Television Interview, Today Show

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The Hon Richard Marles MP

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Defence

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02 6277 7800

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15 November 2023

SUBJECTS: High Court decision

SARAH ABO, HOST: For more, we're joined by Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles in Canberra. Richard, good to see you this morning. Now, that statement from Clare O'Neil shows the government appreciates, obviously, the gravity of this situation. So, what's the plan to protect those victims?

RICHARD MARLES, DPEUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, we are very concerned about this, as you've seen from the clip that you just ran of Clare then, and obviously we argued against this in the High Court, so this is not our decision. All of those people have been put on bridging visas in being released. They have been put on bridging visas with the strictest possible conditions, and as Clare O'Neil alluded to then we are now looking at every option available to us to see what more we can do, and that includes potentially moving down a legislative path. Bear in mind here that the High Court still hasn't actually released its full judgement, which makes the position of the government more difficult. But that said, our focus here is on community safety. I mean, people have an absolute right to feel safe in their homes, to feel safe in going about their lives. And so we will be looking at every possible option around how we can add to the existing restrictions that we've placed on these people.

ABO: Do you reckon its good enough, though, Richard, to be looking at everything you're talking about is sort of what's coming, right? I mean, you were briefing the AFP weeks ago, it seems odd that you weren't formulating your own legislation in preparation for this outcome. I mean, there's obviously no way of knowing how the High Court's going to rule. But surely you would have prepared for this as a potential outcome?

MARLES: Well, they are on bridging visas right now, on strict conditions right now. So, steps have already been taken and are in place. We are looking at what more we can do-

ABO: They are free. They can still run the streets.

MARLES: Well, they're not in jail, that's true, but they are in the community on strict conditions is the answer to that question which forms part of the bridging visas which have been issued to them on their release. So, in other words, in being released these conditions-

ABO: But where are they, though, as you know, Richard Marles, you've got pedophiles, for example, who are out. What's stopping them from walking by a school or living next to a person who's got young children? I mean, there are conditions that need to be in place for these kinds of people who have offended and who haven't been subjected to, similar to the prison system, any kind of rehabilitation programs either.

MARLES: Well, that's exactly where the conditions go, those issues. Clearly, we know where each of these people are and the conditions in place on them go to these issues and we are looking at what else we can do. Just in answer to your earlier question though, Sarah, the High Court knocked over a law which has been in place for 20 years. So, I know that the Opposition is making this point out there. The Opposition were in power for a decade here with these laws in place and nothing was done during that period of time-

ABO: This has gone through the High Court during your time, it might be unfortunate, obviously, and I take your point absolutely that the Opposition might have had some time to come up with a contingency plan, but this decision has come during your time in government. Therefore it falls on you, unfortunately, for you to come up with a solution. And surely the expectation is right that there should have been a solution in place.

MARLES: Well, there is in part, action that has already been taken and it's absolutely on us. We totally accept that we are the ones now responsible for dealing with this situation. I want to reiterate, all of these people are now on bridging visas right now with strict conditions being placed upon them. So, I don't want people to have a sense that they're able to operate with the kind of freedom that you and I can, there are strict conditions which are being applied to them. We know where they all are, but we're not stopping there is the point I'm really trying to make. And we are looking at what other options are available to us here and that includes legislative options. But again, reiterate that the High Court still hasn't actually given the full judgement. So, the precise reasons for the High Court's decision is not out there. And clearly what we want to do is, in any step that we now take, it needs to be legally robust. There's no point in walking down a path which then gets knocked over again by the High Court. So, this is a difficult situation, we are deeply concerned about it. Community safety is front and centre in terms of every action that we are taking here.

ABO: Yeah, I mean, obviously there is, you know, the High Court's independent. There's a starking disconnect right now between the government and the High Court. Bridging visas, you and I know what they mean, but I guess the everyday Australian May not necessarily understand what that means in terms of restrictions for these people. But I just want to get quickly from you as well, we've seen in western Sydney, Richard, you might have seen about that school that was rejected from the jumping castle situation. Is there anything the Federal Government can do here? Any anti-discrimination laws that you can enforce?

MARLES: Look, I'm not across the detail of, you know obviously, legislation needs to be applied fairly and without discrimination.

ABO: All right, no worries. We have run out of time. Thank you so much for your time. I appreciate it, Richard.


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