Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News – 12 February 2012

TOPICS: Australian Crime Commission firearms tracing, asylum seekers

KIERAN GILBERT: Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Jason Clare. Thank you very much for your time. You’ve announced a National Intelligence Assessment into the firearm black market. What exactly will that involve?

JASON CLARE: Well, Kieran, you’re aware of the drive-by shootings that have been happening in western Sydney as well as the shootings that have been happening in South Australia. What I have announced is that I’ve asked the Australian Crime Commission to do a tracing analysis of all of the shootings that have been happening across Australia over the last twelve months, as well as an analysis of all of the firearms that have been seized over the last year.

That will help to build a better intelligence picture of what the firearms black market looks like and provide better information to state police and territory police all across the country. And as you know, police rely on information. That’s the key to making arrests and better information about how the firearms black market works will help to arrest more criminals involved in using firearms as well as the ones who are supplying them to gangs and other criminals in Australia.

KIERAN GILBERT: Has there been a lack of sharing or of intelligence information across the state police jurisdictions to this point?

JASON CLARE: Well, Kieran, there is a lot of good work that’s done between the police forces across the country. The Crime Commission’s working right now with New South Wales Police, doing tracing analysis of what’s happening in western Sydney. We’ve also got what the Crime Commission calls a fusion centre, which brings together Crime Commission experts, Australian Federal Police, as well as people from the tax office and Centrelink.

They’re helping New South Wales police to identify people of interest in these drive-by shootings. In addition to that, the Crime Commission is using its coercive powers to help extract additional information to help South Australian police. And all of that information does get shared across the country, but the fact is that we are dealing with a black market that is constantly changing.

As police seize more weapons from criminals across the country, they change their ways in which they get access to weapons. The advice I’ve got from the Crime Commission is that most of the weapons that we see on the street, most of the weapons that are in this black market, are weapons that have been around since before the Howard gun law reforms. They don’t have a use-by date, so we do see a lot of old weapons there.

But the market changes as police seize more weapons and we need to make sure that we’ve got the best information on how that market works and share that information with all the police forces right across the country.

KIERAN GILBERT: You mentioned the spate of shootings in Sydney, Operation Spartan is the investigation by the New South Wales Police. Obviously you can’t go into too much detail and it’s not entirely your responsibility specifically, but tell me, what’s the sense you get from your counterparts at state level? Has there been some significant progress made?

JASON CLARE: Kieran, as you know, what’s happening in western Sydney is extremely serious. I’m worried like everyone is worried that we’re going to have a situation where someone is going to fire a weapon at a house and it’ll kill an innocent person. Children that might be running around the house.

You know, this is an area that you know very well. It’s an area I know very well. I think that the New South Wales Police are doing a good job. They’ve made a number of arrests, they’ve seized a number of weapons over the course of the last few weeks. That sort of information is going to help us. It’s going to help the Crime Commission to knit together a clearer picture of how the black market works.

Ultimately, you can’t do this on your own. New South Wales is not an island. We do need to work together at a federal and a state level and what I’ve announced today is a good example of a Federal Government and a State government working together and for that matter, a Labor Government and a Liberal Government working together.

That’s what the people of Australia expect. They expect us to sit down and work through these tough issues and find out where we can come together and help each other and that’s what I’ve done today.

KIERAN GILBERT: And one final issue, Minister, if I can, on the issue of asylum seekers. Another boat has arrived. Yesterday you and your counterpart Chris Bowen issued a news release in which you said this is the first boat arrival since Tony Abbott said no to a compromise, putting his negativity, you argued, and political interest ahead of the national interest.

But isn’t this the Government that needs to take responsibility for this, that this is one of many dozens and dozens of boats that have arrived because you, as a Government, have not been able to come up with an effective issue – solution to deal with this issue?

JASON CLARE: Well, Kieran, what I’ve announced today is a good example of the Labor Party and the Liberal Party working together to target criminals, make it more difficult for criminals to get access to firearms. To be frank, we need the same approach when it comes to boats, when it comes to dealing with the challenge on our borders.

Remember what this is all about. We’ve had two hundred people die off the coast of Indonesia just before Christmas. A hundred bodies were washed up onto the shore.

We expect that there’s about another hundred at the bottom of the Java Sea. Last week, more people died. Off the coast of Malaysia we had another boat capsize and eleven people died there.

It’s not well-known, but the fact is, another boat capsized off the coast of Indonesia last week, as well. In that circumstance, forty-seven people went into the water and fortunately all of those people were rescued.

Now, fixing this problem, trying to make sure that we don’t have people getting on boats and dying at sea is within our grasp, but it requires us to work together.

It requires Tony Abbott to stop saying no. We’ve got legislation that’s in the Parliament that will implement off-shore processing.

Now, the Labor Party supports off-shore processing. The Liberal Party supports off-shore processing and I can understand people watching this scratching their heads saying if both parties support off-shore processing, then why isn’t it being done?

The fact is, this legislation will allow Tony Abbott to implement his own policy, Nauru, that he’s been campaigning for and supporting for ten years.

So we’re prepared to do Nauru, to do Manus and Malaysia, to introduce off-shore processing to remove the incentive for people that want to get onto a boat to get to Australia because they’ll end up somewhere else. But it does require Tony Abbott to stop saying no, to work together with us to implement off-shore processing.

KIERAN GILBERT: Jason Clare, thanks very much for your time today. Appreciate it.

JASON CLARE: Thanks, Kieran.