Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Doorstop, Perth - Tuesday 19 March 2019



Subjects: Social media live streaming terror acts; immigration levels; gun laws

JOURNALIST: Can live streaming of violent or terror related acts be stopped, and should it be stopped?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, I think the best answer to that question is to first of all have all Australians consider, as a community, the issue that has now arisen. That live stream video went for in excess of 17 minutes. Within about 90 seconds to two minutes, most major news outlets in Australia had realised what was occurring, and yet, for a significant period of time after that a very large social media platform provided a service which allowed for the live streaming of the most horrendous act of terror and mass murder, including the murder and shooting of children.

So the fundamental question that all Australians will of course be asking themselves is whether it is an appropriate thing to have a profitable, large, multinational organisation and platform streaming that type of vision once it has become known that it is occurring. That is a real question to ask and answer.

JOURNALIST: Has Facebook answered that satisfactorily?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, that's a question I think that you all in the media will need to direct to Facebook. But I would say that they've not answered that question in anything like a satisfactory fashion. And again, this is a very long piece of streamed video and it was well known by virtue of other social media services which feed into mainstream media that this was happening, and that was well known fairly early in the live streaming process – and yet the events were allowed to be live streamed onto Facebook for their duration and their conclusion. And these are events of the most horrific type. They are terrorist events, and the live streaming of the events themselves is part or the terrorist's arsenal – no less important that the gun itself. That is the way in which this particular terrorist chose to spread their terror and their horrific deeds through a live streaming service, and again, I think that there are questions here that all Australians would legitimately ask, and would expect answers from. But at first instance those answers have to come from the organisation that profits from the streaming of these types of videos. Now of course, the overwhelming majority of the material that is streamed is done purposefully, for happy reasons, and is a productive part of the modern economy, but that doesn't detract from the fact that we are now likely, unfortunately, to see this type of thing happen again unless somethings done about it.

JOURNALIST: Have you contacted Facebook to ask, because as Attorney-General it would come under your umbrella?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well specifically the interaction with Facebook will happen under the Minister for Communications, but you know of course the government is considering the very question that you've put, and that any sensible, logical Australian who cares about their community is putting to themselves, their families, and their community.

JOURNALIST: Apart from asking G20 to intervene, what actual legislation can the Government introduce to be able to force these companies to pull down that sort of data?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I mean obviously the Government's considering the issue the issue itself, and it's a not uncomplicated issue. Now whether or not you would think about the legislative response, the Prime Minister's obviously announced the international response around these organisations, but obviously we are considering the issue.

JOURNALIST: Is the week after Christchurch the appropriate time for the Prime Minister to announce a cut on immigration?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, immigration is an issue, particularly about the location of skilled migrants and other visa holders and migration occurs in Australia, is an issue that has been live for many, many years now, under both levels of government. The overseas migration range is a figure that well known. Debate about what it should be at has been ongoing for some time. I think that normal, sensible debates in Australia continue. That's what happens in democracies.

JOURNALIST: Given the rhetoric of the past few days around immigration, is now the right time?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: But what you're proposing is that there's something wrong about talking about rates of immigration - that has been a subject for debate, locations of immigration – that's been a subject of debate, congestion of cities – that's been a subject of debate for some many years now.

JOURNALIST: Do you hold concerns that political rhetoric around immigration has inflamed tensions?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well I think that everyone needs to be very temperate and sensible and civil in the language that they use. My personal view is that the statement of Fraser Anning, the language that he used, the propositions that he put were both appalling and unbelievably ignorant, and there shouldn't be repeats of that type of language or proposition in Australian politics. Not at any level.

JOURNALIST: Once the Australian accused of Christchurch attack, is sentenced, is there any sort of idea that he could potentially serve out his sentence in Australia? Do we have any sort of prisoner transfer system with New Zealand?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: This question has been asked and answered a number of times. There's a large number of countries that we do have a prisoner exchange arrangements with. New Zealand is not one of those countries.

JOURNALIST: Would you consider…

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Can I just say, this is a question that needs to be put well down the track. We're not talking about potential further regulatory changes to prisoner exchange arrangements with New Zealand or any other country. New Zealand has a responsibility evidently to prosecute under their law, which they do. Any support they need with investigation, we will give, but the question that you're asking is for just, one for way down the track.

JOURNALIST: What have you learned about the accused shooters life and movements in Australia and if he was linked to any far-right groups?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Obviously we're receiving regular briefings and updates, but these aren't matters that we would into publicly.

JOURNALIST: Do you believe that far-right, any far-right extremism, white supremacists pose a bigger threat to Australia than radical Islamists?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: It is a very difficult thing to measure threats by different types of terrorist activity, but all terrorist activity, whatever its motivations, has to be utterly condemned. All terrorist activity, whatever its motivations, is thoroughly investigated in Australia. Our agencies do a wonderful job in incredibly difficult circumstances, ensuring the safety of Australians from any form of terrorist threat. And we are all obviously of the shared view that this was clearly an act of right-wing terrorism. It is absolutely clear. A horrific and murderous act of right-wing terrorism and our job as a government, and our agencies' jobs that serve the Australian people, is to protect them from all threats.

JOURNALIST: Is it the government's job to revisit Australian gun laws? Even though Australia has been compared favourably to New Zealand? But is this the time for even us to revisit Australia's laws in light of what you just said about terrorist threats.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: In New Zealand revisiting its gun laws, it is looking to Australian gun laws. So what I can say is that the way in which obviously the Howard Government instituted sweeping reform to the gun laws across Australia, which was a very difficult and controversial issue at the time, is something that has, in the observation of this Government, and I think in the eye of any other rational observer, made Australians considerably safer than they were in the past. In the present circumstances we obviously look at a range of issues, but what I would say is that the gun laws that exist in Australia are about as good as those that exist in any modern western democracy in the world.

JOURNALIST: Given the PM has called for an end to tribalism [inaudible] from the fringes, are Liberals going to allow for a preference deals with One Nation in the upcoming election?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: The Prime Minister's done that today, multiple times, he's said there are no preference deals with One Nation.

JOURNALIST: You mentioned that the live streaming of acts like this is likely to increase. Is that based on any specific information of copycat…

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: This is just a statement of common sense. This is, in a way, the first time the world has experienced, in the particular fashion that it did, the live streaming from start to finish of a mass-murderous terrorist event. Now the perpetrator Man Monis, of the Lindt café siege, and terrorist event, made some attempts to live stream, and ultimately for a variety of reasons, they failed. But this obviously was a successful attempt, and part of that success is that it was followed from start to finish by a very large successful multinational platform and obviously that is an issue that most Australians would expect governments to consider not just in Australia but round the world.