National Security

Transcript | ABC News Breakfast | 08 April 2024

April 8, 2024

Monday 08 April 2024
Interview on ABC News Breakfast
Subjects: Another illegal boat arrival, AUKUS and Japan, Supermarket review, Israel-Gaza

BRIDGET BRENNAN: The federal government has defended its border security measures after a boat turned up on the Kimberley coast in WA. The third known arrival since November. The Prime Minister says there's been no change to policies in place since 2013. Shadow Home Affairs Minister James Paterson joins us now from Canberra. Very good morning to you Senator, welcome to the program.

JAMES PATERSON: Good morning.

BRENNAN: Well, what do you make of what the Prime Minister said here, that there's actually been no change in policy and there should be no increased concern about this arrival.

PATERSON: Well unfortunately, there's been one very big change to the policy, and that is the abolition of temporary protection visas. They were introduced back in 2013 to take away the incentive for people to get on boats, to come here and to live up to the promise that Kevin Rudd first made, which is if you come here by boat without a valid visa, you will not be resettled in Australia. Now, the abolition of that visa by this government has sent the wrong message to people smugglers and would-be asylum seekers, and regrettably appears to have encouraged them to get on boats again. And the reason why that's such a problem is that we know that last time that cost at least 1200 lives at sea. We don't want to see that happen again. We don't want to see people drowning on unseaworthy vessels on the way to Australia. And my great fear is we've already had 13 attempted boat arrivals, three which have made it through the Australian mainland, we're about to see that happen again.

BRENNAN: So Senator just to clarify, are you concerned that they made it to the mainland, or do you have some figures to show that boats are increasing from their point of destination as well?

PATERSON: I'm very concerned they made it through the Australian mainland. That's a very unusual event historically in Australia over the last decade. And yet we've had three break through to the mainland in the last five months and drop off asylum seekers and return again without being detected. Now, that's a result of the failure to have adequate maritime surveillance and aerial surveillance of our northwest approaches under this government. That's down by 20% in the case of aerial surveillance and down by about 12% in the case of maritime sea days. And the result of that failure to deliver that surveillance is that boats are slipping through. Normally they would be intercepted and they'd be turned around, or those asylum seekers would be taken to a regional processing centre. But if they are making their way past that detection, past that surveillance onto the Australian mainland, that same opportunity doesn't exist for Border Force.

BRENNAN: Would the coalition commit to further funds? You know, at the next election to ensure that, as you say, you've got concerns about that surveillance and the and the equipment, do you believe not enough has been spent on this in this term?

PATERSON: I am concerned with the planned cuts to Border Force over the forward estimates. In the February estimates variation just released, it shows that $436 million are going to be ripped out of Border Force over the next three years. That's a very strange decision to make at a time when our borders are being tested again by people smugglers and their evil trade. If it's necessary to restore that funding to get those aerial surveillance hours and those maritime patrol days back up to where they need to be, then you can count on the Coalition to do that, because we take border protection very seriously.

BRENNAN: There is news this morning about Japan potentially joining AUKUS. What do you make of that?

PATERSON: If we were to invite any other partner to join AUKUS Japan is the most logical one. It's a country which shares our perspective, our values, our interests, and has very significant industrial and technological capabilities to contribute to AUKUS. Having said that though the traditional three partners, the original three partners of AUKUS have an enormous amount of work to do, both with the pillar one submarines and the pillar two advanced capabilities. And I want to be reassured that the government is confident that all of that work is happening, that it's underway before we bring on any new partners and any new complexity that results as part of that.

BRENNAN: This interim review into supermarkets, Doctor Emerson, recommends new mandatory code of conduct for supermarkets. Do you think that's a sensible suggestion?

PATERSON: Look, we think that's a step in the right direction, but we also think, as Peter Dutton and David Littleproud have explained, that a very targeted divestment power for the supermarket industry is necessary to protect consumers and make sure that supermarkets are not using their market power to advantage themselves to the disadvantage of Australians who are out there filling their groceries right now.

BRENNAN: On Israel, its investigation into what happened in Gaza last week in the and the deaths of those aid workers, including Australian Zomi Frankcom. Do you think that was an adequate investigation, Senator? Would you have liked to have seen more accountability for those involved?

PATERSON: Well, I welcome the seriousness with which Israel is approaching this issue. It is good that there's been an investigation, and it's good that the people who are identified as responsible for those deaths have already been sacked, and other consequences to flow. It's my understanding it's just an interim process and there are other processes underway, as you would expect from a liberal democracy like Israel. It stands in stark contrast, of course, with their opponents in Hamas, who also killed an Australian citizen, Galit Carbone, on the 7th of October. There's been no investigation in Hamas, and no one's been sacked in Hamas for that death. And I have to say, the Australian government hasn't been anywhere near as vocal about Galit Carbone, as they have been about Zomi Frankcom. My view is that every Australian life is of equal value. Neither of their deaths should have happened. Both of their deaths deserve condemnation.

BRENNAN: The government just announced that Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin will serve as Special Adviser to the government on Israel's response to the Israel Defence Forces strikes, which we're speaking about at the moment. Do you know, Chief Marshal Binskin? is this an appropriate announcement that they'll have this role overseas to be monitoring Israel's response to this?

PATERSON: I've certainly observed Chief Binskin in Senate estimates and other forums. And he's a very well-respected, very senior defence leader, and he's an appropriate appointment for a role like this. It is important that Australia has its own perspective on this investigation and that Israel cooperates with that so we can form our own view about the responsibility here. But again, it is admirable that Israel is taking this seriously and acting in the way they are.

BRENNAN: Senator, thanks for your time this morning.

PATERSON: Thank you.


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