PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript - 24696

Joint Press Conference, Australian Crime Commission, Canberra

Photo of Abbott, Tony

Abbott, Tony

Period of Service: 18/09/2013 to 15/09/2015

More information about Abbott, Tony on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 13/08/2015

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 24696

Subject(s): Bolstering the fight against ice

JUSTICE MINISTER:

Good morning everyone. It's great to welcome the Prime Minister and the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection to the Australian Crime Commission. The Australian Crime Commission is our foremost criminal intelligence agency. They have for some time been talking to the Government about what they see as this new menacing scourge of increasing ice use in our community.

The reason we're particularly concerned about ice is the spike in usage but also the irrational and violent behaviour that people who are using ice can display. We see that with our policing agencies, we see it with people who are our frontline health services and we see it from families and communities that are being damaged by this increasing use of ice.

We are determined to do all we can to address this. The Australian Crime Commission has been explaining to us today some of the initiatives that the Government is funding through proceeds of crime to do exactly that. Eighteen million dollars from proceeds of crime will go to the Australian Crime Commission to fund three separate projects; $10 million to enhance our national criminal intelligence system. That means that we will have real time data, reliable data, flowing from the Australian Crime Commission to our federal law enforcement agencies and to our state and territory policing agencies. We need to know that the police on the front line have reliable information, reliable criminal intelligence and this $10 million investment will make sure that that continues to be the case.

We will also be spending almost $5 million sending Australian Crime Commission officers internationally so we can work more closely with our partner countries in tackling international criminal syndicates that peddle in ice. Agents from the Australian Crime Commission will be based in Hong Kong, will be based in Dubai, Ottawa and Washington under this funding.

Finally, we're going to invest $3.5 million in making sure that we are doing everything we can to take away the profits that criminals make from peddling in ice. We will be chasing down that money and taking away their ability to profit from the misery that they are putting on the Australian community by smuggling in and dealing in this dreadful commodity.

Thank you again, Prime Minister, for being down here to receive this briefing from the Australian Crime and Commission. Thank you for the leadership you've shown along with first Ministers in creating the national ice strategy and I would like to ask you to talk.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thanks, Michael. Yes, it is good to be here with my parliamentary colleagues: Michael Keenan, the Minister for Justice; Peter Dutton, the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection; Chris Dawson, senior representatives of the Australian Border Force, and the Australian Federal Police. This is a Government which is totally focused on the things that matter to the Australian people: jobs, economic growth, community safety. Obviously today we've been dealing with something which is critically important for the safety of our community.

Ice is the worst drug scourge Australia has faced. Over the years we have faced a wave of illegal drugs, different illegal drugs, but this latest wave is the worst because of the impact that ice has on the mental health of users and because of the propensity to violence of people on ice benders. So, this is a very, very dangerous drug.

It is a drug which is devastating families, communities, right around Australia and it is important that there be a national mobilisation against this dreadful scourge. Obviously, today there's $18 million of additional funding to boost the Australian Crime Commission's criminal intelligence capabilities. I've also been working with the states as part of the COAG process to strengthen our capacity to take action against unexplained wealth. I hope that in the not too distant future there might be more to say there. I have also asked Minister Keenan to work with the states and territories to try to ensure that we have significantly tougher penalties for people who are guilty of ice-fuelled violence against health workers.

So, this is a very important focus by this Government. I am pleased to say that this $18 million, as we learnt today, will significantly boost the ability of the Australian Crime Commission to tackle our intelligence needs. Something like 70 per cent of crime gangs here in Australia who are the people behind the ice trade have international linkages and that is what this $18 million will do. It will tackle the international linkages of the gangs behind the ice trade.

The money's coming from the proceeds of crime and I'm pleased to reassure the Australian people that, under this Government, the proceeds of crime are reinvested in fighting crime. Under our predecessor the proceeds of crime simply went to the Budget bottom line. This is a Government that will not rest while our communities are menaced by the ice scourge.

I will now ask Minister Dutton to support these words.

IMMIGRATION MINISTER:

Prime Minister, thank you very much, thank you to Minister Keenan and also thank you very much to Chris Dawson and to the senior executive for having us today. The ACC is a world class agency and we should all be very proud of the work that is being done by our agencies. I am very pleased that the Australian Border Force is able to work together in a collaborative way with the partner agencies. The fact is that ice is killing kids in our communities and we need to stare down this scourge. We are part of a government that has put additional funding into the frontline services that will help detect drugs, in particular at our borders. We know that ice is coming into our country either in a finished form or coming in through precursors that then are made up here in Australia and we have record detections because we have been able to put money back into our Australian Border Force and our customs services. We know that Labor took out $700 million from customs and it resulted in hundreds of Customs officers and people within the organisation losing their jobs. Labor when they were in Government took out $130 million from the Australian Federal Police and for the Australian Crime Commission they cut their funding by a third and slashed their staffing by a third. Since we have been able to restore the funding we have seen an increase in the number of detections and number of screenings at our airports and at our mail centres around the country. That has resulted in higher detections which will save lives. We shouldn’t underestimate the scourge of this drug ice on our communities, particularly in regional communities, and the Government remains absolutely united to use whatever resources we can and the expertise of our frontline officers and intelligence agencies to make sure we can deal with this threat and that is why we welcome the $18 million funding that Minister Keenan and the Prime Minister announced today. I think it will make a big difference in staring down what is a significant scourge on our society.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you, do we have any questions?

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, are you contemplating extending Australia’s campaign of air strikes from Iraq to Syria?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, I will happily go to other subjects in a moment but this is an important announcement – right around Australia communities are being devastated by ice. We saw a member of the Parliament, a member of the Senate just the other day, quite emotionally, talk about the impact that ice was having on her family and I think we do owe it to the people of Australia who are currently being affected by this scourge to discuss that and then we’ll go onto other subjects.

QUESTION:

Peter Dutton mentioned that there is record detection, you say it’s the worse wave; the latest wave is the worst wave – why is that if it’s record detection? Is it cheaper, is there more coming in?

PRIME MINISTER:

Plainly, this is a highly addictive drug. I am no expert on the high that people get from drugs but plainly this is something which is captivating and seductive to people who are looking for this kind of escapism. Now, the problem is that whatever the sensations that it might give people if you are a regular ice user you are prone to very, very serious mental health consequences. Serious mental illness seems to be associated with regular ice use and then there is the propensity to violence of ice users. I mean anyone who is working in the frontline of our health services can tell you story after story, often can recount experience after experience of violence at the hands of people who are on ice benders. Now, we owe it to the health workers of our country as well as to the general community to do everything we humanly can to tackle this problem.

QUESTION:

They are getting it from somewhere obviously. We are not detecting it enough at the borders.

PRIME MINISTER:

And the analysis this morning suggests that about 50 per cent of ice use in Australia is being supplied from overseas, about 50 per cent is being domestically supplied and this is why the $80 million that’s being invested in better intelligence about what’s happening overseas is a very important part of this holistic campaign against ice generally.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, as a parent, do you have much sympathy for Jacqui Lambie’s call that parents should get the power to force ice addicted children into rehabilitation?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think as a parent there would be almost nothing more devastating than to find or to think that your child might be at risk from this dreadful scourge because you want only good things for your children. We all want our kids to have a better life than we did, we all want our kids to succeed in realising all their dreams and I can think of no more perilous threat to realising your dreams than the risk of ice addition.

So, look, I absolutely sympathise with the desire of parents to be able to get the best possible treatment for their children. This is why we’ve got this COAG process in place. Obviously policing is critically important, following the money is critically important if we are to tackle this evil business at source. But accepting that there are people who are currently addicted, accepting that the addiction will continue to be fed, we do need the best possible treatment, we need to have means of getting people into it – no doubt about that.

Ok, Chris, do you want to have another go?

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, are you contemplating sending Australia’s campaign of airstrikes from Iraq to Syria?

PRIME MINISTER:

Ok. Well, first point to make is that we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves on this because no formal request has been made and no formal decision has been taken. What I do want to stress though is that this death cult in the Middle East is reaching out to us in a host of ways. We know that the death cult is urging its sympathisers here in Australia to commit acts of terrorist violence. We’ve just discovered that it’s actually able to launch cyber-attacks in this country, so this is a very sophisticated and deadly threat to us even here in Australia. It’s critically important that Australia and our partners, our Western partners and our Middle East partners, continue to work very strongly to disrupt, degrade and destroy this death cult.

While, as I say, there’s been no formal request made, there’s been no decision taken, while the legality is different, whether these airstrikes are taking place in Syria or Iraq, the morality is the same, the death cult is just as evil on either side of the border, it’s just as dangerous on either side of the border, it’s just as deadly on either side of the border and that’s why I can understand why there is some interest on the part of our partners in Australian airstrikes.

QUESTION:

Just to be clear, Prime Minister, though, there have been informal discussions and you are disposed if you are asked to extending that campaign?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, again, I’m not going to pre-empt any decision. But, yes, the matter has been raised. No formal request has been made, no decision has been taken, but I don’t want to pretend for a second that this campaign at the moment is going perfectly well, I don’t want for a second to minimise the danger to this country and to the wider world that the Daesh death cult poses. I do remind people that all along what we’ve said, what we’ve done with Opposition support has been to pull our weight in the international campaign against this death cult.

QUESTION:

At what levels have those informal talks been or contact been? Have they come from the US?

PRIME MINISTER:

Lane, I’m not going to go into detail, but obviously there have been some approaches made at various levels, but no formal request has come, no formal decision has been taken. So, I stress, we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves here, but whatever the legalities, the moralities are the same on either side of the border.

QUESTION:

In which case, Prime Minister, can you outline what your reservations are in not making that commitment, given we have aircraft in the area and you have said that you will do what you can to defeat the Daesh death cult?

PRIME MINISTER:

And what I’m making clear is that no formal request has come forward, no decision has been made. I should be absolutely upfront with you though, as I’ve said before we don’t just have our Strike Fighters in the Middle East, we haven’t just been launching airstrikes again Daesh targets for the best part of a year in Iraq. We’ve also had an AEW&C aircraft, a Poseidon aircraft there, we’ve also had a refueler there and those two aircraft are part of theatre-wide operations and so that airborne, air-controlled craft, that refueler that we’ve had there have certainly been assisting with airstrikes on both sides of the border. 

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, what’s your response to Tanya Plibersek’s claim that you’re in effect rolling out a backbencher in Dan Tehan to float national security policy?

PRIME MINISTER:

I’m not going to comment on a claim I haven’t seen.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, should Justice Dyson Heydon be giving speeches at a Liberal Party fundraiser while he’s running the Royal Commission into the unions?

PRIME MINISTER:

This is not something that I’m aware of and I shouldn’t comment about…

QUESTION:

[Inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, I’m just not going to get in to running a speculative commentary.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, on same-sex marriage – if a popular vote finds that most Australians support it, would you require your MPs, including yourself to vote for it in Parliament?

PRIME MINISTER:

Plainly, the whole point of putting this to a people’s vote, the whole point of having a people’s decision rather than a politician’s decision, is to settle the matter.

QUESTION:

Do you have a preference for a referendum or a plebiscite at this stage?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, what we saw this week was a very clear and strong position emerge from our Joint Party Room that, for the duration of this term, we strongly reaffirmed the position that we took to the election. But there is a strong disposition to put it to the people in a subsequent term of parliament should we win the election. So, that’s our position. Precisely what form that putting to it the people might take is something that we will have more to say about between now and polling day.

QUESTION:

You clearly don’t agree with Malcolm Turnbull that having a plebiscite so far down the track just keeps it as a live issue?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, again, let me just stress, Lane, the decision that came from the Party Room and that is to put it to the people in the next term of Parliament. That is the decision the Party Room took.

QUESTION:

On ISIL and the hacking – is it a concern that some of the Australians caught up in this actually found out via the media and not our security agencies?

PRIME MINISTER:

I’ll be getting more information on this over the course of the next day or so, so I’ll be in a better position to answer questions about it then. All I want to say now is that we should not underestimate this organisation. This death cult is currently in control of a vast swath of territory – a territory roughly the size of Italy. There’s almost 10 million living in the areas dominated by Daesh. Do not underestimate what these people can do. That’s why it’s important that as quickly as we can, this death cult is disrupted, degraded and destroyed.

Thank you so much.

[ends]

Transcript - 24696