PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 21932

Joint Press Conference with the Minister for Transport and Regional Services The Hon Warren Truss MP Treasury Place, Melbourne

Photo of Howard, John

Howard, John

Period of Service: 11/03/1996 to 03/12/2007

More information about Howard, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 21/09/2005

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 21932

PRIME MINISTER:

Well ladies and gentlemen, Mr Truss and I have called this news conference to announce some further measures to tighten security at Australia's major airports. It will involve a number of individual proposals and additional Federal Government expenditure of almost $200 million. And in this context we will release the report of Sir John Wheeler on airport security and policing arrangements. Sir John Wheeler who carried out a security review at Heathrow, a former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, with therefore some experience in security matters. Overall his assessment was very positive of security arrangements, he did however identify areas that indicated a lack of coordination between Commonwealth and State police and different agencies and has made a number of recommendations for change in that area.

My announcement today indicates that we have accepted in principle his recommendations. His major proposal is the appointment of an Airport Police Commander at each of the 11 category one airports in Australia, obviously that includes airports such as Tullamarine, and the integration of Commonwealth and State policing at all major Australian airports. Now this has been a long running issue and there have been different attitudes taken by the different States. I should say that the Victorian Government has taken a very cooperative attitude in relation to this. Some other State Governments, particularly New South Wales, a less cooperative attitude. Next week we will go there determined to get a positive outcome which leads to a coordinated arrangement under a police commander obviously responsible federally because airports are a federal responsibility. As far as the cost is concerned the Commonwealth is prepared to bear its fair share of the cost of those airports.

I hope that next week we have a spirit of cooperation. I believe we will. I had a very useful meeting yesterday with Mr Bracks in which we talked about a number of things, including the desirability of having as much cooperation as possible on counter-terrorism issues. And the new initiatives that I'm announcing today with Mr Truss include $40 million for the establishment of five new Joint Airport Investigation Teams at Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth to address serious and organised crime; $48 million for increased air-side customs border patrols at Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Darwin and Cairns airports to provide a more visible presence to deter and respond to criminal activity; $20 million to further upgrade the customs closed circuit television capabilities; and $38 million to strengthen air cargo security arrangements, including the introduction of improved technology for the detection of explosives; $44 million for improved security and crime information exchange arrangements for aviation, and that includes $20 million for the Australian Crime Commission and $23.4 million for the Department of Transport and Regional Services; and $4 million to introduce a new national aviation security training framework to support the aviation industry.

Now these very significant additional measures are of course only part of the overall security and policing response that has taken place in the wake of the changed security environment in which we now live. I want to thank Sir John Wheeler for his report. The overwhelming thrust of it we embrace - obviously the British experience is not with the federal system of government and there are some nuances in relation to arrangements between the Federal Government and the States that perhaps need a slightly different perspective. But his overall assessments are ones that we accept. We think he brought particular clarity and independence to the assessment and with his background he was clearly a very experienced person to carry out this review. And I've announced today not only a major response to the report, but also additional measures which will further reinforce the commitment of the Government to provide the best possible security environment. But it is something that does require cooperation with the States. The major community policing capacity in this country rests with State police. The Federal Police do not have the men and the women to carry out community policing and we cannot have a proper community policing presence at major airports in this country without the total cooperation and involvement of State Governments.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, do you think that any of these (inaudible) will be passed on to passengers at airports?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I can't guarantee that airfares won't rise, I can't guarantee that. But I do say this - that what I've announced today and what's in Wheeler does not of itself represent a justification for increases. That's the point I make. I mean sometimes I have found in my experience that increases are justified by things that on proper independent examination don't support the increase. But I can't guarantee that there won't be, but there's no basis in my view from these recommendations for such an increase.

JOURNALIST:

What will the role be of the...

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the Airport Police Commander will really have overall control of everything to do with policing and security. And we will choose police from Australia, or indeed from anywhere, but I think they're most likely to come from Australia to fill those roles and they will have total control. And I think it's very important that we have that.

JOURNALIST:

What are the current arrangements then? Presumably there are...

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the current arrangements, you don't have an identifiable police commander. You have people, you have senior AFP officers, I mean Mr Truss is a much greater expert on this than I, and might augment my answer. But you have the different agencies discharging their own responsibilities and working cooperatively, but I think it does lack an overall police command.

MINISTER TRUSS:

The intention is to try and unify as strongly as we possibly can the policing at the airports. Both the airside policing, which largely involves Customs and Australian Federal Police officers, but also the community policing elements which are in many airports these days quite sporadic. In addition, there will be security committees at each of the airports involving the management of the airports to make sure that there's coordinated approach to any issues which might arise. So there'll be a security commander working cooperatively with State and Federal Police, Customs and also the private security arrangements, the airport and the airline security officers to make sure that we have a seamless and effective response to any issue which might arise.

JOURNALIST:

Does this mean that at the present time that airports aren't adequately covered (inaudible) such a major announcement?

MINISTER TRUSS:

Well the Wheeler report makes it clear that we are at least up with the rest of the world and in some places we are world leaders. But there are issues, especially as the Prime Minister mentioned in relation to the seamless capacity of our forces together. There's been a bit of a tradition over the years of State and Federal Police not working as well together as they should do and sometimes the various agencies endeavour to maintain their own turf rather than look at ways in which they can work with the other policing arrangements. So these new arrangements are very much about bringing together the various policing and security arrangements to make them work more smoothly, and to avoid the risk of incidents not being effectively responded to because someone thinks it's somebody else's responsibility.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

PRIME MINISTER:

No, nothing in particularly but an ongoing desire by the Government to do whatever it can to reassure the public that we continue in this country to live in a safe environment. I've said before that no government can guarantee that there won't be a terrorist attack in this country and I will never try and do that. But what I can promise the Australian people is that we will do all that is reasonably within our power to create the safest possible environment. Now I think we do we have a high order of security at our airports, but it can be made better and having an outside expert who brings an independent mind to it we can actually identify some changes that can be made and I think these changes when implemented will be very effective.

JOURNALIST:

Will screening of the airport staff be stepped up?

MINISTER TRUSS:

Yes, yes, most certainly. One of the key recommendations of the Wheeler review is that we need to again examine the procedures associated with the issuing of ASIC cards, the Aviation Security Identification Card. In particular he recommends that there ought to be a central agency with oversight of the issuing of those cards. There are around about 180 different issuing agencies at the present time, so that needs to be better coordinated. The Government has been working on that approach for some months and this recommendation of Wheeler essentially endorses the approach we had identified for ourselves. That will help us also to make sure that the databases which underpin the issuing of the various cards are unified and that information provided is provided in a timely way. That'll be another important issue for COAG to make sure that the state databases are effectively linked into the issuing of ASIC cards and for that matter the maritime card as well.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) of the report mentions specific concerns about physical screening of employees?

MINISTER TRUSS:

There are a number of issues raised about entry to particular areas, the desirability of limiting the number of access points to airports and the like, the importance of effectively monitoring the barriers around airports and also the use of technology to be able to automatically screen people who are arriving at airports and their vehicles. So there's a number of quite significant comments about that which I think will be very helpful.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, on another issue, do you still have confidence in the ACCC to monitor petrol prices?

PRIME MINISTER:

I have complete confidence in the ACCC. They will have an ongoing role in relation to monitoring of petrol prices, but in addition I will continue to take a very direct personal interest in this issue because...

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the main, the cause of high petrol prices is the high price of crude oil around the world. And no country has been able to escape it. And this idea that I can wave a magic wand and suddenly bring the price down in Australia while it remains high around the world is absurd. I'm quite sure that if that magic wand had been available I can promise you I would have used it - so would President Bush, so would my good friend Junichiro Koizumi, the Prime Minister of Japan, Tony Blair, Vladimir Putin, Jacques Chirac, I don't know who to say in Germany, it's a bit unresolved at the moment. But I'm sure we all would have waved the magic wand. But the regrettable fact is that we have an excess of demand and a shortage of supply and when that happens with any commodity the price goes up. Now until that is rectified then we're going to sadly pay painfully high prices. Now we are not getting extra revenue at a federal level from the increased price. The excise is fixed and we took action yesterday to cancel a tiny increase that was scheduled for the beginning of next year to fund some environmental changes and we've got rid of that and we will fund that out of the Budget so there won't be any additional cost. And I wasn't prepared to stand by and allow however small it was an additional impost to be put upon the long-suffering Australian motorist. Now I understand this, and I can promise the Australian public that if I get any evidence quite separately from the ACCC process, any genuine evidence as distinct from just generic allegation that there's any misbehaviour by oil companies in Australia well I will do something about it.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, (inaudible) discussion with Premier Bracks yesterday about security, did you discuss (inaudible) about sunset clauses (inaudible)?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well he indicated that there was an interest in a general way about sunset clauses. Obviously what happens with Victorian legislation is ultimately a matter for the Victorian Parliament. My view about sunset clauses is that if I knew precisely when terrorism was going to end I'd support a sunset clause. But unfortunately we don't live in a world where I can predict or anybody can predict that in three years time or five years time the terrorists will abandon their jihad and go back to living a normal life. I wish it were the case. In those circumstances whilst I think the legislation should always be kept under review I'm not sure that the case for sunset clauses has been made out.

JOURNALIST:

What's the danger of a sunset clause?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well what's the justification for a sunset clause when the malady or attacking doesn't have a termination date?

JOURNALIST:

... (inaudible)implement this at airports, how quickly...

PRIME MINISTER:

Very quickly.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, you say that Victoria won't be dudded on roads funding. Will the Federal Government release all of that $542 million and if so, when?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I just repeat they won't be dudded on the funding. I mean the people who've been dudded have been dudded at the hands of the Victorian Government. I mean we made a commitment, I mean the people who have remained consistent all along in relation to this issue is the Federal Coalition. I mean John Anderson had a deal with the Victorian Government...

MINISTER TRUSS:

A signed agreement.

PRIME MINISTER:

A signed agreement with the Victorian Government so don't let the Victorian Government start lecturing us about our obligation to the Victorian public. We have kept our word. We federally in the Coalition have kept our word and kept faith with the Victorian public on this issue. And we will continue to do so.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, the Opposition Leader is claiming that you want to cancel a week of Parliament from October 4. Is that correct?

PRIME MINISTER:

What we are proposing to do is to alter the timetable for the rest of the year parliamentary sittings. We're going to sit for an additional week in November and because of that we do not propose to sit the three days in October. So we're not reducing the amount of parliamentary time and if Mr Beazley wants to sit longer well will accommodate him and he may well find that at some time in the next two or three years we will be sitting longer on occasions. But the way the parliamentary business is scheduled means that we will need an extra week in November and we therefore won't have enough to justify having that extra week as well as having the sitting week in October.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) why was the Telstra legislation pushed through so quickly then?

PRIME MINISTER:

Why was it put through?

JOURNALIST:

...pushed through...

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Telstra has been debated for years. This idea that we suddenly dropped it on an unsuspecting public, it's been around for ages, we have been quite open about our intentions. We went to the public at the last election with a policy to sell the rest of Telstra. We implemented that policy and I'm grateful that Parliament has approved it.

JOURNALIST:

Did Premier Bracks raise with you the issue of a permanent naval presence (inaudible)?

PRIME MINISTER:

No.

JOURNALIST:

The Health Minister has warned(inaudible) twice in the past...

PRIME MINISTER:

The Health Minister? The Federal Health Minister?

JOURNALIST:

Yes, he has warned twice in the past week that a bird flu pandemic could be more devastating in Australia than terrorism attacks. Are you happy with the measures that are in place to tackle that at the moment?

PRIME MINISTER:

I am confident that measures adequate to the threat have been taken. But it's one of those things that we must keep our focus on. And if further measures are needed they will be taken. This is something where we need a lot of cooperation at an international level and both the United States and Australia will be placing an enormous amount of emphasis on this issue at the forthcoming APEC meeting. And Mr Abbott will attend a gathering of Health Ministers I think in Canada later this year to discuss this issue. It is a big issue, and it's not an exaggeration to say that if it really occurred the consequences of it would be enormous.

JOURNALIST:

...are very important, but Barry Hall has been..

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, I know that is very important. And I think it's a good outcome and it welcome the even-handedness of the tribunal.

JOURNALIST:

There were suggestions by some officials and the NRL that it's a ploy by the AFL to make ground in Sydney. Would you support that view?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I support the blossoming of all codes. I am as you know somebody who grew up in a city that almost universally played the two rugby codes. I'm a devoted supporter of the Wallabies and follow the game they play in heaven with great passion. But I'm also very dedicated to the St George Illawarra rugby league team. I have come to know AFL a lot better over recent years. I think it would be great for the game if Sydney were to win the Grand Final, I don't think there's any doubt about that, although I have to acknowledge that on form the West Coast Eagles will be very, very hard to beat. Very hard indeed and therefore if I'm asked to make prediction it would be in line with that assessment. But there's no doubt that the support for the Swans in Sydney has been terrific and I think one of the great things about this country in the last 20 years is the way in which we've sort of nationalised sport. I don't mean in the old sense of nationalising banks, but in the sense that if you grew up in Sydney when I did Australian Rules was unheard of, it was VFL then, was unheard of virtually. And the same, and of course rugby league and rugby union were not very widely appreciated in Melbourne. So all of that, not all of it, but a lot of that has changed and I think that is terrific. We now have an AFL, we have an NRL and of course we have the Wallabies who of course give the greatest personal excitement to me when it comes to football.

JOURNALIST:

And you'll be barracking for the Swans?

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you very much Mr Talia. Thank you, well done.

[ends]

Transcript 21932