THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
ABC 774 MELBOURNE
WEDNESDAY, 4 OCTOBER 2017
SUBJECTS: Terrorism laws; Marriage equality postal survey; Gun control.
ALICIA LOXLEY, PRESENTER: You're with Alicia Loxley this afternoon and that is right it is time for Pollie Graph. And I'm joined this afternoon by Josh Frydenberg, of course Member for Kooyong, Minister for the Environment and Energy, and in Sydney Tanya Plibersek, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Shadow Minister for Education and Shadow Minister for Women in the Australian Parliament. Thank you so much for your time, both of you.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Hello.
LOXLEY: Hello Josh Frydenberg?
PLIBERSEK: It's just you and me today Alicia.
LOXLEY: He's giving us the silent treatment already Tanya and we haven't even got started. While we try and get him on the phone, we've been talking about cheating, Tanya, at university. Did you ever cheat while you were in high school or university?
PLIBERSEK: No. Well I never had to cheat at university because my course was a pass/fail course, it was very of the moment, communications at UTS was pass/fail. And no I never cheated, I'm too much of a girly swot for that.
LOXLEY: Perfect. Josh Frydenberg I believe joins us now on the phone. Josh Frydenberg?
JOSH FRYDENBERG, MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND ENERGY: Nice to be with you Alicia. Hi Tanya.
LOXLEY: Good afternoon.
LOXLEY: Just in the interests of balance I should ask you as well - did you ever cheat while you were at high school or university? We've been talking about the more sophisticated methods of cheating that we're seeing now.
PLIBERSEK: And Josh before you answer, you've got to remember Josh before you answer that confession is good for the soul but not good for the reputation.
FRYDENBERG: [Laughs] No I was straight as an arrow.
LOXLEY: Now that we've got that sorted, let's get into it. So this morning we heard news of terror suspects perhaps being held for up to a fortnight without charge, the Commonwealth Government renewing this push. Josh Frydenberg, your thoughts on this?
FRYDENBERG: Well I think this is important in the current climate where we are seeing a heightened terrorist threat and the Prime Minister is right - we do need consistent laws across the country, whether it applies to pre-charge detention laws, whether it applies to the photographs that are made available on people's licenses to the Commonwealth to assist in investigations and preventative measures, or whether it's in relation to terrorist instruction manuals and the like, to make sure that people who engage in these types of activity face the full force of the law.
LOXLEY: Most states and territories at the moment already allows police to hold terrorism suspects for a week. Has that been problematic in any investigations that you're aware of; that there is this necessity to extend that to 14 days?
FRYDENBERG: I understand from the Justice Minister, Michael Keenan, and his earlier public comments today that in recent investigations the police have indicated that they would've liked to have held the suspects for longer for proper questioning and as you say, in NSW there is a 14-day period but that is not the case in other states. So what we're looking for here is a form of national consistency when it comes to pre-charge detention laws.
LOXLEY: Tanya Plibersek, I understand that you haven't seen any detail on this, but your immediate thoughts when you heard this this morning?
PLIBERSEK: Well it is important always to look at the detail of legislation before commenting on legislation, so I can't give you a detailed response on the proposals without seeing them. What I would say generally is that we have been very pleased to work with the Government on making sure that Australians are kept safe. Previous legislation's been referred to the Parliamentary Joint Security and Intelligence Committee and it has been improved because of Labor suggestions that have been accepted by the Government, I would expect that this legislation would go through a similar process. It is very important to keep Australians safe and we'll always work with the Government to do that, but we also need to of course make sure that we are protecting the rights and liberties that make it so great to live in a free country.
LOXLEY: Tanya Plibersek, is it then a step too far when we look at another Commonwealth proposal to have a new law banning the possession of terrorism instructions?
PLIBERSEK: Well again, we need to look at details when it comes to this. I think it is very important, because the devil is often in the detail. We've been told in the past about specific proposals that would achieve this or that and on closer examination the proposals wouldn't achieve the stated objective and we've had to work with the Government to improve them. We want to keep Australians safe. We don't want to endanger anyone and we don't want to make available some of this really disturbing stuff, make it easy for people to access online. But the devil is always in the detail with these proposals.
LOXLEY: Josh Frydenberg, what about people doing research for example? If they were simply in possession of terrorism instructions?
FRYDENBERG: I'm sure there's always going to be an opportunity for people with legitimate needs to have protections, but what we don't want to see is people who want to do harm to the rest of the community exploit loopholes in existing legislation for their own nefarious ends. And that is why we are constantly talking to our international partners and in this case the instruction material has been looked at, this type of legislation, in the United Kingdom, but also taking the best possible advice from our agencies. Now Tanya is absolutely right, you go through your legislative processes and you give people an opportunity to comment, but we do know that there is a heightened risk at the moment and we do know from our agencies that terrorists operate across state boundaries, so it's only natural to expect that we have nationally consistent laws, and that's where the Commonwealth is happy to lead the way.
LOXLEY: Civil libertarians would argue that it is a slippery slope in this area though.
FRYDENBERG: Well that's cold comfort for people who are the victims of terrorist attacks. I do think in this environment we need to go further than we have ever before. A lot of these pieces of legislation were put in place in the wake of 9-11, but since that time there have been significant developments in technology and the sophisticated methods used by would-be terrorists, and that is why we need to take action. Australians are not immune from what we're seeing in Europe and the United States and elsewhere. We have seen, not that long ago in Sydney, we have seen terrorist incidents committed by people as young as 15 years of age. And of course, our interests globally have been challenged as well.
LOXLEY: A couple of text messages - "these laws may be necessary but they really do need to be explained fully." And "terrorism laws, the Government really needs to explain how they will make Australia more safe. Not saying they won't, but details need to be explained." Tanya Plibersek, your response as well to this announcement about the Turnbull Government wanting state and territory leaders to hand over the identity of all Australian drivers in a bid to strengthen national security laws. What do you make of that?
PLIBERSEK: Alicia, I'm really sorry, it is impossible to respond to press releases. We actually have to see detailed proposals from the Government - what sort of accountability, what sort of circumstances this information would be used in. We are very keen to cooperate to keep Australians safe. Absolutely, you can judge us on our record when it comes to cooperating to keep Australians safe. But in each instance where there has been legislative tightening, we have demanded safeguards, the Government has provided those safeguards, and we have improved protections for innocent people because of those safeguards. So when the details are publicly available, you'll get chapter and verse from the Labor Party on our response to them, but when we're talking about press releases in newspapers we can't give you detailed responses.
LOXLEY: Josh Frydenberg, any idea when we will get that detail?
PLIBERSEK: Well obviously these discussions with the state and territory leaders are being held in the first instance, and then we'll move through the normal processes. But it's only common sense to think that if the Commonwealth is in possession of more photographic identity then that can be used in a proactive and positive way to identify would-be terrorists. Not everybody has a passport, and obviously the Commonwealth can access people who do have passports, but if we were able to get access to drivers' licenses, for example in this case, then we would expand our database significantly and that could be used, for example at airports and other like situations, to identify people of interest.
LOXLEY: 1300 222 774. If you would like to speak to either Josh Frydenberg or Tanya Plibersek we have both the Minister for the Environment and Energy and the Deputy Opposition Leader here today for Pollie Graph. If you've got a question: 1300 222 774. Josh Frydenberg, is it a coincidence that along with these measures to perhaps beef up our terror laws, that it was announced this morning the AFP has been involved in thwarting six planned attacks in our region in the past fifteen months?
FRYDENBERG: Well I note that the Prime Minister wasn't to be engaged on the detail of those particular reports this morning when he was asked on ABC's AM program. These are obviously sensitive issues. But we do know that within the region our law enforcement agencies are working very cooperatively with like-minded countries. The Philippines are under a significant threat, as well as other countries. And we want to ensure safety for people in our region, but also for Australian interests overseas, so that comes as no surprise that our Federal Police and our agencies are working closely in the region.
LOXLEY: Do you know the detail on that at all, or can you expand on that as to how far advanced those plots were?
FRYDENBERG: Look I'm not going to go into specific circumstances other than to say there is a heightened threat in our region just as we have faced one here at home. As you will remember, just a few months ago there was that attempt to conduct a terrorist attack in relation to an airliner. That was the most sophisticated attack we've seen of that kind here in Australia, and through the good work of our intelligence and law enforcement agencies it was thwarted. But it is a constant challenge for our agencies and I know that they're up to it and the fact that it's a day by day proposition to ensure the safety of our people.
LOXLEY: George has called in from Western Victoria. George, what did you want to say?
CALLER: Yeah thank you for taking my call. My question to the Minister is if there was a terrorist attack and the perpetrators were caught, would it not be in our interests to have the army incarcerate the alleged perpetrators and take the pressure off the states having to do anything?
FRYDENBERG: Thanks George. I mean the army obviously do defer in many of these circumstances to our state police organisations as is appropriate. But we're constantly looking at ways that we can deploy all the resources we have to ensure the safety of the public, but the police services within the particular jurisdictions, they have the first and foremost responsibility to ensure the safety of our citizens, and it would take a very extreme circumstance for the army to be involved.
LOXLEY: Rusty has called in from Springvale. G'day Rusty.
CALLER: Hi. Look I'm long enough and old enough to remember back to the Hawke days, and rather than fiddling around with various state IT systems to do with identification and all of that, why don't we start thinking about the Australia card again? As in, proper legal identification for every citizen of this country.
LOXLEY: Tanya Plibersek, your response?
PLIBERSEK: Well I was very opposed to the Australia card back in the day for all the usual privacy reasons, but I do certainly think we could make better use of data matching in the Commonwealth area and between the Commonwealth and the States. I don't think Australians like the idea of having to carry a mandatory ID card around with them though.
LOXLEY: Alright we'll get some traffic first with Chris and then we'll come back with Tanya Plibersek and Josh Frydenberg.
You're with Alicia Loxley and for Pollie Graph we have Minister for the Enivronment and Energy Josh Frydenberg, and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Tanya Plibersek, with me. I wanted to ask you both about the Australian Bureau of Statistics reporting back that 57 per cent of ballots have now been returned as part of the same-sex marriage postal survey. Josh Frydenberg, your response? Were you surprised by how high the number has been so far?
FRYDENBERG: I've been pleasantly surprised by that Alicia. Obviously I support the Yes case. I think a higher turnout could augur well for the Yes case, but obviously that is still to be determined. But with nearly 60 per cent of people having already submitted their forms, that is a very positive sign with just over 30 days left. And when you look at comparable plebiscite if you like, or referendums such as in Ireland, they only had a 60 per cent turnout. So we're measuring up pretty well with still a month to go.
LOXLEY: Tanya Plibersek?
PLIBERSEK: It is a better turnout than I expected at this stage of the campaign, so full credit to those who've been campaigning for turning out the vote. The problem is a more fundamental one Alicia, that we shouldn't be wasting $122 million dollars. Bob Hawke was talking at the press club today about what a waste of money this is, I've got a medical service for homeless people in my electorate that closed because the Government couldn't find $800,000 a year to fund it - but we can find $122 million to do this. It's ridiculous.
LOXLEY: Josh Frydenberg, do you have any regrets about how it has played out and where we are as a country in terms of the dialogue about same-sex marriage?
FRYDENBERG: Look I think by and large people have been very respectful -
LOXLEY: Do you? Really?
FRYDENBERG: Yeah, I think by and large they do. You always get instances where people go off the reservation - headbutting politicians is pretty unacceptable conduct for example, and then you know, other forms of abuse. And there is no place for that in the community and we should call that out when we see it. But at the same time, this is a major national process, the result will have a significant implication either way for how this proceeds, and so therefore by and large it's been conducted in a positive, constructive way.
PLIBERSEK: Well Alicia, I think Josh is right in terms of very high profile incidents, but I think the harm in this is actually at a much more human level. I visited a Headspace youth mental health service last week in Sunshine, and the young people there were talking about the distress that this is causing them. We know that calls to Beyond Blue have increased by 40 per cent. We've written to the Government asking for extra support for Beyond Blue and other counselling services - that hasn't happened. I meet people all the time, they thought they were just fine with who they are, they're out, they're proud, but this is taking a toll on everybody. It is taking a toll on everybody.
LOXLEY: Michael has called in from Keilor with a question. Hi Michael.
CALLER: I just wanting to ask the Minister, will you ask him to give examples of the drivers licenses against passports - two of the examples he mentioned were people who tried to bomb the plane and then he mentions people around airports. And I'm just wondering how them having the knowledge of the passports, drivers licenses, how in any way having drivers licenses images would help? I mean, even the lone gunman in Sydney at the cafe, how would having the drivers license help find terrorists?
LOXLEY: Josh Frydenberg?
FRYDENBERG: Well about half the population today have a photograph in a Federal Government database, of one kind or another like a passport or some other form of identification. That means around half the population don't and we would obviously welcome a larger database so that the police and law enforcement agencies are able to more quickly identify people of interest, those who may be suspected of various activities such as terrorism. So by having a larger database, given the techniques that the law enforcement agencies use, this is no doubt going to be beneficial to them.
LOXLEY: Tanya Plibersek, your response?
PLIBERSEK: Well I think your caller's right, in the horrible situation in Martin Place, this wouldn't have made a difference. But it may in other circumstances. We need to see the details and we need to see whether there are proper safeguards to make sure that this information is used appropriately.
LOXLEY: Just before I let you both go. Of course the horrific incident that we've seen in Las Vegas, there has been raging debate in the US about gun control. We've got a text message here saying: “I feel more threatened by politcians like Leyonhjelm and Katter thinking about loosening gun control laws than by terrorism”. Josh Frydenberg to you first, do you believe is the gun control debate over in Australia? Because after 5:00 pm we're speaking to a local politician who thinks they should be relaxed.
FRYDENBERG: Well I'm certainly against any relaxing of gun laws, and I think I speak for the vast majority of Australians. We are horrified to see the innocent loss of life in the United States, again, and there is too many cases of these lone wolf shootings for them to be isolated instances. They're not, and I think many people in the United States look to Australia's gun laws as a model for what they would hope their country to adopt. And John Howard deserves a lot of credit for what he did back when he was Prime Minister in legislation for these changes, and no one will ever forget that iconic photo of him turning up at a rally with his bullet-proof vest showing through his suit because of the threats that he faced. The various reforms that he sought which have stood the test of time, and we've all been the beneficiaries of it.
LOXLEY: And just quickly, Tanya Plibersek, is vigilance still needed here in Australia?
PLIBERSEK: I absolutely agree that it was probably the best thing that the Howard Government did. Very brave at the time and brave of Tim Fischer as well. But I do have concerns that things have been slipping in recent years. I think the debate around the Adler classification shows that there is division within the Liberal and National Parties and I was actually very surprised to hear Minister Keenan today didn’t realise that a piece of legislation that had passed the Senate, was ready to be voted on in the House of Representatives that would actually tighten the provisions around gun trafficking, was just stalled in the House of Representatives. Labor wrote to the Minister in May asking him to bring this legislation on, it's the Government's own legislation with amendments proposed by Labor but accepted by the Government. It's just been sitting there and apparently the Minister didn't realise that it had passed through the Senate.
LOXLEY: We'll have to leave it there. Tanya Plibersek, Josh Frydenberg, thanks so much for your time on Pollie Graph this week.
FRYDENBERG: Nice to be with you both.