National Security

Transcript | Channel 7 Sunrise | 17 June 2024

June 17, 2024

Monday 17 June 2024
Interview on Channel 7 Sunrise
Subjects: Labor’s weakening of our borders, China-sponsored attacks on critical infrastructure

MONIQUE WRIGHT: There are growing concerns this morning over the security of our national borders after authorities intercepted the fourth boat this year allegedly trying to smuggle foreign nationals from China into this country. The incident has prompted calls by the opposition to increase patrols and ramp up aerial surveillance, with the Shadow Home Affairs Minister saying that this is yet another failure by the government to properly monitor and secure our borders. Senator James Paterson joins us now. Morning to you Senator, thanks for being with us. Okay, so you've been quoted this morning as calling this a failure, but wasn't it actually a successful implementation of Operation Sovereign Borders?

JAMES PATERSON: Well, but my count Mon this is the 15th boat which has attempted to make this dangerous journey to Australia.

WRIGHT: Sorry to interrupt, but didn't this one work?

PATERSON: You're right. It's good news that on this occasion it was intercepted. But it's bad news that people are still attempting this journey. And there has been three boats since the election that have made it all the way to the Australian territory. And it's no surprise that they've done so because aerial surveillance on this government's watch is down 20% and on water patrol days is down 12%. And we know why that's the case, because we learned recently that some of our Cape class patrol vessels have been setting themselves on fire at sea and having to limp back to port for repairs instead of monitoring our borders. This government has to get serious about protecting our borders and providing ABF with the resources they need to get that maritime and aerial surveillance back up to where it should be.

WRIGHT: Okay, but those people still won't be able to settle in Australia?

PATERSON: That's right. If you arrive in our waters and you are intercepted by ABF, they will take you and send you to regional processing where your claims will be assessed. The danger though is Mon, that’s not what the people smugglers are telling desperate asylum seekers. What they're telling them is that we can get you through to the Australian mainland, that you will make it, and then you have a chance. And that's a really dangerous message for them to be able to sell. We

have to take that message away by successfully stopping them from getting to the Australian mainland and our territorial waters. That's virtually unheard of in the last decade of border protection policy for boats to make it through to the Australian mainland. But it's happened on three occasions on this government watch, and that's three times to many.

WRIGHT: Okay. All right. Let's move on now. You've been also quoted in the paper this morning saying that spying by the Chinese has never been more prolific. Your intelligence is suggesting that the hacking into power, water, transport networks, that is for future sabotage. What would you be doing differently to deal with this?

PATERSON: Well, a couple of things. One, what we did in government is we resourced of the Australian Signals Directorate with record resources to take up the fight to cyber hackers, including from nation states like China, to defend our country. We passed critical infrastructure legislation to require businesses to do more to defend themselves. But we also have to go on the offensive here. We have to let countries know that when they do this to us, we're going to call them out publicly and embarrass them for this activity. We can even use sanctions under our Magnitsky sanctions framework to put a personal financial cost on the people who are responsible for these attacks on Australia. And this government has never used those powers against the Chinese government, even though it is the number one source of state backed cyber attacks on our country. And as you say, they're looking at civilian infrastructure right now: water, electricity, transport, payment system networks, things which they have no need to be on except to do us harm if they choose to.

WRIGHT: Yeah, very ominous to think that they're looking at future sabotaging attacks. All right. Senator James Paterson, thanks so much for being with us.

PATERSON: Thank you.


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