We're In Safe Hands... I Hope

By AR - Kevin07 Home Affairs Minister, Bob Debus, appeared on Sky News Agenda. His interview by David Speers was illuminating. It leaves you with the impression that Perth International Airport was closed due to a security scare and the Home Affairs Minister knows nothing about it. He assumes and presumes and qualifies his statements with "As I understand it..." which really means, "I don't know for sure, but..."

He stumbled and blathered throughout the interview and only livened up when Speers asked him about his contribution to the 20-20 Festival of Rudd. He's the guy who came up with the idea of a republic by 2010. The interview shows he has no idea about which model republic we should choose or that he has any idea how we could possibly introduce a republic in such a short time frame. So why propose the idea to the Summit of Fools? Obviously it was just a joke. As was this interview.
Helen Dalley: How secure are we? It’s been nearly seven years since September 11 and terrorism is still a major concern in Australia . As we’ve seen in the news, Perth International Airport was closed overnight after four suspicious packages were found, but there’s also the threat of pandemic diseases and climate change disasters to name just a few. One of the men responsible for keeping us safe, is the Minister for Home Affairs Bob Debus and he joins us now and to speak with him is our Political Editor, David Speers, who’s in our Canberra bureau.
Good Morning, David.

David Speers: Good morning, Helen and Minister, thanks for joining us. Can I start with the scare at Perth Airport overnight? It has reopened after a shut down of more than twelve hours. The police have checked these suspicious packages and say no further investigation is required. Was this the appropriate response shutting down the airport given all the chaos that it’s caused for travellers?

Minister Bob Debus: Well, I have to presume that it was David, we have of course police and customs and other agencies now working together at our international airports precisely to intercept dangerous goods and contraband and to look out for terrorism and other acts that may threaten our security. This is the world we live in and I can only assume that they were doing their job properly as they normally do.

David Speers: So this operation, did it also involve Federal authorities?

Minister Bob Debus: As I understand it, there were Federal Police involved and that would be normal. The Federal Police often take an important coordinating role in a matter like this.

David Speers: Well can I ask you about Perth Airport and indeed some of the other capital city airports? It’s three years since the British aviation expert Sir John Wheeler called for extra police and extra security measures at Australia ’s airports. It was a landmark review. Three years on, those extra police apparently still have not been put in place at Perth Airport and Brisbane Airport , why not?

Minister Bob Debus: Well, there are extra police at all of our airports, (how many? ed.) there are more to come and the government, the new government has undertaken to increase the numbers of Federal Police by up to five hundred over the coming years.

David Speers: But this number that Sir John Wheeler recommended, has it been reached yet for these capital city airports?

Minister Bob Debus: In most cases it has but obviously we are still, as I say, recruiting people (still won't tell us how many. ed.) and it is an undertaking of the new government that we should do that.

David Speers: But Labor complained very loudly and very often after this Wheeler report came out three years ago, about the Howard Government’s lack of attention to airport security. You’ve now been in office six months, why is it taking so long?

Minister Bob Debus: As I say, the new government has undertaken to increase the number of police that are recruited and that is what will occur, including in the coming budget.

David Speers: And what about some of the other security measures he recommended -- the closed circuit TV systems, the other x-ray systems – have they all been implemented as recommended by Sir John Wheeler?

Minister Bob Debus: Well, the implementation is well under way as I understand it David, yes.

David Speers: All right, well, he also has called for a fresh review of airport security three years on, do you think that’s a good idea?

Minister Bob Debus: I think that we should keep airport security along with all other aspects of national security under permanent review.

David Speers: But does that mean a fresh review or just ongoing monitoring by the Federal Government?

Minister Bob Debus: Ongoing monitoring is the present approach that the government is taking. I do believe that to be appropriate.

David Speers: You don’t think there’s a need for a fresh review?

Minister Bob Debus: I believe that active ongoing monitoring is entirely the appropriate approach to be taking.

David Speers: Now you’ve confirmed, Bob Debus, the Federal Police will have its funding cut by 2% in this budget, that would be about $24 million, how will that affect Federal Police operations?

Minister Bob Debus: Well actually I haven’t confirmed that. It’s possible. I believe the decision is not finally made but if it were to be made, it would be the same kind of budget requirement that is applied to most government departments and the way government departments deal with that kind of, of so-called efficiency dividend is to find ways to save on overtime or various aspects of the way the organisation is run in order to meet the new budget.

David Speers: But would it have an impact cutting this much money from the Federal Police budget? Would it have an impact on frontline services?

Minister Bob Debus: No, it wouldn’t. As in the case of any other government department, this kind of saving can be achieved through cutting services that don’t affect the front line. That’s the very point of them.

David Speers: All right, now I’ve also got to ask you about the republic, at the 2020 Summit a couple of weekends ago, you called for a republic by 2010. It received very popular support, what particular type of republic are you in favour of? Would it be a directly elected President or one appointed by Parliament?

Minister Bob Debus: Well I did make that call at the summit and it was partly indeed to get the boat going and I was successful in that respect. The summit actually recommended in the end that there should be a two-stage process, a referendum about whether the Australian people wanted a republic and then, a further referendum about the exact nature of the republic that we would have, that to take place some years later. Now that is a very sober and careful approach to an issue that obviously does cause a lot of concern to many citizens of this country and I think it is actually an appropriate way to proceed. We must await the government’s overall decision about how we should approach the republic. I think it is inevitable that the government will do that, but I think it’s appropriate indeed that we do it in a way that ensures that the whole community can be brought along with us.

David Speers: And by 2010 that’s a fairly quick time frame, it’s not what Kevin Rudd is suggesting. Do you think it really realistically can be done in that short time?

Minister Bob Debus: No, I don’t. As I said, I made an intervention at the summit to precipitate debate and I did do that but I accept that the actual recommendations of the summit that I’ve just described were very sensible.

David Speers: All right Bob Debus we’re out of time, thank you very much for joining us today.

Minister Bob Debus: Thanks David.

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