Press Conference with First Ministers, Council of Australian Governments

Transcript
05 Oct 2017
Parliament House, Canberra
Prime Minister
E&OE

PRIME MINISTER:

Good afternoon. I want to thank the Premiers and the Chief Ministers for joining me and Michael Keenan, the Minister for Justice and Minister assisting me on Counter-Terrorism for a national security COAG. It has been a very, very productive one.

We’ve seen real unanimity, both in terms of the decisions that we’ve taken and in the purpose and in the commitment to keep Australians safe.

We’re committed to ensuring that our agencies have the tools, the legislative tools and the resources and the techniques to keep Australians safe and to respond and prevent terrorist incidents.

We know that we have got to be constantly vigilant.

I have said many times that there is no place for ‘set and forget’ when it comes to national security.

We’ve already seen great cooperation in terms of the techniques for protecting crowded places. You will remember in August, we released a Crowded Places Strategy which I want to thank all of the Heads of Government here and indeed David O'Loughlin of the Local Government Association, for the intense cooperation in bringing together what is a world's-best strategy for protecting crowded places. Its assessment tools, opportunities for venue owners, whether it’s local governments or commercial precincts or federal or state government precincts, to be able to get the best advice to keep people safe.

Now, at the COAG today, we have agreed as you know, to establish a national facial biometric matching capability.

To be quite clear about this, this is not accessing information, photo I.D. information that is not currently available. We’re talking about bringing together essentially federal government photo I.Ds, passports, visas and so forth, together with drivers licences. These are all available to law enforcement agencies now and have been for many years, if not for generations. But what we have not been doing them is accessing them in a modern 21st Century way.

It shouldn't take seven days to be able to verify someone's identity or to seek to match a photograph of somebody that is a person of interest. It should be able to be done seamlessly in real time. That is what this cooperation and that agreement you have seen us just sign, will enable us to do.

We’re going to enhance and strengthen the existing Commonwealth pre-charge detention regime. This will enable our police to detain and question a person who has been arrested on suspicion of terrorist activities, for up to 14 days. There will be a judicial oversight of that by a magistrate and it is a very important tool. As you know, with terrorist offences, with terrorist incidents, the police have to move to disrupt them very quickly, often more quickly than they would with another type of offence that they are investigating.

So it’s important that people who have been arrested can be detained while evidence is being gathered. It may involve going through masses of electronic data. It may involve the type of forensic analysis that we saw at Majura yesterday. It may involve seeking information from overseas.

This is a very important refinement and enhancement and of course, it mirrors, in terms of the period, the status, the situation that’s been established in New South Wales.

We are also establishing new Commonwealth criminal offences for individuals who possess instructional terrorist material or make terrorist hoaxes.

We heard today, in addition from hearing from the Director-General of Security Duncan Lewis and the Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin, we heard from the Vice Chief of the Defence Force, Admiral Griggs about enhanced Defence support for state and territories, in terms of dealing with counter-terrorist operations.

These amendments will make it easier for states to access the special capabilities of the ADF, while of course recognising that state and territory police forces are the front lines and the first responders in dealing with terrorist situations. It also is seeing already our special forces providing additional training to the tactical response groups in the various state police forces.

We heard about, explained to Premiers and Chief Ministers the way in which we are enhancing aviation security in light of the recent plot in Sydney. As you know, it was recently disrupted in July and it involved a plot to take a bomb onto an aircraft and indeed to develop a chemical dispersal device.

We’ve agreed to expand the use of the existing emergency alert system which is used for natural disasters, to national security incidents.

Again, that is a good example of Chief Ministers and Premiers focusing on the tools we have, seeing what’s working and seeing how we can apply them, enhance them to do more to keep us safe.

We’ve discussed the efforts underway to combat and prevent radicalisation and are committed to collaborating and learning from each others' efforts as we work on that agenda. Clearly, the best way to prevent terrorism is to prevent somebody becoming a violent extremist or adopting an extremist ideology in the first place. We understand how important that is.

As I said, there is no place for ‘set and forget’ and we will be holding another national security COAG in 12 months.

I just want to say again, thank you so much to the Premiers and the Chief Ministers and to the President of the Local Government Association for your cooperation today and to all of the officials that have put so much effort into this work.

We have agreed on measures today, which would not have been agreed to or resolved as quickly as they have been, had it not been for the convening power of this meeting of First Ministers. So I want to thank my First Minister colleagues for their attendance and their support and their solidarity in keeping Australians safe.

Will, you’re the Chair of the Council of Australian Federations, so over to you.

THE HON. WILL HODGMAN, PREMIER OF TASMANIA:

Thanks Prime Minister, to Premiers, Chief Ministers and to the President of the Australian Local Government Association.

I think this is a good example of COAG working very well. There are many important issues confronting our country and those issues will continue to be progressed through COAG and through work between all levels of government, but we came together today to focus on a critical issue, a priority for our nation and that is ensuring that citizens of Australia, wherever they live, are as safe as they can be.

So governments are doing everything that we can to ensure that our processes, systems, laws, resources, our personnel across all agencies, are doing the best they can to provide greater security and law enforcement in our respective jurisdictions.

This was a good example of a very collaborative approach by the representatives of all levels of government at this COAG meeting, with a very common purpose and with a principal aim and objective of doing whatever we can to make our respective communities safer.

Of course, there are varying perspectives across jurisdictions and they were all part of these discussions.

For my part and for the State of Tasmania, I will always fight very hard to ensure that the island state has the best possible security systems and supports in place. That includes, of course, at the Hobart International Airport and I look forward to the outcome of a review into the nation's airports and to see what we can do to not only improve security at that central port for the island state, but also to continue to argue very strongly, as I will continue to do, for an AFP presence at that airport.

But I will say in conclusion that I think on behalf of all jurisdictions Prime Minister, there is uniform commitment to not only increase our efforts, improve our processes but also to strengthen our laws.

We are very mindful of and respectful for issues of privacy, but fundamentally, we have a principal obligation and that is to ensure that our communities are safer. Today what we have laid out, albeit with more work needing to be done and with some urgency and priority we are told, that will happen.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you very much, Will. Gladys?

THE HON. GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN, PREMIER OF NEW SOUTH WALES:

Thank you Prime Minister. I think today's unanimous decision-making in relation to these important security matters is a sign of the times we all live in.

All of us accept and acknowledge that public and community security has to be first and foremost considerations for us all. I think the way in which all of us have approached this issue recognises that.

It was a very successful COAG in that regard. All of us are on the same page.

New South Wales, as the largest state and as the state with potentially some of the highest risk, has had to move swiftly in some of the matters that were discussed today and we have.

But I’m reassured that all of our state colleagues are on the same page in relation to some of the decisions we’ve had to make in New South Wales. I commend the PM for having this special COAG in recognition of the threats that face our nation and all Australians.

Regrettably, the threat situation we live in, has not changed. It’s not a maybe, it’s ‘probable’ and that it why it is important for us to have come together and given such a strong and united advice, but also decision-making, to the people of Australia, whose public safety is our responsibility.

Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you very much. Daniel, Premier of Victoria.

THE HON. DANIEL ANDREWS MP, PREMIER OF VICTORIA:

Thank you Prime Minister. From Victoria's point of view - and I think it is obvious for all of you and many more to see - some issues ought sit above party politics, some issues ought to be spared the indignity and the pretty much business-as-usual bickering that can sometimes, sometimes, be part and parcel of this forum.

The safety of every Australian and the willingness of governments to make changes that are sometimes unpopular in order to give to our law enforcement, to our security and intelligence agencies, everything that they need, that surely sits above politics and above the partisanship that – and sometimes it’s very important to have arguments, sometimes it’s very important to debate things – but when it comes to doing everything possible to keep the nation safe, we’ve not bickered and quarreled today. We have instead got on and made some changes that have been waiting to be made for a long time.

State and territory motor vehicle and drivers’ licensing agencies have been manually providing this information for a very long time. To say that it was inefficient or not fit for purpose, is an understatement. It is only the power of this forum where First Ministers have come together and said that is not good enough, that has seen us today agree to that as one of a number of what I think will be regarded as profound changes.

The reason we have done that, in my judgement, is that it would be unforgiveable, unforgivable to not make changes like that when the technology is available, the competence, the know-how and the safeguards are available to affect that change and to give to those who put themselves in harm's way, in our protection, every day the tools and supports that they need. That’s one reform. There are many others.

Can I just make a passing comment as well. There will be some today who will focus on the notional infringement, the notional reduction in peoples' rights and liberties and freedoms, the rights and liberties of a small number of people.

Some people have the luxury of being able to have that notional debate. Those of us in positions of leadership, do not have that luxury. We are called to act and we are called to make the changes necessary to give to law enforcement and our security agencies, everything they need to keep Australia safe and that is what this COAG meeting today has done.

It is this forum operating at it’s best.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you very much. Annastacia?

THE HON. ANNASTACIA PALASZCZUK MP, PREMIER OF QUEENSLAND:

Prime Minister, thank you very much for calling us all together here today and I think what we have seen is that our leaders can work collectively when it is about fundamentally the public and ensuring that the public is safe now and into the future. I think we all feel that we live in uncertain times and I’m also very grateful for the fact that we have such good law enforcement agencies in each of our jurisdictions and also at the Commonwealth level.

As I mentioned earlier today and I’ll say it in this forum here – we’ve got the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in April next year. I want them to be safe and secure and I know our agencies are working very collectively to ensure that will happen.

But in relation to the drivers licences, I would really like to see that register up in time for the Commonwealth Games and I know that we have a commitment from all jurisdictions today, to try and get that happening as quickly as possible.

So it is great to see everyone here today but once again Prime Minister, thank you very much for convening and I think that it’s very important that we do keep these issues at the national forefront and are to come back next year.

PRIME MINISTER:

Very good, thank you. Mark McGowan?

THE HON. MARK MCGOWAN MLA, PREMIER OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA:

Thanks Prime Minister and thanks to all the Premiers and Chief Ministers and head of the Local Government Association who have attended today. I have appreciated the fact that there has been a national approach on this issue. I think Australians want to see a unity ticket across the political divide on this important issue. One of the things Australians always say to us - West Australians in particular - is they want to see us working together to achieve outcomes and not just fighting on issues.

So I think this is a great example of both sides of politics, state and federal working together to achieve outcomes. So the outcomes here will be nationally consistent approach in a whole range of areas, because as we understand people, who engage in terrorism may not recognise state borders and whilst I think some cities in Australia have a bigger problem than others and some states have a bigger problem than others, of course we don’t want to see people who have terrorist tendencies think that they can go elsewhere, where there might be a softer or less vigilant approach. So having a nationally consistent approach means of course that those people who engage in this sort of conduct or contemplating this sort of conduct, know that if they go to another jurisdiction, there will be a similar tough approach to these issues.

The meeting today discussed a whole range of initiatives and as we know, our legislation changes over time and so our view of civil liberties and those sorts of things change over time depending on the threat level. Obviously considering the threat level is now significantly higher in relation to these issues than it was once upon a time, laws change to reflect that. So the traditional view of some of these things is not immutable it’s not unchangeable. These things change over time depending upon the threat levels in place and the threat levels and how higher. So as governments we have a responsibility to change what we do and that’s what we’ve done.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you very much, Jay Weatherill?

THE HON. JAY WEATHERILL MHA, PREMIER OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA:

Thank you Prime Minister. It’s pleasing to come to Canberra to meet with my federal and state colleagues to cooperate in the national interest.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well thank you. So Andrew?

ANDREW BARR, CHIEF MINISTER OF THE AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY:

Thank you Prime Minister.

I won’t add much to what my colleagues have said other than to say issues of human rights and privacy were forefront of the ACT’s considerations in participating in a number of elements of what we have agreed to today, we have sought to highlight the importance of privacy and of civil liberties.

I respect the position of many of my colleagues that the threat level has changed and it’s more perhaps in sorrow than in anger that we can reflect upon the change in our community and the society in which we live, that necessitates these sorts of actions. But nonetheless all jurisdictions have signed up today and that reflects a need for a joined-up and collective response to difficult issues. But to do so within the framework of a Human Rights Act that we have in the Australian Capital Territory, has required us to work closely with the Commonwealth to achieve the outcome and I want to acknowledge that that has been achieved and its an important thing for residents in the Australian Capital Territory.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you Andrew, Michael.

THE HON. MICHAEL GUNNER, CHIEF MINISTER OF THE NOTHERN TERRITORY:

Thank you Prime Minister and to my fellow first ministers for showing what we can do when we come together and apply a singular focus to an issue of national interest. I think that’s an important lesson to take away from today, that we can work together. As Dan said, this is us at our best and I think it’s something we need to apply to future COAGs; that singular focus to interests of national interest. So we can come together here in Canberra or elsewhere around the country and tackle it together.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good thank you very much – David.

THE PRESIDENT OF THE AUSTRALIAN LOCAL GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATION, MAYOR DAVID O'LOUGHLIN:

Thank you Prime Minister. Tolerance, understanding, appreciation, celebration, it’s the Australian way. The laws we’ve discussed today will greatly enhance our ability to deal with those people who don’t understand or don’t want to participate in this great country.

Local government is at the forefront of understanding local communities and helping them celebrate their diversity and I have made that very clear today, that we stand ready to assist in this effort at the local level and make sure that people have that opportunity to participate in building their local communities, in sharing their stories and becoming one community, it’s a very important part of this dialogue.

Also want to congratulate the Prime Minister and his team on the development of the Crowded Places tool, it’s greatly appreciate by us, by local government that were involved in the process. The tool is very effective, it’s an easy to understand and apply tool. It will be a great asset for local governments, for private property owners, shopping centre developers, shopping centre managers and planners to assist them and to asses their risk and to be able to deal with it in a meaningful way. Our request is that those processes are appropriate and that they’re reasonable for the circumstances. Local government is excellent at celebrating diversity as I mentioned earlier and local events run by community groups and by local councils need to continue because their an important part of the fabric of our nation. We must make sure that the measures involved to protect people at those events, are not so much of a burden that the events themselves become compromised and unable to be held. So we need balance in the resolution of these matters and we very much look forward to be part of that solution.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well thank you very much.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister can I just ask you about the national facial biometric matching capability, I noted in your communique it talks about the importance of identifying people who are suspects or victims of terrorist or other criminal activity. Can you tell us what limitation is going to be put on that to prevent this new capacity being used simply for mass surveillance, for all sorts of activities some of them, some of it is way less serious than terrorism.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it doesn’t involve surveillance or indeed mass surveillance. I think you misunderstand -

JOURNALIST:

So what limits are there?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well let me just finish, I think you’ve misunderstood the announcement. I’d commend to you the remarks that have been made earlier. What we’re talking about here is using photo IDs that are in the possession of road transport authorities in the states and territories and of course passport photos and visa photos, in possession of the Commonwealth. They’re currently used, accessed by law enforcement agencies already, to determine identity. But of course it is as Daniel Andrews was saying, it’s a very laborious not-fit-for-purpose process. So what this is doing, is simply making them available in as near as possible, real time.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister you did say yesterday that live surveillance cameras in shopping centres, you talked about the ability to track people in real time with CCTV. Just explain to us what you were talking about there.

PRIME MINISTER:

Again, the database consists of photographs that are already being accessed, okay? So you’re putting a means of being able to use them in a 21st century manner. What that also means though, is that if the police had identified somebody on a CCTV that they were concerned about, they could then refer to that database and find out who they were, in real time. Now what happens now, is that people - as you all know you cover this in your new stories - people are identified on CCTV and then there is often a very long and clunky and laborious process to work out who they are. So CCTV is not part of this database.

JOURNALIST:

I’m talking about someone who might be on a watch list, tracking them going to shopping centres or-

PRIME MINISTER:

The database does not involve CCTV data. Nobody has said it has except for a couple of journalists. So I just want to be very clear about it, it involves-

JOURNALIST:

You did say yesterday that it involves CCTV in shopping centres, tracking in real time –

PRIME MINISTER:

That’s right, but the point is that you can if you are able in real time to identify who you are seeing, going into an airport or going into a sporting stadium, the real time part of it comes from having access to the photo ID database. The CCTV is not part of it. That is something that’s being accessed by law enforcement agencies all the time, so I’m sorry if you’ve misunderstood it but it is, this is literally taking photo IDs which have been accessed for many years, perhaps generations. Perhaps Daniel can add to it. So it is really taking a resource that has been accessed for years and years and making it available in a 21st Century manner. I think most Australia’s would’ve assumed it was being accessed in this way until now, but it hasn’t been. So that’s one of the good things we’ve done today.

THE HON. DANIEL ANDREWS MP, PREMIER OF VICTORIA:

That was the point I was going to make, that I think most people would assume that the best of technology, just a fraction of what they might see you know on tele, on going to the movies, this is not exactly space-age stuff. Most people would assume that this sort of technology is being deployed to keep them safe, now. We have number plate recognition technology, we used to pull over every single car, we don’t do that anymore. You make the best use of the best technology to keep people safe. That’s what people would already think they’re getting. Now they’re going to get it and that’s to be honest, easier for states and territories as well as a much more effective use of that.

JOURNALIST:

Who will have access to this information, so where will the limitations be set, is it federal police, is it state police, what sort of defences are you talking about?

PRIME MINISTER:

It’s people with a lawful purpose, it’s law enforcement agencies. It will also be available - this is a very important point – it’ll be available too for people to establish their identity. There are many cases where people lose all of their ID in a flood or a natural disaster and it would enable them rapidly to be able to identify and demonstrate who they are, so that they can get their critical identity documents restored.

JOURNALIST:

Just from Andrew Barr, Andrew Barr doesn’t this breach your human rights legislation, do you have legal advice on the effect of this?

ANDREW BARR, CHIEF MINISTER OF AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY:

Our agreement with the Commonwealth is explicit in terms of how we will participate and explicitly references our Human Rights Act. They’re the controls and protocols that are in place for our participation and use of any ACT data in this process.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister just to be clear will there be any access allowed to private operators, for example an airport operator, or someone who manages a stadium or will the access be restricted to law enforcement agencies?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well if governments approve that access, then other parties can have access but they would have to be approved by government. It would be under the supervision of government. Exactly the nature of the access has not changed, the nature of the data has not changed. The only thing that is changing, is that it can be accessed in a modern 21st Century way. As the Premier of Victoria said, most people would assume, most people would assume that if the police saw a person they were concerned about on a CCTV, they could turn to a computer system and quickly work out who that person was. The answer is they can’t and what we’re doing is ensuring that they can.

JOURNALIST:

For example could Westfield apply to use this to identify a petty thief, what are the limitations?

PRIME MINISTER:

Any access would have to be agreed with the law enforcement agencies, nothing has changed. It is all still covered by the same protocols, by the same rules and terms of who gets access. This is all about ensuring that the agencies can do their job even better at keeping us safe. That’s what it’s about.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, just to clarify though, it’s been asked a couple of times and I’m still not 100 per cent clear. The biometric sharing applies to potentially all criminal activity, not just CT offences?

PRIME MINISTER:

That’s true.

JOURNALIST:

So there’s no limit on, from a very petty crime to –

PRIME MINISTER:

The access that currently exists is unchanged. The nature of the access is unchanged. What is changed is the speed and the efficiency by which the database, or databases, can be accessed. So it is a refinement that as a number of us have said already, is one that most Australians would assume had been in place for a long time and will be puzzled to learn that it hasn’t been.

JOURNALIST:

Thank you and one more point of clarification, the communique says that the leaders have agreed to the enhancement of existing Commonwealth pre-charge detention regimes, so this is the 14 days. Does enhancement mean that everybody here has agreed to 14 days or not?

PRIME MINISTER:

Everyone’s agreed to us making these changes to part 1C of our criminal law. I can go through the detail if you like or New South Wales is already there under their own state legislation. But because most of these operations, almost invariably they’re done as a joint commonwealth-state operation through the Joint Counter-Terrorism Team, so it is more efficient to have a Commonwealth law that of course is available then, without any you know, legal issues to both Commonwealth and state agencies and offices.

JOURNALIST:

What about the constitutional problems with doing that in the past?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well clearly we’ve satisfied ourselves this will comply with the Constitution.

JOURNALIST:

Will the age limit of 14, is it for this?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah, the answer is - I think you're touching on another area – but minors can be arrested of course. Can be charged, can be detained pending a charge, but of course with a minor, there are other arrangements, to have an adult present and so forth. There are the standard arrangements to deal with their capacity as minors.

JOURNALIST:

Ms Palaszczuk, you said before that you wanted this in place, the facial recognition system, up and running before the Commonwealth Games. Have you got that assurance and in practice, can you tell us how it would work? So you’ve got the various venues, will you have facial recognition systems up at the various entry points?

THE HON. ANNASTACIA PALASZCZUK MP, PREMIER OF QUEENSLAND:

I'm not going to go security issues.

JOURNALIST:

Could you give us a vague, overall – we all want to know how this will work in operation.

THE HON. ANNASTACIA PALASZCZUK MP, PREMIER OF QUEENSLAND:

I think the Prime Minister has explained how it's going to operate. The fact that we need it, some states will need to legislate, Queensland will need to legislate, as an example. So we need to get that legislation in place as quickly as possible. But what we have all agreed today, is that this is absolutely needed. If we're going to be utilising the best of technology, it has to be up-to-date. Some of those other issues and how it’s going to work in practice are matters for law enforcement agencies at the moment. But what we do need, is that central register, up to date as soon as practicable.

JOURNALIST:

What do you need to legislate on facial recognition?

THE HON. ANNASTACIA PALASZCZUK MP, PREMIER OF QUEENSLAND:

Some states need to.

JOURNALIST:

What do you need to legislate?

THE HON. ANNASTACIA PALASZCZUK MP, PREMIER OF QUEENSLAND:

I think it’s just a change to the Act –

JOURNALIST:

To do what though? If it's no change, is it business as usual?

THE HON. ANNASTACIA PALASZCZUK MP, PREMIER OF QUEENSLAND:

No, no some states do actually need to change the Act. I can get the details for you.

PRIME MINISTER:

Some do and some don’t.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister in the example you gave, you said that if people are looking at video monitors or whatever it was, law enforcement agencies identified someone they could turn to another terminal and see if that brings up any red flags. Given that the emphasis has to be on prevention, is that how it would work? Or would the system be sophisticated and presumably the technology would –

PRIME MINISTER:

What, automatically recognise people?

JOURNALIST:

What’s that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Are you asking about whether there would be automatic, in effect –

JOURNALIST:

Yeah would it be automatically recognising people and then bringing up red flags?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, that's not part of this scheme. What this is doing, is essentially taking the current arrangements - which are as we said, pretty clunky and slow - into the 21st Century. The ability to match identities swiftly, using all of the processing power of an online database system, is clearly an advancement. But in terms of, you know, scanning a CCTV in real time, whether and to what extent those tools are effective, they're not part of this particular initiative. This is about the states and the territories and the Commonwealth sharing photo ID information, which they currently do share, but they share in a fairly slow and ponderous way, which does not support very rapid responses to law enforcement situations, particularly terrorist situations.

So we have to give our police the tools to enable them to keep us safe. This is an enhancement that arguably should have been made a long time ago.

JOURNALIST:

You say there's no place for ‘set and forget’; surely the next step if you’re into prevention, is to stop someone entering a stadium?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don't want to start getting into speculation here, Mark. That may be a topic for your next column, but this is a very important step to ensure that the information which police have had access to for a very long time - as long as I can remember - they can now get access to, in real time. Surely that is something all Australians will welcome and I think the vast majority of Australians, as we've said, will be wondering why it hasn't been the case for a long time.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, thank you, was there any discussion of gun laws and any discussion of the suggestion by the Opposition Leader to extend the already successful amnesty that's been running?

PRIME MINISTER:

We didn't discuss it, but I can respond to that. We’d encourage Mr Shorten to rethink the position that he's taken in alliance with the Greens, to oppose our move to set mandatory minimum sentences for people convicted of gun-smuggling offences. The Greens and the Labor Party have said they will vote against that in the Senate. We are increasing the maximum sentences, but it's important that there be strong mandatory minimum sentences, five years is what we’ve proposed. If Mr Shorten has a concern to prevent gun proliferation and gun-smuggling and I don’t doubt that he does, then he should really rethink the unity ticket that he's currently on with the Greens Party.

JOURNALIST:

Also on gun control Prime Minister, COAG agreed about a year ago on a National Firearms Agreement. It was released in February, it's yet to be legislated by most states and territories. Do you have any concern about any lack of will to actually legislate and implement the National Firearms Agreement? Or perhaps any concern about whether it may be watered down in some states?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I'm satisfied that all of the jurisdictions represented here are absolutely united in our commitment to maintaining the strong and strict gun control laws and the National Firearms Agreement that everyone is a party to. That was put in place more than 20 years ago by John Howard, following the shocking Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, can I ask on energy - Premiers Berejiklian and Andrews and Mr Gunner have made their opposition to developing –

PRIME MINISTER:

Just before we go on Phil, I don’t want to stop you, but have we exhausted questions on national security? We'll come back to you.

JOURNALIST:

Are you working to remove the constraints to calling out the ADF, which is something you discussed in July as well, has that been finalised, is legislation required? In a practical sense, what does that mean, does that mean we'll see the SAS on the street if there is another incident and who makes that call?

PRIME MINISTER:

The answer is, it will be legislated. We expect it to be legislated, it’ll be introduced shortly. We expect the laws, the amendments to be passed by early next year. It simply creates more flexibility. For example under the law as it stands, for a state to call in the support of the ADF, it has to conclude that the situation has gone beyond it’s resources. You know, you can imagine the situations that was looking at, when the law was originally drafted. So again, it's a case of no place for ‘set and forget’. That part of the Defence Act is not fit-for-purpose, so it's being updated. It will give states more flexibility and of course, enable the cooperation to be more suited to the threats of the times.

JOURNALIST:

PM just to clarify, does that mean, in a practical sense, what does it mean? Does that mean we could see the SAS called out and who makes the call? Is it you, is it a state Premier, is it a join decision?

PRIME MINISTER:

Those decisions are taken by the state and federal governments, so by the Premier and the Prime Minister, if you like. But you’ve got to remember most of these, we face a very wide range of terrorist threats, James and most of them, increasingly, are resolved within minutes. So one of the important things the police, the ADF can do - and they're doing now - is providing support from a training point of view, to improve the tactical response skills of state police forces. Because they will be dealing with the situation as the first responders. So we're dealing with a very complex threat which can manifest itself in very elaborate plots, such as the aviation plot that was disrupted in July or indeed, the plot relating to exploding a device in Federation Square in Melbourne just before Christmas. Or it can be a single person in a vehicle, or with a knife, or with a gun, or it can be somebody creating a homemade bomb on instructions from overseas.

So it's a wide range of threats and our commitment and my commitment - and I know that of all my colleagues here - is to ensure that every talent, every resource we have to keep Australians safe, can be deployed where it is needed. So that is why there is no place for ‘set and forget’. We'll keep this constantly under review and we'll always be refining and enhancing and fine-tuning our ability to keep Australians safe.

Now, we'll just take one on energy.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, just in the lead-up to the COAG, the Premiers of Victoria and New South Wales have cited environmental reasons primarily, as to why they don't want to develop their gas reserves. They’ve  spoken about fracking and water tables and agriculture. Is it your view or the view of the Commonwealth that there are conventional gas reserves in those states that could be developed without, you know, harming the environment, without the risk of fracking?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, you’ve asked a very general question. There are conventional gas reserves, for example, in Victoria. Energy was not a subject of our discussion today, I might say. But there are conventional gas reserves in Victoria.

Look, it's very clear that Australia needs more gas, particularly on the east coast. We have taken unprecedented action in terms of preparing to put controls on exports, to ensure that there is adequate supply in the market on the east coast. As you know, earlier this week we’ve secured agreement from the three big exporters in Queensland. Queensland is, by far the biggest producer of gas on the east coast now. We've secured agreement from them to ensure that there will be sufficient gas supply.

I might just make one observation, just as a footnote for those that are interested. I’ve seen some comments in the media that the problems with gas are not ones of supply, but rather of price. Price is a function of supply and demand. So clearly they're connected.

JOURNALIST:

Can I ask about the airports? You can still get on an aeroplane without showing any ID. Now surely, you don't need a review to tell you that a cost-saving element of our airport travel, needs to be closed down. What are the leaders views on that? Mr Weatherill, you’ve been very quiet?

THE HON. JAY WEATHERILL MHA, PREMIER OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA:

I'm in the hands of our authorities. If they bring forward information that suggests we should act, then we act on it. I don't try and make it up.

JOURNALIST:

Why should we be able to get on a plane without showing any ID?

THE HON. JAY WEATHERILL MHA, PREMIER OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA:

No, I mean if our authorities thought that was something that was worthy of being dealt with, I’m sure they’d be raising it with us.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister can I just ask about the accessing of terror related material and hoaxes, you said you want to make this a Commonwealth criminal offence?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes

JOURNALIST:

What does that include? Does that include a mandatory minimum jail term for anyone that does it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, yes it would be a serious offence, yeah, holding instructional material. Well, there's two different things, there’s the hoaxes, there are hoax offences already in the law as you know, which carry serious penalties. But having instructional material - how to build a bomb for example - that will constitute, under the changes that we’ve agreed to today and that COAG has endorsed, that will constitute a very serious offence, as it should. Might just have one more, please.

JOURNALIST:

Premier Berejiklian you were quite defiant on radio this morning, saying you’re refusing to budge on gas exploration and said that you wouldn’t lose sleep over a threat to your GST. What’s your message to the PM, he’s been quite critical of your handling, what’s your message to him and was that covered today, did you speak about it?

THE HON. GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN, PREMIER OF NEW SOUTH WALES:

I think all of us are in unison when we say we look forward to ongoing future discussions on a national approach. I think it's important for us to have a holistic and national approach to energy issues and I look forward to those ongoing discussions.

JOURNALIST:

[Inaudible]

THE HON. GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN, PREMIER OF NEW SOUTH WALES:

We identified in New South Wales those parts of the state which are not appropriate for gas exploration and we’ve identified and those parts of the state which are. We’ve worked hard to get that balance right. When we came to government, we inherited a system where there was too much, the previous government had issued CSG licences like confetti and had not met with community expectations.

We fixed that. We have a strong balance in New South Wales. There are lots of opportunities for us to have ongoing discussions about what we need to do collectively, to secure firstly the energy needs of our citizens, but also put downward pressure on prices which is really critical for all of our citizens.

JOURNALIST:

Would leaders think it's a good idea to have a special summit like this on energy, where you can talk about having a Clean Energy Target, gas, all these sorts of things? Seriously, seriously?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah, thank you -

THE HON. DANIEL ANDREWS MP, PREMIER OF VICTORIA:

I think we’ve done that, we had a Finkel COAG last time.

THE HON. GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN, PREMIER OF NEW SOUTH WALES:

We’ve had that.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, good, thank you. For now, are there any other suggestions? The COAG energy ministers are meeting very shortly, I think. So they’ll be dealing with energy matters and advancing the important reforms.

Just on New South Wales - Gladys, just to be clear - the big project, the big Santos project near Narrabri, which would contribute a very large amount of gas to the east coast market, that is currently going through the -

THE HON. GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN, PREMIER OF NEW SOUTH WALES:

Planning process.

PRIME MINISTER:

Your planning process. So what we would look forward to, is that planning process being completed, because the extra, I think it's an extra 58 petajoules, would make a very significant difference in supply. As I said earlier, price is a function of supply and demand.

Thank you all very much.