08 December 2020




SUBJECTS: Right wing extremism; Scott Morrison’s broken promise to tens of thousands of stranded Australians.
KRISTINA KENEALLY, DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE AND SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS: Right wing extremism in Australia is real and it is growing. Our national security agencies are telling us they are spending an increasing amount of time focused on right wing extremist groups and the terrorist threat that they pose.
The threat of right wing extremism in Australia is real and it is growing. Our national security experts at ASIO and the AFP tell us they are spending an increasing amount of time addressing the threat of right-wing extremist violence, and the terrorist threat posed by right-wing extremism is one that the Parliament must take seriously. We must take seriously the advice of our national security agencies and we must ask ourselves: are the tools that we have available to counter terrorism and to keep Australians safe fit for purpose when it comes to the threat of right-wing extremism? Understandably in Australia we have been focused in the last 20 years on the threat that comes from Islamic extremism, Islamic jihadism, but right-wing extremism is different. They have different motivations, different organisational structures, different methods and tactics. And when our AFP and our ASIO experts tell us that they are spending increasing amounts of time and they're increasingly concerned about the threat posed by right-wing extremism, the Parliament should act. And that is why Labor is seeking the Government's support to have a bipartisan referral to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security on right-wing extremism. We need to determine if our proscription laws to list groups as terrorist organisations are fit for purpose and whether our counter terrorism programs and our preventing of radicalisation will work when it comes to right-wing extremism. The security of Australians, the safety of Australia, demands it.
I'd also like to address the fact that the Prime Minister said in Parliament yesterday that there are now nearly 40,000 stranded Australians. These are 40,000 of our fellow citizens stranded around the globe in the middle of a global pandemic. Now Scott Morrison has had for more than a month a report on his desk from Jane Halton telling him that the federal Government needs to pick up responsibility here--for something they used to think they had responsibility for: the borders, and quarantine. We have 40,000 of our citizens who cannot come home to Australia. They are losing their houses. They are losing their jobs. They are going to homeless shelters. Their visa conditions are running out in the countries that they are in. They are facing the northern hemisphere winter. Come on, Prime Minister. Yesterday you said the Opposition is grumpy about stranded Australians? You bet we are. We're also angry, frustrated and furious because the stranded Australians are constantly contacting our electorate offices, contacting my office, contacting the office of Senator Wong and telling us how furious and upset and distressed they are. It used to be that an Australian passport meant something. So come on, Prime Minister. You promised on the 18th of September to get these stranded Australians home, you have got until Friday to get them back in the country, so they can get out of quarantine and spend Christmas with their families. Being an Australian citizen means endorsing Australian values and there is no greater Australian value than "we don't leave our mates behind" but in the middle of a global pandemic, what is Scott Morrison doing? He is leaving our fellow citizens behind.
Any questions?
JOURNALIST: How could the Government bring more people under the current system?
KENEALLY: Jane Halton's report makes clear there are a range of ways the Government can expand quarantine safely. She makes the point that we could take a risk management approach; those countries that have effectively eradicated coronavirus, we can have a testing and shorter quarantine period, she makes the point that the Government could ask people if they wanted to volunteer to have home quarantine with monitoring devices. She makes the clear point that quarantine can and should be done under federal legislation, and she says that the Commonwealth should set up a federal quarantine facility with the human health response zone around it to get surge capacity, that is get the stranded Australians home before the northern hemisphere winter. These aren't just suggestions that we, the Labor Opposition, have pulled out of a hat. They are the suggestions from Scott Morrison's own handpicked expert, Jane Halton, and he has ignored her suggestions, her recommendations.
JOURNALIST: Sorry, there's two in there that are kind of I guess controversial recommendations around lowering the amount of quarantine time but also quarantine at home, that hasn't worked as well in Britain, for instance. Would you support those two? How long do you think the quarantine would work if it's a lower period?
KENEALLY: Let's take the advice of experts, and we are not the United Kingdom. Jane Halton makes the recommendations that she does because she has seriously considered it and considered the advice of experts. What we have seen in Australia is Australians respond to the requests of lockdown and quarantine. They respond well and that's why we are in the situation that we are and where we have effectively eradicated community transmission in Australia. Now when you've got countries that, like Australia, have effectively eradicated the virus, Jane Halton says you could institute a program where you have testing before you board the plane, testing when you come off the plane, seven days of quarantine rather than 14, another test and then, if people are clear, then that is a safe enough approach for some countries. She makes the point, for other people, and in other circumstances, it might be appropriate to do home quarantine. Family groups, for example, if they are at home quarantine with monitoring devices so that we can be sure people are staying at home. There are multiple ways this can be done. Jane Halton's number one recommendation is that the 14 days in hotel quarantine is not a sustainable approach. And I have to say, when I talk to business groups, when I talk to universities, when I talk to families who have people overseas that they want to go visit for weddings or funerals, they want to know that we have the capacity for people to cross the border safely. Now when you've got business groups that can't get the labour that they need; when you've got universities that can't get international students that they want; when you've got families who can't be together at times of death or funerals or sickness, because we don't have a safe, reliable way to cross the border, we're going to have to live with this virus until there is a vaccine and it is rolled out near-universally. And so we are going to need to find ways for people to safely cross the border and Jane Halton has given the Prime Minister a report that makes clear a pathway. It is up to him and leadership now to make sure that those recommendations are acted upon.
JOURNALIST: Kevin Rudd has asked Scott Morrison for an apology over his comments and questions on yesterday's report, Mr. Morrison has apologized and will correct the record and ask your reaction to that particular episode.
KENEALLY: Well, we know that Scott Morrison is loose with the truth. And we know that when he's angry he just blurts things out and that's what he did yesterday in Question Time. Now, if it's reported that the Prime Minister has apologised to Mr Rudd, I welcome that, but the Prime Minister said these words in the Parliament, and he needs to in the Parliament, acknowledge that he got it wrong. He should also, in the Parliament, acknowledge that 40,000 stranded Australians are stuck overseas while he has said they sit at the front of the queue. Those are his words. Stranded Australian sit at the front of the queue. Well we know now from information we've received from Questions on Notice that in fact we've had some 50 international visitors a day, tourist visitors, coming into Australia. We know that there have been some 300 people who have come under the Business Investor Visa. We know that this Government has allowed Tony Abbott, to come and go as he pleases almost, if there is a former Prime Minister that is going overseas and coming back and taking their quarantine spots multiple times, it is Tony Abbott.  Those are the facts Scott Morrison. You are not putting stranded Australians at the front of the queue. You are leading them on.
JOURNALIST: On the topic of your inquiry into right-wing extremism, I think it's kind of timely considering the Christchurch attacks official report today and in the coming days. How would you like the Parliament to deal with that and how should that inquiry go?
KENEALLY: Well Labor is calling on the Government, and actually let me say it this way: Labor is inviting the government to support us in a bipartisan referral to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security to examine the terrorist laws, tools that are available to our national security agencies to determine they are fit for purpose for the rising threat of right-wing extremism.
Labor is inviting the Government to join us in a bipartisan referral to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security on right-wing extremism. We know from our security agencies this is a rising threat in Australia. ASIO it now accounts for some 30 to 40% of their counterterrorism work, the AFP has highlighted that they have teams working on this growing threat and they are concerned about the fact that right-wing extremists have more ready access to firearms than other terrorist groups such as violent Islamic jihadism. We need to take this threat seriously as a Parliament. We need to ask: are our laws and our countering violent extremism and preventing radicalisation tools fit for purpose for right-wing extremism? We know that right-wing extremist groups organise themselves differently than Islamic terrorist groups. We know that they have different aims and objectives. We know that they do their radicalisation propaganda differently. And so the tools that we have need to be fit for purpose for that: Australia is the only Five Eyes country that hasn't listed any white extremist groups as terrorist organisations, and that's even the case where there are groups in Australia, or excuse me, there are groups in Australia that have linked to groups in Canada in the United Kingdom, that have been prescribed there. So when we've got groups that are prescribed overseas in our partner countries that have chapters here, we need to ask ourselves, is there something wrong with our prescription laws that doesn't allow the listing of these groups as terrorist organizations, and most importantly, we need to send a clear message to the community that the Parliament rejects the hatred division and violence that emanates from right-wing extremists groups. We value a multicultural Australia. We value the strength of our multicultural society. If we don't value and protect it, we take it for granted and we risk losing it. We can't afford to do that. It's too important and keeping Australians and Australia safe is too important.