Thursday, 29 October 2020
Questions without Notice
COVID-19: National Security
My question is to the Minister for Home Affairs. Will the minister outline how Australia is continuing to manage our national security interests throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and in particular our strong border measures, to keep all Australians safe? Is the minister aware of any alternative policies?
I want to say thank you very much to the member for Boothby. She's a great champion of all things South Australian and she does a wonderful job in her electorate, so I'm very pleased to receive a question from her. At the beginning of this year, in the National Security Committee we received many, many confronting reports and predictions from all of the specialists available to us—the Chief of the Defence Force, the head of the Australian Federal Police, the head of the health department, the chief health officer et cetera—and I think the strongest decision taken by the Prime Minister at the start of this year was to close our international borders, which prevented Australia from going into what we're seeing in Europe at the moment and what we're seeing in the United States, in Asia and in the Middle East. That single act saved Australia from what we are seeing unfold right across the world at the moment. That act has resulted in us being able to deliver a budget that has helped Australians through this crisis, in the darkest hour, to make sure that through JobKeeper and JobSeeker we can provide support to those businesses that the Prime Minister just spoke of.
At the same time, we have been able to support businesses, we have been able to support people in their jobs, we have been able to support our agencies that keep Australians safe day and night. Much of the work that the ASIO officers do, or the Australian Federal Police officers do, or those officers at the ACIC or ABF do, right through the night, over the weekend and over Christmas is never seen by Australians, but I promise you it keeps us safe in our country and it keeps our interests safe abroad. We make sure that our agencies are properly invested in. We've put more money, in this budget, into ASIO to make sure that we can deal with the threat of terrorism, which is ever-present. The threat of terrorism hasn't diminished with COVID-19. We are still facing very significant threats, and our agencies are dealing with that, including this very day, where warrants are being executed as we speak.
We are dealing with the reality that we face at our borders. The Australian Border Force, led by Mike Outram: I think he's leading the best agency in the world in terms of the way in which we've been able to respond at our international borders, both here and where people are seeking to board planes or to hop onto boats to come to our country, illegally or otherwise. I can assure you that we are doing this because we have managed the budget well. The strong balance sheet that the Prime Minister spoke about before isn't just an enabler of us to provide JobSeeker and JobKeeper; it's an enabler of us to spend more money in the Australian Federal Police. The Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police describes the budget this year as the best in four years. We'll continue to support Australians, because we make the right decisions in our national interests.