Transcripts → 2019


Sky News - First Edition

Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia


Date: Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Sydney attack, national security

LAURA JAYES: Well let’s go live now to the Finance Minister and acting Attorney General, Mathias Cormann. Appreciate your time. You would have seen these scenes unfold late yesterday afternoon. Has the Government sought or received any further briefings on this?

MATHIAS CORMANN: The NSW Police is in charge of this investigation. NSW Police will continue to provide any official updates in relation to their inquiries. But yes, there are appropriate exchanges of information between relevant authorities. We are being kept up to date as appropriate.

LAURA JAYES: It is in the State’s jurisdiction when you look at the health facilities and the health system. But are you concerned this morning about mental health patients being released in this way or monitoring from officials.

MATHIAS CORMANN: The violent attack yesterday is deeply concerning. It is deeply distressing. Our thoughts go out to all the victims and all who have been impacted. But it is premature to jump to any conclusions at this stage. Inquiries are continuing. The NSW Police has not yet finalised their assessment in relation to motivations and all of the other relevant factors. So, it would not be appropriate for me to jump to conclusions and start providing a running commentary before all of that work has been concluded.

LAURA JAYES: Fair enough, perhaps you like us, were proud and humbled by the reaction of innocent bystanders yesterday who sought to detain this man before police arrived.

MATHIAS CORMANN: It was an extraordinarily brave effort. Our gratitude goes out to those people who challenged and then ultimately stopped and restrained the attacker. Who knows what more harm he could have done if it was not for those brave actions of fire fighters, office workers and everyday Australians stepping up and making sure that no more harm could be done. Amazing effort and fantastically well done. 

LAURA JAYES: Completely separate to the incident we saw yesterday, we spoke to Mark Dreyfus, the Shadow Attorney General yesterday morning on this program. He was reiterating the words, perhaps selectively of Duncan Lewis, about the threat of Islamic terrorism plateauing in this country. And therefore maybe using that as an opportunity to review our security laws. Is that a good idea?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Firstly given what occurred after this, I want to make absolutely clear that any comments made now are not related to the incident in Sydney yesterday. The second point though, clearly what Mark Dreyfus was doing there by effectively suggesting that we should consider weakening our national security laws on the basis of a plateauing in the terrorism threat was reckless and irresponsible. Because what Mark Dreyfus did not say is that what he called a plateau was a plateau at an unacceptably high level. That is also according to our national security agencies. The terrorism threat level in Australia has remained at probable since 2014. We have had forty major counter terrorism operations. We had sixteen counter terrorism operations to disrupt likely attacks. We have had seven attacks in that period. Any suggestion that we should consider weakening our national security related legislation is completely reckless and irresponsible. The Government remains committed to do everything we can to keep Australians safe and secure. We remain committed to ensure that our national security laws are as strong as they need to be to keep Australians safe and secure. It really is incumbent on Anthony Albanese to pull his Shadow Attorney General into line. Does he support this proposition that Australia should be weakening our national security laws on the basis that the terrorism threat level has plateaued, even though that it is at an unacceptably high and continuously dangerous level.

LAURA JAYES: Increasingly though, the Government has asked the Australian public to give up some of our personal freedoms for the sake of our own protection. If the situation is changing and the threat level is changing, would the Government consider winding back some of this legislation?

MATHIAS CORMANN: It is always a matter of maintaining the right balance. But right now and for the foreseeable future, the threat level remains at an unacceptably high level. The threat level remains at probable. There is absolutely no proposition that this is the environment or that there is an environment in the foreseeable future that would warrant a weakening of our national security legislation. It is also important to remind ourselves that the threat continues to evolve. Technological advances and the opportunities for people who want to do us harm continue to evolve. We need to forever remain vigilant. We need to forever work to remain a step ahead of obviously what could potentially be done to do us harm. That is why the Government unequivocally remains focused on making sure that our national security laws give our relevant law enforcement and security agencies the tools they need to keep Australians safe. That is, first and foremost, our priority.

LAURA JAYES: Mathias Cormann, appreciate your time this morning.

MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.