Subjects: Visit to the United States; Las Vegas tragedy; gun laws; greater security laws; Westpac same-sex marriage campaign.
Minister, good morning to you.
Morning Ray, how are you?
Good mate. Last time we spoke in London. What are you doing in Washington DC?
Well we leave here tomorrow, but we've been having discussions obviously about moving people off Manus Island. We've been working with the United States for a long period of time. We've also been talking about the new Home Affairs portfolio. So I had a meeting today with the Director of the FBI and we've had a number of discussions including with the transport safety authorities. So we're looking at biometrics and new use of technology to try and keep people safe at airports.
So a number of meetings we've had here and it's been a good, productive trip, but we're looking forward to getting home. We leave in the morning.
Had you arrived there by the time this tragedy unfolded in Las Vegas?
Yes. I mean it's just devastating here obviously, no doubt as it is at home, just dominating the news. I'd like to say that I think there's going to be a change in the gun laws here, but the reality is that it's such a part of the American culture. They were born of a civil war and there is complete reluctance it seems to change the laws. But for these people it's just an horrific outcome and hard to imagine it can get any worse than that.
I've made comment obviously over the past few days about this and I watched a video of the outgoing President Obama last year talk to people via a TV open forum where he explained how he'd gone knocking on doors of various politicians trying to get change and then he was attacked by people – in the most civilised fashion – about his opposition to guns. And he tried to explain to them – and I think this is where we have a problem – he said, ‘look I'm not trying to ban guns, I just want to stop automatic and semi-automatic, or semi-automatic weapons that become automatic weapons being obtainable.’
And as many people have said, this fellow, when someone goes to a gun shop and buys 23 of these type of weapons or even more – 40 of these – there's got to be some alarm bells. No one does that.
Well that's exactly right. I mean even if you could mount an argument that you needed one semi-automatic weapon – which obviously is hard for us to comprehend – but if you accepted that point, how can you accumulate, how can you amass that number of guns? And then the amount of ammunition as well. So look, it's concerning on every level.
I know there's a debate at home at moment about some of the laws that we want to introduce and this mandatory sentencing for people that are involved in this sort of gun crime is absolutely compelling.
I mean I just can't understand why Bill Shorten's playing games with that at the moment. And we've got tough gun laws – full credit to John Howard for having introduced them – but the laws that Malcolm Turnbull's trying to introduce at the moment to bring about this mandatory sentencing I just think makes sense to every Australian.
And why the Labor Party would be opposed to it, why they're being tricky about it is really quite strange.
Well it's in their DNA not to have mandatory sentencing for the most heinous of murders. They just won't countenance it. I've spoken to various Labor leaders over the years, be it state or federal leaders and it's just not in their DNA. They can't because it flies in the face of what they stand for as an organisation.
Well Ray if you've got the sort of sentences that you and I talk about on a regular basis where it just doesn't reflect community standards then the Parliament needs to send a clear message that you want a mandatory sentence, mandatory minimum sentence for a very serious crime.
And if you're involved in running guns, or involved in the use of guns illegally, then you've got to answer for it. And in this day and age where we've got people who are running around that would seek to do us significant harm, then you have criminals who are involved in the trafficking of those drugs, or the importation of those – sorry of those guns, or the importation of those guns then there is a price to pay.
I think Mr Shorten needs to stare down the Left of his Party because he can't continue to speak out of both sides of his mouth and I think people start to see through this.
And this just is a highlight out of Las Vegas why we've made the right decision in our country in relation to the protection around guns and we need to enforce the law.
I notice that Daniel Anderson was talking this morning out of Victoria with this COAG meeting today and it says state and territory leaders are expected to agree on tougher anti-terror laws, but I wanted to talk to you about facial recognition in particular. Now I don't think we've spoken before about it.
I went to a meeting about three weeks ago with an organisation that is involved in that industry, but they wanted me to look at what they could do in relation to sporting venues particularly – given that I spend a bit of my time going to sporting venues – and licenced premises, be it clubs or pubs.
They did a video presentation which absolutely amazed me. They can get data legally, put it into the system and they can identify prohibited people, dangerous people who may be on a watch system from the AFP or the New South Wales or Queensland Police within milliseconds. And I'm talking about viewing tens of thousands of people in the space of a minute or two pouring through gates and they lock onto their faces and their images.
Now we're talking about that this week and I think it's just something we need to do. There's a plan creating a national database for driver's licences to quickly identify terrorists in public places, extending the time a terror suspect can be held without charge - we're talking about that of course.
But I've watched another civil libertarian – some lady with an American accent, I've got no idea who she was, where they found her – on Sky News this morning saying this is the thin end of the wedge, thin end of the wedge.
Do these people come from another planet? And by the way I might have said Daniel Anderson, an old rugby league man, when I meant Daniel Andrews. But are these people from another planet that don't think we need this sort of protection?
Well they must be Ray because they're not dealing with the same threats that we are.
We had discussions, as I said, this morning with the Transport Safety Authority here and they take care of the airports right across the United States and the fact is that the technology now, you can't argue against it.
At the moment we've got 40 million movements of people across our borders in Australia each year. That number within three years grows to 50 million and we just can't employ the staff to check everybody going through, whereas the generation of technology that we've got now allows us facial recognition.
The next generation – which is not too far off and we've just trialled it in Canberra Airport – allows what they call facial recognition on the move. So that is; when you hop off the plane coming back into Australia, you hop off the plane, you walk up into the terminal and the facial recognition can pick you up. At the moment it's a bit scratchy, because as people move it starts to lose the face, but the technology's almost there and will be within a couple of years where it will follow you, identify you, you won't have to present your passport. You'll walk seamlessly through the airport. There'll be no queues. You'll walk out to collect your luggage and then out to the curb-side.
And why wouldn't we use that technology? Because if an A380 full of people arrives at Sydney Airport we might only want to speak to six or eight people off that plane and the rest of the people pose no risk at all, no threat at all, but we're using the technologies to identify the threat. And similarly in forecourts of airports or at bus terminals or in shopping centres where we do have the problem with people gathered in places where they may become a victim of terrorism – any of those places of mass gathering are a concern for us now.
So the recognition, the number plate recognition, all of that technology's a reality now and I think people realise that you need to embrace it because the threat is just too great. The number of people that are radicalising, the number of people that would seek to do us harm is growing every day and we need to embrace the technology to stare the threat down.
Back to the other issue about guns and you and I spoke about this just a minute or two back. This is the typical email I get from people who want to argue the point. Jim who's quite courteous: “with the greatest respect Ray, but jeez who the hell are we in this country to tell the Americans how they should ban this type of firearm?” Well I'd say to you with all respect to you Jim, 59 innocent people are dead along with thousands of other Americans in the course of a year because of automatic or semi-automatic weapons.
Now if we're going to sit on our hands about it, even though it will have no impact on what we say here about what happens in the United States of America, but if you're not a fair and decent person well shut up. If you're a fair and decent person you say from the mountaintop; ban these weapons. It's very simple and whether we have any success or not is immaterial, but you can't sit on your hands Minister and just ignore that it happened.
No and it could quite easily have been Australians among the 59 as well.
But we know that – I mean we have 1.2 million Australians each year going to Bali and Indonesia for holidays and we've had our biggest loss of life in terrorist attacks in the two Bali bombings so we do have a lot to say in Indonesia.
We do a lot of work there in the Philippines and elsewhere, where we try and defeat these terrorists, where we try and neutralise them, kill them in the field of war in Syria and Iraq and elsewhere and we do that because we want to keep Australians safe.
And of course we've got an interest in making sure that Australians who travel to the United States are safe as well, but we don't tell them what their laws should be, but we're right to have a view.
And in our country I think we've got a model that we should be proud of, but there's a lot of risk at the moment with terrorists getting weapons and chemical or biological weapons as well – as we saw only a few weeks ago – the attempt to take the bomb onto the Etihad flight out of Sydney. That would have resulted in an A380 being blown out of the air.
So the fact is that the threat is greater than it's ever been and we just need to do everything possible to keep Australians safe.
Now I don't know if you were online and heard my earlier comments about the Westpac Bank and their so-called inclusive policy. Did you hear the matter pertaining to that and the yes and no vote?
No I didn't. No.
Okay. Well let me just share it with you without boring my listeners, but on their website they say; where you'll enjoy an inclusive workplace - this is Westpac - and then they've got all these groups that talk about being inclusive, but then they want you to divide into what they call ABLE - that's an accessibility group which I guess is disabled people - Asian Leadership Group, Brothers and Sisters Indigenous Group, mainstream flexible working practice group, GLOBAL - which is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and their allies - a Prime of Life group - which you haven't got to get 50 years plus - Women of Westpac and then the Youth Network - under 30s.
Now the reason I bring this up in relation to the Youth Network is they have sent this to every employee of St George and Westpac banks; have you voted yes yet? And this is under the Westpac auspices.
In 2016 Westpac Group signed to an open letter in support of Australian marriage equality believing it's the right thing to do. While we're not one to tell you how to roll, it's a no-brainer. If Tony Abbott's daughter's publicly voting yes, you should too, along with ensuring all your colleagues and mates feel included and have equal rights. Now this is the point: legalising same-sex marriage would prevent 3000 suicides per year. That's what they write - Westpac and St George to all their employees.
We checked with beyondblue, Lifeline and other organisations. The number of people who tragically commit suicide in Australia on a yearly basis is 3000.
Westpac is telling their employees every one of those tragic deaths is attributable to same-sex marriage.
Well Ray I think you should get the CEO of Westpac onto the programme and explain what it is that they're doing.
I mean why are these companies involved in political campaigns? In the groups that they had depicted there, what about the group of bank customers being ripped off by 21 per cent interest rates on credit cards, or paying too high fees? I mean where is that group represented?
So, I mean, stick to your knitting. I don't want sporting organisations or groups who are involved in delivering banking services or airlines telling us how to live our lives.
I mean, deliver the services, provide a return to your shareholders and provide good service to your customers. Don't make your customers wait online for hours talking to people reading off some script out of the Philippines. Why not get back to business?
If you've got all this spare time, please, spend it on making a better product for your customers and let people that have been elected to office or Australians who have a view one way or the other on these things to have their say, but please otherwise get out of our lives.
Well let me just tell you what, it’s no good me talking to the CEO because my blood pressure tablets will have to come out. They just responded to our request for comment.
The Youth Network is a group of young, enthusiastic Westpac employees who get together to discuss a range of issues in an open way. We acknowledge that the stats linking same-sex marriage and suicide can be inaccurately interpreted.
I mean, there are 3000 suicide deaths a year and all of a sudden they're saying everyone is attributable to same-sex marriage being legal or not and the best they can do at Westpac is saying, “It’s inaccurately interpreted.”
No it's not, It's damn wrong. God strike me pink.
Well they made a statement; they need to answer to it. This is it. If you want to be a political player, then you need to answer the questions that arise from the comments you make. If you're putting yourself out there to be a part of a public debate, to put a particular position, then you need to be prepared to defend it and hiding behind mealy-mouthed words or trying to trick people into believing some statistic that's misleading is unacceptable.
And this is why I say these companies; it might make them feel good, it might make the shareholder activist groups less likely to vote against your remuneration packages at AGMs, but for goodness sake get back to what it is that you're supposed to be doing and that is delivering a service and please don't be involved in trying to intrude on Australians' lives. I mean, people want to get on their lives.
If there's a public debate to be had well you hear the for-and-against from the people that feel most passionately about it. But these companies who are try – I mean, who are they trying to please? I mean, they feel better within themselves and somehow they're trendy on these causes. I think they should stick to their knitting and I think Australians frankly mark them down for these sorts of contributions and that's how I think …
…In the last week we've had various banks stop the ATM fee, you know, from other banks. Commonwealth have done it, I think Westpac and NAB are either doing it or have done it and in the same week we find out if you do an international money transfer they may as well be Ned Kelly with a helmet on.
They're stealing money off us. International bankers in other parts of the world can't believe that these low bludgers just knocked money off us, charging us way over the odds to transfer that money. It's just - it's incredible.
Well what does the Youth Network have to say about that?
Oh well, not much because they're getting paid by Westpac, so they're …
[Indistinct] elsewhere, that's it.
Alright, thanks for your time, we'll talk to you back in Australia.
Congratulations on 107 in a row. It's not a bad deal mate. Well done.
Thank you. Appreciate your support. All the best.
Alright. Take care. See you mate.