Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke at the National Press Club today, where he focused on reframing the debate about Australians’ security.
Mr Morrison pledged to combat cyber-bullying, help victims of domestic violence and boost the nation’s military.
ANALYSIS: Morrison’s dark message to Australia
But other topics were on the agenda as well. Here are the Prime Minister’s words on all the key issues.
ON ASYLUM SEEKERS
Mr Morrison said “disappointment” was “not a strong enough word” to express his feelings towards those advocating changes to asylum seeker policy, citing his time as immigration minister under Tony Abbott.
“I lived through those horrible years when the bodies were piling up, and I vowed to myself when I came to government, when Tony was prime minister, that we were never, ever going to allow this to happen again,” he said.
“And what is happening in our Australian parliament right now, it may be entirely well motivated. I’m not making any judgments about people’s motivations here. In fact, quite the opposite.
“But what I am doing is — they do not know what they’re playing with. They have no idea of the consequences of what they are playing with. And they will unleash a world of woe again. How do I know? I’ve seen it before. And I never, ever want to see it again.”
He rejected any suggestion that he and his frontbenchers had been misrepresenting the contents of the bill on asylum seeker medical transfers.
You can read more about what the bill would actually do here.
ON THE BANKING SECTOR
The Prime Minister was asked whether he wanted to see anyone from the banking and financial services sector go to jail in the wake of the royal commission’s report.
“Well, in this country, it’s courts that are going to determine that. That’s how it works,” he said.
“Everyone should face responsibility for their actions and be accountable for what they’ve done, and matters have been referred off for ASIC and the others to take forward, and they’ll be pursued and they’ll end up in court, I have no doubt, and then the courts will decide.”
Mr Morrison spruiked a couple of the government’s policies, including the Banking Executive Accountability Regime and the creation of the Australian Financial Complaints Authority.
“So there are a lot of actions I can take to ensure people face accountability and face justice and we’re taking those actions,” he said.
ON MORTGAGE BROKERS
The mortgage broking industry reacted angrily to the banking royal commission’s recommendations, which would essentially up-end their business model.
Mr Morrison tried to ease its nerves.
“The mortgage brokers understand, with the cautious way we’ve responded to the report, that we understand the important role that they play in the community,” he said.
“The royal commission has recommended some changes that will need to be absorbed over time, and they can be absorbed if they’re done in consultation. But I want to see as many mortgage brokers in this country, five years from now — in fact, more than there are today.
“I don’t want to see this sector wither on the vine and be strangled by regulation that would throw them out of business, but more importantly, would deny choice and competition in the banking system.”
ON ONLINE BULLYING
A large focus of Mr Morrison’s appearance was his government’s commitment to security – not just national security, but Australians’ personal security.
That included new measures to combat cyber-bulling.
“A few weeks ago, I had the great privilege as Prime Minister of awarding Kate and Tick Everett the honour of being local Australians of the Year. Kate is with us today. She’s up the back. Give her a round of applause,” he said.
“Every Australian parent can only try to begin to imagine the pain of Kate and Tick when they lost their daughter, Dolly, to online bullying just over a year ago.
“Through Dolly’s Dream, they are transforming what I can only describe as indescribable grief into a force for change to protect the children of our country.
“For parents, it used to be a warning of stranger danger for kids as they played in the front yard or on the nature strip. The online world has opened up a place for children — a terror of parents everywhere, including me and Jen.”
ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
In a similar vein, the Prime Minister promised more support for victims of domestic violence.
“Women in Australia, are still the targets of violence, abuse and disrespect. And this must stop,” he said.
Mr Morrison praised Kelly O’Dwyer and Paul Fletcher for their work in this area.
“Where immediate action is needed, we have delivered. And that includes committing a further $20 million just in the past year for 1800-RESPECT.”
He announced a $60 million investment in emergency accommodation and $18 million for the states and territories to keep women and children safe in their homes.
“We can’t ask women and children to leave dangerous homes if they have no other place to go. And where it is safe, women and children survivors should be helped to remain in their homes and in their communities. You’ve got to be safe in your own home,” he said.
“We’ve listened to the front-line workers and survivors throughout the consultations we’ve had over the past year, and that is why one focus of our measures also, we will be announcing soon, will be on prevention. On changing the attitudes to violence and helping those who think that violence is an option to stop.
“This new commitment will build on the more than $350 million our government has invested since 2015 to stop this violence against women and children.”
ON HAKEEM AL-ARAIBI
Young football player Hakeem Al-Araibi, who was accepted into Australia as a refugee, is still languishing in a Thai prison as he fights a request to extradite him to Bahrain.
Mr Morrison has written to Thailand’s prime minister twice on the matter, adding his voice to the public campaign to get Mr Al-Araibi freed — but so far, without success.
“The only thing I’m concerned about right now is getting him home. I want to get Hakeem Al-Araibi home,” he said.
“I know that (Foreign Minister) Marise Payne has been working with the consulate and others from DFAT. And our Australians of the Year, the international sports community, others, have been making this case. But they’ve been making it respectfully, been making it carefully and I will continue to do that as well.”
The Prime Minister urged Australians to be patient.
“It’s not my job to get upset, it’s my job to get him home and that’s what we’re working towards and we will keep doing that.
“But I would ask Australians, who I know desperately want to see him come home, that we have to manage this carefully. We have to be patient. It’s not a straight up and down issue. I know it looks like one. Most issues do. But you know, to solve them requires a lot more patience and a lot more diligence, and that’s what we’re applying to this.”
ON LEADERSHIP TENSIONS
Confronted with the Liberal Party’s record of knifing two sitting prime ministers, Mr Morrison insisted voters could trust his promises would be implemented.
“I think there’s a great myth that is going around about what happened in 2013. The Labor Party had quite a few prime ministers, that’s true — and they weren’t very good! We’ve had three good ones, I would argue!” he said.
“What happened in 2013 was that the Labor Party were thrown out because they were a very bad government. They had manifestly stuffed it on so many points, it was embarrassing.
“Now, people can rightly say that we’ve had three prime ministers — that is true. What they cannot say is that we’ve mismanaged the finances. They cannot say that we’ve mismanaged the Budget or the economy. They cannot say that we’ve mishandled the borders or failed to invest in the Defence Forces or secure our position in the Pacific and the broader Indo-Pacific region.
“The great myth of the 2013 election was that Labor was thrown out only because they had too many prime ministers. They were thrown out because they were a joke in government and they will be again. And let me tell you why — they have learned nothing. Absolutely nothing.”
ON CLIMATE CHANGE
The Prime Minister was asked whether he would acknowledge that climate change was leading to more frequent extreme weather events.
“I don’t know if I agree with your reasoning,” he said.
“We have a clear commitment to reduce emissions to 26 per cent by 2030. So that is our response. We are taking action on climate change.
“I acknowledge it’s a factor. Of course it is. Australians do. The vast majority of Australians. But the issue is how you achieve it.
“We believe you need sensible, achievable targets to address climate change, and we have them and we’re achieving them. What we disagree with is having reckless targets that shut down your economy and take people’s jobs, which is what Labor proposes.”
ON THE MILITARY
Today the long-awaited $50 billion contract for a French company to build submarines in South Australia was finally signed.
Off the back of that, Mr Morrison was asked whether he would consider building a new naval base in the state.
“Look, our plate is pretty full,” he replied with a chuckle, before going on to praise the shipbuilding deal.
“I said this morning with the other ministers, this is vision. This is what it looks like. People say I want you to have some vision. How about turning 1.5 per cent defence spending into 2 per cent by 2021, and engaging the biggest recapitalisation of defence forces since the Second World War?
“That’s vision and it’s not just vision — it’s happening. It’s happening right now.”