25 February 2020


SUBJECTS: Bettina Arndt Senate motion being voted on this afternoon; Family Law inquiry; violence against women; ASIO Director General’s Annual Threat Assessment; foreign interference; the rising threat of right-wing extremism.
ASHLEIGH GILLON, HOST: Let's move on now and return to Federal politics. There are mounting calls for Bettina Arndt to be stripped of her Order of Australia following her comments about the murder of Hannah Clarke and her three children. Joining us live now from Canberra is the Labor frontbencher Kristina Keneally. She's encouraging her colleagues today in the Senate to reject Ms Arndt's comments. Appreciate your time Senator. You're putting forward this motion today and calling for her honours to be rescinded are you confident you have the numbers for these motion to get up in the Senate today?
KRISTINA KENEALLY, DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE AND SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS: Good afternoon, Ashleigh. There's a motion before the Senate this afternoon from Senator Penny Wong and myself. In fact, what it calls for is that the Senate agrees that Bettina Arndt's comments undermine and do not reflect the values of the Order of Australia. We have not gone so far as to call for it to be stripped that is, in fact, a decision that would need to be taken by the Australian honours system itself but what we are saying and that I would like to acknowledge and congratulate Liberal Senators as well, such as Hollie Hughes and Sarah Henderson, is that the comments of Ms Arndt do not live up to the values of a honours of Australia award. And it does not- it is a reckless comment- it's abhorrent, it does not reflect those values, and we want the Senate to agree with that proposition. We think that sends an important message. It shows leadership in the Senate, and reflects the concern and outrage in the community about these comments.
GILLON: There has also been a lot of criticism directed at Pauline Hanson for comments that she's made about these horrible set of murders. Does her role on the Family Law inquiry need to be reviewed in your view?
KENEALLY: Well, Labor never wanted this inquiry to begin with. This is a political deal done by the Prime Minister with One Nation. Labor didn't see the need for this inquiry in the terms that the Government have put forward and, of course, the Government are trying to abolish the Family Court and we think there's a lot more work that needs to be done here. But on the broader issue of domestic violence, the tragic circumstances, the murder of Hannah Clarke and her three children is, unfortunately, just the latest in Australia. We saw another woman murdered this week in Townsville. We have seen on average in Australia, one woman a week murdered by her partner. I want to Ash just pay tribute to the West Australian who today have done a full page, a full page of stories, of editorial, including my own colleague Anne Aly, who's spoken quite personally about her experiences surviving domestic violence. The fact of the matter is what the West Australian is doing here, what other media outlets are doing here is holding up a mirror to us in society and saying this is simply not good enough. And the Parliament had the opportunity yesterday when they stood in silence, and again today when we vote on a number of motions before us, but I think the Government also has a responsibility here to convene a national summit. We do need a national summit. Australians expect more and want more when it comes to keeping women and children safe from the scourge, the national shame, that is domestic violence.
GILLON: I agree it was a very powerful front page on the West Australian today. You're talking a lot about what needs to happen next. The summit is one idea, sure, but in terms of concrete actions that need to be taken ASAP, the women's legal service in Queensland has outlined three top priorities one of those being legislation to remove the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility and create emphasis on safety in the Family Law Act. Is that something Labor supports?
KENEALLY: Again, if we had a national summit, we could pursue these issues. These are important questions that have been asked. I would also point out that yesterday...
GILLON: The point you've been making is that we've gotten so far to this point where we know this is such a problem. Is the summit really going to come up with concrete change? Or isn't this something that we already know so much about, but it's time for real action?
KENEALLY: I have to say Ash we have had a series of announcements from this Government; you remember Malcolm Turnbull's announcement, a hundred million dollar advertising campaign. But what we've also seen from this Government is programs that have been defunded. Advocacy service, Legal Aid services, homelessness services, where we have taken away supports for women and families. So I welcome the contribution from the Queensland legal service. I'd say that this is a time where the Government working with the Opposition, working with the states and territories, police, advocates and survivors does need to come together. What we have been doing hasn't been working. I think we need to acknowledge the fact that while some gains have been made, a lot of other areas are falling behind and simply, quite simply Ashleigh, one woman a week being murdered by her partner is simply a national shame. It is time for a national summit.
GILLON: I think we can all agree that more needs to be done on a number of fronts regarding the scourge of domestic violence in this country. I do want to ask you some portfolio specific questions. You are the Shadow Minister for Home Affairs, of course, I understand you were there last night for Mike Burgess' joining us. We've been reporting that he's been talking about the level of threat Australia face from foreign interference and espionage is now at unprecedented levels; higher than Cold War levels. He didn't directly name China but do you believe the speech last night did send a pretty clear message to China to back away essentially?
KENEALLY: Well Ash first of all let's congratulate Mike Burgess, the new Director General of ASIO, for taking this open approach- a conversation, open conversation with the Australian community, about the threats we face. In a democracy this is an important step because, ultimately, it's all of us working together with the community, with our national security agencies, that's going to achieve the safest possible outcome for Australians. In Australia we tend to work on these things in a bipartisan fashion as well and Labor does appreciate that the Director General last night reflected upon the range of legislation that has been passed, and I note that it's been passed with bipartisan support, that is assisting our agencies when it comes to combating foreign interference and espionage. But let's make no mistake, there are a range of foreign actors that are seeking to interfere in Australia both in terms of cyber security, ransomware attacks, foreign interference, and the Director General was pretty clear that this is a significant threat we face. He was also clear, Ash, that a terrorism remains a present threat, that the terrorist level in Australia of ""probable"" is plateaued at an ""unacceptably high level"" as he described it. And he was also clear to point out that that pertains both to Islamic extremism, as well as the growing and present threat of right-wing extremism. The Director General made no bones about it, that there are neo-Nazi cells in Australia that there are right-wing extremists who are growing in influence, who are radicalising others, and this does present a threat to the Australian community.
GILLON: Is it right though, to say that the Chinese Government is by far the most active source of foreign espionage in Australia?
KENEALLY: Well look I will leave the Government to comment on those types of matters, but there is no doubt that whether it is from China or other countries, we do face a range of threats in terms of foreign interference and espionage and the Director General's speech made that quite clear last night. I can point you to, for example, the Australian Government's decision regarding Huawei, a decision that the Labor Party has supported. Can I come back though to right-wing extremism and make the observation that around the world we are seeing a rise in in far right-wing extremism as a terrorist threat. In the United Kingdom, and in Canada, they have listed right-wing extremist organisations as terrorist groups. The New York City Police Department and in Germany the domestic security agencies have stood up specific units to counter right-wing extremism. Here in Australia we have yet to list any right-wing extremist organisation as terrorist groups. I think that...
GILLON: So would that change if you were elected at the next election Kristina Keneally?
KENEALLY: Well, there are two there are few ways that groups get listed as terrorist organisations. One is through a prosecution where it has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that a group is, in fact, operating as a terrorist organisation and poses that threat. The other is through what we describe as a listing process. The question I think now needs to be pursued is, if right-wing extremist organisations are as the Director General said last night posing a growing and present threat, terrorist threat to Australia, why is it that none have been listed? Is there something about the listing process itself we need to re-examine? And does the Government have any plans to bring forward any proposed listing of right-wing organisations?
GILLON: Senator Kristina Keneally appreciate you joining us on News Day. Thank you so much for that.