Subjects: Food security
LEON BYNER: Well, many of us are out there buying strawberries, and I hope you're one or a family who are going to do the same thing because they're a beautiful food, and hey, apart from enjoying what they can offer, it's also great to be able to help the growers. And I thought Scott Morrison's approach to this yesterday was spot on. I think he said what most people in this country are thinking about this issue. And the Government has said: Look, we're going to make sure the penalties fit what has gone on here.
But, we have heard that a 12 year-old has reportedly admitted to inserting needles into strawberries, in what police believe to be a copycat prank. Now this, of course, is across the border. Now, in the reporting of that incident, one of the comments in the report was: Well, because he's underage, he'll probably get a caution. But then, we're being told by the Government, Prime Minister, and my next guest: Hey, if we catch you doing this, we'll throw the book at you.
So, Attorney-General Christian Porter, good morning; what's your take on this?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, just for your information, the information of your listeners- just a local point. But right across Australia, the age of criminal responsibility is 13 years of age. So, that's been the case for many, many decades now.
LEON BYNER: I thought it was 10?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Uh, between 10 and 13, it is conceivable, so it's possible that someone can be charged and prosecuted, but there's a process you have to go through to be able to show, to a certain standard, the person knew that what they were doing was wrong and was criminal; so, it's not impossible, but it is very difficult.
And look, that is a standard that's existed in Australia for a very, very long time. But we're getting down to the weeds; the important thing that we've done here is created a whole range of new offences - four new offences- where a prosecutor would not be required to show an intention to do harm beyond reasonable doubt; which is a very high standard, not always an easy thing to do.
And it's clear that what has happened here is that what may have been originally a disgruntled employee- we'll find out in due course, I'm sure, but whatever the original genesis of this, its spread and escalated beyond our comprehension. And we've had pranks and hoaxes, and false statements, and all of those compounds to do enormous harm to hard working Australian families who are producing the product which we all enjoy, it's scaring the life out of families and kids who love this great fruit. And so, we've had to respond as quickly as we are reasonably able to; we've done that in 24 hours, and created a range of new offences. And so, if you are criminally stupid enough to go and commit a hoax and put it up on Youtube, and you are reckless as to the fact that that will cause economic harm to mum and dad strawberry farmers, then you can face a very, very severe penalty. And I don't think that there's any resiling from the fact that's what we had to do, and what we have done, to send a really clear message. It doesn't matter if you're at school or at university, or you're young or you're old; don't do this, because there are really terrible consequences for you and for the people you're hurting.
No doubt, Christian, you're getting briefed about this, and one has to be careful about what one says publicly when you're still trying to apprehend. But is it your view, generally, that we will find out who's actually started this?
Well, they're not the simplest of matters to investigate, but we've literally got dozens of police officers around the country - federal and state police officers - working in close concert and cooperation. I think that the level of resources that will be applied and are being applied to this means that you will have a result from the investigations. But, they're in their early stage at the moment, but my sense of it is that they will get to the bottom of where and how this started.
What's your message about strawberries? Because we here at 5AA- our brekky team, they're going to the market tomorrow- we've been saying, and I think this is right: Look, don't let these bastards win. Go out and get your strawberries.
You know, ironically mate, I haven't eaten more strawberries in my whole life, to what I have over the last seven days; and we eat a lot of them. So, I've got a 14,000 square kilometre electorate in some of the most beautiful parts of WA….
Are you delivering strawberries door to door, are you?
…no. Well, I've got a lot of strawberry farmers in my electorate though. You know, Berry Sweet Farms out of Bullsbrook, who probably aren't listening to Adelaide radio, but they're a wonderful family who worked really hard to grow this amazing business and provide us with these fantastic fruits. And you know, it is heart breaking seeing them go through the economic struggle that they're now being put through because of these actions.
…you know what was really, a picture that saddened me so much was these footages of strawberries, in their thousands of kilos, dumped. And I'm thinking: How can we stop this?
Yeah, and we have to stop this. And part of the response that we've given to really toughen these laws up is meant to send this clear, crisp, and strong message of individual and general deterrents: Don't do this. The behaviour just has to stop.
But you're right, I've got a little boy who loves strawberries and he watched the news as a three year-old and asked: Daddy, what are they doing? How do you actually explain why is it necessary to have that done, as we see it on television? I mean, it's almost sort of beyond explanation. But, the behaviour has got to stop. We have brought in laws, which we think will be passed through this Parliament today; so, inside 24 hours.
And you know, do not do stupid things; it is not funny. There's no such thing as a prank or a hoax here. Things that you do have consequences; the consequences are to scare Australians and Australian kids, and to eat away at the livelihood of hard working primary producers in Australia. Don't do it.
Is the Parliament going to have a strawberry-thon?
Well, as I say mate, Greg Hunt's been eating strawberries, the Prime Minister is turning red he's eaten so many strawberries.
We'll keep going, but to all your listeners out there: Go out and buy that extra punnet, cut them up, eat them up. It's a great product, and will be for a long time to come. And they need all our support.
Christian Porter, Attorney-General. Thank you for coming on today.