Press Conference Opening Remarks - COAG Leaders' Meeting

09 Jun 2017
Hobart, Tasmania
Prime Minister
Defence and National Security, Environment and Energy

Today at COAG first ministers have discussed issues of the most vital importance to all Australians.

Above all keeping Australians safe, our most important duty. Ensuring that security of the Australian families in the face of a rising threat of Islamist terrorism.

We have also discussed and received a very important report on energy security, so, that we can achieve a national energy plan that delivers affordable, reliable energy and meets our emissions targets.

We have also discussed vital issues, social and economic issues that will enable all Australians to have the opportunity to do their best and realise their dreams.

Now we've seen in recent days a tragic loss of Australian lives to terrorism, in Brighton, in Melbourne, in London, and in Baghdad. Around the world, the threat of Islamist terrorism rises.

We are utterly united, Australian governments, and Australians, to find the terrorists and doing all we can to ensure that their plans are disrupted, uncovered and that they are put behind bars and stay there.

Now, to overcome this threat, governments cannot simply set and forget. We have to be as agile, as those who seek to do us harm. We have to be smarter, more prepared, we have to use technology in the most advanced forms to keep Australians safe.

Now, at my first COAG as Prime Minister, we agreed to develop post-sentence detention laws, to keep terrorists in jail after their sentences are finished, where they have not rehabilitated and where they are found to remain a threat to the community.

These laws were implemented last December, along with the most significant national security reforms in a generation, and I want to thank all the other jurisdictions for their support here.

Now today I can report that we have made further progress. We have agreed that states and territories will strengthen their laws to ensure that there will be a presumption that neither bail nor parole will be granted to those who have demonstrated support for or have links to terrorist activity.

This presumption is a vital element in keeping these people who are a threat to our safety, and our safety of our families, off the streets. Violent criminals with terrorist links should not be walking the streets. They belong in jail and this is a very important change and an indication of the resolution of leaders of our governments, of Australia's governments to defy and defeat the terrorists.

Now we have very tight engagement, cooperation, between state and federal agencies. Between the Australian Federal Police, ASIO, other federal agencies, including Border Force, and the relevant state and territory police forces. And this is coordinated through joint counter-terrorism teams in each state and each jurisdiction.

Now, we've agreed to even further strengthen the joint counter-terrorism teams, that there will be cleared, a suitably security cleared corrections service officers will be part of the joint counter-terrorism team. And so this will enable more information to be shared, more collaboration, it's very close, it's very intense, as it is, we're going to make it stronger.

We have also agreed that we will hold a special COAG on security, very shortly. As soon as practicable. It is going to comprehensively review our nation's laws and practices which are directed at protecting Australians from violent extremism. Again, this is not an area of policy where you can ‘set and forget’. We're going to very proactive, constantly upgrading our defences. We had reports today from the Director-General of ASIO, from the Acting Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, from my cyber-security advisor Alastair MacGibbon and also from Tony Sheehan, the counter-terrorism coordinator.

We discussed a wide range of issues relating to national security, but in particular for protecting Australians from terrorism and in particular, the work that's been done to protect crowded places or places of mass gathering.

Let me turn now to the briefing from the Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel. The objective as I said at the outset, is to the achieve three things; affordable energy, reliable and secure energy and ensure that we meet our emissions reductions targets. We know there has been, in the politics of energy over many years now, there's been too much politics, too much ideology. My commitment is that my Government is focusing in terms of energy policy, on economics and engineering. That is what we need to do and we have now those independent recommendations in detail and with our energy ministers, they'll be reporting back in August as to how those findings can be implemented. It's a very good piece of work by Dr Finkel and we thank him for it.

I also outlined the Commonwealth's commitment to nationally consistent, needs-based funding for schools. We must end the school funding wars and move on to what parents know really matters; getting better outcomes for our children and grandchildren.

Our $18.6 billion additional investment over the decade means by 2027, a school in Hobart with the same characteristics as a school in Cairns, will receive the same amount of federal funding. That commitment will finally deliver on  David Gonski’s vision of consistent, transparent, national needs-based funding. This stands in marked contrast to the 27 deals, separate deals, that were done by the former Labor government and of course, which produced - as ministers, chief ministers and Premiers here know - very different outcomes across the nation.

We have reaffirmed as leaders, our shared commitment to the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which is a mighty, nation-building, economic and social reform that my Government has now fully funded with the commitment to raise the Medicare levy by 50 basis points. We focused on the NDIS quality and safeguards commission, which provides protections for people in the scheme. More than 60,000 jobs will be created by the NDIS and we are committed to ensuring that workforce is in place to support the growth of the full scheme.

We have agreed to keep Australian children safe from preventable diseases by lifting our immunisation rates as to close to 100 per cent as possible. The only excuse for not vaccinating your child, must be a medical excuse. We are working towards a national approach to childhood vaccination, including importantly, making vaccination rates at child care centres available to parents.

We’ve also discussed the need to restore confidence in the GST sharing arrangements in Western Australia and across the federation. That is why we’ve commissioned a Productivity Commission review into the impact of the arrangements on productivity, efficiency and economic growth. That is our commitment to ensure that there's public confidence in the system. As I’ve said previously, once the system has rebalanced, we should consider a percentage floor below which no states or territories share of GST receipts can fall.

It's been a very productive meeting. I want to thank first ministers for their collaboration, for the commitment, above all, to ensuring that we keep Australians safe. We keep Australians safe from terror, we will never change our way of life under the threat of terrorism, or those who seek to take our sovereignty away from us.

Australians are proud of their freedoms. We fought for them, generation after generation, and we stand for them today, resolute, unbowed, committed to defying the terrorists, seeing them off, defeating them in the field, and at home disrupting them, catching them, and keep putting them behind bars, and keeping them there.