Subjects: Meeting with the Rabbinical Council of NSW; the barbaric attacks on Israel and the ramifications around Australia; Labor’s immigration detention chaos; Sydney Theatre Company protest stunt; The Prime Minister’s lack of leadership; nuclear energy; Chris Bowen’s incompetence.
Thanks very much everyone for being here today.
I want to say thank you to the Rabbinical Council of New South Wales. I had a wonderful opportunity to speak with the rabbis just about what’s happening in their communities, the fear that’s still present – particularly for a lot of kids who are worried about what they’re seeing on their television screens from overseas, and obviously the fact that people are still being held hostage by Hamas, but importantly, what they’re experiencing here in Australia as well.
Our society is a tolerant society, we don’t have any place for anti-Semitism. I asked the Prime Minister a couple of weeks ago to list this issue on the National Cabinet agenda. The National Cabinet is meeting on Wednesday and I think there’s a very strong argument for the Prime Minister to include this issue on the National Cabinet agenda because our Premiers and our Prime Minister, I think are strongest when they’re speaking with one voice to condemn anti-Semitism. The fact is that that is the opportunity to do it, to send that clear message, and I call on the Prime Minister to list this issue because of its national significance and because of the threat and the fear that Jewish people are living under at the moment. It should be on the agenda on Wednesday, and I hope the Prime Minister can take up that offer.
Can I just say just on a couple of other issues as well; we’ve seen a complete circus from the Government in relation to national security over the last couple of weeks. We’ve seen a boat arrive hitting our shores, we’ve seen two Ministers in Clare O’Neil and Andrew Giles – not a clue between them in terms of what they should do to legislate and to deal with a very significant issue.
We’re now up to close to 150 people, who are serious criminals, who are not Australian citizens, but have been released into the community and unnecessarily so. The fact is that the Minister, when he conceded the point to the High Court – that NZYQ couldn’t be repatriated back to his country of origin or to a third country – when he conceded that point, he left the High Court with no other choice. But the Government hadn’t been preparing for the loss, which was obviously inevitable, they hadn’t been drafting legislation to deal with this threat, they’d done nothing. They were clueless.
Last Monday in Parliament House, we had a briefing at eight o’clock, we were told then that the two bills on migration and citizenship needed to pass the Parliament by midnight that night, without fail. When we asked the questions about the urgency, when we saw the inadequacies in the bills, they were pulled, and they’ve been worked on over the course of the last week, and we’re in negotiations with the Government at the moment and briefings have been provided to us, as we speak actually, to Michaelia Cash and Dan Tehan and my Chief of Staff and some of our legally trained people to go through what the Government’s proposing.
I have always supported strong national security measures, and if the Government has adequate measures to keep Australians safe, then we will support those measures and we’ll see what they have to say.
I’m happy to take any questions.
Is the Opposition likely to tick off that legislation?
Well, let’s have a look at the detail, but we’ll support bills which keep Australians safe, but we’re not going to have a situation where the Government just at the last minute drafts these bills overnight. There is always an inadequacy, they don’t have the desire to think outside of the box when it comes to keeping Australians safe, and we’ll support bills that are going to keep Australians safe.
If we see a bad bill, we’re not going to support it. If there are amendments that we can make to try and improve a piece of legislation, then we’ll do that constructively as well.
What sort of specific provisions would you be looking to see in that bill to get you over the line and what sort of amendments did you have in mind?
Well, we need it to be constitutionally sound, James. We need to make sure that the Government has given it proper consideration, because if not, they’ll end back up in the High Court, and with Minister Giles and with Minister O’Neil, you just don’t know what disaster is next.
The sad reality of their inaction, of their inadequacies, of their hopelessness, is that some of these offenders are likely to re-offend – and we’re talking about paedophiles, people who have committed rape, people who have committed murder and other serious offences against Australian citizens.
It turns out that the Government didn’t need to release these people into the community, and that should cause Australians great concern, and it’s why I think a lot of people are looking at the Prime Minister at the moment, just wondering what on earth happened to the Anthony Albanese that they voted for in May of 2022?
What was your reaction to the last week of the furore over the pro-Palestine on stage protest at the Sydney Theatre Company? What’s your reaction to that and response by the theatre and actors?
Well, it should be condemned. These people are paid to act, not to be propaganda chiefs and people who decide to take on causes that are something to them.
Let’s be very clear about this: our society has no place for anti-Semitism whatsoever. Doesn’t matter how it’s masked, doesn’t matter how it’s dressed up, our support is for the Jewish community because there are elements, including Hamas obviously, who want to see those people driven into the sea. That’s the reality, and the insensitivity of some people and getting actors who want to pretend to be politicians. Nobody’s going to pay to go and see that, and nobody should go to pay and see that.
I think Minister Burke has been so mealy mouthed in relation to his response. It just continues the fact that this Government speaks out of both sides of its mouth when it comes to this very important issue. There is no room for the sort of walking both sides of the street that we’ve seen here from the Government. These actions need to be condemned because otherwise the broader community, including those people who were chanting at the Sydney Opera House, feel encouragement for the hate that they continue to harbour, and that is not something that we should tolerate in our society.
Given the chatter here today, and you’ve said that you’ve heard that there is still fear in the community, I guess, both as the Opposition Leader, but also as a former policeman yourself, I don’t think there’s been any arrests yet, to do with the anti-Semitic chanting in the Opera House or of the alleged hate speech [inaudible]. Is that concerning? Or does that continue to fuel fear in society when arrests are taking too long or there’s issues making arrests [inaudible]?
Yes, and I think it’s a very powerful point because nobody expects the police to operate outside of the law, but everyone expects the police to operate in accordance with the law. The fact is that people have committed offences under the Criminal Code or under other acts of Parliament at a state and federal level, and prosecution should take place because there should be a message of deterrence to others.
Had there been arrests at the Sydney Opera House, would we have seen the events at Caulfield? If there had have been a deterrence of the events at Caulfield, would we have seen the intimidation that we’re seeing in society at the moment? Hate speech and incitement of violence has zero place in our society. Let’s be very clear about it. The Premiers and the Prime Minister need to stand up with a very strong united voice on Wednesday at National Cabinet to condemn anti-Semitism, and the Police Commissioners – particularly in New South Wales and Victoria – need to hear that message very clearly and they need to respond in accordance with the law, but in a way that will send a message of deterrence to others – particularly young people who are being indoctrinated online in this hatred, that this hatred, that is anti-Semitism doesn’t have any place in our community.
Just one more on the detainee legislation, if that’s alright?
Has the Government told you how many of the 145 released detainees will meet the threshold under the changes to be re-detained?
No, they haven’t, but I think we should be very clear here; the regime that the Government’s providing might have application to two or three or four people. That’s it. So the other 142 that they’ve unnecessarily released into the community, now have the potential to cause harm, and I think the Australian public are rightly very angry about it.
This is a Government that has botched it. They have made our community less safe, they have put people out into the community that should be on a plane out of our country. These are not people who are of good character. We welcome people in their millions to our country because they are people of good character, because in many cases they make great Australians and we’re a wonderful society today because of migration, but we should not allow people to be released into the community who have committed sex offences against children, who are non-citizens offending against Australian citizens.
Minister Giles here and Minister O’Neil are completely out of their depth and the Prime Minister should sack Andrew Giles and sack Clare O’Neil, and put Ministers who are competent into those roles to clean this mess up, because otherwise we’re going to see these people committing offences, further offences, against Australian citizens and nobody wants to see that.
Just back to the anti-Semitism issues, are you supportive of the plans by the Labor Government here to change the Crimes Act to make it easier to prosecute people for hate speech and incitement on the spot and not have to take it up the line to senior brass?
Well yes, but I don’t want that to be used as an excuse. I think the points that Mark Speakman’s made in relation to this are very important, that the laws exist now for prosecutions to take place, but there needs to be an appetite from the Minister and there needs to be an appetite from the Premier and at a federal level from the Prime Minister.
I mean, when you’ve got Mark Dreyfus and you’ve got Clare O’Neil, who frankly, as we’ve demonstrated in the last couple of weeks, are hopeless when it comes to enforcing the rule of law, what hope would you have? That’s why the Prime Minister needs to show some strength, show some leadership, instead of being weak and woke, he needs to stand up and be strong and stand up for our country’s interests.
At the moment, the Prime Minister’s not doing that. He’s not doing it on cost of living, he’s not doing it in relation to allowing these criminals out into the community to commit more offences, he’s not doing it for the Jewish community, and I think the Prime Minister’s weakness at this time that our country needs strength is of great and understandable concern to most Australians.
What do you make of the French President’s call for Australia to lift the ban on nuclear energy?
I just think it’s a cry of common sense.
You’ve got Chris Bowen, who again, is another example of a Minister out of his depth, out of ideas. The Government promised that they’d reduce power prices by $275 at the last election. Your power bill’s now gone up by thousands of dollars under this Government, and the sad reality is that they’re going to continue to go by many more thousands of dollars because the Government’s renewable only policy is going to see a disruption in supply, as the energy regulator has warned – so blackouts – and you’re going to see power bills where pensioners won’t be able to afford to turn their air conditioners on over the course of summer, or winter for that matter; small businesses who are laying staff off at the moment because they can’t afford to pay their power bills under this Government.
So, the embrace that other developed countries have undertaken in relation to nuclear is sensible for our country. It’s zero emissions, it can firm up renewables and it will provide an opportunity to reduce power bills. At the moment, Anthony Albanese, because he’s never across the detail and because he’s weak, won’t stand up to Chris Bowen and the left of the Labor Party who are pushing this ideology, and Australian families and small businesses, are paying the price.
Australian families have had enough of paying the price under this Labor Government, they thought under this Prime Minister, they we’re going to get cost of living relief, well the complete opposite has happened and there are a lot of families at the moment who just can’t afford to pay their power bills, and the way that Chris Bowen’s going, people will have power bills, many thousands of dollars more than what they are today over the course of the next five, 10 years.
All right. Thank you very much.