Topics: Albanese Government failing community safety; Released detainees; PM MIA on Red Sea response; Israel-Hamas conflict;

07:45AM AEDT
13 February 2024


Pete Stefanovic:  Let’s send it back to Canberra now. Joining us is the Shadow Foreign Minister, Simon Birmingham. Simon let’s start locally though. Your thoughts on the government’s go slow on seeking orders to lock up detainees? They’ve had a few months after all.


Simon Birmingham: It has had a few months. You know, the first obligation of a government is to keep its citizens safe and to keep the community safe. Now, what we had dragged out of the government yesterday were the details of just how many murderers, child sex offenders and other violent assaults and criminals had been released. Then the revelation that having rushed through the Parliament, with the Opposition giving full support, and indeed acting on Opposition calls to put in place community safety orders the government hasn’t made an application for one single community safety order yet. It’s a remarkable failure by the Albanese Government which seems to have been dragged to every step of the response in relation to the court case last year that saw these detainees released and hasn’t been able to get itself on the front foot when it comes to keeping Australians safe at all.


Pete Stefanovic: The PM says that’s because the legal threshold is so high, they don’t want to make an application for it to just then be rejected. Does that hold up?


Simon Birmingham: Well, the question here is why hadn’t the government done the preparatory work in advance for these things? Why did it take so long for it to bring forward the legislative response to the High Court? The Opposition was calling for it pretty much from the day of the High Court judgement, and the Government, with its resources, should have had it ready to go. Then when it comes to the individual cases, why hadn’t it done the preparatory work to be ready to file those cases rather than saying it’s going to take weeks, months or otherwise? We have seen some of these individuals reoffend since they were released. They do pose clear dangers to the Australian community, and it’s why the government should be acting and acting with far greater speed than they’ve shown the interest or capability in doing.


Pete Stefanovic: Still with the PM, Simon. He wasn’t involved in the decision for Australia not to send a warship to the Red Sea. This after the US asked for help. Does it matter that he wasn’t involved if other departments were?


Simon Birmingham: Well, this is another truly remarkable revelation through the Senate estimates process yesterday. You think about it. Our closest ally, the United States, makes a request for Australia to play a role in the response to the Houthi rebel’s assaults in the Red Sea, where some 12% of world trade flows through that critically important shipping channel. The decision is left entirely in the hands of the defence minister. The Prime Minister doesn’t seem to play any role in the decision. He doesn’t call a National Security Committee meeting of the Cabinet. This is not proper process, and particularly not when you think about the way in which the government responded, which was woefully inadequate. Many national security experts and commentators have called this out as being one of the weakest responses by Australia to a request from the US, and in this instance, the government didn’t step up to the response, but seemingly didn’t even give it the appropriate high-level consideration it should have.


Pete Stefanovic: And still with the PM. But finishing up on Israel, Simon. Yesterday, the Prime Minister urged caution about Israel’s planned military offensive on Rafah. We’ve been covering this this morning, but he’s not alone on that call. Do you share his view?


Simon Birmingham: Well, it is important that Israel act with regard for international humanitarian law and be very mindful of the huge humanitarian toll that is occurring in Gaza. Obviously, there is massive displacement of individuals, and we still wish very clearly to support Israel, to see Hamas disabled and believe that the best pathway to ceasefire would be for Hamas to release the remaining hostages and the rescue of two hostages in the last day or so-


Pete Stefanovic: Do you support the invasion, though, on Rafah of if that’s what it takes, a military operation?


Simon Birmingham: Well, it’s not a matter of whether I can sit here and say I support this action or that action. Israel needs to act with regard to international humanitarian law. They need to act with appropriate caution in terms of how they handle displaced people and ensure humanitarian support is there for them, and ultimately, they need to ensure that they are conducting these operations in ways that effectively target Hamas and the disablement of Hamas leadership and infrastructure.


Pete Stefanovic: Simon Birmingham, good to have you with us. We’ll chat to you soon.