Prime Minister

Mr CLARE (Blaxland—Minister for Home Affairs, Minister for Justice and Minister for Defence Materiel) (15:07): I should start by saying that what is happening in Sydney is extremely serious. There is a risk, where there are drive-by shootings—people shooting at homes across Western Sydney—that someone will get hurt. There is a risk that families enjoying their normal lives in the middle of the day or the middle of the night could be shot and killed. I treat this very, very seriously. That is why one of the first things I did as the Minister for Home Affairs and the Minister for Justice—

The SPEAKER: The minister will address the reasons why standing and sessional orders, in his view, ought not be suspended, not the substance of what would be the subsequent motion.

Mr CLARE: My argument to you, Mr Speaker, is that standing orders should not be suspended, for a number of reasons. Firstly, they should not be suspended because this debate will occur in this House at the end of question time. The member for Stirling has placed this on the parliament’s record as a matter of public importance, and that debate will occur this afternoon. That is the appropriate opportunity to have that debate.

Secondly, standing orders should not be suspended now because of the evidence to the contrary. Today is a very important day for Customs. It is a very important day for law enforcement. The New South Wales police, working with Customs and Border Protection as well as the Federal Police and the Australian Crime Commission, have worked together to dismantle a major illegal firearms syndicate. The work they did yesterday shows the terrific job our law enforcement agencies do, working together. That stands in stark contrast to what the Leader of the Opposition said in his argument about why standing orders should be suspended.

This all came to pass because of a number of things. A Glock firearm was seized by New South Wales police in Wiley Park. The Australian Crime Commission, working with the New South Wales police, did a trace analysis of that firearm. That analysis helped to trace the gun back to the company that makes it in Austria and, in turn, to a gun distributor in Germany, which in turn led to the arrests in Sylvania Waters yesterday. Since I have been in this job I have made a point of making this my top priority, speaking with the New South Wales minister for police and speaking with the Australian Crime Commission to make sure that whatever resources the New South Wales police need they get. The Australian Crime Commission told me, in my first briefing, that they have made that very clear to the New South Wales police and that, as a result of that, they have provided tracing analysis services as well as their Fusion Centre to identify criminals involved in this market. That is why standing orders should not be suspended—because of this evidence to the contrary. I have done the same thing with the Australian Federal Police, and they have made it clear that they stand ready to help the New South Wales police wherever they are needed. And it has been the same with Customs.

What is the result of all that? Working with the Liberal police minister in New South Wales, Mike Gallacher, we directed the Australian Crime Commission to conduct a national intelligence audit of the illegal firearms market in Australia. This is why standing orders should not be suspended—because of the evidence presented here to the country. Finding one gun in Western Sydney and then tracing that and identifying who was responsible for importing it led to the arrest of four people and the shutting down, or dismantling, of a criminal syndicate. The work I have done is to direct the Australian Crime Commission to do that work for every single firearm that has been seized by police over the last 12 months and to do the same sort of analysis for all the shootings, all the bullets and all the casings that have been found, whether they are in Western Sydney or in South Australia or anywhere across the country. That work, that intelligence, will assist police right across the country, and this is why standing orders should not be suspended, because of this evidence of the work that we are doing as a government, hand in glove with the New South Wales government, with the South Australian government and with all governments across the country. That will lead to a presentation of this criminal intelligence information to a meeting of attorneys-general next month and will lead to recommendations to police ministers when they meet in July this year.

The Leader of the Opposition and the shadow minister, the member for Stirling, talk about cuts to Customs. It is a bit rich, the Liberal Party talking about cuts, when they have a $70 billion black hole.

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER: The minister will be directly relevant.

Mr CLARE: It is a bit rich, when they want to sack 12,000 government workers.

The SPEAKER: The minister will address the motion before the chair.

Mr CLARE: This is why standing orders should not be suspended—because these are the things we could have discussed in question time, and these are the things we will have the opportunity to discuss when the matter of public importance comes up after this debate. The Liberal Party lecturing anyone about cuts is a bit like Ralph Malph lecturing the Fonz about cool. These guys are experts when it comes to cuts. And this is why standing orders should not be suspended. A couple of weeks ago the shadow minister said that the decision of the CEO of Customs to reduce the size of the SES by 11 people could be described as ‘drastic action’. I would ask the shadow minister: how does he compare that with the 12,000 people that he wants to sack from the Australian Public Service? The Leader of the Opposition has made it clear that that will happen in education, in health and in defence.

The SPEAKER: The minister will address the question before the chair, otherwise he will resume his seat.

Mr CLARE: The other reason not to suspend standing orders is the obvious nature of this debate. The policy of the Leader of the Opposition on border protection—his idea of turning back the boats—is unravelling, day after day. Trying to suspend standing orders is an attempt to distract from that policy. If truth be told, you have the UN saying that the coalition’s border protection policy of turning back the boats will not work, you also have the Indonesian ambassador saying that it will not work, but most importantly you have got senior officers in the Australian Navy saying that it would put Australian lives at risk.

The SPEAKER: The minister will resume his seat. The question before the chair is that the motion for suspension of standing and sessional orders be agreed to. I call the—

Mr Albanese: I am seeking the call on this motion.

The SPEAKER: The Leader of the House will resume his seat. He was certainly second on his feet.

Mr Keenan: I am seeking the call on this motion about the suspension of standing orders and why it is so important.

Mr Albanese: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. It is the normal practice for there to be even numbers of speakers. On this item, the opposition has had two speakers in a row; the government has had one. I am seeking to be the second speaker on the government’s side in this debate.

The SPEAKER: Order! The time for this debate has expired.

Opposition members interjecting—

Mr Albanese: That’s what I was after, you moron.

The SPEAKER: The Leader of the House will return to the despatch box and withdraw that term.

Mr Albanese: I withdraw, Mr Speaker.

The SPEAKER: The question before the chair is that the motion moved by the honourable Leader of the Opposition for the suspension of standing and sessional orders be agreed to.

The House divided. [15:21]

(The Speaker—Hon. Peter Slipper)

Ms Gillard: I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.