TRANSCRIPT - Capital Hill, 6 August 2014











Subject/s: National Security Legislation; Baby Gammy; Gaza

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: The Opposition is still waiting on a briefing from the Government about the detail of this new package that the Prime Minister announced yesterday. I certainly think it is true to say that there is some threat in Australia, we’ve seen convictions in the past of people who are planning a terrorist attack in Australia. And it is important to give our security and intelligence organisations up to date tools to deal with that. On the other hand it's also very important that we make sure we've got decent oversight and transparency with these arrangements. We don't know any of the details yet of what the Prime Minister's proposing, we watched the same press conference as you did yesterday, we don't have any more detail than that. We would want to know first of all from the security and intelligence agencies the case they make for any increased powers and secondly from the Government what they propose in terms of transparency, accountability and oversight.

JULIE DOYLE, PRESENTER: The Prime Minister has said that democracy is going to be one of the safeguards and he wants to work with Labor and the other parties to get these measures through the Parliament, do you see that as a pretty clear signal that the Government is willing to negotiate here?

PLIBERSEK: I think that there must be room for discussion and sensible discussion. We can't work off a press release. We need to see legislation, draft legislation, and then we need to go through that legislation in a great deal of detail before we can be confident that these new powers or any new powers are both necessary and have appropriate accountability mechanisms attached.

DOYLE: On one of the proposals as it relates to foreign fighters, making it an offence to travel to a designated place without a valid reason, do you think that is an appropriate measure with the number of Australians that are heading over to these conflict zones?

PLIBERSEK: I can only say again, we've been briefed by press conference and we will wait to hear from the security and intelligence agencies about whether they think that there is a strong case for such a measure and it's a very big step to take to introduce a reverse onus of proof asking Australians to prove that they're innocent, in this instance they would be guilty until proved innocent. That is a very big step to take in our legal system and we'd want to know what the case is for such a measure and what the oversights would be, what recourse people would have.

DOYLE: Let’s look at a couple of other matters in your portfolio, the surrogacy involving baby Gammy in Thailand, the Prime Minister has said today that he doesn't want to rush the Commonwealth into legislation in a complex area like this, that there are State laws covering surrogacy. Do you think there is a greater role for the Commonwealth in this kind of area?

PLIBERSEK: I don't think having Commonwealth laws would necessarily have prevented this terrible situation. There are State and Territory laws, they do differ from place to place, there might be a case for greater harmonisation but what you've got here is a couple who have knowingly taken one baby out of a set of twins, I don’t know how you would legislate to prevent that sort of situation. I guess we need to be very, very careful when we introduce profit into this area of human relationships, because we know that parents or prospective parents are often desperate to have children. They can be taken advantage of by unscrupulous middle people and we know that poor women, particularly in developing countries, are also vulnerable to that exploitation. When you're offering someone with very few resources of her own an opportunity to make thousands of dollars to carry a baby of course that's a very tempting offer.

DOYLE: And just finally the Foreign Minister put out a statement yesterday about Gaza in which he said she's deeply troubled by the suffering being endured by the Palestinian population in Gaza, she referred to the shelling of the three UN schools as indefensible. That's strong language there, do you support those sentiments?

PLIBERSEK: Absolutely. We've heard the United Nations Secretary-General, we've heard the US Secretary of State and finally we've heard our own Government say that it is not appropriate or defensible to be shelling UN facilities. Of course, Hamas needs to stop firing rockets into Israel more than 3,000 rocket fired already into Israel but we also expect Israel to ensure that where they have the coordinates of UN facilities such as this school that they don't bomb them. There were about 3,000 people reported to be sheltering in this, the third of the schools to be shelled. It’s been reported that 10 people lost their lives as the rocket fell just outside the school gates. It is an enormous concern that even when taking shelter in UN facilities, the residents of Gaza cannot be safe. I'm very pleased that there's a ceasefire, it is absolutely critical that the world community pressures both parties to not engage in any more hostilities; too many people have died.


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