Thursday, 28 June 2018

6PR – Mornings with Gareth Parker



Subjects: Defence Call Out; corporate tax

GARETH PARKER: My guest - as he is pretty much every Thursday - is the Attorney-General, Christian Porter. Christian, good morning.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Yeah, morning to you, Gareth.

GARETH PARKER: Appreciate your time again today. There's a new bill, you've got a new bill today that would, what, it would allow us to [audio skip] the armed services to force for a domestic terror incident?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Essentially. So, this is the culmination of a process that began after the terrible events of the Lindt Cafe siege. And all of the jurisdictions - state, territory, Commonwealth - started looking at the ways in which the Australian Defence Forces might be able to assist in those types of - [bell ringing in background] it's not me don't worry…


ATTORNEY-GENERAL: …Those types of instances. But the standard that has existed in Australia for a long time - and this hasn't been looked at since the 2000 Olympics - was that a state wouldn't make a request to the ADF through the Commonwealth ministers and the Prime Minister, unless they were unable to control the situation themselves. So, effectively they were asking themselves the question, are we just completely overwhelmed by this situation? And only then would a request come through. And what all the jurisdictions agreed was that's fundamentally the wrong question to ask, the better question is given the circumstances that we're facing on the ground, the nature of the violence or the terrorist event, is there something that the ADF could do, some specialist equipment, an asset, personnel or skills that they could deploy inside the instructive structure of the state-based command that would actually help protect Australian lives. And so, it's a very significant change because the previous threshold was just so inflexible. You really would never get the types of assets and equipment and personnel that you needed. And very pertinent for Perth, of course, because we're very fortunate to have the SAS regiment located very close to the city.

GARETH PARKER: You would hope that this new power is never needed - that would be the best case scenario obviously - but what sorts of scenarios could, now, the military be called out to?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Yeah, well there's a lot of unknowns in our future, we hope that these things never happen. But there's three types of scenarios that we've seen, unfortunately in Australia, but particularly overseas. I think, the first is a siege type situation, because they occur over a much longer period of time, it's conceivable in those circumstances the kind of tactical experience of the commando regiment on the East Coast or SAS on the West Coast and particularly their expertise with tactical situations and improvised explosive devices could be called upon in one of those longer siege type events. The terrible events in Paris, where you had multiple highly violent, highly organised incidents occurring over the period of an hour or so in different physical locations. It's again conceivable there that the ADF, with its assets and particularly air assets, could bring something to the response. The third thing is - and again we hope this never happens but - a terrorist attack that had the use of biological or chemical or radiological agents like the absolute peak of expertise in Australia to respond to that type of event is inside the ADF. So, the ADF would work under its own command but at the instruction of the state-based command and the states are always going to be first responders, whether that's frontline police officers or ultimately tactical response groups like we have in WA. But having that…

GARETH PARKER: …so, ultimately they would come under the command of the police commissioner, that would be the line of command, so it would be the police commissioner that would make the request?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: That's right. So, they would be asked to do certain things in the context of the state command. An individual, say for instance, member of the SAS would be under the command of his superior officer but the superior officer would be working under the request and instruction of the state command. And the states are very good at this; they've been doing it for a long time. But there are just specialised assets inside the ADF. And the present rules mean they would virtually always be left in the shed even if they could possibly have been deployed to help protect Australians and save lives. And it's unfortunately a changing world and a heavy threat environment and we've got to change the laws to keep up with the change in the threat environment.

GARETH PARKER: Well, the Police Commissioner Chris Dawson's up after the news, so I might ask him about that one as well. Just on the second scenario - the Paris style scenario. How realistic is it that you can deploy, say, the SAS or the army or whatever in a fast-moving situation like that?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well I mean, it's going to be a pretty rare situation where these powers would be activated.


ATTORNEY-GENERAL: But perhaps one example would be that after the Paris incident, you did see the use of specialised and well-trained military officers setting up perimeters and cordons because they just didn't know what was happening next.


ATTORNEY-GENERAL: So I mean, that may be an example, but equally, a siege or multiple events can sometimes play out over quite long periods of time and in Paris it was around about an hour and a very large number of people were killed and wounded and it occurred at a variety of different locations. So, you might find that if something, heaven forbid, like that ever happened in our home state that the ability to deploy an SAS to one of multiple locations might actually be of great use. But we hope this never happens. It would be very rare, we would both wish and hope that what we have to prepare for is rare circumstances. And the previous threshold, which is that the state was effectively completely overwhelmed, is something that would be very hard to reach, but also you can't actually make that determination until well into an event, by which time you may have lost the opportunity to use ADF…

GARETH PARKER: ….the window's shut.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: … assets that could have helped.

GARETH PARKER: Sure. Any indication whether there is going to be parliamentary opposition to this?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I think there'll be fairly strong bipartisan support.


ATTORNEY-GENERAL: It will go to a committee. But it's also been a long time in the making insofar as that it's been consulted with and done by agreement of all the states and territories - Labor and Liberal - and you know, states and territories are quite properly protective of their jurisdiction. But what we've all agreed is that there is no point in having potential assets, personnel and skills that could be deployed - we hope in very rare circumstances - but could be deployed and yet have rules which would prevent that deployment ….

GARETH PARKER: Alright. We spoke last week about the passage of the personal income tax plan that stretches out seven years. Mathias Cormann's announced this morning that he's going to pull the company tax package for now because it just won't pass the Senate. However, Bill Shorten, in the interim, has also said that he wants to increase taxes on small business between $10 and $50 million turnover a year. Is there an opportunity to revisit this decision not to run in the Perth by-election if you add all that together?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Not my call, but I would say this, that you know, in Longman, as you see with the polls, things are tightening up. And a government hasn't taken a seat off an opposition in a by-election in 100-odd years or so. So it's a pretty rare event. But, I mean, I was surprised, perhaps even shocked, by Bill Shorten's announcement.

GARETH PARKER: I think half his caucus was too.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, I think that's the case. But when Bill Shorten's becoming too left-wing on economic matters for the Labor Party, they've got some problems. I mean, he has to now go into - and his party has to go into - the by-election in Longman and other places around Australia and tell thousands, tens of thousands of small and medium-sized businesses, that he will increase their taxes. And again, the reason why we want to decrease taxes for small business, for medium businesses, and for bigger businesses is because that allows reinvestment of the business's own money in their enterprise, which grows jobs and ultimately allows competition that increases wages. Like, that is a fundamental economic truth that governments in Australia have operated under, both Labor and Liberal. The idea that you make Australia a wealthy place and provide more kids for our jobs by jacking up taxes on small and medium businesses, many of which are family-owned, I think is just economic madness and I've got to say I don't mind going out into our by- elections and campaigning on that.

GARETH PARKER: Well maybe you should in Perth too.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, I'll pass on your message, mate.

GARETH PARKER: I think I might have said it more than once. Thank you, Christian.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Okay, thanks Gareth.

GARETH PARKER: Christian Porter, the Attorney-General. Come on Liberal Party. Show some guts. Give the people of Perth a choice. That's all I'm asking.