additional security be in place at the airports?


The security measures at the airports will be in place for as long as we believe they need to be, so it may go on for some time yet and it may be that we need to look at the security settings at our airports, in particular our domestic airports, for an ongoing, enduring period.

We'll take it one day at a time in terms of needing to respond to the threat that we know about, but there may be lessons that are learned here and we can apply those prospectively.


So this change then could be permanent?


Well there's a chance that we can review these arrangements as we do on a regular basis, and as you've seen a ramping up in the past when the threat has passed you've seen a ramping down.

But there'll always be questions about whether or not we can enhance the security arrangements knowing now that people are looking at aircraft and airports and we need to recognise that threat and deal with it as we've done, but that's the approach that we take.


…..[inaudible]……will the new Home Office change anything?


Well as the Prime Minister announced only a couple of weeks ago, the idea of the Home Affairs portfolio is to make sure that our agencies are working as closely and as effectively as they can be.

There will always be lessons out of these sorts of incidents and near incidents to work out how we could have done things more effectively, how we could have joined up the information more effectively, but there's nothing but praise for the agencies and for the federal government action on this front; I think it's a great credit to the AFP and our security and intelligence agencies otherwise, the way in which they've been able to deal with what has been a very significant threat with absolutely dire outcomes had this gone to fruition.


The fact that this was thwarted, doesn't it show that we don't need any changes?


Look we've had 13, now 13 incidents, serious terrorist plots, that have been thwarted.

In the run-up to 2008, when there was an initial review done in this space about what the government architecture should look like, there had been something like six people who had been convicted for terrorist related offences.

In the last three years, we've had 70 people charged with terrorist related incidents, the 13 thwarted plots as I say, five terrorist incidents where three have resulted in the loss of innocent life.

People who don't believe that we need to do all we can to make sure that we are absolutely as effective as humanely possible, I think they just need to look at the facts because the facts demonstrate that we have foreign fighters returning back to Australian shores, we've got people being radicalised online, this threat is not going away, it's going to increase and that's why the Prime Minister rightly has taken the decision to put the Home Affairs portfolio together so that we can make sure that we can deal with any threat that comes our way.

As a western democracy we are going to continue to see these threats manifest, there are people that want to kill Australians and our task, our absolute priority, is to keep Australians safe and take whatever action we can within the law to defeat those terrorists and to keep the Australian public safe.

Thank you.