Subjects: Counter terrorism, ADF, ABCC, ICAC
I’m here with the Minister for Defence and the Minister for Justice and the Minister assisting me on counter terrorism to have a demonstration from the ADF on their counter terrorism capabilities. As you know the primary responsibility for responding to a terrorist incident is with the State and Federal Police forces. But the ADF has considerable counter terrorism capability which it is constantly improving, and training and refining, and we’re here to have a briefing and demonstration of some of those capabilities.
Can I just say this visit has been arranged for some months but it is of course especially topical in light of the attacks in Brussels and in Lahore over Easter. I just want to repeat what I’ve said previously that the Australian people send their condolences, their thoughts and prayers to the victims and the families of the victims in those attacks, and the people of Brussels and Lahore have our total solidarity in the battle against terrorism. And this is – our capability of our Defence Forces in that regard is what we’re here to see and discuss with our Defence Chiefs and of course the Ministers.
So, I’ll ask the Defence Minister, Senator Payne, to make a few remarks and then I’ll ask the Justice Minister, Michael Keenan, to make a few remarks, especially in light of his recent international visit to discuss international cooperation in this very important area.
Thank you very much, PM, and good morning. It is a very valuable opportunity to have the PM here this morning to provide a demonstration of the Australian Defence Force's capability in counter terrorism activities. Of course we work closely with the State and Federal Police and particularly with Minister Keenan in any contingency which might require a response in that regard. But it is important to be able to demonstrate the interaction that is possible between our agencies and to provide a chance for the Prime Minister and Minister Keenan to see it first hand, these very important capacities that we have. So I welcome you both here this morning. Thank you very much for your time. Great to be here with Craig Kelly, the Member for Hughes, and I look forward to a chance to show you the demonstrations we have ahead, Prime Minister.
Thank you. Michael?
Thank you, Prime Minister. It's good to be here with you and the Defence Minister and Craig Kelly, whose electorate we are in. The ADF demonstration that we will be seeing today is part of the broad spectrum of Commonwealth response we have to counter terrorism incidents in Australia. As the Prime Minister said, the primary responsibility lies with State and Federal Police. But the ADF has an involvement at one particular end of the scale, should they be required.
As the Prime Minister said, I have just returned from a trip to Europe – Germany, France, the United Kingdom – and obviously our thoughts and prayers are with those that died in Belgium and also in Pakistan. But what I found out on that trip is the response we have had here in Australia in terms of what we have done over the past 18 months in the legislative sense and in resourcing sense means that Australia is leading the world in our response to this significant deterioration in international security.
The things that we have done here are looked at by our friends and allies as the model for what could be done. And the sorts of conversations they're having in Europe about what they need to do to respond to this threat are the sort of things we have already actioned here in Australia. So it's good to be reminded about the strength of our counter terrorism response by seeing the ADF capability here today. And it's very good to join with my colleagues to get this briefing.
Very good. Thank you – well, and so if you have some questions for me or the Ministers or the Member for Hughes – Craig Kelly – who is here as well, we are after all, we’ve just been in Menai together meeting many of his constituents. And we’re here as well in his electorate. So if you have any questions?
Prime Minister, just on another matter; why are you planning to dump the Abbott Government's health cuts and will you providing a $5 billion stopgap measure to the states later this week?
Well, it's very important that the Federal and State and Territory governments work hand-in-hand, very collaboratively and closely and cooperatively in terms of health funding. The health budget is enormous, spread across state and Federal Government, and it is vital that we work closely together on hospitals. And yes, I can't confirm the figures that have been in the press, but we will be presenting to the Premiers and the Chief Ministers a proposal that’s obviously under discussion at the moment which will see us maintaining the commitment to activity-based funding and a national efficient price which will ensure that everything we are doing at the Federal level is calculated to ensure that Australians get the best care in hospitals and that hospitals are delivering that care to Australian patients as efficiently and effectively as we can.
Prime Minister, is this just a ploy to silence the States given that they planned or considering a campaign during the election?
Our focus is on the health of Australians, I can assure you.
Any dollar value on it?
This is a discussion with the Premiers and the Chief Ministers. The discussions have been ongoing and we will have an outcome at the Premiers?what used to be called Premier’s Conference, now the COAG conference. It’s not as elegant a name but that meeting will be on Friday, Thursday night and Friday.
With regards to the New South Wales Liberals, Labor is calling for Arthur Sinodinos to stand down. Is his position in the Cabinet room safe?
Well Arthur Sinodinos is the Cabinet Secretary and a very important member of the Cabinet.
Do you think he has done anything wrong?
Can I just make this point that is important to bear in mind: Arthur Sinodinos, he's presented a very detailed response to the matters that have been raised. You've got to remember this issue was investigated by the ICAC, which has effectively got all the powers of a royal commission. Arthur Sinodinos gave evidence on oath and his lawyers have presented a comprehensive response to this and I'd refer you to that.
Senator Bob Day says that the pair of you shared a phone call yesterday. What was discussed?
Well, Bob Day and I are old friends, actually. Bob Day has spent his lifetime in the construction industry, property industry and he knows that the Australian Building and Construction Commission Bill needs to be passed. Bob Day is?he speaks with real experience of that industry. And he knows that it’s vital to ensure that the rule of law applies in the construction sector and that if we bring back the ABCC, which is what we’re committed to doing, what we’re seeking to do, that’s why we’re bringing Parliament back on 18 April. If we are able to do that, it will ensure stronger economic growth, there’ll be more construction and more jobs in construction. So Bob understands this. He is not a theorist. He actually really understands it.
Now, if the object of bringing Parliament back is to secure the passage of the ABCC Bill and the Registered Organisations Bill which is?has the effect of requiring unions and employer organisations to be transparent and accountable in the way that companies have to be under the Corporations Law.
So, both of those are very important laws. Bob supports them and obviously if he can get the six of the independent Senators, the crossbench Senators, to support those laws, then they’ll pass. Then there will no longer be a deadlock and there won’t be a double dissolution. But it’s?you know Bob is seeking to do that. He is showing real leadership and he is speaking. When Bob Day talks about the need, the need for a Building and Construction Commission, when he talks about the need for the rule of law on construction sites around the country, when he talks about the economic growth that will deliver, he is speaking from experience. He is not speaking as a politician. He is a man who has spent his whole life in that industry and he really understands it.
How much are you prepared to compromise? Are you open to the idea of a Federal ICAC?
Well, that is a completely different issue. What we have said is that we are?if Bob can present six Senators who are prepared to support the legislation and if the amendments they propose are ones that are consistent with the purpose and intent of the bill and don't weaken it, then we would consider them. Obviously, we don't know what they would be but we're dealing with the independents in good faith.
But this is a Building and Construction Commission Bill and while I recognise that some of the Senators feel there should be a Federal ICAC that, you know, deals with public servants and politicians and so forth, that is quite a separate issue and it's got really?really it's another issue. It may have?what its merits are is open to debate. But it's not – we are down to the short strokes now. We have got a Building and Construction Commission Bill. Its passage and the reintroduction of the Building and Construction Commission will ensure that the rule of law prevails in the construction sector. That will be good for the economy. It will be good for growth. It will mean there will be more houses built. It’s good for housing affordability. It’s good for jobs.
And you've only got to see the outlandish and extreme reaction of the CFMEU to this which, by the way, is one of the largest financial supporters of the Labor Party, and the Greens. If you look at the some of the material the CFMEU has been publishing, really the question should be to Mr Shorten is he going to disassociate himself from the appalling advertising that the CFMEU is putting out? The really extreme allegations that that union is putting out? And I suspect he won't because he is, after all, dependent on them for money and that is why he does as they ask.
So, on that note, thank you very much.
Henry Budd (Minister Payne's office) 0429 531 143
Defence Media (02) 6127 1999