Lisa Wilkinson: There's been more threatening phone calls causing mass evacuations at schools across the country. While police try to establish who’s behind the hoaxes, there’s frustration in the community as students and teachers continue to face major students’ disruption. Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham is in Canberra for us and he joins us now. Good morning to you Minister.
Simon Birmingham: Good morning, Lisa.
Lisa Wilkinson: This has been an incredibly disruptive week for students, teachers and parents. How long can this go on?
Simon Birmingham: Well Lisa this is a concern and my own eldest daughter started school this week and I understand how concerned parents would be. But people should be reassured that firstly, right around the world where these things have been happening they have not materialised into an incident, thankfully. But secondly of course that all of our law enforcement authorities are cooperating and working very closely to try to get to the bottom of these threats and how real they are.
Lisa Wilkinson: Can you tell us something of the nature of the threats?
Simon Birmingham: Look, I don't want to go into too many details and we don't want to promote anything that would encourage copycats or any silliness like that. But obviously we take every threat seriously. The safety of children is of paramount concern and individual state and territory authorities have their operating protocols that are in place which work very closely from the school level through their central education departments with of course local police but also with all of our federal security and intelligence resources.
Lisa Wilkinson: Initial reports were that these were automated calls coming in from overseas. Are you getting local calls now and are you sure there aren't copycat calls being made as well?
Simon Birmingham: We can never be sure and you would hope that people aren't that silly to do so. Of course the authorities have a range of mechanisms that are in place and have very sophisticated ways to try to track these calls, and so people who were silly enough to make copycat calls should know that they would be at high risk of getting caught and that there are very serious penalties that come from making such foolish threats. Ultimately, we'll put the safety of students and parents first and as a federal government we have invested substantially more in terms of funding to national security agencies, we've changed a number of our laws to strengthen their powers, and we are of course also working in various ways in the community to try to address concerns of radicalisation and the like including within schools and with school children.
Lisa Wilkinson: Are you any closer to knowing where the calls are coming from and stopping them?
Simon Birmingham: That's really an operational matter for those who are undertaking the investigations. But the important thing for parents to understand and appreciate is that we are taking the matters extraordinarily seriously, that every possible assistance between different agencies of government is being given and we want to get to the bottom of it, while of course making sure that we put the safety of those students and their teachers and all of the school community first.
Lisa Wilkinson: So no option of just considering them all as hoaxes and ignoring them. For as long as these calls come in, schools will be evacuated?
Simon Birmingham: Lisa, these types of processes and protocols are continually reviewed and of course the assessment that goes with any particular threat is undertaken before decisions are made in relation to evacuations. So that is an operational matter that is constantly revised and updated based on the strength of intelligence and the reality of the threat that exists.
Lisa Wilkinson: Very frustrating for all concerned. Education Minister Simon Birmingham. Thanks very much for your time this morning.
Simon Birmingham: My pleasure.
Senator Birmingham’s media contact: James Murphy 0478 333 974
Nick Creevey 0447 644 957
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