Doorstop – International Serious and Organised Crime Conference, Brisbane


30 July 2013


International Serious and Organised Crime Conference



Topics: Organised crime, Asylum seekers, Sydney shootings

QUESTION: You mentioned about how organised crime’s more powerful than ever. I mean, should people look at this and think that the bad guys are winning?

JASON CLARE: No. I think the evidence shows that law enforcement is more successful than ever before, seizing more drugs than ever before and that’s because they’re now working together in a way that they haven’t in the past. And they’re harnessing the power of criminal intelligence.

Five years ago we were seizing half the amount of drugs in air cargo that we are now, and that’s because instead of just randomly x-raying containers or parcels, they’re now conducting an intelligence analysis of everything that comes through the air on planes in air cargo.

So by being smarter about it, we’ve got a better chance of seizing more drugs and catching more criminals. But what this report shows is that this battle is not won at all, that the cancer that is organised crime is growing. There’s more work that needs to be done, and we’ve got to continue to change the way in which we fight organised crime as organised crime changes as well.

And one of the big challenges we face right now and we will continue to face into the future is the risk that technology creates for all Australian citizens. Organised crime through the power of the computer system, through the power of the internet, can now reach right into our homes. You can buy drugs over the internet and have them arrive at your doorstep. But you can also have your life savings stolen from you without leaving your door.

So big challenges ahead. The purpose of this report is to warn the Australian public about the risks that organised crime creates and to work together with the people of Australia to beat them.

QUESTION: Can I ask you what you made of the Opposition’s plan to expand the [indistinct] of tents, et cetera on Nauru.

JASON CLARE: Well, I guess the point I’d make here is that the Government’s plan is that people who arrive in Australia by boat will be transferred, processed and resettled in Papua New Guinea. We need to remove the incentive for people to get onto a boat. The risk of drowning in the middle of the ocean hasn’t put people off. Transferring people to Nauru where they’re processed and then could potentially be resettled in Australia hasn’t put people off. You’ve got to remove the incentive to get onto a boat. People are buying a ticket to Australia from people smugglers because they want to live in Australia. So the agreement that we’ve struck with PNG says that you’ll be processed in PNG and you’ll be settled in PNG. You’ll live in PNG.

The difference between that and what the Opposition is proposing is that you’ll be processed in Nauru but you could be resettled in Australia. So it doesn’t remove the incentive for people to get onto a boat. We know that last time this happened, that over 90 per cent of people that were found to be refugees were settled in Australia or New Zealand. Now people smugglers know this. They tell people, don’t worry, you’ll go to Nauru. You’ll stay there for a while, and then you’ll end up in Australia or you might end up in New Zealand.

We’ve got to take away the product they’re trying to sell, which is living in Australia. That’s why the agreement with PNG is so critical. It’s not processing and then settling in Australia, it’s processing and then settling in PNG. And that’s what’s important. We’re going to remove the incentive for people to risk their lives on the high seas.

QUESTION: The Fijian Government has criticised the situation. It says Australia is throwing around its weight and it will destabilise PNG and its social environment. How do you respond to that?

JASON CLARE: Well, I’m not going to respond to the comments of other countries, other than to say this; that this is a regional problem. And anybody who thinks that you can solve it by making a decision in Canberra is wrong, is naive. If we’re going to fix this, you’ve got to work together with the countries of the region; the countries where people are fleeing, the countries where people are transiting through and the countries where people are seeking to live.

We’ve got a problem. People smugglers making lots of money, selling people tickets to get on a boat and risk their life to come and live in Australia. PNG have got challenges as well, with health and education, law and order. This is about two next-door neighbours, two friends, helping each other out. PNG are helping us to remove the incentive for people to get on a boat and risk their lives and we’re helping PNG with the challenges that they confront. That’s what friends and neighbours do.

QUESTION: Thirteen hundred people have actually arrived since you announced that PNG solution. How many more do you expect are on the horizon?

JASON CLARE: I expect that more people will risk their lives, that more people will buy tickets off people smugglers, because people smugglers are telling people lies. The latest reports I’ve got are that people smugglers are saying, get in quick before the first plane takes off to PNG. Get in quick before the Parliament passes laws, or get in quick before the High Court makes a decision on this.

Any possible lie you can think of, people smugglers are telling people right now in Indonesia, to encourage people to get onto boats, because they make a lot of money out of this. That’s why the Prime Minister’s made it clear – you shouldn’t expect that the number of people getting onto boats is going to stop in an instant. There are a lot of people in PNG, some of whom have paid the whole price for the transfer to Australia, some of whom have paid half the price. And people smugglers are exploiting that.

QUESTION: Are you aware of any in transit right now?

JASON CLARE: No, I’m not.

QUESTION: Just back to that idea of the Liberal Party’s plan being… involving resettlement in Australia, does this effectively mean that Labor’s plan is a bit more hardline? And is this idea unprecedented?

JASON CLARE: No, I’m not interested in hard, soft, left, right. I’m interested in what works. Now what we know is this; people are getting onto a boat and risking their lives, risking the lives of their families, their little children, because they want to live in Australia. So if you’re going to create a policy to stop people dying, you’ve got to remove the incentive to get onto a boat in the first place.

If they want to come – if they’re getting on a boat and risking their lives because they want to live in Australia, you need a policy that says, you won’t live in Australia, and that’s what this policy does. That’s why it’s right. It’s not hard or soft. It’s about trying to stop people dying by saying, if you get onto a boat there’s no point, you’re not buying a ticket to Australia, you’ll live in Papua New Guinea.

QUESTION: How long before you expect to see a downturn in the number of boats that are heading out?

JASON CLARE: I’d give you the same answer I just gave then. People smugglers are going to continue to test our resolve. Well, they can try in vain because we will fully implement this policy.

QUESTION: There have been 70 shootings in Sydney so far this year. What aren’t you doing right?

JASON CLARE: The people of Western Sydney, people of Sydney are worried about this, and I’m worried about it as well. I represent the people of Western Sydney. I’m worried that a day will come when an innocent person is caught in the cross-fire, where an innocent person is shot, not another member of an outlaw motorcycle gang. You’ve got a war going on in the streets of Sydney between different motor cycle gangs, fighting over drugs and fighting over turf. And it is a serious challenge, one that I’m very worried about.

I think the New South Wales Police do a terrific job, but there are things that we can do as a Federal Government, with federal law enforcement agencies to help them out, working closely together. That’s why the National Anti-Gang Taskforce that we’re setting up right now is so important. Not just Federal Police and the Crime Commission helping the New South Wales Police, but also the Tax office, Centrelink and Immigration, working together to give Police on the ground the extra support that they need.

In addition to that, I think there are things that we can do to strip the assets of criminals. A lot of police that I talk to in Western Sydney say there are criminals driving around in flash cars that don’t have a job. We can change the balance of power on the street here if we take their assets off them. That’s why I’m campaigning for national unexplained wealth laws, tougher laws, stronger laws to take criminal assets of serious criminals.

We can also take the guns off them. You know, ultimately this is a gun fight that’s happening in Western Sydney. You’ve got a quarter of a million guns on the streets of Australia, in the hands of criminals right now, and they’re using those weapons to fight out these turf battles to sell drugs. A lot of guns out there – most of them are guns that have been there since before the Port Arthur Massacre, or guns that are stolen from legitimate owners.

One of the things I’ve said today is we need to give Police more power to go in and seize those guns. Often, police will know who the criminals are, but don’t have the powers to stop and search them at any time to take the weapons off them.

In South Australia, they’ve got these powers. They’re called firearm prohibition orders, the power to randomly search criminals that have got a record of violence, a record of firearms crime, the power to stop them at any time and search them for weapons, whether it’s in their home, in their car, on the street, in someone else’s home, in someone else’s car. These are laws that the Commissioner of the South Australia Police tells me are working. And they’re laws that I’ve said to Police Ministers across the country, we should implement from coast to coast.

Okay, thanks very much.