TRANSCRIPT: DOORSTOP INTERVIEW – LAUNCH OF THE NEW COMMAND AND CONTROL CENTRE
TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE
DATE: 14 October 2011
TOPICS: CHOGM; Malaysia Solution; GST; Release of Inquiry Officers Report.
STEPHEN SMITH: Thanks very much for turning up. Firstly, can I say how pleased I am to be here representing the Australian Government to mark the effective launch of the new Command and Control Centre. This has come about as a result of CHOGM coming to Perth and Western Australia.
Generally, of course, CHOGM will be a great opportunity for Perth and Western Australia; a great opportunity to showcase Perth, to showcase Western Australia, both as a venue for tourism but also as a great opportunity for investment.
One of the forums that runs parallel with the Leaders' Forum - the meeting of Prime Ministers and Presidents - is a CHOGM Business Forum. So Perth will be showcased, and that will be a terrific thing.
After the United Nations General Assembly Meeting of leaders and the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Union, CHOGM is the largest single gathering of leaders that the world sees. So this is a most significant event and a most significant opportunity for Perth and Western Australia and for Australia.
Regrettably, of course, it's a fact of the modern world that when you have such a large gathering you need to be very careful about security and you need to take every sensible precaution. And can I say in that respect that the Commonwealth Government and the Western Australian Government have been very pleased with the great cooperative efforts that we've seen, not just between the Australian Government and the Government of Western Australia but also between the relevant agencies.
The CHOGM taskforce, headed by Terry Crane, has done a terrific job working closely with the state and local authorities. And when it comes to security arrangements, the Western Australian Police have of course lead responsibility for security matters, working very closely with the Federal Police, also working closely with other Attorney-General Department agencies. And, of course, in my own case as Minister for Defence, there is Australian Defence Force personnel back-up should that be required.
But we see today, effectively, the launch, the opening of the new Command Centre. This is one of the things that will not only prove very useful for CHOGM but will leave an enduring and lasting piece of infrastructure that will provide very useful work and provide very useful opportunities into the future, and that's a great thing.
This will become one of the Western Australian Police's Command and Control Centres, so it will be useful and worthwhile into the future.
It's taken about $5 million to set this up; rule of thumb about $4 million from the Australian Government and $1 million from the Western Australian Government. And that's part of the overall arrangement and agreement between the Australian Government and the Western Australian Government about the funding of CHOGM.
But it's been a terrific cooperative venture. You can see from the screens that every possible security aspect is catered for, both open source and also CCTV, and it provides a very good mechanism, a very good device for the Western Australian Police to do their job during CHOGM. We know that will be a first-class job.
Whilst we have to take all the necessary precautions we are optimistic and confident that CHOGM will go without incident.
There will of course be some inconvenience to Western Australians, particularly in Perth, but we know that they will understand such inconvenience because, in the end, not only will we be left with long-lasting and worthwhile pieces of infrastructure like this, but we will be left with a terrific event which has showcased Perth, showcased Western Australia and showcased Australia.
I'll hand over to Rob and then to the Commissioner of Police, and Rob and I will be happy to answer your questions and other matters later.
ROB JOHNSON: This is a fantastic facility, one that certainly the State Government is very proud of and I know that the Federal Government have played a very major role in assisting WA Police in establishing this particular facility.
The Minister has said what we must do to ensure the safety of not only our visiting dignitaries but also the community of WA and we’ll be doing that in a way that will not impede the members of the community being able to enjoy this wonderful event of CHOGM.
We are not going to have massive steel barriers around the streets in WA. In Perth there will be very very minimal impact I believe on those people who want to come and watch and enjoy and look at the dignitaries in their vehicles and be able to enjoy that wonderful occasion.
This is a fantastic facility that we have here, that you will have seen today and we have taken some of the best facilities from other jurisdictions including the UK and I think what we’ll be left here is the best facility in the whole of Australia at this moment in time.
In relation to a major event such as CHOGM and as Stephen Smith has said we will have the benefit in WA of retaining this facility for major events that happen and any crisis that take place.
As our population grows we need to expand our facilities and our communication centres and adding facilities and this will play a integral role in years to come, so it is a great event.
Can I just say that the cooperation between both Stephen Smith and the Federal Government and the Premier here in Western Australia and the Western Australian Government has been tremendous in relation to CHOGM and we have come a very long way in a very short space of time and I think what we’ll have is a fantastic event that everyone will enjoy.
I just want to say that a very special thank you to the Deputy Commissioner, Chris Dawson who’s headed up this security operation here and on this particular facility he’s been working day and night, I know, he’s been working for the last six months in making sure we are ready for CHOGM and I can safely say that we are ready for CHOGM and we’ve got a tremendous team of Senior Police Officers and other Police Officers who have been working around the clock almost. To make sure that we are in a position to not only safe guard as I say the visiting dignitaries and not only the Queen herself but also the other members of the community.
So I’ll now hand over to the Commissioner who’ll give you more on operations.
KARL O’CALLAGHAN: CHOGM is the single biggest mobilisation of the Police in Western Australia ever. So in the whole history of the WA Police we’ve never had a mobilisation this large and we’ll have something like seven hundred police officers coming if from other parts of Australia and New Zealand. Five hundred from regional WA to make sure that the right level of security is around CHOGM and to make sure we continue with business continuity.
Obviously to do something like that you need a substantial command centre with cutting edge technology. We realised that some months ago the Midlands Command Centre was not going to be large enough for an operation of this size and if you think about this, in February this year this was a gymnasium and in very short order this has been changed into one of the most cutting edge state of the art command facilities in the whole of Australia.
You only have to look around you here to see the sorts of technology that’s available and see what Western Australian has now got. Behind you there are several screens, those screens will have a lot of information on them obviously you can see one screen there shows plane and aircraft movements. There is live CCTV feed from stationary CCTV and there is mobile CCTV feed. There is access to open source information and networks all over Australia and the world. You’ll also see WebEOC which is our online command centre operating. People can input data from real time from anywhere in the operation and this is really important for CHOGM. There will be something like a hundred people here at all times around the clock during CHOGM so you can get an idea of how big this operation actually is.
One of the important things for us is that this will become a legacy centre for us and we will be using the centre after CHOGM for major events. Those major events include things like the Australia Day events around Perth, New Years Eve but may also involve events around major investigations and emergency management as well, so we’re very pleased to have this centre both for CHOGM and for the long term for the benefit for the Western Australian community.
JOURNALIST: Can we ask a few questions about CHOGM? Some people in the CHOGM Action Group have come out and said that Police have raided their homes looking for spray cans and have accused police of being heavy handed. Do you think they were justified in doing that?
KARL O’CALLAGHAN: We are not at all surprised that they’ve made those claims; we are investigating unlawful activity as we are allowed to. This is currently a live investigation so I can’t comment on the elements of it but we will get this from time to time. We’re investigating unlawful activity, we have the power to do it and we will continue to do it and we know that there will be complaints.
JOURNALIST: Are you conducting surveillance of people who have said they will protest at CHOGM?
KARL O’CALLAGHAN: Again I’m not going to sit here and discuss Police tactics. There are lots of powers that we have currently. Our focus is on making sure that the delegates who come to CHOGM are well protected and well looked after and as the Commissioner of Police that is what I intend to do and I intend to use the powers at my disposal to do that.
JOURNALIST: What particular technology is there [indistinct]? Can you walk us through some of the things the WA Police will get to hang onto after CHOGM that they’re funded by the Federal Government?
KARL O’CALLAGHAN: Well, look all of the hardware equipment here will mostly remain here unless it’s owned by some other agency. So most of it will be here. This facility will be able to be expanded and contracted depending on what sort of operation we’re running. So now you can see that it’s at maximum capacity because of CHOGM and in future there may be less here, we may move things around but the facility will be here.
What’s important is we’ve got live feed information and access to information that we haven’t previously had easy access to at the [indistinct]. And I think they’re the important things as there is a lot of state of the art hardware here as well.
JOURNALIST: How does the security for this event compare to other major events that have been held around Australia previously?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well, as the Commissioner has said, we're very satisfied that we are essentially at state-of-the-art. We have had over the years experience in Australia at managing security for large events. This is the third CHOGM we've had in Australia, previously in Melbourne and in Coolum. Just a side; we're the first country to host three CHOGM’s, so that's a good thing for Australia. We've also recently had the experience in Sydney of APEC.
So all of that experience is shared and collected. And you might see when you go down the desks and the seating arrangements, that there is seating arrangements for other State Police Forces, for Commonwealth agencies, Federal Police, Australian Defence Force, and the like. So all of the collective experience that we have is being utilised and the facilities are state-of-the-art.
So we're very satisfied that cooperation between the Federal Government and the State Government, the cooperation between the Western Australian Police and the Federal Police, and the respective state agencies, has seen a very good facility which will help ensure that CHOGM security arrangements are as best as they can possibly be.
JOURNALIST: Minister, we've heard from protesters who have caused a bit of a ruckus at the APEC summit in Sydney recently. They plan to do some similar or play some similar games during CHOGM. Are you concerned about the security of delegates during that time when we have these sorts of threats?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well, as the Commissioner has said, in the first instance he has the primary responsibility for ensuring security of delegates. And neither the State of Western Australia nor the Australian Government will deviate from that starting point.
People are perfectly entitled in Australian society to make a point of view, to express a point of view, to protest. But if they protest, they have to protest peacefully and in accordance with the law.
So, provided people conduct themselves accordingly, there won't be any difficulties. It's when people don't conduct themselves in that manner that we run into difficulty.
So, in a society like Australia, in a city like Perth, we fully expect that people will want to express a point of view. But, as they do so, they need to conduct themselves peacefully, civilly and lawfully.
JOURNALIST: Is there any element of the Defence Force mobilising at CHOGM?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well, as you would have seen last week, the ADF are doing a range of exercises. The primary responsibility for security in such matters is, in the first instance, the state-based Police Force, so the Western Australian Police Force, working closely with the Federal Police and other State and Commonwealth agencies.
In extremes, Australian Defence Force personnel can be called upon. And in the last week or so you've seen exercises emanating out of our RAAF base in Pearce and also out of Campbell Barracks.
So they're essentially held in reserve. Obviously they're cooperating fully and supporting fully the efforts of the State and Australian Police, but on the basis that CHOGM proceeds, as we fully expect it to proceed, with security arrangements in-hand and under control, then you won't see the need for Australian Defence Force personnel to do anything other than to be held in reserve in the background.
JOURNALIST: Is it a failure of the Prime Minister's leadership that she's been unable to get these changes relating to asylum seekers through parliament?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well absolutely not. The difficulty that the Australian Government has on that matter is that we've been unable to get parliamentary support for a measure which would allow offshore processing, whether that offshore processing is in Malaysia and Papua New Guinea, which the Government wants, or in Nauru, which Tony Abbott wants and which he says he would effect if he came to office.
We can't get a bipartisan support for our legislation. Our analysis of that is a failure of Mr Abbott and a failure on his part to put the national interest first. All Mr Abbott has to do is to indicate that he supports our legislation. If he's elected at the next election that would enable him to pursue his so- called Nauru solution. In the meantime with no offshore processing, the very grave risk which the Prime Minister and the Minister for Immigration have made clear is that we see more boat arrivals and that will put pressure on our onshore and Christmas Island arrangements. So as the Prime Minister has said all Mr Abbott has to do is to indicate that he supports legislation and will support legislation which will enable the Government to pursue its Malaysian solution and Mr Abbott, if he was elected to office in two years' time to pursue his so-called Nauru solution.
JOURNALIST: The WA Government has put forward a submission for the Federal GST Review today. They're calling for a 75 cent floor in that. The Premier said there certainly will be a floor it's just there'll be argument about what the floor will be. Do you agree that there is a certainty of a floor?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well two things. Firstly I haven't seen the State submission, first point. Second point matters relating to the GST and the review are of course matters for my colleague the Treasurer Mr Swan. But as you would know, and this is the general comment I make, Mr Swan and the Government have effected a Review of those GST arrangements and Mr Swan and the Prime Minister have made it clear that we will await the outcomes of that review before engaging into results or outcome. So there's a process to go through.
It doesn't surprise me that the Premier has put forward a robust submission, that's entirely his right, but there's a Review that we have established, not established by previous Governments but a Review that we've established. That's a good thing and we'll await and see the outcome.
JOURNALIST: Will Julia Gillard be Prime Minister in a year's time?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well Julia Gillard will be Prime Minister in the last quarter of 2013 when we'll have the next election. We're effectively a year into our current term and in two years' time when we have an election the Australian community will have a choice between Tony Abbott as a negative opposition leader or Julia Gillard as the Prime Minister. That's a choice the Australian community will have in two year's time.
JOURNALIST: You're not interested in the job?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well there's no vacancy and I've made it clear, like the Foreign Minister, that we both fully support the Prime Minister.
JOURNALIST: Minister in regards to the report on the chopper crash that killed three privates in Afghanistan last year why did it take the Australian Government so long to release that report from US investigators?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well firstly the Vice Chief of the Defence Force has released the report today in Canberra, that was after the families were briefed about the contents of it during the week. It's not a matter of the Government's failure to release the Report. The Report came to the Department of Defence in October last year and came to my desk in August of this year and I authorised this release in September of this year.
I have asked the Chief of the Defence Force to report to me as to why there was such a delay getting in the hands of the Defence Department and coming to my desk. And the Chief of the Defence Force himself is as concerned about this delay as I am and, as the Vice Chief of the Defence Force has made it clear today, this delay has only caused to add to the distress of the families, that's deeply regrettable. The Chief of the Defence Force has apologised personally to the families concerned. The Prime Minister has expressed her regrets to the families for this delay. It should not have occurred and I've asked for an exhaustive analysis as to why it has occurred. It's deeply regrettable and should not have happened.