FRIDAY, 15 SEPTEMBER 2017
SUBECT/S: Labor’s commitment to restore AFP to Hobart Airport; marriage equality survey; energy; Basslink; banking royal commission
JULIE COLLINS, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR FRANKLIN: [Audio cuts in] Hobart Airport, and it's wonderful that Labor Leader Bill Shorten has come down for our announcement here today and Shadow Minister Clare O'Neil. It's also great to have state Labor Leader Rebecca White here with us and Labor Senator Carol Brown and Brian Mitchell, who of course, his electorate is just nearby with my own. As we know since 2014, I have been calling on the Federal Government to explain its decision to remove Australian Federal Police from Hobart Airport. Carol, myself, Brian, Senator Catryna Bilyk, Senator Lisa Singh have all been calling for an explanation about why the Federal Government has removed the Australian Federal Police from Hobart Airport.
Tasmanians are really concerned about this and Tasmanians have just as much right to feel safe as every other Australian. It's meant that Tasmania is the only capital city airport without an Australian Federal police presence, and indeed in Tasmania there are only five Federal Police out of 6,500 nationally. It's simply not good enough and I'm really pleased to have Bill here in Hobart today, to make an announcement about what Labor will do in Government. Thank you.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks, Julie and good morning everybody, it's great to see everybody here. In 2014 the Liberal Government in Canberra made a mistake. They removed the AFP from doing vital work at Hobart Airport. For the last three years Julie Collins, our southern Tasmanian federal team, Clare O'Neil and, and of course Rebecca White lobbying on behalf of Tasmanian Labor, have said to the Government and to myself why is it that only Tasmania doesn't have AFP at their capital city airport? There were 30 police and they were reduced in number to just five AFP officers for the whole of Tasmania. There are 6,500 members of our AFP and it beggars belief that only five AFP officers are allocated to Tasmania.
We understand in these very difficult times of security that we need to make sure that we have the AFP at our capital city airports making sure that people are safe. The people who work here, the baggage handlers through to the caterers, through to all of the important staff, they deserve to be safe and have the same standard of attention that other capital cities have. The flying public deserve to have the AFP here doing the work which they are specially trained to do, which is to keep our airports safe.
I think it is also important that Tasmanian police are not asked to stretch scarce resources even further than their mainland counterparts. It really does make sense that our capital city airports have got Federal Police protection, the same standard right across Australia; mainland and Tasmania. It really does make sense that the hard-working officers of the Tasmanian police force are able to do their job and are not expected to do additional tasks which their mainland counterparts are not called upon to do.
I think today is an important step forward. Labor will restore Federal Police presence to Hobart International Airport. We want to see 16 officers on duty keeping Tasmanians and the people who travel through Hobart Airport safe. We want the same level of attention and standard and quality of care which the flying public enjoy at mainland capital city airports. We think this is a very positive development. It will cost $13 million, we estimate; we've had it independently costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office. But we invite Turnbull and the Liberals not to wait until a Federal Election or a Shorten Labor Government to introduce the necessary Federal Police protection at Hobart Airport. They are welcome to borrow this policy and implement it as soon as possible. That would be the best outcome for Tasmanians and we encourage Mr Turnbull not to forget about Tasmania, and treat the security and safety of Tasmanians and passengers using Hobart Airport as being of equal standard to mainland Australia. We are joined today by Clare O'Neil our Shadow Minister who has been doing a lot of the policy work on this proposition. We are also fortunate to have the President of the Australian Federal Police Association. She too will say some further words about the importance of this announcement.
CLARE O'NEIL, SHADOW MINISTER FOR JUSTICE: Thank you so much, Bill. My name is Claire O'Neil and I am Labor's spokesperson for Justice, and I just want to add two quick points. Firstly I just want to say that since 2014 when the Abbott Government made this terrible decision to remove the Australian Federal Police presence from the Hobart Airport, there has been endless advocacy from Labor Members of Parliament in this great state to demand an explanation for why it is that Tasmanians do not have that same level of protection of every other Australian.
Today the Labor team is absolutely united, saying that Tasmanians have the same right to feel safe and secure as every other Australian and I want to thank the Members of Parliament who are here and those who are not here, but all of your Labor team here in Tasmania who have been doing that hard work.
Now, this is an important point to note in this is that it is not just about safety here at Hobart Airport. As Bill has explained, the savage cuts to the Australian Federal Police that have been made by the Abbott and Turnbull Governments have meant that this whole great state here is being staffed by just five Australian Federal Police officers. Now that is not good enough. As well as announcing today that we are restoring the AFP presence to Hobart Airport, we are also announcing that this will increase the number of Australian Federal Police officers in this great state from five up to 21 and that is the kind of is safety and security that we believe Tasmanians deserve. So I now invite Angela Smith who is the President of the Australian Police Association to say a few words.
ANGELA SMITH, PRESIDENT OF THE AUSTRALIAN POLICE ASSOCIATION: Thanks Clare, thanks Bill. The Australian Federal Police Association welcomes this decision absolutely, as well as the Police Association of Tasmania. We have been calling for this return since 2014 when the AFP was pulled out of Hobart. Initially, when international flights arrive in Hobart, the risks at the moment are extraordinary. But once the AFP is back in this airport, the Tasmanian people will feel much more comfortable with what is happening here, that the AFP will be back in this airport.
SHORTEN: We should acknowledge the work of the union for Federal Police, the AFPA, Angela is their leader. They have been lobbying. I also want to acknowledge the Tasmanian Police Union too. I mean this is really a decision which all Tasmanians should take heart from. It’ll mean Tasmanian police are able to do more policing outside of the airport and the Federal Government doing the job it does everywhere else. We are happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Malcolm Turnbull says the intelligence shows there is just not a need to have AFP officers at the Hobart Airport because there's no risk. Could this be a waste of money?
SHORTEN: Oh, no, Malcolm Turnbull’s - that is a foolish comment from Malcolm Turnbull, that is a ridiculous comment. How can he guarantee that there is no threat in terms of drugs, no threat of criminals, no threat of violence? I think that is a very reckless remark and it shows that really, at the edge of Bass Strait on the mainland, Malcolm Turnbull doesn't know where Tasmania is. A foolish comment. I mean how on earth can he guarantee that this airport is somehow immune from the problems which we see elsewhere. We should have the same quality of care across all of our capital cities and we should also be freeing up Tasmanian police resources to do the work in the state, which other police forces are able to do because they don't have to find the additional resources to look after the airport.
JOURNALIST: Has some sort of security assessment been done by your party?
SHORTEN: First of all - in a moment I will get Clare to add to this. But an airport is an airport is an airport. You have many passenger movements here. The argument that somehow Tasmania should have inferior protection to other airports on the mainland, it certainly is not backed up by some of the challenges. Criminals don't know state boundaries, and the law and order challenges around everything from national security to drugs means you have got to take a consistent approach nationwide. But I might get Clare to supplement.
O'NEIL: Well for three years, the Labor team has been demanding some evidence from the Turnbull Government that there isn't a security risk at this airport. It is the only capital city airport in this country without an Australian Federal Police detail and we believe that is not good enough. Tasmanians have the same right to feel safe and secure as every other Australian and that is why we are restoring the presence under a Shorten Labor Government.
COLLINS: Can I just add also that in Senate Estimates there was evidence given that they actually withdrew the Federal Police and they did the security assessment after that decision was made. The decision to withdraw Federal Police was a resourcing decision that was made before any assessment was done and that evidence was in Senate Estimates.
JOURNALIST: Tasmania Police are being trained up with special skills to I guess, fill the role of AFP officers. Do you argue that is not the right way forward?
SHORTEN: I argue why should the Tasmanian police budget have to carry the cost of doing work which in every other state is done by the Federal Police?
BREAK AS PLANE TAKES OFF
SHORTEN: The Jetstar plane left on time.
Well Labor unlike the Liberals, has been preparing to pay for all of our promises through making hard decisions. We are going to crack down on the loopholes which are exploited through negative gearing going forward for existing housing. That will save $37 billion over the next 10 years. We are not going to pass on a millionaires' tax cut that Mr Turnbull wants to give. That provides billions of dollars extra to the Budget. We're also not going to pass on the corporate tax cut which Mr Turnbull is so keen to give large multinationals. Because of the very tough and sensible decisions which Labor is making, we can more than easily afford to prioritise the security of Tasmanians over tax cuts for multinationals and millionaires.
JOURNALIST: Do you think that this announcement is going to prompt Malcolm Turnbull to reconsider his decision?
SHORTEN: If Turnbull is smart, he will copy it this afternoon.
JOURNALIST: You are talking about 16 officers at the airport. How will that actually work logistically? How many on each particular shift?
SHORTEN: Well, there will be two each shift and we’ll work through the propositions - why don't I get the people who have worked on it. We think that is a sensible first step. If it subsequently emerges that more is needed well then we are open to that, but this is a good first step. But why don't I get the people who have worked on it.
SMITH: 16 means that we can spread police officers across a number of hours over the day. So you would have a number, say four to five on a shift per block. So they start at whatever time the first flight comes in and so they are staggered across the day. So that is why there are 16, so we can man probably, possibly, three shifts over each day that goes into the evening. So that's how you have a team leader and you have a number of constables on that team, hence the numbers.
JOURNALIST: There are some AFP officers already in Tasmania. Have they expressed to you that there is a need to grow that number?
SMITH: Lots and lots of people have expressed the need. They work in Hobart, they don't work out here at the airport. But I know members of mine who have been taken out of the Hobart Airport want to come back. Families have been split apart, so there is a huge need for people to come back simply because it is a good place to work and Hobart clearly needs an AFP presence here at the airport. It is a very busy airport, as everyone can see. We need the AFP back in here. It shouldn't be - this airport should not be without AFP. It is the only main airport that doesn't have them, so it doesn't make any sense.
JOURNALIST: (INAUDIBLE) of increased crime at the Tasmanian airport - or Hobart Airport?
SMITH: That's a difficult thing to work out because Tasmanian Police come here on an ad-hoc basis to investigate things and that is when things have popped up, only simply when they have come here. So we have got no idea what goes through this airport. And you can only sort of envisage what might be happening through this airport without that presence of being there all the time. Part of it is a deterrent, part of it is an investigative process.
JOURNALIST: What kind of other operations could there be (inaudible)?
SMITH: So there would always be the presence in Hobart with Tasmanian Police, there is always going to be that presence. They are the Federal agents that stay here, in Hobart, all the time. But it is going to be a normal aviation-type presence here for AFP, so whatever way that looks, so it is an investigative plus a deterrent type of process.
REPORTER: Would the extra 16 officers have to - would they be recruited or transferred from the mainland?
SMITH: There would be a mix of both. So some would come back here and I understand there will be more recruit classes next year so that it would be filled that way.
JOURNALIST: And do you think it will it be easy to fill the positions or would you have to offer incentives or anything to get them to move to Tasmania?
SMITH: We don't offer incentives of things like that.
BRIAN MITCHELL, MEMBER FOR LYONS: Tasmania is the incentive.
SMITH: What's not to love?
JOURNALIST: What sort of roles would AFP police officers have over Tasmanian police?
SMITH: It is within the Aviation Act. So it is a different type of – they’re different sort of offences that occur here. But that is community policing out in Tasmania and that is a community policing role here in the airport. So there are slightly different offences, but overall, police do what police do.
JOURNALIST: Pat Allen from the Tasmania Police Association has always backed the reinstatement but he says that if you gave Tasmania Police a special branch that we could handle it ourselves as well as extra numbers. Would you support that sort of -
SMITH: That was an option that Pat put forward, that if there was going to be no reinstalment of AFP here well here is another option. So that is what Pat was putting forward because he felt that nobody was really going to support the AFP coming back here other than what Labor has now announced. So that was really what Pat said, well give us the money to do that instead. But again, Tasmania Police are incredibly stretched, like every other police force so it would be difficult. They would have to sort of scrum together as well. This is a much better option, to put AFP back into an airport like every other airport.
JOURNALIST: Have you found any movement within the Federal Government in your discussions about reinstating AFP Officers?
SMITH: No, no. Bill can probably answer that.
JOURNALIST: This is a big election promise. Are you expecting an early election?
SHORTEN: Oh well let's face it, the Government is in chaos. I think the last two weeks that we have seen in Parliament have left Australians actually switched off politics altogether. Let's have a look at the debate about energy prices in the last two weeks. Just schoolyard name-calling, doesn't change anything. You know I think the Turnbull Government and Turnbull they're so out of touch. Do you know this week in Parliament they were trying to argue that people aren't paying increased electricity prices, energy prices around Australia? Try telling that to the people who pay the bills. So I hope the Turnbull Government doesn't need the threat of an election to do the right thing to keep Tasmanians and the flying public safe. Really, this shouldn't be a political issue. As I say, my challenge to Mr Turnbull is get out the map, remind yourself where Tasmania is and put the Federal Police back into Hobart Airport.
JOURNALIST: There has been some developments this morning about what is happening in North Korea. What is your take on that?
SHORTEN: It is very serious. It does seem that the North Korean regime is determined to take the rest of the nations of the world right to the edge. Both sides of politics in Australia are most committed to all countries doing everything they can to achieve a diplomatic solution, to discourage this mindless escalation and nuclear arsenal - to see that wound back.
JOURNALIST: We had last night or late yesterday the media reforms pass the Senate. Obviously, the Labor party as the Government have been saying today were the only party who wouldn't support that. Can you make your point clear on why you didn't support that?
SHORTEN: These media reforms will mean greater concentration of media in fewer hands. I am severely sceptical about the promise of a vast new plethora of jobs. This will lead to greater concentration of media and less diversity, full stop.
JOURNALIST: Are you expecting an avalanche of jobs?
SHORTEN: No, I don't. I think what will happen is that media outlets will be sold to fewer and fewer owners. The existing media owners who have been boosting the changes will get richer. I don't see a great infusion of new jobs. I think we are going to see greater consolidation and less diversity in our media.
JOURNALIST: There is $60 million though for an innovation fund in regional media, that's not something you would welcome?
SHORTEN: Well what the Government is saying to buy the votes of the crossbench and Xenophon is that they're going to spend taxpayer money on media outlets. I don't see how that adds to diversity, frankly.
JOURNALIST: Will you support the Government's proposal to impose mandatory sentencing for paedophiles?
SHORTEN: I'll get my Shadow Minister to add to this answer. We want to do everything that we can which is effective to see paedophiles and the scourge of paedophilic behaviour behind bars. We will need to work through this legislation. I might get Clare to supplement the answer.
O'NEIL: Thanks, Bill. Well, Bill and I are both the parents of small children. You are not going to find two people in this country who are more committed to stamping out this vile practice than the two of us. We are working through the Government's Bill and will come back with a response when Parliament resumes.
JOURNALIST: Are you satisfied that religious freedoms will be embedded in any same-sex marriage Bill that passes Parliament?
SHORTEN: I am a supporter of marriage equality, but I've also been raised to be a person of faith. I can give this guarantee to the Australian people; I will and Labor will not support legislation which impinges upon religious freedom in this country.
JOURNALIST: What does that mean though? What would you like to see in it?
SHORTEN: You ask the question about religious freedom. What is the concern?
JOURNALIST: Well that's what people are pushing for are there any particular elements to protect religious freedoms that you would like to see?
SHORTEN: Well, the reason why the debate has come forward is there is another split in the Liberal Party. John Howard has come out and criticised Turnbull and said somehow voting Yes in the postal survey will impinge upon marriage freedom - sorry, religious freedom. I just want to be absolutely clear with the Australian people. If you vote Yes for the same-sex survey in marriage, that’s great and I certainly recommend you do that. But what I promise Australians is that before the legislation for marriage equality is completed or voted on in Parliament, we will make sure that concerns about religious freedom are met with and dealt with and are treated with respect.
JOURNALIST: There's allegations that some of the big four banks have been implicated in an international money laundering scandal. Does this vindicate Labor's call for a Royal Commission into the banks?
SHORTEN: We have been calling for a Royal Commission since the beginning of last year. Surely after this evidence of criminal behaviour and money laundering and questionable banking practice, surely Mr Turnbull has run out of excuses not to have a Royal Commission.
JOURNALIST: Before the last Federal Election Labor made a pretty big promise when it came to Basslink. Is that offer still on the table in the lead up to the next election?
SHORTEN: We are working through our policies for the next election. But there is no doubt in my mind that there is a strong argument in favour of doing further work on Basslink. We will announce our policy on that closer to the election, but I have got no doubt that it is an important proposition and it is important that energy security is available for all of our citizens wherever they live.
JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister was in Tasmania only a couple of weeks ago talking about renewable energy and Tasmania being the renewable battery. Would you welcome a Snowy Hydro 2.0 type scheme installed here in Tasmania?
SHORTEN: Well, I want to make sure that we don't hand on a worse environment to our kids than the one that we currently live in and that we don't put off dealing with the challenges of climate change. At the same time, it is important to make sure that we have reliable energy, we have downward pressure on energy prices. Renewable energy will be part of our future energy mix and it will be an increased part of our future energy mix. I think the use of hydro-electric schemes to act as a storage battery for renewable energy has got to be part of the answer and my vision for renewable energy and the storage of renewable energy doesn't just involve flying over the Snowy Mountains. I think Tasmania does have a really great opportunity in terms of providing hydro-electric batteries to store renewable energy.
All good. Thanks, everybody.