National Security

Transcript | Sky News First Edition | 24 April 2024

April 24, 2024

Wednesday 24 April 2024

Interview on Sky News First Edition

Subjects: mis and disinformation laws, abhorrent violent content, ANZAC Oration

PETER STEFANOVIC: And this all seems like a pretty timely time to have the Shadow Home Affairs Minister and the Shadow Cybersecurity Minister, James Paterson, with us. James, good to see. Thanks for your time. So there's a bit to get through this morning in your field. So let's start with Elon Musk. He's again needled the Australian government over night posting that Australians want the truth and basically not censorship. Is Australia on the right or wrong side here?

JAMES PATERSON: Good morning, Pete. Well, it was the former Coalition government who introduced the eSafety commissioner as a statutory office in the federal government, and who passed laws following the Christchurch terrorist attack that made it unlawful to broadcast abhorrent violent material. You couldn't broadcast it on your television program. That means it shouldn't also be accessible on social media platforms. Otherwise we know it's going to fall into the hands of kids. And so, absolutely, the eSafety commissioner and the Albanese government are right to ask for this to be removed from Australia's jurisdiction. Having said that, we do not play the role and we do not have the power to be the world's global censor of the internet, and we shouldn't aspire to do that, that’s for other countries to decide what content their children can access.

STEFANOVIC: Let me just pull you up there, because that's exactly the point that Elon Musk is making, right? So he says it's all fair enough within Australia. But then he says, why should an unelected official, that's the eSafety commissioner get to decide what happens beyond Australia's borders?

PATERSON: Well elected or unelected, I don't want foreign governments deciding what Australians can access on X or any other social media platform. I particularly don't want authoritarian governments requiring Twitter or X or any other company to take down things, whether it's the Russian government or the Chinese government, or the Iranian government or the North Korean government. It's for democracies to decide what's acceptable within our own borders, and what our permissible limits of free speech are. We've done so with passed legislation. X should comply with that.

STEFANOVIC: Yeah. So in that sense, do you support, the injunction continuing today or not. And it's expected to expire at about 5 p.m.

PATERSON: Well, that's a matter for the courts to decide. But as I've said, as a matter of principle, it is our right to set limits within our jurisdiction, what our citizens can access. The Parliament has done that by passing this legislation. We do not have extraterritorial right to censor the internet globally.

STEFANOVIC: Yeah. So what I'm asking, though, is Elon Musk right to make the stand that he's making then on that point?

PATERSON: Well, it's up to him to contest that in the court. I don't have a view on that. I'm just saying, as a matter of principle, our laws do not apply to citizens of other countries. For example, the United States has a First Amendment, the free speech amendment. It would not be lawful to comply with the request of the Australian government to censor content that violated the First Amendment, free speech principles in the United States. And we shouldn't ask the United States and its 350 million people to live and abide by our laws. They've got their own laws and their own Congress to do that for them.

STEFANOVIC: Okay. It sounds like you agree with him, but, just on the position that he's making. But, I've got to move on. Still with social media, though, a warning to come today from our top security and police chiefs, who warned platforms of being used by extremists to provoke a race war. To discuss weapon making and propaganda. They will say that we want access to encrypted systems. Will it be that easy, though, given that these bosses of social media companies aren't really keen on playing ball?

PATERSON: Pete, we do have good cooperation with some tech companies on the national security mission. In the past, they've been very supportive of these things, but it is an extraordinary state of affairs that the Director-General of ASIO and the Commissioner of the AFP feel the need to stand up at the National Press Club and effectively beg them to cooperate. Again, we passed laws on this. The previous government in 2018 passed laws that allowed the lawful access to encrypted communications in Australia from these companies. They have to facilitate those requests. And if they're not facilitating those requests, we've got a huge problem.

STEFANOVIC: Okay. We're almost out of time, James, but I do want to ask you about your speech last night. And it's, moving forward with our defence. It's all about getting more troops, well part of it anyway, getting more troops into the ADF. You think you've got a way to do that? How are you going to do it?

PATERSON: Well the Shadow Minister for Defence Andrew Hastie will announce more details closer to the election. But I think the principles are clear. Service in the ADF shouldn't require you to split up your family or move around the country every couple of years. In a modern world where both partners in a relationship typically work, it's a much greater burden than it once was to be rotating families around. We need more flexibility in the ADF. We need attractive pay and conditions. We need to reflect the modern Australia that we live in. We also need a government to inspire people to sign up to the ADF, inspire them to serve their country, to serve something higher than themselves, rather than just appealing purely to their own personal ego or self-actualisation or personal growth. We're facing very choppy waters ahead, and I think there is a generation waiting to be inspired to defend Australia, who believes in Australia, and it's up to us to fulfil that task and inspire them.

STEFANOVIC: How much of a pay rise do you think they need?

PATERSON: I'm not going to announce that here on your program this morning Pete. It just has to be competitive so that people are willing to sign up and they stay up once they've joined.

STEFANOVIC: So what sort of a campaign though? Do we need a new ADF movie perhaps, in the vein of Top Gun in the 80s?

PATERSON: I wouldn't say no to that. But I think the point is that service to the nation is something that should be admired. It should be respected. Service in uniform should be upheld as something that is admirable. And I don't think that's always been the case in our country. I think there's many times in which we've downplayed that and not emphasised what a admirable thing that is. And I think it's incumbent on governments to do that. It's incumbent on the military to do that, to market their options and careers with pride.

STEFANOVIC: James Paterson, good to chat as always. We'll talk to you soon.


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