National Security

Transcript | Sky News First Edition | 18 April 2024

April 18, 2024

Thursday 18 April 2024
Interview on Sky News First Edition
Subjects: ASF17 High Court case, Defence spending and China, Church stabbing in Sydney

PETER STEFANOVIC: Let's bring in the Shadow Home Affairs Minister James Paterson. James, as this all plays out, what's your view on events on where things are right now when it comes to that case?

JAMES PATERSON: Good morning Pete, look, it's a mug's game trying to predict how the High Court will rule in any case. But certainly journalists who cover those things and independent academic experts like Anne Twomey and others believe that the government has a strong case and think it's unlikely that the High Court would rule that ASF17 has been indefinitely detained like the NZYQ cohort. And the reason for that is this person has chosen not to cooperate with their own removal. They have been found by every court, every tribunal, who has considered their case not to meet the definition of a refugee under the international conventions and Australian law. And therefore, if the High Court was to find that this person was being indefinitely detained because they had failed to cooperate, that would send a terrible signal and give a terrible incentive to any other would be asylum seeker to never cooperate with Australian authorities in the hope that you'll eventually be released into the community. Now, it's my hope that the High Court understands the implications of that and decides accordingly.

STEFANOVIC: Yeah, I mean that's probably is a release of the pressure valve, is it not? If ASF17 stays in detention.

PATERSON: Well, certainly I think it would be welcome because otherwise the system of mandatory detention in Australia would be really brought into question, and whether or not the government could remove anyone who's found not to be a refugee from our country would be brought into question. Unfortunately, it doesn't deal with the issues raised by the NZYQ cohort. There's now 153 of these people released into the community, we know among them is very serious offenders, including murderers and child sex offenders and rapists. And we know that only half of those are now in the community with electronic monitoring, and that dozens of them have either breached their visa conditions or re-offended in the community. And this government has still not used the emergency powers that Parliament gave them before Christmas to protect the community by using preventive detention orders to get them off the streets. So unfortunately, even if this case goes to the government, Australians are still not safe from this government's botched handling of these issues.

STEFANOVIC: Okay. China has accused Australia overnight, James, of having a Cold War mentality and that it poses no threat to any other nation which Taiwan or those in espionage might find surprising. What are your thoughts on that response overnight?

PATERSON: Well, I wish the grounds for the Chinese government to be angry were stronger than they actually are, because what Richard Marles actually announced at the National Press Club yesterday was $72 billion of cuts to defence capability that was planned in the budget, and he has now taken to that out. That adds to $8 billion of cuts that he's previously announced. So $80 billion of cuts to defence. And to compensate for this, he says, we're going to have an extra $5.7 billion of spending over the next four years over the forward estimates. As Ben Packham from The Australian pointed out, it's likely that that would only modestly compensate for inflation and cost overruns, which are common on defence projects. So what actual new capability are we going to acquire that somehow has raised the ire of the Chinese government? It's not clear to me, based on early reading of the Defence Strategy or the Integrated Investment Plan.

STEFANOVIC: Well, I mean, it's getting up to two and a half, 2.4, 2.5%. How much further north does it need to go as a total spend?

PATERSON: Well, it only gets to those levels in 2033 and 2034. That would be in this government's fourth term if they are re-elected often enough. I think that's not plausible. And we shouldn't take seriously promises on the never, never. As the Defence Minister himself admitted as the Defence Strategic Review warned, the ten year warning time is gone. And yet this government plans to spend ten years until we get to that level of defence spending. So, we've clearly said we will spend more than Labor on defence. You can rely on the Coalition to do that. We will spend more. We'll spend it faster. We'll get capability sooner.

STEFANOVIC: Yeah. Imagine how, strong the Chinese military is going to be in another ten years from now. Just a final one here James, on the first arrests and charges were made overnight when it comes to this, stabbing of, a Christian bishop in Sydney, western Sydney, on Monday night. Do you take any issue because some have with the classification of this week's incident as a terror attack, do you have any issue with it?

PATERSON: No, and I'm not sure why people do, the facts as we understand them are clear. The person expressed their own religious motivations for attacking a person of another faith in a church while it was being broadcast with a knife. I mean, that fits the definition of terrorism. And unless new facts come forward to change that, then I think that's appropriate. I do understand why Middle East Christians, Assyrian Christians, are very angry and upset by this, but it's never appropriate to take these matters into your own hands and it is appropriate that police are now going and arresting people who did riot, including assaulting police officers, which is never acceptable in our country.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, James, we'll leave it there. Appreciate it. Thank you.


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