National Security

Transcript | Doorstop Australian Parliament House | 08 April 2024

April 8, 2024

Monday 08 April 2024
Doorstop interview at Parliament House
Subjects: another illegal boat arrival, supermarket code of conduct, appointment of Mark Binskin

JAMES PATERSON: Good morning. What's very clear is the Prime Minister has lost control of Australia's borders, and he has no idea what to do to restore them. In the last five months alone there have been three boats that have made it all the way to the Australian mainland. In the last two years, on this Prime Minister's watch, 13 have attempted that dangerous journey, more than 300 asylum seekers that we know of have attempted to come to Australia. This is a direct result of the Prime Minister watering down Operation Sovereign Borders. He abolished temporary protection visas. He plans to cut $436 million out of the border protection budget over the next three years, and his Minister for Home Affairs is out there publicly trashing regional processing - one of the key pillars of OSB - as a “festering sore”. What they need to do is reverse those bad decisions that we've warned them against. We told them if they did this, it would start the boats again. Lo and behold, that's exactly what's happened.

JOURNALIST: This has happened under increased aerial patrols, though. The government is out this morning saying that instead of cutting money they have added an additional $400 million. Do you think that this is an increased capability on behalf of people smugglers?

PATERSON: Well, the results are clear. When you look at the aerial surveillance hours, they're down 20% on this government compared to the previous government. The commissioner - Michael Outram - admitted that to me. In terms of the maritime patrol days, they're down 12% compared to the previous government. So they're not delivering the maritime surveillance and air surveillance that we need, and it's not a surprise that the boats are slipping through, and I think that's a recognition of two things: one, this government's lack of commitment to Operation Sovereign Borders - we know the Prime Minister used to rail against boat turn backs when he was in opposition - and two, the failure to adequately fund Operation Sovereign Borders with the resources they need.

JOURNALIST: Do you think temporary protection visas, were they to be introduced now, would actually have a tangible impact upon boat arrivals? Would they actually mean that people smugglers would instead stop making these trips?

PATERSON: Well, I think the damage was done when they were abolished, because that sends a signal to people smugglers and would be asylum seekers that this government is not serious about border protection, that it is not willing to enforce the tough policies that the previous government did and that's what's being tested. Now all they can do is reintroduce those successful policies. It won’t guarantee it fixes the problems they’ve caused, but at least it's a step in the right direction.

JOURNALIST: The interim report into supermarkets recommends a code of conduct; will the opposition support establishing one?

PATERSON: Look, it sounds like from a first reading a step in the right direction. We want to see the details, but we also think that there are more actions necessary to tackle the extraordinary cost of living crisis facing Australians, particularly with their grocery bills. We think a targeted divestment power is necessary so that the major supermarkets can’t use their market power to hurt consumers and drive-up prices.

JOURNALIST: This morning, Penny Wong has appointed Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin as a special adviser to the Australian Government, working with the IDF to investigate the killing of Zomi Frankcom in an airstrike. Do you have much knowledge of his background, his expertise? Do you think he’ll be able to fill the role and get the accountability the government says it's seeking for a resolution to this?

PATERSON: Well, Mark Binskin is a very senior, very respected, very decorated, Defence Force official. He's the kind of person you would appoint to a role like this, and we certainly welcome that appointment, that's a sensible appointment to be made. And it is very important we get to the bottom of exactly how Zomi Frankcom was killed. She should not have been killed, and it is important that Israel takes responsibility for this, as they already have, by launching their own investigation and dismissing some of the soldiers involved. I note though that Zomi Frankcom is not the first Australian who was killed as part of these attacks. Actually, Galit Carboni was killed on the 7th of October in Kibbutz Be’eri in her home, where she was busy minding her own business when Hamas stormed into her house and killed her. Now, the Albanese government's response to her death was not anywhere near as strong as it's been to Zomi Frankcom’s death. Where was the special investigator appointed to her? Where were the calls for Hamas to investigate this? Where were the calls for Hamas to sack people? I think a double standard has been introduced here, and I think only the government can explain that.

JOURNALIST: It’s not a double standard, because, I mean, Israel are our allies, we don't recognise Palestine, we especially don't recognise Hamas as the governing authority just as a terrorist organisation. Israel says it's, you know, one of the most just - the IDF sorry - is one of the most just and publicly scrutinized defence forces. Should they not be held to a different standard given the, you know, what they say about their own forces?

PATERSON: Well, it's absolutely true that we do hold Israel to a higher standard, and Israel is demonstrating that it holds itself to a higher standard because they have gone and taken action, they have gone and dismissed those soldiers. Hamas hasn't dismissed any fighters since the 7th of October. In fact, they celebrated them and what they did. I would note, though, that it is Labor Party national platform policy that a future Labor government should recognise Palestine as a country, and that would include Hamas as the governing authority of Gaza. Penny Wong herself moved that motion at Labor's national conference so they can't wash their hands and walk away from their responsibility in this. Thanks, everyone.


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