Community Safety

Transcript | 3AW Breakfast | 05 July 2024

July 5, 2024

Friday 05 July 2024
Interview on 3AW Breakfast
Subjects: Security breach at Parliament House, Senator Payman quits Labor

HEIDI MURPHY: Joining me on the line is James Paterson Victorian Liberal Senator, Shadow Home Affairs spokesman. James, thanks for your time this morning.

JAMES PATERSON: Good morning, Heidi.

MURPHY: Who should be investigating this?

PATERSON: Well, the Federal Police and the Department of Parliamentary Services have launched an investigation into how this very serious security breach happened. Because you're right, it shouldn't have happened. We spent $126 million of taxpayers money over the last decade or so, fortifying the building to prevent exactly this from happening.

MURPHY: How much?

PATERSON: $126 million.

MURPHY: On security or on other upgrades as well.

PATERSON: On fences, on bollards, on cameras, on a whole range of security measures and mitigations to prevent people from getting on to the roof of the Parliament or inside the Parliament without permission. And to explain to listeners, why this so dangerous. First of all, where they were standing is not a safe place to stand. Had they fallen they would have very seriously injured themselves, if not died. And the Federal police, who were trying to get them down, were also put at personal safety risk. But secondly, once you are on the roof, it gives you much easier access to the restricted areas of the building. The whole reason why the fencing and another obstacles were put in place was to prevent people from getting on there. Now at this time they were protesters that didn't have a violent intent, but unfortunately, we do know there are people in the community who do have violent intent towards the political system, or politicians, or their staff. And that's why these safety measures had been put in place and they very clearly failed.

MURPHY: It doesn't even seem like it was a terribly complex effort, it does? On what we know so far, it's not like, it was stealth and at night, it was in the middle of the day on a sitting day, when you're all there.

PATERSON: I asked the federal police about this yesterday, and in one sense, it was a sophisticated operation. What it appears the protesters did is they first called in fake reports to police, which diverted police resources around Canberra. Secondly, they set up a diversionary protest inside the building where they glued themselves to the floor of a public area of the building. And then thirdly, they scaled these fences and got onto the roof. Now it's the third part that's the biggest problem, because they shouldn't be able to just climb over these fences, they were designed not to do that. And as you say, when they unfurled their banners it included a Hamas symbol. The inverted red triangle is a symbol of the Al-Qassam brigades of Hamas, which is the militant wing of the terrorist organisation. And they use those red triangles in their propaganda to designate Israeli Defence Force targets. So to see that hanging from the Parliament of Australia is an absolute disgrace.

MURPHY: Does that mean they're open to higher penalties for displaying that symbol?

PATERSON: Yes, potentially. And again, I asked the federal police about this, last night in a committee hearing. At a starting point these people have been banned from the precinct for two years and have also been charged with trespass. But the federal police acknowledged that it's potentially possible to charge them with hate symbols breaches. If you use the symbol of a listed terrorist organisation, that is a breach of hate symbol legislation in this country and you can be prosecuted.

MURPHY: Not that, we want to make the decision for the courts, but this seems to fit that criteria.

PATERSON: I think police should be looking very closely at charging them over those issues.

MURPHY: Do you feel a little less secure in the Parliament now, you and your colleagues?

PATERSON: The only good news is they didn't gain access to the secure part of the inside of the building. But what they did would have allowed them to get close to being able to do that, which is very dangerous. And it is a failure. I mean, the Parliament spent a lot of money, of taxpayers money, on making it safer, not just for parliamentarians and their staff, but for the visitors of the building, for the schoolkids that come to watch question time and visit their members of parliament, and we want to have a Parliament that's open and accessible to the public. This is our democracy. This is the people's Parliament. You should be able to come and go there freely. But unfortunately, when incidents like this happen more security measures get put in place and it becomes a harder building to access.

MURPHY: That's the next step? More security measures, you reckon and will there be a push for further upgrade? What, slightly higher fences?

PATERSON: I suspect there will have to be further investment in security in the building. Because unfortunately next time it could be someone who has violent intent, who could do real harm. And we've seen in parliaments all around the world, there have been attacks on them as democratic institutions and the people within them. And they can end tragically, and that's the last thing we want to see happen in Australia.

MURPHY: I wanted to, just while I have you Senator, check in on your view on Senator Payman quitting Labor. Where do you stand on that idea of if you quit the party, you should quit the Senate? Are you elected as an individual? Or are you Elected as a representative of a particular party?

PATERSON: Legally and constitutionally, it's very clear she doesn't have an obligation to leave the Parliament having left her party. I think there's a bit of a moral and political obligation, though. I would never have been elected to the Senate as a Victorian for the Liberal Party, if I didn't have that Liberal Party endorsement next to my name, and she never would have been elected to the Senate for Western Australia without the Labor Party's endorsement. Unless you're a massive public figure, you are getting elected on the basis of your party endorsement. And so I do think it is a betrayal of your own party, and the members of that party, and the voters of that party who put their trust in you to represent the values of that party in the Parliament.

MURPHY: And just tapping in on your constitutional knowledge for a moment, if I may, there are reports today that, Senator Payman’s citizenship may be a live issue if someone were to mount a High Court challenge. Labor would have known that there's a potential issue there when they first endorsed her, right?

PATERSON: It's absolutely extraordinary that the Labor Party protected Fatima Payman's secrets while she was a member of the Labor Party. But the second that she leaves the Labor Party, they're trying to use those against her. They are either admitting that their vetting process has failed or that they willingly lied to the Australian people about her eligibility to sit in the Parliament. That's a very serious thing and I think the Prime Minister should front up and answer today, does he have any concerns about her eligibility to sit in the Parliament? When did he first learn about these concerns? Why did the Labor party's vetting processes fail, if they have failed?

MURPHY: Do you have any concerns about her eligibility to sit in the Parliament?

PATERSON: It's a complicated case because she's a citizen of another country where it's not easy to renounce your citizenship. It's now run by the Taliban. And the High Court has said, if you take all steps to remove your citizenship of another country, but you're not able to, then you are still able to sit validly in the Parliament. And so ultimately, it's up to the courts to decide whether or not Fatima Payman has taken reasonable steps or not.

MURPHY: All right, thank you. I know you need to get on a plane, I appreciate your time this morning.

PATERSON: Thanks, Heidi.


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