08 June 2021




SUBJECTS: Australian/US Drug Importation Operation; Scott Morrison’s lies on national security; Biloela Family. 

KRISTINA KENEALLY, DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS: I'd like to begin by congratulating the Australian Federal Police, our other national security agencies and acknowledge the role that the US FBI played in the announcement today of the significant bust of a major drug ring, and ongoing investigations being done by our Federal Police. The operation that was announced today is one that the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security has received briefings on. It is one that I welcome. It is one that I acknowledge the significance of national security agencies. And, this is an operation that the Intelligence and Security Committee, as a bipartisan group, has taken great interest in, in so far as we are considering legislation that is currently before the Committee as to how we can further support and strengthen the work that our national security agencies do to keep Australians safe, particularly safe from the scourge of illicit, imported drugs.

Now, I do want to acknowledge, today, that the Prime Minister, Mr Morrison, made a number of statements in his media conference that are flat out wrong. Mr Morrison today, flat out lied in his media conference about certain pieces of legislation that are currently before the Intelligence and Security Committee. 

Mr Morrison sought to play politics. And that is what Mr Morrison does - he plays politics. 

And here he is playing politics with national security. He flat out lied when it came to the Identify and Disrupt legislation. He said that there are parties in the Parliament, including my own, that don't support that legislation. He's flat out wrong. That Bill is currently before the bipartisan Intelligence and Security Committee. That Bill hasn't even had its hearings yet. That Bill hasn't even had its report come down from the bipartisan Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.

This is a Bill that in fact, the Intelligence and Security Committee is continuing to receive briefings on. And so it's just wrong, Mr Morrison, to say, to impute, to claim, that Labor does not support this Bill. He's just flat out lying. He can't even make a claim as to what his own members on the Intelligence and Security Committee will say about this legislation, because it is currently under consideration by the Intelligence and Security Committee. 

Mr Morrison also tried to claim the Labor doesn't support the International Production Orders Bill. He's flat out lying. 

Maybe he doesn't realise that last week, the bipartisan Intelligence and Security Committee handed down a unanimous bipartisan report. The Liberal and the Labor members of the Intelligence and Security Committee last sitting period, tabled a report in Parliament, saying that the International Production Orders Bill should be supported.

Now, Australians would be understandably dismayed to see their Prime Minister just lying about national security, just making things up. And, Australians also understand that Mr Morrison is always about the politics - he plays shallow political games. He doesn't care about national security, he just cares about the political outcome for himself. 

So we will continue to call out his lies and we will continue to point out his political game playing. 

But through the Intelligence and Security Committee, Labor will continue to work with our Liberal colleagues, in the national interest, to keep all Australians safe. And, making these remarks this morning, I particularly would like to acknowledge my Liberal counterparts on the Intelligence and Security Committee, including the Liberal Chair, Senator James Paterson. They work in a cooperative, bipartisan fashion with the Labor members, in the national interest. My commitment to Australians is that we will continue to do so.

I would also today like to make some comments in relation to the news that broke overnight with the youngest daughter of the Biloela family has been rushed to Perth for emergency medical treatment. Young Tharunicaa is only three years old and by the accounts we've heard this morning from her parents, and from friends of the family, she has been gravely ill now for some two weeks. She's been vomiting, she's had diarrhoea, she's had a high fever, and the parents say that they could not get access to appropriate medical care. She grew sicker and sicker, and now resulting in emergency medical evacuation. It's heartbreaking and, her family, her parents must be so distressed. Any parent would be distressed when their young child is sick. 

But to think that you have to fight with security guards and government bureaucrats just to get your child to be able to be seen by a doctor. To think that she now has to be separated from her father and sister and flown to Perth for this emergency medical treatment. This is beyond  shameful. 

It's time for this sad, terrible saga to come to an end. This family has been through enough. They have been through enough. The Australian Government, the Morrison Government, has spent some $50 million trying to deport this family. All we have seen are two little girls, all that has resulted is these two little girls born in Australia, who have known almost nothing in their whole lives except detention. And their physical health, their mental health is now suffering as a response.

This sad sorry, saga, this expensive saga, can end today. It can end today with the Minister for Home Affairs, Karen Andrews, taking the humane, respectful common sense decision to allow this family to go home to Biloela, to the community in regional Queensland that loves them. It makes no sense why this hasn't happened already. And, given the news today, this devastating news about Tharunicaa’s health. It's time, it's time for them to come home, the Biloela family. Happy to take questions. 

JOURNALIST: The Government says it's looking at resettlement options more broadly that would impact the Biloela family. Do you think that this is promising?

KENEALLY: The new Minister for Home Affairs, Karen Andrews, has made several promising sounding statements in the few months that she's had the role. She has yet to make any actual decision. I would say to her now, today, with this devastating medical emergency for this young three year old girl Tharunicaa, it's time to just make a decision. It's time to stop giving promising indications - it's time to just make the right decision. The humane decision. People across Australia from all political stripes would welcome this. This is not a political debate. Understand that Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop and Alan Jones.. and Alan Jones.. and Barnaby Joyce all support this family coming home to Biloela. 

Now there really is only one reasonable, sensible option. There is a regional town in Queensland that wants this family home. They were working in Biloela. They were volunteering in Biloela. They were members of the church community in Biloela. They should be able to go home to Biloela.

JOURNALIST: Would Labor abolish the practice of immigration detention more broadly and move to maybe a community detention model?

KENEALLY: First of all, let's understand that Kopika and Tharunicaa are the only two children in Australia in immigration detention. This little three year old girl who is currently in Perth hospital, suffering from a blood infection, untreated pneumonia. She's already had multiple health problems as a result of her detention. These are the only two children in Australia that are in detention, they should not be there. They should have been living in the community, they should have been living in their own community in Biloela. 

But let's understand this - this family is not in detention for any offshore processing reason. They are in detention because the Government - this Liberal Government - Mr Morrison's Government - seems determined to deport them, against the wishes of the regional town in Queensland that wants them back. Against the wishes of the broader community. That is why they are in detention - because the Morrison Government has put them there.

The Minister for Home Affairs can with the stroke of the pen, bring this to an end today. She can use her discretion to allow this family to come home to Biloela. 

JOURNALIST: So if Labor comes into government after the next election, would you abolish the practice of immigration detention? 

KENEALLY: Again, this is not an issue about border security. This family came well before the practice of offshore detention, offshore processing. This is not why they are in detention. Now, I know that Mr Dutton and other members of the Liberal Government like to parade around pretending that this the case because it gives them options. 

This is a family where their claims for protection have not been given procedural fairness, particularly the youngest daughter. This is a family where there is a very strong case for ministerial intervention and discretion. This is a family that has lived in Australia for some 10 years. 

Let us not confuse these two issues here. Do we need strong border control? Of course we do. I was recently at Christmas Island. You asked me about border protection. I was recently at Christmas Island. I met some of the Christmas Island relatives that were involved in fishing people out of the sea. Nobody, including the locals on Christmas Island, wants to see people smugglers restart their evil trade. And that does mean border policies around offshore processing. That does mean tow-backs when safe to do so. That does mean regional resettlement. 

But that has not got anything to do with the Biloela family. That has nothing to do with the Biloela family. They are in immigration detention, because the Government is trying to deport them. That is it. 

We have said for some time now, this is a case which cries out for ministerial intervention. And the Minister for Home Affairs who keeps giving promising signals. Well, Karen Andrews, my message to you is, just act. Just act. The lives of young children are at risk. And you, can do something to bring them home to the regional Queensland town that loves them and wants them home. 

JOURNALIST: And then moving on to the AFP. The PM says Labor is protecting criminals by opposing the Transport Security Amendment Bill. Do you think that's a fair accusation? 

KENEALLY: Let's understand that the Government's Transport Security Bill has been languishing around the Parliament for some five years. The reason this Bill has not passed the Parliament is because the Government has not done the work to get the Bill to get acceptance by the Senate. 

Here's my concern about the Transport Security Bill: it has a giant loophole in it for foreign crew!

Mr Morrison is leaving this giant, gaping loophole, when it comes to foreign crew, particularly at our maritime ports. He wants to put tougher protections to ensure that Australians who work in our ports and airports are law abiding citizens. Okay, fine. 

What I have said to the Liberals, what I have said to the Minister and what I say to Mr Morrison, you've done absolutely nothing to ensure that foreign crew who come through our ports and airports have to meet security requirements. It's a gaping loophole left open at our borders by Mr Morrison. He fixes that, this Bill can pass the Parliament.