Photo: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas
PRIME MINISTER: Well thank you Sabra and thank you for the welcome here today and can I acknowledge the Ngunnawal people, elders past present and emerging.
Can I thank the members of the press gallery for being here today. As one of them remarked to me today, “Welcome back to the bubble.” Thank you very much for the welcome.
To all of my colleagues who are here with me today, thank you. There are too many to mention but I’m so pleased that you are able to be joining me here for today’s important address talking about a safer Australia.
A few weeks ago, I had the great privilege as Prime Minister of awarding Kate and Tick Everett the honour of being Local Hero Australians of the Year.
Now, Kate is with us here today, she’s up the back. Give her a round of applause. Every Australian parent can only try and begin to imagine the pain of Kate and Tick when they lost their daughter Dolly to online bullying just over a year ago.
Through Dolly’s dream, they are transforming what I can only describe as indescribable grief into a force for change to protect the children of our country.
For parents, security used to mean warnings of ‘stranger danger’ and keeping an eye on the kids as they played in the front yard or on the nature strip.
The online world has opened up a dangerous place for our children. It is the terror of parents everywhere, including Jen and me.
Just over a week before that, I met Saeed. He is the father of Aiia Maasarwe.
Aiia was a kind hearted, beautiful and generous human being who was brutally raped and murdered in Melbourne only a few weeks ago. It’s not the first time we have seen terrible acts like that.
Now, Saeed and I are from different nations, different faiths, different cultures, but we share one thing in common. And that is understanding the special place a daughter has in her father’s heart. And I can tell you, nothing prepares you for a meeting like that.
But despite his pain, Saeed reminded Australians to “see light in the dark” because that’s what Aiia believed.
But the other truth is that women in Australia are still the targets of violence, abuse and disrespect. And this must stop.
Last year I also visited the scene where a radical extremist Islamic terrorist murdered Sisto Malaspina on Bourke Street in Melbourne. Sisto was rushing to the aid of the man who became his murderer.
An act of violence not just against a fellow Australian, but against our very way of life and who we are.
And just this past week, as Linda Reynolds and I were together, we stood with those who had been fighting fires in Tasmania down there in the Huon Valley, and we stood with the families returning to their flooded homes in Townsville.
Across the range, farmers were being hit with something they had never seen in their lifetimes and the lifetimes of generations prior to that. The loss of their livelihoods as hundreds of thousands of cattle were washed away or died stranded in flooded mud.
It’s heartbreaking. Soul destroying. And it’s still happening right now, those animals are dying as we speak. And Linda and I and other ministers were on the phone to the mayors this morning once again.
That same week I joined hundreds in Melbourne to remember the Black Saturday bushfires, and we’ll do that again in Parliament tomorrow, where families still grieve and communities are still healing ten years on.
And just before Christmas, I had the great privilege of visiting our troops in Iraq.
Australians putting themselves in harm’s way to stabilise a land far away from here. But there they serve, as Christopher Pyne knows, who saw them in January, bravely and gladly in our nation’s interests.
I’ve told you those stories because the point I want to make is that keeping Australians safe and secure is not just about discussing the great geopolitical tensions of our time.
It’s much more personal than that. It’s much more meaningful than that. It affects your every day, it extends to our communities, our families, women, children and individual Australians.
That’s how I see my national security and safety responsibilities to the Australian people.
For the past five and a half years, our Government has taken these responsibilities extremely seriously, dealing with the world as it is. Uncertain, often dangerous, uncompromising and, at its worst, simply evil.
Every day we have been taking action to build a stronger and even more resilient Australia to deal with whatever comes at us.
That’s why today I am releasing our forward plan to keep Australians safe and secure in the future. Our plan to keep Australians safe and secure.
The plan builds on our achievements and addresses the newer and emerging threats we face. Plans must always be updated to achieve that.
Regional tensions between the world's great powers, heightened global instability; stiff headwinds facing, as Josh Freedenberg knows as Treasurer, the global economy, and Mathias Cormann; foreign interference; radical Islamist terrorism; people smuggling; natural disasters; organised crime; money laundering; biosecurity hazards, cybersecurity; the evil ICE trade; violence against women on our streets; online predators and scammers who seek to rip off older Australians; cyber-bullying and elder abuse.
Our plan to Keep Australians safe and secure, to address these threats, is straightforward.
- Keep our economy strong to provide the surest foundation for our security.
- Defend Australia with a record investment of over $200 billion in our nation’s defence capability over the next decade.
- Continue to protect our borders with proven policies that work and not changing them.
- Keeping Australians safe from terrorism, by disrupting and denying terrorists the ability to undertake attacks in Australia.
- Combat violence against women and counter the culture of disrespect towards women that can lead to that violence.
- Protect our children online and in the real world, going after sexual predators and countering bullying behaviour.
- Secure our region and our sovereignty by prioritising cooperation with our Indo-Pacific neighbours and family, as Marise Payne does on a daily basis.
- To protect Australians from organised criminals by ensuring we give police and security services the resources, technology and the powers that they need.
- To fight the menace of drugs – especially ICE, with coordinated law enforcement and anti-gangs initiatives.
- And to protect our communities in times of natural disaster by continuing to invest more in our preparedness and capability, so we can respond quickly and help Australians get back on their feet as we are doing even as we speak right now with the disasters that face us.
So let’s talk about that plan in a bit more detail. Economic strength and our country’s security are interdependent. You can’t have one without the other.
That’s why, a fortnight ago, I released our Plan for a Stronger Economy, up in Trevor Evan’s electorate in Brisbane.
It’s also a straightforward plan. A plan for lower taxes and strong budgets. Backing small and family businesses and building the infrastructure that we need to support our growth and maintain our quality of life. In particular that congestion-busting infrastructure that Alan Tudge has been putting together all around the country.
It’s a plan that has already generated more than one million jobs in less than five years, ahead of what we promised.
It’s a plan that will deliver the essential services that Australians rely on into the future, and it’s a plan that’ll deliver a million and a quarter more jobs as our pledge over the next five years.
But it’s also a plan that will ensure that we can underwrite our Government’s commitment to keeping Australians safe and secure.
This is our objective. This is our plan.
Australia’s national security is also intertwined with that of the Indo-Pacific region.
Australia and our partners face diverse security threats that challenge our interests, from North Korea’s long-range missiles and nuclear programs, to state fragility, and radical Islamist terrorism in our own region.
We want to see an open, rules-based Indo-Pacific where the rights of all states are respected.
So my Government, our Government is strengthening our partnerships in the region and beyond, to protect our security and our sovereignty, consistent with the 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper.
Our step-up in the Pacific reflects a simple reality - the Pacific is our home and our Pacific neighbours are our family. They are fuh mouh, they are vuvale, as we’ve spoken about in the region.
We are working with our neighbours and others to support the Pacific’s long-term stability and economic prospects, by re-focusing our aid budget on our neighbourhood, and supporting infrastructure development and bolstering maritime security capability, just to name a few.
When we took office in 2013 coming into government, Defence spending was at an all-time low. In 2012-13, as a share of our economy, it was just 1.56 per cent - the lowest level since 1938. Shameful.
Under our Government, we are delivering the biggest rebuild of our armed forces and their capability in a generation, and boosting Defence spending to 2 per cent of GDP by 2020-21 ahead of our promise.
The rebuild is based on the strategy laid out in our 2016 Defence White Paper - investing over $200 billion in our defence capability over the next decade.
A doubling of the submarine fleet, a new fleet of nine frigates, as well as a new fleet of 12 offshore patrol vessels and 21 Pacific Patrol Boats.
All 54 vessels will be built here in Australia - built by Australian workers with Australian steel.
It is one of the biggest naval transformations occurring anywhere in the world today - a stark contrast, I must say, with Labor’s failure to commission a single naval vessel when they were in office for six years. Asleep at the wheel.
And earlier today, Chris Pyne and I, together with other ministers who were there, signed our Strategic Partnership Agreement with the French Defence Minister which delivers on our commitment to build 12 new submarines. And Steven Marshall, the Premier of South Australia, had a particularly big smile on his face, as he should. But so should all Premiers, because this work extends right around the country.
The Air Force will gain unprecedented combat capacity through the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.
And the Army is getting new body armour, weapons, night fighting equipment and new Armoured Reconnaissance Vehicles, which I know 3rd Brigade up there in Lavarack, Townsville are very, very excited about, particularly Brigadier Winter.
Operation Sovereign Borders has been one, I would argue, of Australia’s greatest national security policy successes.
I have had the privilege to lead it, as has Peter Dutton. I know what compromise and poorly thought through changes can do to our borders. Labor proposes to do both, again. They have learned nothing from their failures on border protection.
Our successful border protection framework has three core elements, and you’ve heard me say it before, but it bears repeating.
First, the denial of permanent residence and therefore citizenship to people who illegally enter Australia.
This was achieved by the restoration of temporary protection visas when we came to government. Labor has promised to abolish them.
When Labor did this in August 2008, thinking it would make no difference, it fired the starter’s gun for the boats to return, and the deaths, and the tragedy and the chaos.
Secondly, regional processing of people who seek to illegally enter Australia.
This is conducted at the Nauru regional processing facilities.
Labor have already voted in the Senate, as you know, to undermine these arrangements by removing authority for transfers to Australia from the Government. They will abolish regional processing as we know it.
And thirdly, disrupting people smuggling activities through the supply chain, as General Molan and I know as we did all those years ago, right up that chain using a web of intelligence and regional cooperation and the physical turn-back of boats.
Operation Sovereign Borders has worked, it’s delivered a human dividend that is both compassionate and fair.
- We’ve stopped the deaths at sea – there were over 1,200 that we know of;
- We’ve closed 19 detention centres;
- We’ve removed all children from detention - remember over 8,000 were put into detention under the previous government - and the last four children on Nauru have their bags packed for the US. All the children are off Nauru;
- We’ve expanded our humanitarian program;
- And here’s some figures you might not have heard. Right from the outset, and I did this, as did Peter and David Coleman now following, we have expanded our Women at Risk program, which has seen 7,046 women and children find safe refuge in Australia since 2013.
That’s what strong border protection delivers when it comes to human beings.
Our plan is simple. We won’t change it, not one jot. Labor will.
Our Government will also continue to do everything that must be done to combat radical extremist Islamist terrorism.
So far our record includes 12 tranches of national security legislation passed.
But I’ve got to say, on almost every occasion, Labor has been dragged to support this vital legislation and then only, having sought to water it down, try and claim bipartisanship.
$2.2 billion in extra funding for our law enforcement, intelligence and security agencies. Restoring what was stripped away.
Funding for 100 more intelligence experts, over 100 more tactical response and covert surveillance operators and almost 100 forensic experts at the AFP.
$294 million to upgrade airport security around the country, including in regional airports, and $45 million in programs to counter radicalisation.
The creation of a new Office of National Intelligence and the Home Affairs Department, the expansion of the Australian Cyber Security Centre, and a significant boost in resources, all of this will ensure that our security agencies are stronger and better coordinated and integrated.
In the wake of the Burke Street terrorist attack, I decided more needed to be done when it came to countering radicalisation. I met with Muslim leaders in Sydney and I have since approved another $14 million, working with David Coleman as the Minister for Multicultural Affairs, for additional programmes to work with local community organisations and Muslim leaders who are prepared to take a stand. These are brave people, to prevent radicalisation destroying their own communities.
But the achievement we can take most comfort from is that since 2014, our security agencies have disrupted 14 major terrorist plots.
90 people have been charged with counter-terrorism offences, and hundreds of Australian families have loved ones with them - instead of facing grief, pain and loss because of the excellent work of our security agencies.
And under laws passed by our Government, we have stripped 12 terrorists of Australian citizenship.
That’s what keeping Australia safe looks like.
We might not thwart every attempt by terrorists to damage our democracy, but we have put our intelligence and security services on the best possible footing to do so.
Our Government is also fully engaged in working together to combat violence against women. And I acknowledge Kelly O’Dwyer who is here today, and I acknowledge the work she has done, as well as Paul Fletcher in this area as the Minister for Social Services.
As I said before, it must stop.
Nearly ten years ago, state and federal governments came together with the community to put in place the first National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and Children.
The Fourth Action Plan will be finalised in the middle of this year.
But where immediate action is needed we have delivered, including committing a further $20 million just in the past year for 1800RESPECT.
Today I am announcing the first of the Commonwealth measures towards the Action Plan - a $60 million investment in emergency accommodation and $18 million of continued support for state and territory governments to keep women and children safe in their homes.
These two measures reflect two important principles, and I can reflect on this back from my time in Social Services Minister, as Paul knows very well.
We can’t ask women and children to leave dangerous homes if they have no place to go. And where it is safe, women and children survivors should be helped to remain in their homes and in their communities. You’ve got to be safe in your own home.
We have listened to the frontline workers and survivors throughout the consultations we have had over the past year.
That is why one focus of our measures also we’ll be announcing soon will be on prevention - on changing the attitudes to violence, and on helping those who think violence is an option, to stop.
This new commitment will build on the more than $350 million our Government has invested since 2015 to stop this violence against women and children.
Our Government has also been at the forefront of efforts to keep children safe online with over $100 million invested so far.
Mitch Fifield will know that we’ve done this with the creation of the world’s first eSafety Commissioner who has tough powers to take down cyberbullying content, by funding new resources to support parents, and are making a new $10 million investment to allow charities like the Alannah and Madeline Foundation and the Carly Ryan Foundation to develop new tools to protect children online.
We have passed Carly’s Law that makes it a crime for an adult to use carriage services in relation to sexual activity with a minor.
And we have provided almost $69 million to establish the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation, which is a national approach led by the AFP, championed by Peter Dutton, to combat a global epidemic of child abuse. We’re serious about this stuff, we are very serious.
Our Government will continue to take action also to protect Australians from criminals.
Across my time as Immigration Minister and on Peter Dutton’s watch and now on David’s watch, we have cancelled the visas of the equivalent of the gaol population of South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory combined.
We have cancelled the visas of 4,150 dangerous criminals, sent them packing. In six years, Labor cancelled just 643 visas. Labor were soft.
We cancelled around 800 last year alone.
That included 13 murderers, 34 rapists and sex offenders, 53 for domestic violence, 56 for armed robbery, and 100 child sex offenders, punted by our Government.
Specifically, we have cancelled the visas of more than 300 child sex offenders and stopped hundreds more at the border.
We have introduced a national approach to strip criminals of their illegally obtained wealth no matter which jurisdiction they operate in, which strikes at the heart of organised crime. And I particularly acknowledge Michael Keenan for his work when he was Minister on those issues.
We’re giving our law enforcement agencies the tools to read the encrypted messages that violent criminals and child sex offenders are currently using to evade detection, and we had to fight for it in the Parliament to make sure we got it. We are also seeking to legislate to ensure that police have appropriate powers to assess and disrupt potential security and criminal threats at airports.
Our Government is taking an uncompromising approach to fighting the menace of drugs.
Last financial year, the AFP and Australian Border Force seized more than 17 tonnes of drugs and precursors at the border.
The AFP assisted its international counterparts to seize more than 28 tonnes of drugs and precursors offshore. All of these efforts are protecting lives from being destroyed by drugs in our communities.
The scourge of ICE is one that I know affects communities right across Australia, not least the families and children of ICE addicts.
The Government has invested $450 million to help these communities fight the impacts of ICE, including funding for more than 220 Local Drug Action Teams.
Our joined-up strategy includes international cooperation to stop drugs at their source, with enhanced intelligence sharing, as well as better controls on precursor chemicals and stronger law enforcement.
In total, we are also providing more than $720 million over four years to help communities reduce the impact of drug and alcohol misuse. Forgive me for listing such a long list of actions, but there’s a long list there in terms of what we’ve been doing.
But finally, let me talk about natural disasters. It’s our job, together with States and Territories and local government, to support Australians when nature doesn’t.
We are investing in our national emergency capability and resilience through the government’s Preparing Australia Package – with support for emergency text alerts, aerial firefighting and bushfire shelters, which have come in very useful, as Linda and I have seen in recent weeks and months.
At the national level we have contracted over 130 aerial firefighting assets for this season, bringing the total to over 500 aerial assets available when state resources are counted.
Emergency Management Australia administer, on average, about $1 billion in disaster recovery payments each year, as well as operate our 24/7 Crisis Coordination Centre.
Our Government is also now funding up to 75 per cent of disaster assistance to individuals and communities, most of which is provided through State and Territory Governments. So up there in Townsville at the moment, those state agencies that are providing payments, 75 per cent of that is being funded by the Commonwealth Government, not just the individual payments that we do on top of that.
And once again we have seen the best of Australians in response to these recent fires and floods. It’s no surprise, but it never loses how impressive it is.
And I particularly want to thank, on behalf of our country all of the volunteer emergency services personnel, to state and territory governments, to the ADF, who have just been doing an extraordinary job, an extraordinary job, all around the country, for all that they have done. It’s just not what they do, it’s when they show up, it lifts the spirits of those who need help.
As of 5pm yesterday, over 32 thousand claims for disaster relief payments have been processed in Townsville alone, in just one week. And we have already paid over $39 million in assistance, just in one week. That’s cash straight into the pockets of those impacted by the floods.
Further, effective 11am today, we have extended the availability of disaster recovery payments to eight shires across Western Queensland - the funds will start flowing immediately and Centrelink are putting people on the ground ready to process it immediately.
This morning I again spoke, as I said, with the mayors of the flood impacted shires in Western Queensland where we are seeing a national disaster unfold in terms of damage to our beef and cattle industries.
As a result, and further to my announcement of Category D assistance, which is national disaster status - there is no technical national disaster declaration in any act. Category D is what it is, there is a national disaster unfolding in northern Queensland. And we announced that assistance on Friday, and today I am announcing that my Government will provide an immediate ex-gratia payment of $1 million to each of the affected shires. That is necessary for them to just get on and do the enormous amount of work they need to support their communities. They raised it with me this morning, it’s announced by this afternoon.
This payment will be for them to use on the priorities that they deem most urgent - whether that be rate relief for impacted properties, reconstruction of infrastructure, or the disposal of cattle that have perished, which is being coordinated and also assisted by the ADF.
Our disaster assistance funding to North Queensland in response to this flood is already over $100 million, in addition to massive support from the ADF.
I want those farmers to know up there in North Queensland that we will stand with them all the way through this disaster, but we will be standing with you on the other side as you rebuild the great prosperity that we know is there for you in the future. We will be there to rebuild with you.
So in conclusion, national security is all about making the right decisions. Because, as a Government and as a Prime Minister, you make them every single day.
You make these decisions - this is how I make them - based on your values, what you believe, your instincts, your experience and, when required, courage.
Our Government has demonstrated we have the mettle to make the right calls on our nation’s security:
- Repairing our borders;
- Investing in our defence forces;
- Deporting violent criminals;
- Taking on domestic violence to protect the women and children in this country;
- Disrupting terrorist attacks.
We have led, we haven’t followed.
We have taken decisions rather than put them off to another day.
And we have embraced tough calls rather than seeking to buy weak compromises for the purpose of politics.
This is our form, not just of our Government. But as Michael McCormack knows, the Deputy Prime Minister, the form of Liberal National Coalition Governments going back 70 years.
It is why we are trusted.
The plan I have announced today is built on our strong record and sets out plainly what a re-elected Morrison Liberal Nationals Government will continue to do to keep Australians safe and secure.