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30 April 2021



SUBJECTS: Stranded Australians in India; Federal quarantine; Right-wing extremism
JOURNALIST: We’re going to go live now to Labor Senator Kristina Keneally, Senator good to see you, thanks for your time this morning. Before we talk about Mike Burgess, I just want to get your thoughts on this news this morning that flights are still coming in from India, that people seem to have found a bit of a loophole, they are able to go through Doha into airports and Australia so it's not as tight as had hoped.
KRISTINA KENEALLY, DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS: Peter, this tired eight-year-old Liberal government, what a mess. Are the borders shut to India or not? You know, we know that Scott Morrison likes an announcement, but he's rarely there with a plan and delivery and the Government really does need to clear this mess up. They don't know if they're coming or going.
And let me also just say that, you know, if the Prime Minister had kept his promise to get stranded Australians home by Christmas, the 9000 Australians who are currently stranded in India would be here. This is a heartbreaking situation for them and quite frankly, today's news that there was a loophole that the Government hasn't managed to shut, just makes a mockery of Scott Morrison's announcement a few days ago.
JOURNALIST: How concerned are you, that in hotel quarantine at the moment there's a lot of people who are, COVID positive. They are in hotel quarantine, but I guess there's always a risk that that can seep out into the community and has done to varying degrees, especially in WA, but are you concerned that that could well happen again?
KENEALLY: Well, you know Jane Halton, Scott Morrison's handpicked expert, handed National Cabinet, a review of hotel quarantine and the Prime Minister's been briefed on it several times. Jane Halton found that hotel quarantine is not sustainable in terms of managing this pandemic. Now, the Commonwealth Government had been responsible for quarantine for 100 years in Australia until COVID hit. And now the Prime Minister has seemed to discover: ‘the states, the states!’ he says are responsible for quarantine.
JOURNALIST: They did agree to that though, at the start of the pandemic
KENEALLY: They agreed to manage it - the hotel quarantine. But, I’ve gotta say if you are Gladys Berejiklian or Dan Andrews, you would have been looking at the mess that the Morrison Government was making of COVID management, early on and decided you wanted to take this on for yourself. But frankly, the states are now hitting the point where they just said enough is enough, the Commonwealth needs to step up, have its responsibility, take its responsibility - both financially and in terms of managing the borders.
Now, back to that Jane Halton report, she made a clear recommendation that the Commonwealth Government should set up a national quarantine facility with surge capacity to bring home stranded Australians, particularly ahead of the northern hemisphere winter. Now we are almost through the northern hemisphere winter and we’ve still got 36,000 Australians stranded overseas. It is really time, it is past time, that the Commonwealth Government, the Morrison Government, took control of the borders, stepped up, and delivered when it comes to hotel quarantine.
And, Pete let me make one more point, last year at Senate estimates, Mike Pezzullo the head of Home Affairs, told me and the public, that the Commonwealth stood ready to give the states whatever they needed to manage quarantine. Well today, National Cabinet will see if Secretary Pezzullo's words had any real meaning behind them.
JOURNALIST Okay, moving on now to Mike Burgess, Senator, he said yesterday that he expects that there will be some kind of terror attack in Australia at some point over the next 12 months. That's quite ominous isn't it?
KENEALLY: But, the Intelligence and Security Committee hearings into extremism in Australia are quite necessary and timely, as we heard yesterday from our security agencies. While the terrorism threat remains a probable, the ASIO Director General made clear that, whether we are talking about Sunni inspired extremism, or far-right extremism, either of these threats are capable of launching a terrorist attack in Australia and we must remain vigilant. We also heard from ASIO about the need for more resources to be able to address these growing threats. And, by the way far-right extremism is the fastest growing threat in Australia and now accounts for some 40% of ASIO's counterterrorism work.
We also heard from the AFP that there are gaps in the criminal law when it comes to dealing with far-right extremism, as well as other forms of extremism, and they make clear recommendations about changes to the law that the Security Committee should consider. Because it would help them counter violent extremism and stop people on a path to radicalization, before they get to the point where they are enacting a terrorist violent act.
JOURNALIST: But, that claim and it is ominous, but is it something that would worry you or should worry us or is it something that should give us some kind of comfort in the fact that we know that our counterterrorism operations, know about that, and are across it, and hopefully can intercept?
KENEALLY: Look, I think there's a few things to take out of this. One, the terrorist threat has remained at the same level: probable. And, it's a reminder that that threat is credible and real, and we need to all remain vigilant. Two, that we do have good national security agencies, both in terms of the ASIO and the AFP who have stopped and disrupted terror attacks in the last twelve months, including from the far-right. And three, that there was a lot of work that we now need to do. And, when I say we, I mean the Parliament, Security Agencies, the Government when it comes to talking to the community, particularly about the rise of far-right extremism. We had two decades of working with Islamic communities in Australia we have good partnerships that have produced good results in keeping Australians safe. But, we are not yet to the point where we are talking to parents, and coaches, and teachers, and other adults, about how young people, particularly young men are getting targeted, about how far-right extremist groups use satire, humour, something called ‘shitposting’, memes, to attract people into their hateful messages and put them on a pathway to extremism. And, we are not talking yet to parents in the community about how to intervene and what to do when they see that. Now, some of this work is beginning, and I credit the Department of Home Affairs for some of the work they have started to do, but we have so much more to do. And, that’s why I think the Director General’s comments yesterday were quite useful and will help educate the public about the risks and threats that we face.
JOURNALIST: Kristina Keneally, we are out of time. Thank you for your time.