TRANSCRIPT - Sky News, Tuesday, 30 September 2014

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SUBJECT/S:  Police Raids, National security, Iraq, Syria, Hong Kong.

KIERAN GILBERT, PRESENTER: Now for more reaction on this story and other related issues, I spoke to the Shadow Foreign Minister, Tanya Plibersek.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Well, Kieran, obviously I can’t add anything to the details because this is information that’s just becoming available now. What I would make is a general comment – our national security agencies, our intelligence agencies have been doing excellent work keeping Australians safe.

GILBERT: Alright well, we can talk specifically about this report on the front page of The Australian then about this super security agency, there’s been a fair bit of speculation that the Government was heading in that direction, Julie Bishop has seemed to push back very strongly against this idea, what’s Labor’s view on that sort of agency, an overarching agency like that?

PLIBERSEK: Well certainly we’ve received no information from the Government, no briefing along these lines, Julie Bishop says that it’s not something that’s currently before the national security committee or the Cabinet. We’ve heard other criticisms of it from Michael Wesley and people like that. It’s really difficult to see whether this is a serious proposal from the Government or just some internal speculation.

GILBERT: There’s been some- well, a fair bit of strong speculation that this might be necessary because of a lack of coordination in terms of information flow, is that something that you heard separate to this issue that the agencies may not have been working as effectively as they should be?

PLIBERSEK: Well, no, I haven’t heard that, I haven’t heard that suggested by any of the security or intelligence agencies or the federal police. They seem to have very good relations between them and very good cooperation and I think that the proof of that is in the pudding. We have in recent years disrupted a number of planned terrorist attacks in Australia, people have been gaoled for that, most recently there’s been activity that’s prevented an alleged plot. So I think the fact that we have managed to keep Australians safe in the way that we have is evidence that the agencies are doing good work.

GILBERT: Julie Bishop seemed to suggest that in the last 24 hours that Labor had not focussed as much as it should have on counter terrorism, hence the need for the Government to stump up more than $600 million in additional funding. What is your response to that criticism?

PLIBERSEK: I think it’s extremely disappointing that she should be playing politics at a time like this. I have just described here that our agencies are doing excellent work, those staff - hardworking, dedicated personnel. In terms of funding, we increased funding to ASIO for example by about a third when we were in government and we increased their staffing levels by about a third. It’s just very disappointing that the Foreign Minister would be playing politics with this sort of very important issue.

GILBERT: Let’s look at a related matter and that being the fight against Islamic State. What do you say to criticism that the Australian leadership has not provided a clear enough, a cogent enough, strategic argument as to why we’re getting into this in the first place?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think the argument on Iraq is very clear, we’ve been invited by a democratically elected government to help protect their civilians from an imminent threat of mass atrocity crimes. That’s very clear, you couldn’t have clearer logic and frankly, you couldn’t have a clearer responsibility on Australians. We think of ourselves as good international citizens, we- when Labor was in government we ran for a position on the Security Council which of course increases our levels of international responsibility. We’ve had Foreign Ministers like Gareth Evans who’ve been involved in international moves to institute a responsibility to protect doctrine that says the world community, when a government can’t look after its own people for some reason, the world has a responsibility to protect so that we don’t see the mass atrocity crimes such as we’ve seen in Rwanda and Srebrenica and many places in the past. So that logic is clear, Syria becomes a much more complex question because the legal authority doesn’t exist for the same sort of intervention, however the humanitarian need is great and I think our responsibility as Australians at this stage is to focus on what we could do much better to assist the people of Syria, millions of whom have been displaced from their home. Around half the country has been displaced from their homes, millions in neighbouring countries, millions moved, about 200,000 dead. We could do much better than we are with humanitarian assistance.

GILBERT: Ok well given the blurred lines when it comes to Syria and when it comes to Labor’s view on Australian involvement there, what’s your view on the US involvement, because they have been leading the airstrikes against IS targets there?

PLIBERSEK: And that really has to be a matter for the United States, they have brought together a coalition of countries neighbouring Syria. They’ve got Arab league cooperation in what they’re doing. I think Australia has to make decisions that are in Australia’s interests and according to our laws and values and at this stage we haven’t seen a clear evidence of a legal basis for intervention and we haven’t, most particularly, we haven’t had laid out what would be our objective, who would we be fighting alongside of, how would we determine when we are successful? These are questions that you would really want to answer before you engage in military action.

GILBERT: I guess though there is the other argument that if you don’t target IS in Syria you’re not really targeting their strongholds because they are very, very strong in northern Syria, more so than Iraq.

PLIBERSEK: Look, I certainly understand the proposition that’s being put that you can’t have a- where you’ve got a porous border and people- terrorists moving back and forth across a porous border, you can’t ignore what’s happening in Syria. What I’m saying is that Australian military involvement is not the way that we should be involved at the moment, that we could provide much greater humanitarian assistance, of course we should be working with countries in the neighbourhood and countries around the world to starve IS of resources but it is much better if this is- if there is any military action that it is undertaken by countries in the region protecting their region from this threat.

GILBERT: To finish now on the Hong Kong protests, are you confident that the Chinese leadership will show restraint in the face of these ongoing protests from tens of thousands on the streets of Hong Kong?

PLIBERSEK: Well certainly the signs over the last couple of days is that there has been a good change in the feeling of the protests, that they’ve become less tense, more celebratory. We are in Australia very strong supporters of democracy, one vote, one value, but it’s not for me to comment on the internal mechanisms for democracy in other countries.

GILBERT: But there is a legacy of cracking down on students as we all know, sadly in China, you’d be hoping the leadership shows restraint in this case.

PLIBERSEK: And certainly the indications over the last 24 hours is that the authorities have stepped down the pressure on the protestors and that the mood of the protest has changed significantly, which of course is something to celebrate.

GILBERT: Shadow Foreign Minister Tanya Plibersek, thanks for your time, I appreciate it.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.


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