22 July 2020













SUBJECTS: Lacking cyber security under the Morrison Government; gender quotas and Labor parliamentary positions; COVID-19; NSW outbreak; Victorian outbreak and hotel quarantine; Peter Dutton’s failure to stop the Ruby Princess.


TOM CONNELL, HOST: Let's go to my first guest in the program, Shadow Home Affairs Minister, Kristina Keneally, joins me now, thanks very much for your time. You've got a call on the Government today, writing a letter to Peter Dutton for Commonwealth agencies to be able to withstand cyber attacks better. They have put $1.35 billion over a decade to boost spending in this area, presumably that's going to go a long way?


KRISTINA KENEALLY, DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE AND SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS: Well, good afternoon, Tom, good afternoon to your viewers. It's important we've got money but it also takes leadership. And what we know from this Government so far is some 70 per cent of Federal Government agencies, after seven years, have not implemented the most basic cyber security measures as recommended by the Australian Signals Directorate. And Tom that's important because we don't just expect our Government to protect our critical infrastructure from cyber-attacks, we also expect them to protect our personal information. The Australian Government holds a lot of personal information about Australians, our Medicare details, our JobKeeper details, our tax records, our passports, and it is important that our Federal agencies take seriously their responsibilities to protect us from cyber security threats. It's all well and good and it's right for the Prime Minister to ring the bell for the private sector as he did a few weeks ago when it comes to cybersecurity but the Government must get its own house in order. It will not just take money, it will also take leadership and a determination across Government.


CONNELL: You also called for a dedicated Minister, if you want to really shine a focus on it. Does it need to be a Cabinet Minister? Does that mean replacing another role in Cabinet?


KENEALLY: What we had under Malcolm Turnbull was a Minister for Cyber Security. One of Scott Morrison's first actions as Prime Minister was to abolish that position and now, for some 680 days, Australia has been without a Minister for Cyber Security. We don't have a new updated cyber security strategy; the last strategy expired in April. We are in a situation, Tom, where the Prime Minister fronts the nation, tells us that Australia is under a cyber attack from a sophisticated foreign state actor, but he does not have within his Government an up-to-date cyber security strategy, adequate protections across Federal agencies or a Minister who is responsible for protecting Australia.


CONNELL: Alright, well, as I said, there's money being dedicated there. We'll see, perhaps, if there's a spelling-out of where it would go and out might help in that particular capability. My erstwhile colleague, Peter van Onselen, has written about an issue in the New South Wales Right, of which you're a remember in Labor, not promoting enough women. Could this perhaps be addressed in a small way via a replacement for Mike Kelly, he was the Shadow Assistant Defence Minister?


KENEALLY: I saw that article by my former, as well, colleague Peter van Onselen and, you know, the facts are what they are, they're undeniable. I don't think it's by ill-intent, Tom, but rather it is where we are as a faction and it does serve as a good warning to us in thinking in feature pre-selections and the like. You're right to point to the fact that there is currently a vacancy and it's important that we have a pipeline of women coming through, gaining that experience so they can step up to the frontbench. We have a leader in Anthony Albanese, who is determined that our Cabinet is 50 per cent male and female. We have a party rules that require equal representation and, you know, right after the election we saw the promotion of Emma McBride, the Member for Dobell, into the frontbench. I'd like to see the vacancy left by Mike Kelly filled by another one of my colleagues, Meryl Swanson. I've watched Meryl do her work, both as a member for Paterson and as a Chair of our Regional Jobs Task Force, she's impressive, she's done the hard yards in the policy work, she speaks from regional Australia in an authentic voice and I'd like to see Meryl get an opportunity to step forward so that we have within our grouping a good pipeline of women coming through who are ready to step up and take a future frontbench position in a future Albanese Government.


CONNELL: Well, Meryl Swanson, there you go. There's the boost, we'll see, it's probably lucky it's coming from you, not PVO, it would be the kiss of death otherwise, I'm sure. I wanted to ask you about...


KENEALLY: His predictions haven't gone so well, have they...


CONNELL: But he's honest about that. I wanted to ask you about the New South Wales Premier. She's set to keep the economy open as a priority, not no matter what, but over pre-emptive lockdowns. Is that the right call?


KENEALLY: Well, Tom, Labor has supported the actions of our Premiers, including Dan Andrews and Gladys Berejiklian as they have guided their states through this crisis, both the health and the economic crisis. I would expect that Premier Berejiklian is taking advice from medical experts, from her Chief Medical Officer and others. Can I say first of all a real acknowledgement to the people of Western Sydney, who are responding to the Government's call to come forward to testing, who are lining up to get that testing done, who are voluntarily self-isolating, they understand, as we all do, that we are all in this together, and that we will at times have to change the way we live and work. That's why it's important that nobody in New South Wales is complacent when it comes to social distancing, hygiene, hand-washing and the like. So, when it comes to the economy, you know, Gladys Berejiklian is taking the cautious approach. She is looking at further restrictions and I think that is sensible. You know, we're all mindful of what's happening in Victoria right now. We are all thinking of the people of Victoria and if we can avoid that type of lockdown in New South Wales it would be good.


CONNELL: Just on that, you mentioned your support for Daniel Andrews. We've just learned that a senior bureaucrat in the Department of Jobs on day one of the hotel quarantine program emailed the Department of Health saying they needed 24/7 police supervision and it didn't happen. This feels like a bad failure by the Government, doesn't it?


KENEALLY: Dan Andrews is right to point to the fact that there is both a state and a national inquiry being underway into what has occurred with the hotel quarantine in Victoria and I think that is appropriate, just as we're having inquiries into the Ruby Princess. We need to know where things went wrong and ensure that they don't go wrong in the future. So, in the sense that there is an inquiry underway I think it's best that we let that play itself out. I can reflect that here in New South Wales, of course, my home state did have police involved directly with hotel quarantine. So far that has proven to have worked well and, in fact, Tom, I think some people might know my own son is a police officer and involved in that type of work and I think it is important that we do what we can to safeguard those people coming back to New South Wales who do present a significant risk of spreading coronavirus.


CONNELL: You said before, you know, we've got an inquiry. You said, before the Ruby Princess inquiry, you were blaming Peter Dutton and the Morrison Government. Why is there commentary on that situation and not on Victoria?


KENEALLY: Because the Prime Minister, Tom, said directly that Australian Border Force would be in “direct command of arriving cruise ships”. Under the law, the people responsible for our borders, even the border security, biosecurity measures and tasks that are undertaken by State governments are undertaken under Federal law under delegated authority by the Federal Government.


CONNELL: The inquiry spoke about New South Wales Health making the decisions, in fact, they admitted they deemed a ship "low-risk", which was a mistake. Again, you were criticising the Federal Government. Again, why we wouldn't have direct comments on what's happening in Victoria when there's an inquiry with what looks like a real letdown of voters from that story I detailed earlier?


KENEALLY: Tom, there's no doubt that the current situation is very frustrating for the people of Victoria, and there should be inquiries, both state and federal, and I support that as I do support the inquiry that is underway in New South Wales, and hats off to Gladys Berejiklian for showing some leadership and instituting that inquiry. But, Tom, four days before the Ruby Princess arrived, the Prime Minister stood in front of the nation and announced at a media conference that arriving cruise ships would "be under bespoke arrangements under the direct command of the Australian Border Force," now I don't think that was a marketing line from the Prime Minister, I think he meant it.


CONNELL: There's a difference there, they still need health advice.


KENEALLY: The Australian Border Force, in fact, do have their own health officials, Tom. And every action that's undertaken by a state health bureaucrat in relation to our borders is done under Federal law and under the responsibility of both the Federal Department of Agriculture and the Federal Border Force, but Tom, I come back to the point, that you need... 


CONNELL: Do you think we've heard so far that the Ruby Princess inquiry does point blame at the Morrison Government or at the New South Wales Health Department?


KENEALLY: Tom, what I'm seeing coming out of this is an absolute mishmash at our borders. The Australian Border Force, having been put in direct command by the Prime Minister, did, it appears, nothing different in relation to the arrival of the Ruby Princess. I think important we let this inquiry conclude and make its findings, but what is undeniable is we have a spaghetti bowl of arrangements at the borders and the one boat that mattered was let through by the Morrison Government.


CONNELL: Okay, we're out of time, we'll have to pick up, perhaps, when the inquiry has its interim findings. Kristina Keneally, thanks for your time.


KENEALLY: Thank you, Tom.