PRIME MINISTER

1 April 2014

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MP JOINT PRESS CONFERENCE WITH THE HON. MICHAEL KEENAN MP, MINISTER FOR JUSTICE, PERTH
Subjects: Establishment of the Western Australian Anti-Gangs Squad; teachers’ strike; whaling; the Government’s commitment to repeal the carbon tax and the mining tax. E&OE……………………….…………………………………………………………… PRIME MINISTER: It‟s good to be here with the Minister for Justice, Michael Keenan, to announce this significant ramping up of the Commonwealth Government‟s anti-gang activity. As you know, we took to the election a strong policy to create a National Anti-Gangs Squad. That squad is up and running. We also have already anti-gang strike teams in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. Today, Michael Keenan and I announce the formation of a Western Australian anti-gang strike team which will involve Commonwealth funding of just over $10 million over the forward estimates period. Gangs are at the heart of organised crime in Australia. Gangs are involved in drugs, prostitution, money-laundering, they‟re involved in re-birthing of motor vehicles. Almost all crime which is not random and spontaneous has a gang element in it and it‟s very important that we take strong and effective action against these gangs. Because the gangs operate nationally, it‟s important that there be a strong national focus. As a result of this measure that Michael Keenan and I announce today, there will be additional Australian Federal Police officers working with Western Australian police. There will be additional Commonwealth officers working with Western Australian police and this will help to crack down on the estimated 450 gang members in nine separate gangs operating in 25 chapters here in Western Australia. I thank and congratulate the Minister for his work in this area and I ask him to add to these remarks.

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JUSTICE MINISTER: Thank you, Prime Minister. Since the Abbott Government came to office we‟ve invested $64 million in the National Anti-Gangs Squad. Today, we‟re announcing the extension of that to the Western Australian strike team of that squad. This comes on the back of announcements that we‟ve already made in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria and sees the National Anti-Gangs squad presence in Western Australia come to a point where it can relate back to the National Anti-Gangs squad infrastructure in Canberra. The strike team consists of five officers from the Australian Federal Police, one intelligence analyst from the Australian Taxation Office, two dedicated WAPOL officers plus a dedicated surveillance team that will be funded by the Commonwealth Government. The National Anti-Gangs Squad has already been paying important dividends for law enforcement across the country. We‟re cooperating with state and territory police forces in a way that‟s proven very effective. Over 125 individuals have been charged for over 350 offences. They‟ve seized guns, they‟ve seized over $1.25 million worth of cash, 41 motor vehicles, they‟ve seized drugs, they‟ve seized pill presses and are continuing to work constructively with state and territory law enforcement to make sure that it‟s the Commonwealth Government that‟s doing everything we can to assist the state and territory police forces to tackle criminal organisations. What we‟ve found is that the state and territory police forces are being able to participate in a way that‟s been unprecedented in the history of the Commonwealth. All of the resources at the disposal of the Commonwealth Government are being deployed in this effort, be it Commonwealth law enforcement through the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Crime Commission, Customs and Border Protection, the Australian Taxation Office, Centrelink and any agency that is required to assist in this effort, the National Anti-Gangs Squad can contact and get involved in what is proving to be a very successful way to tackle national criminal organisations. The Western Australian strike team is something that I‟ve had conversations with my Western Australian counterpart, Liza Harvey, with for some time. It‟s great to be able to make this announcement in conjunction with the Prime Minister today and the strike team will be operational, embedded with the Western Australian police from 1st July this year. PRIME MINISTER: Ok, do we have any questions? QUESTION: Prime Minister, there was quite a significant rally at one of the parks down here in the CBD which then converged on Parliament House. Do you see it as a purely political rally given that it‟s ahead of the Senate Election or alternatively, do you see the fact that there were lots of parents there as evidence that there are real concerns here? PRIME MINISTER: Happy to take that question, but let‟s see if there are any questions on the anti-gang strike team first, before we go onto other subjects.
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QUESTION: Just on intelligence-sharing with local police, are there any issues there in terms of sensitive information being more broadly passed around? PRIME MINISTER: I‟ll ask Michael to elaborate on this, but it is right in-principle that law enforcement agencies cooperate with each other – particularly given that these gangs operate on a national basis, law enforcement agencies have got to operate on a national basis if they are effectively to counter the gangs. We can‟t have a police and other law enforcement agencies operating with one hand tied behind their back because of jurisdictional issues and that‟s why the formation of this strike team is so important. Michael? JUSTICE MINISTER: Well, we‟ve established the Australian Anti-Gangs Intelligence Centre at the Australian Crime Commission and that is proving to be very useful in disseminating information in the most timely possible way for state and territory police forces. When we came to Government we were determined that the criminal intelligence that we could provide to the states and territories was provided in the most effective way possible and if we found any roadblocks to that, whether they be cultural or whether they be legislative, then we would deal with them. The flow of information is obviously helped when you‟ve got officers embedded within the state and territory anti-gang teams. So, it‟s much easier if you can just look over to the next desk and say, “We need information on this” or “What do we know at a national level about this particular organisation or individual” and that‟s the beauty of why these strike teams are working so effectively and with their state and territory counterparts. PRIME MINISTER: Ok, any other questions on the topic of today‟s announcement? QUESTION: Actually, yeah, just one to the Minister. How does the strike team interact with the West Australian antiassociation laws and as Justice Minister and as a West Australian Minister, would you have expected the police to enacted those laws or utilised those laws in this state given that they were passed well over a year ago now? QUESTION: Well look, ultimately that‟s a matter for the Western Australian Government. The strike teams operate within the states and within the legal frameworks that are established within the individual states. So ultimately that‟s a matter for Western Australia, but what we do know is that there is a very significant effort here to tackle criminal organisations. I‟ve been talking to my state counterpart about how the Commonwealth can help and what we‟ve decided is the best way for the state to receive Commonwealth help is through the strike team that we‟ve established.

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PRIME MINISTER: Ok look, if I could just deal with the issue you raised earlier, the best place for teachers to be is to be in the classroom with their students and I think that the vast majority of parents would be just a little disappointed to see teachers out of the classroom, on strike, making a political point when the right place for teachers is in the classroom with their students. I think it‟s more than a tad hypocritical of the Labor Party to be campaigning against what it says are „cuts to school funding‟ when Bill Shorten as education minister cut $1.2 billion out of school funding just before the election. There is $1.2 billion more in school funding now then there was in the Pre-Election Financial Outlook statements because we‟ve put the money in that Bill Shorten cut out. He cut the money out of Western Australian and Queensland schools; we‟ve put the money back in there. That‟s why I think Bill Shorten risks looking like a bit of a hypocrite by addressing that rally earlier today. QUESTION: Do you support Colin Barnett‟s cuts to education in this state, though? PRIME MINISTER: School education in Western Australia is better funded than in any other state of this Commonwealth, particularly now that the Commonwealth Government has restored the $1.2 billion to Queensland and Western Australia that Bill Shorten took out. QUESTION: Just on private health, today anyone that‟s got private health insurance will be slugged with one of the biggest price hikes in a decade. On Bill Shorten, he said that you perhaps should spend less time worrying about Knights and Dames and more time worrying about cost of living pressures such as these. Is this hike fair and reasonable and does he have a point? PRIME MINISTER: Well, the only person who‟s obsessing about titles is in fact Bill Shorten and my point is that every day I am trying to reduce the pressure on Australian families by abolishing the carbon tax and every time the carbon tax repeal legislation goes into the Parliament, Bill Shorten supports the carbon tax. Whatever Bill Shorten says in Perth, in Canberra he supports the carbon tax, he supports the mining tax – he supports these antiWestern Australian taxes. So, I‟m all in favour of easing the squeeze on Australian families and the best way you can do that is to get rid of the carbon tax – that would save the average Australian family $550 a year. QUESTION: What about the health insurance hike, though? Is it just insurance companies profiteering? PRIME MINISTER: Look, this is the sort of adjustment which happens from time to time. From time to time businesses look at their cost structures, they look at their markets and they make adjustments. Government‟s job is not to second guess the decisions that businesses make; government‟s job is to try to ensure that taxes are as low as they humanly can be and that‟s why bad and unnecessary taxes like the carbon tax must go. I just wish that Bill Shorten would stop making common cause with the Greens in Canberra while he‟s pretending to be on the side of the people here in Perth.
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QUESTION: So you think these hikes are fair and you support them then? PRIME MINISTER: In the end it‟s up to businesses to look at their cost structures, look at their markets to make appropriate decisions and obviously there‟s always an ongoing commercial relationship between businesses and their customers. QUESTION: Just on an international issue, Australia had a win in the International Court of Justice in regard to whaling. Are you celebrating that victory? PRIME MINISTER: I very much appreciate the desire of the Australian people generally to see an end to whaling in the Southern Ocean. I absolutely appreciate that and that‟s certainly been an objective of both sides of politics for a long time. It‟s now up to Japan to appropriately reflect on the judgment and I‟m sure that‟s exactly what will happen. Japan is an exemplary international citizen. We have a very, very strong relationship with Japan. I‟m looking forward to my trip to Japan in a few days‟ time and I‟m certainly looking forward to building on what is a very good relationship – a relationship which is certainly much, much, much bigger than any disagreement we might have had about whaling. QUESTION: Do you think the decision will cause any tension for the trade relationship, in particular? PRIME MINISTER: I think that our two countries are both very mature, significant countries. We‟ve got a long and deep and broad relationship; it extends to many, many areas quite apart from the one that you raise with me. QUESTION: It‟s been reported that the case didn‟t come from northern parts of Japan so they‟re saying that they can still hunt whales in certain areas. Will Australia be pursuing any case against that or is the priority to fix the relationship with Japan? PRIME MINISTER: Well, we have an extremely good relationship with Japan. We have a very, very good relationship with Japan and I‟m looking forward to building on it. I‟m particularly looking forward to the efforts that Andrew Robb is making as the Minister for Trade and Investment to finalise the economic partnership agreement – the free trade agreement – between Australia and Japan: that‟s our absolute priority at the moment. QUESTION: Clive Palmer says he‟ll pressure you in the Senate to deliver a better GST deal for WA. Is that something that you have the power to do or would be willing to do?

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PRIME MINISTER: I want to make two observations, if I may, David. The first is that the best thing you can do for Western Australia is get rid of the carbon tax, get rid of the mining tax. Western Australia is the energy capital of our country and the carbon tax is an anti-Western Australian tax because it hits the price of power. Western Australia is the iron ore capital of our country and that‟s why the mining tax is an anti-Western Australian tax because it hits the source of so much of Western Australia‟s wealth. Now, the gentleman in question is not serious about repealing the carbon tax here – he actually abstained when the carbon tax legislation came before the House of Representatives. A couple of other points I want to make is that you ought to ask his Party in Tasmania what it thinks about the GST before you take seriously what they‟re saying in Western Australia. The final point I want to make is that the people of Western Australia are smart, savvy people and I don‟t believe that they are going to allow themselves to be bought. I don‟t believe that the people of Western Australia are going to put seats in the national parliament up for sale, which is effectively what someone is trying to do – he‟s out there trying to buy seats in the Parliament and that‟s something that I don‟t think the people of Western Australia will fall for. Thank you. [ends]

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