Thursday, 21 March 2019

Radio 6PR Mornings with Gareth Parker




Subjects: Hospital Funding; online broadcast of violent acts

GARETH PARKER: Christian Porter's the Attorney-General. Christian, good morning.

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Mate, we get one anti-Shorten caller and you cut him off.

GARETH PARKER: Come on, that's not fair at all. That was panic ….

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Technical difficulties.

GARETH PARKER: Got no idea what happened.

What is it with politicians and buses, by the way?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, they're a great way to get a message across. I've got to say I've got a bus in my electorate from Shorten, which has got a great big on it saying there have been cuts to hospitals by the Liberal Government and it is very, very annoying and it's along the lines of that Medicare scare campaign. But in WA, right, we've increased hospital funding as a federal Liberal Government from $1 billion when Labor left office to $1.8 billion - an 81 per cent increase. Bulk billing rates were up 10 per cent and yet, people think it's okay to drive a bus around saying they’ve been cut. Like, it's just absolutely fundamentally untrue, and on top of all that, we've given $158 million to Joondalup Health Campus just outside my electorate. So I do think people are wising up to those complete nonsense scare campaigns and actually wanted new data and fact points.

GARETH PARKER: We'll wait and see what happens with all of the campaigning because it's not far away. On more pressing matters, you're meeting with the Prime Minister and with the bosses of the tech giants, if I can put it that way …some of the telcos too, and this is about what can and what should be done when it comes to regulating their platforms and people who want to use them to spread hate and violence and extremism.

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Yeah. And I think that obviously the circumstances that we saw arise were, in some ways, new but we can probably expect more of them and they're quite terrible obviously. But you had the perpetrator in New Zealand with, effectively, a dash cam - that's pretty basic technology - and a Facebook account upload and livestream right-wing terrorism and mass murder for close to 20 minutes on Facebook and I think

GARETH PARKER: It's not okay.

CHRISTIAN PORTER: It's definitely not okay. I mean, if you did that on a mainstream new service or on radio or on Channel 7, people would be utterly outraged, and I think people are utterly outraged that it went on for that long on Facebook. I mean, if you think about this, this is one of the most violent acts of terrorism. I mean, the murder of children being livestreamed. There there's no way that average Australians think that it's fair and reasonable that a multi-billion dollar profit-making platform allows that to be live fed to whoever wants to watch it. I think it's outrageous.

GARETH PARKER: Until now, the attitude seems to have been that it's too difficult to regulate these platforms. People sort of throw their hands up and say: oh well, it's the internet. You can't control the internet. Is that a good enough answer?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, I don't think it is and I don't even think it's true. First of all, there have to be real attempts by the people who make large profit out of the platforms to regulate the content of the platforms. But-

GARETH PARKER: But they're not interested in doing that.


GARETH PARKER: For 15 years, it's been evident they're not interested in doing that, particularly.

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, obviously, we're having a discussion - the Prime Minister, myself, the Communications Minister, and the heads of these organisations in Australia - and if that's communicated to us, then that's something that we will take under consideration for next steps. But I don't know whether they will put it in quite those terms but I think, I would agree with you.

GARETH PARKER: So, what are you going to tell them? Like, what's the message to them? Like, this isn't on; you guys need to fix it or else what?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: The message is obvious - is that it is unacceptable to have terrorist-based mass murder live streamed on your platform in an age where you are making large profits from the nature of that platform. That is unacceptable. Just as it would be unacceptable to live stream a murder or a rape or other serious offence. I mean, no Australian thinks that that's acceptable.

GARETH PARKER: So, if for example, Channel 7 or Channel 9 did it, they'd have their broadcast license reviewed by ACMA and they might even have it pulled, and there'd be …

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Almost certainly.

GARETH PARKER: … enormous public pressure for that to happen because it would be grossly irresponsible.


GARETH PARKER: There's no licencing around these guys, so what do you do? Are you going to introduce a licencing system?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, I don't want to get into options but the first point is it's unacceptable. The second point is we're speaking to them directly about the view, that I think is shared by all Australians, that it's totally unacceptable.


CHRISTIAN PORTER: They may want to put some views to us about what they can do voluntarily or by self-regulation and we'll consider that and that's always a reasonable first step but-

GARETH PARKER: But we're not self-regulated on this radio station …


GARETH PARKER: … and TV stations aren't self-regulated. Does the internet need to be regulated?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, all platforms are regulated to an extent. The question is the extent and degree. And your observation is right. I mean, the regulation around mainstream news media, radio, and television is much heavier than it is on Facebook, Google, YouTube. But this is a question, immediately, about a very particular set of circumstances and that is the perpetrator of terrorism and mass murder themselves orchestrating the live streaming of that murder and terrorism through a platform that doesn't just assist but provides the fundamental mechanism by which they can live stream to literally billions of people.

GARETH PARKER: I'm going to ask the Police Commissioner about the situation locally, but as the federal Attorney-General what's your level of concern about the activity or the degree to which there are extremists active in our community, in our country?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, you've obviously got the WA Police Commissioner in next. We work with agencies such as ASIO and the Australian Federal Police. We and our agencies seek to protect Australians from all forms of violence and extremism whatever its political or other motivations. So, you can rest assured that when things like the episode in New Zealand happens, we revisit the way in which we're approaching issues and problems and particular sources of issues and problems. But our job and the job of our agencies is to protect Australians from all types of violence and terrorism.

GARETH PARKER: It's been pretty evident to me that this isn't like one guy. There are people who share his views. I've found them, in researching this story over the past seven days, they're out there. They're not hard to find. They're in larger numbers than I thought. At least, they express these views. I'm not saying they're all about to pack a semi-automatic machine gun and shoot up a mosque. But do you have a comment about that - about the prevalence of the views that he's expressed?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, they unfortunately exist. We've known about them for a long time. I mean, in Western Australia we saw horrific violence perpetrated by the Australian Nationalist Movement with Jack van Tongeren and others back in the 1990s. So, it's not a new phenomenon. It's a terrible thing. We watched very closely. But it's real. No one is denying that and we are very much live to it.

I guess the overarching comment that I'd make is that the purpose of terrorism - like what terrorists seek to achieve whatever their political motivations, whatever their ideology - is that they want for their fanatical, senseless acts of violence to create responses, which themselves are ignorant or intemperate, aggressive, or ultimately violent. But what terrorists seek to do is snowball their own violence throughout communities, which is why after an event like this, we are obviously ultra-cautious about the situation that we deal with. But that's not to say that the situation isn't one that we've been dealing with for decades.

GARETH PARKER: So Jacinda Ardern's approach of refusing to name the terrorist, do you endorse that? Is that a good idea?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, I understand why that's done.


CHRISTIAN PORTER: Absolutely. And this gets back to the idea about trying to ensure that you don't provide a platform for terrorists to live stream, a platform for terrorists to have their peculiar and ignorant and terrible views given mass publication; and partly, this is done through mainstream media organisations making self-regulatory, sensible decisions about what they will show and not show and what they will relay and not relay.


CHRISTIAN PORTER: And I think, largely speaking, they've been decision sensibly made by mainstream media. And I understand why the New Zealand Prime Minister would take that view and I think, in broad terms, I share that view. This gunman, this right-wing terrorist, perpetrated a horrific act of violence and mass murder, and they want responses from that. They want intemperate, aggressive, violent responses. They want people to relay their peculiar views and their hate and their extremism. They want people overseas to say intemperate things.

GARETH PARKER: Christian Porter, I appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.

CHRISTIAN PORTER: That's a pleasure. Cheers.