National Security

Transcript | Sky News Bolt Report | 29 May 2024

May 29, 2024

Wednesday 29 May 2024
Interview on Sky News The Bolt Report
Subjects: Giles admits guilt by revising direction 99, Alarm bells ring on CCP spies in Australia, security clearances for parliamentary staffers

JAMES MCPHERSON: Well, there were extraordinary scenes in a Senate estimates hearing last night when the head of the Department of Home Affairs heard for the first time that a repeat rapist had been allowed to stay in Australia. Senator James Paterson read the story from the front page of The Australian newspaper, about a British born man who had his visa reinstated despite being convicted of sexually attacking 26 women. When Senator Paterson asked what government representative Senator Murray Watt and Head of Home Affairs Stephanie Foster had to say about the matter, they said this was the first they had heard of it. Extraordinary. Have a look at how it went down.


JAMES PATERSON: How on earth have we found ourselves in a situation where, as a result of a ministerial direction, The AAT is allowing people like this to stay in our country.

MURRAY WATT: Well, I think, you know, you have just pointed us to an article that none of us have had an opportunity to read, let alone fact check. So I think we would probably need a little bit of time to do that.

PATERSON: Minister just on a human level, surely you can react to that information.

WATT: Well, I'd want to make sure that everything in the article is accurate to begin with. I'm not saying it's not. I just don't know.

PATERSON: This decision was in February. This is not a long time ago. The department should be across this case. Is the department aware of this case?

STEPHANIE FOSTER: [long pause] Senator. I'm sorry, I just don't...

PATERSON: I see people shaking their heads, but Hansard won't pick that up.

FOSTER: I just don't have enough... Information to be able to answer that question sensibly.


MCPHERSON: Unbelievable. Well today, the government went into damage control, announcing they would revise direction 99 following multiple scandals this week. Senator James Paterson joins me now. James, as I watched that, I was shocked at the response. Were you shocked?

PATERSON: I wish I could say I was shocked, James, but we've seen this pattern of behaviour from the department under this government time and time again. They are just not on top of the very serious community safety problems that we face, and some of which were caused directly by decisions of the government. The government has effectively made a very serious admission of guilt today. They are now going to revise direction 99 issued by Andrew Giles after spending days defending it, spending further days blaming everyone else other than themselves. First it was the AAT, then it was the Home Affairs Department. Now they have finally admitted, actually the core of the problem here was their own direction, which they issued under their own minister. No one forced them to do that. It's their responsibility.

MCPHERSON: So as you pointed out, they are going to revise Direction 99, two questions. How are they going to revise it? What's going to be different and why has it taken them this long?

PATERSON: Two great questions that I wish I could answer with more certainty myself, but direction 99 never needed to be issued in the first place. The system we had under the previous government was perfectly fine, and the rule was if you're a violent non-citizen, you commit a crime, you get deported. But this government caved in to lobbying from Jacinda Ardern, who didn't want to deal with the consequences of New Zealand citizens who committed serious crimes in our country being deported back to her country. That's a request she made of us as well in government. But we declined that request because we put community safety of Australians first. This government hasn't done so under a weak Prime Minister. So we are yet to see how it will be revised, but it shouldn't have even happened in the first place.

MCPHERSON: I want to flick to a different subject for a moment. The News Corp Defending Australia summit heard that there's around 1200 Chinese spies in Australia. This is according to a former spy who goes by the name of Eric. Is this a surprise to you? And what, if anything, should Australia be doing about it?

PATERSON: I don't know whether those specific numbers are correct, but Eric has been profiled in the media as a credible former Chinese spy who has defected and is seeking to stay in Australia. So I think we need to take his warnings very seriously. It is a further reminder of what we have heard from our intelligence agencies for some years, which is that espionage and foreign interference is our number one national security threat. And I can also say that China is the number one source of that threat, and that daylight comes second. It is a overwhelming and serious threat that is intervening at every level of our country and democracy, and they intend to do us real harm. Now, what does it require of us in return? Steely resolve to defend Australia and our democracy. And I wish I had confidence that this government always did so. But often you see them putting the bilateral relationship with the People's Republic of China ahead of defending our country, like when the Prime Minister has repeatedly failed to raise with his counterpart the issues of the irresponsible and dangerous behaviour of the People's Liberation Army towards Australian service personnel.

MCPHERSON: Mike Burgess, the head of ASIO, reported that I think back in 2018 we had at least one federal politician compromised by Chinese spy agencies. How can we be sure this is not going to happen again, when it's pretty clear that there's a lot of espionage activity taking place?

PATERSON: We can't be sure. And in fact, the history of the Cold War is lots of people betrayed our country, probably including sitting politicians, most of whom got away with it and were never prosecuted for it. And that is a national shame. What can we do now? Well, we need to make sure our intelligence agencies have the powers and the resources they need to defend our country against this very serious threat. We also need political leadership. We need the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister and the Defence Minister to stand up for our country and our interests, and not to treat the bilateral relationship with China as an end in itself. Bilateral relationships are a means to the end and the end is securing Australia's national interest. And unfortunately, we've seen of this government too often they compromise our national interest in the pursuit of a bilateral relationship with China and in this strategic environment, and with the malign intent of this Chinese government, that is a very dangerous thing to do.

MCPHERSON: Just very quickly, before we finish. Political staffers, obviously, I would imagine there'd be police checks done when politicians are employing staffers. But is there anything relating to national security?

PATERSON: No, there are no checks done. Not even police checks for many political staff employed in this building. Certainly no security checks at all – it’s not even an option if you are not a minister, if you are a backbencher or opposition or crossbencher, to have your staff cleared. I think that is a reckless and dangerous oversight. And I've been calling for it to be rectified for some time. Even if you're a member of the intelligence committee. You can't have your staff cleared. That's insane when we know there are people in the United Kingdom right now facing charges who are alleged to be spying on behalf of China, who were working for UK politicians, and using that privileged position, allegedly to aid the interests of China and not the interests of the United Kingdom. That could be happening here, but we're none the wiser because we're not adequately checking and clearing our staff.

MCPHERSON: Unbelievable stuff. James Paterson, thank you for your time. I really appreciate it.


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