Federal Member For Banks
Shadow Minister for Communications

Transcript – Joint Press Conference with the Hon Peter Dutton MP and the Hon David Coleman MP, Melbourne -The Coalition’s plan to crack down on youth crime and online notoriety

Joint Press Conference With Peter Dutton MP, Leader of the Opposition and

the Hon David Coleman MP, Shadow Minister for Communications,

Melbourne, Victoria

14 March 2024

Subjects: Ballarat mine tragedy; the Coalition’s plan to crack down on youth crime and online notoriety; TikTok; Labor’s Palestinian visa bungle; Australia-China relations; political advertising; the Treasurer’s budget blunders.

E&OE…

PETER DUTTON:

Okay thanks everyone, sorry to keep you waiting. I’ll just make a few comments and then I’ll hand over to David.

Firstly, I just want to acknowledge the tragic loss of life in the Ballarat mining accident. To the family, to friends, of those who have been injured and obviously the miner killed as well, this will have a devastating impact on that workforce, and many miners, frankly, and people involved in mining around the country. So, our thoughts and our prayers are with that man’s family and his work mates. It’s a tragic incident and it just serves to remind how dangerous people are in different work situations, and obviously, the investigation will take place in relation to that particular incident.

Look, I’m really pleased to be here today with David Coleman, who’s got subject matter expertise in the announcement that we’re making today. He’s been involved in the telecommunications industry for a long time, he understands the technicalities, the way in which the companies work, and he’s done a great job in relation to this particular announcement we’re making.

I also want to acknowledge the work of Garth Hamilton, who has been working behind the scenes because he comes from a community where there has been a significant amount of crime locally, in his community, but that’s reflective around the country. We know that in many communities around the country at the moment, youth crime is out of control.

Young people are committing crimes in a more brazen way. Families, elderly Australians are the victims of these crimes, and people want their Government to do something about it.

Now, there are different things that State Government can respond with and different aspects of Federal Government responsibility, and what we announce today is a very important step because when I was a policeman, many years ago, you’d go to a break and enter; largely it was somebody breaking in to steal goods or money to fuel a drug habit. Today, we know that cars are being stolen, that people’s houses are being broken into to steal the keys because kids get – if they’re part of a gang, or if they’re part of a culture where they can post an image of them driving a motor vehicle, stolen, motor vehicle at a high speed, or designer handbag, or if they’re standing in a bedroom with an elderly lady asleep, or cowering behind them – that wins them great kudos online and it gives them notoriety and it glamorises their crime. So it’s a big part of the motivation.

We propose a Private Member’s Bill which will allow the eSafety Commissioner to take that content down. It will also, importantly, allow the police to have different options available to them, as to what they can order in a particular circumstance, or request from the court, for that individual not to have a social media presence. There are different options that are available, and David will go through the detail, but I think it’s an important step.

I hope that the Government’s able to pick it up quickly because I think Australians at the moment want an answer from the Prime Minister about what we can do at a federal level, and this is a very, very important and significant step. David.

DAVID COLEMAN:

Thanks Peter, and good morning.

Well, it’s a very clear message this morning, which is under the Coalition, if you glamorise crime online, you could go to jail. If you try to become notorious through crime online, you could go to jail. There are many circumstances where people should go to jail for doing that because this is a very serious problem in our community.

Right around the country, we’re seeing people posting these shocking videos of violent assaults, of theft, of home invasions and very, very serious offences, and as Peter said, often the posting of that video is part of the incentive to commit the offence – shocking as that sounds, it’s true.

So today we’re announcing three specific initiatives that we’ll be taking in this Private Member’s Bill, which we’ll bring to Parliament next week to address this issue.

The first are changes to the Commonwealth Criminal Code and the telecommunications section of the Commonwealth Criminal Code, and specifically an offence of posting material online for the purpose of seeking online notoriety.

If you post online, a violent material, material related to drug offences, or property offences, and you do it because you want to become notorious online, you will be liable for imprisonment of up to two years under this new provision. It’s a very important provision, and it sends a very clear message to people: don’t do it.

The second provision built on the first, is a change to the Commonwealth Crimes Act, to allow the court to also ban that person from using digital platforms, social media and so on, if they’ve been convicted of this offence. That’s obviously sending another very important message. Getting these people off social media.

Finally, we’ll be amending the Online Safety Act to give the eSafety Commissioner a very clear power to require that these videos get off the internet. Now, at the moment, the eSafety Commissioner, in an informal way, is seeking to have these videos taken down, but she doesn’t have a clear legislative power to do so. We want to give her that power, and she will then be able to require that those videos are taken down. That’s common sense, and that’s something that needs to happen, and we certainly hope that the Government takes up these important initiatives when we introduce them to Parliament next week.

PETER DUTTON:

Fantastic. Thank you. I’m happy to take any questions.

QUESTION:

Many of these alleged crimes that you say youths are committing, often come under state criminal codes and acts. Why legislate at a Commonwealth level? Isn’t this something the states should do?

PETER DUTTON:

Well Simon, the state doesn’t have responsibility under the Federal Telecommunications Act; first point. Second point is that there are many areas of the law where there are complimentary provisions within the Commonwealth Statutes and, the State Criminal Codes.

What this does is it allows the police a further option and the prosecutors to look at the facts and the circumstances of particular cases. They might decide that the federal law is more applicable, or the state law applicable, but it will give them further options, and it gives the eSafety Commissioner – obviously which is a Commonwealth function – extra powers as well.

So, there are many reasons why I think this is an important step, and I would hope that there is bipartisan support from the Prime Minister and his Government when we proceed with the Private Member’s Bill next week.

QUESTION:

Can the state police actually prosecute a Commonwealth law, such as the one you’re proposing?

PETER DUTTON:

Yes, they can. Yes.

QUESTION:

David Littleproud was up this morning talking about youth crime, particularly in the bush, in Queensland and New South Wales, and he mentioned that young people these days don’t fear prison anymore, and juvenile prisons aren’t doing the job, and we should bring back prisons that are off site in the bush and they’re taught trades and are actually made to kind of make a life for themself in there. Is there some merit in that idea?

PETER DUTTON:

Well, there are circumstances where, already we’re seeing – in fact I was in Darwin just last week, and speaking to somebody involved in the law and order space in Darwin about the appropriateness of some of the regional centres, or, properties where already I think the State Government has a policy in relation to look at that as an option or the way in which you can provide an outcome for a young person in the courts as opposed to incarcerating them in a youth detention centre – so, those diversion programs, that’s the way it works.

Now, is it a good thing to provide young people with skills, particularly trades? Yes, I think so. Is it important for people to be provided with life skills otherwise? Absolutely. In some circumstances, hard for us in capital cities to conceive of, but there are many and varied dreadful circumstances that kids are brought up in, and for there to be another option available to them, I think it’s an important discussion.

There are kids, as we know, in Alice Springs at the moment who are out committing crimes of the night time because they won’t go home, back to a place where they don’t feel safe. They’re sleeping during the day and missing school, and when you look at the circumstances, and go up and visit Alice Springs – as I know many of you have done – it’s confronting and it’s a similar story in Darwin at the moment, from my visit there last week. People really are desperately concerned about what’s happening on the ground and the prevalence, the violence, of the crime that’s being committed.

So, I think Governments are right to look at different programmes that have been demonstrated to work. It might keep young offenders out of juvenile detention if that’s not the appropriate outcome for them.

QUESTION:

I think Victoria is the only Eastern Seaboard state now, without ‘post and boast’ laws. Does the Victorian Government appear to be taking this problem seriously enough?

PETER DUTTON:

I just think if you look around parts of Victoria, where youth crime is a big issue, it’s no different to what we’re seeing in Queensland or WA, or South Australia or elsewhere. It ebbs and flows in different communities, there are different factors, but clearly this is an issue in Victoria and Victorian’s would want their State Government to act. We’re giving them the tools to be able to act.

If there are things that they should be doing at a state level, that New South Wales or Queensland, other jurisdictions have done, of course, they should be doing it because ultimately we want deterrence in place, so that kids aren’t given the incentive through the social media post to commit the crime in the first place – which is the point that David makes.

I would support very strongly additional measures for the State Government, and its hard sometimes to understand why these measures haven’t already been introduced.

QUESTION:

Just on some other federal politics matters. Should Australia follow the United States and try and force TikTok to cut ties with its Chinese parent company, or potentially face a ban?

PETER DUTTON:

Simon, I think the Prime Minister needs to show leadership here. At a time when we’re being advised that young people who are using TikTok are having their personal details collected, their images, their most intimate discussions, when that’s being collected either by a country or by a third party, the Prime Minister has to act, and so far the Prime Minister hasn’t done that.

I think the Prime Minister, particularly at a time like this, doesn’t need to be weak, he needs to be strong, and to show the leadership that’s required to keep Australian kids safe online. If he’s got advice from the agencies, which I believe he has, that the information is being hoovered up and young people don’t have a safe presence online, it’s up to the Prime Minister of our country to respond in the appropriate way. That’s what I would expect him to do.

QUESTION:

Is the potential response, the appropriate response, if we can’t be assured of TikTok being unlinked from the CCP, is banning TikTok in Australia an appropriate response?

PETER DUTTON:

Well again, obviously we’re watching the US debate closely, but if the intelligence agencies here are informing the Prime Minister that young people online or millions of Australians who might utilise this platform, if their personal information is being compromised, if it’s being hoovered up from their individual messages, if their images have been captured, then that’s not a safe place for young people to be. The Prime Minister needs to explain to the Australian public how he’s going to address it, and how he proposes to keep people safe online.

QUESTION:

Some Palestinians had their temporary visas to Australia cancelled. How is it appropriate for this to happen?

PETER DUTTON:

I think it’s almost without precedent that somebody who’s mid-air would have their visa cancelled, and be asked to turn around. The circumstances here, I think, are pretty dire. I’ve said before, I don’t think it’s a good idea, or in our country’s best interest for people to be brought out of a war zone into our country when we don’t have certainty around travel documents, or identity, around affiliation, sympathies.

Hamas is a listed terrorist organisation in our country, and I’m sure the vast majority of people who would be applying for a visa, just want a better start in life, but we need to make sure that anybody who’s coming to our country’s not going to pose a threat, we need to make sure that if somebody is travelling here, they’re travelling here on legitimate circumstances and conditions, and if they’ve given an explanation, if they’ve given information and a visa has been issued on that basis – and that information turns out to be false or misleading – then obviously the decision maker is right to cancel the visa. But the Government’s rushed here to issue these visas in a circumstance that I can’t understand how it’s in our country’s best interests. It just seems to me that this is another thing that Minister Giles has botched.

Releasing the 149 criminals, hardcore criminals into the community – we now find that they were released on the wrong visa, or on the wrong circumstances – Andrew Giles lurches from one disaster to the next. How Prime Minister Albanese can keep him in his job is beyond me. Australians have long lost faith in Minister Giles. His responsibility is to keep us safe and he’s not doing that. I think that’s why the Prime Minister needs to act.

QUESTION:

So these visas for the Palestinians should never have been issued in your opinion?

PETER DUTTON:

Well, I think it’s very difficult for the Government to mount an argument. In fact, they haven’t even attempted to do so yet to explain to the Australian public why you would be bringing people out of a war zone, when we don’t have certainty around the biometrics checks that should have been undertaken, particularly with the United States; we don’t know whether people are travelling on paper documents, or whether their names have been checked against intelligence databases and holdings from our Five Eyes partners; none of that information has been explained or provided.

I think there are plenty of opportunities – as we’ve demonstrated in the past – to bring people in who want to start a better life. We’re the most generous nation in the world when it comes to our migration program. Second, on a per capita basis only to Canada, and I think the Prime Minister is rushing it here.

On the issue, as we know, since October 7, the Prime Minister has tried to walk both sides of the street, and I think that’s why a lot of Australians are angry at the way he’s approached what is a very, very difficult issue and why he would be issuing visas, obviously then cancelling those visas, it shows that there is a problem in the system, and a problem is with the Government in the direction that they’ve given to these decision makers.

QUESTION:

Penny Wong is going to host China’s Foreign Minister in Canberra next week. Do you welcome the visit? And how do you assess the sort of state of the relationship?

PETER DUTTON:

Well, we welcome the visit. It’s important for us to do whatever we can to build a relationship with big trading nations. I want to make sure that we can increase our exports so that we can grow jobs and grow economic productivity in our country.

We have the most amazing diaspora of Chinese heritage Australians, we celebrate that every day. They contribute enormously to our community, and they’re a wonderful part of our society.

Australia also needs to stand up for what’s in our country’s best interests. We need to make sure that we can keep peace and stability in our region, and we need to make sure that we’re honest with friends, and those that we need to have an honest conversation with where our interests diverge, I think it’s important for us to be open and frank in those conversations, and I think the TikTok discussion is one such issue at the moment.

QUESTION:

Just one for Riles and the gang from Seven Canberra. What do you make of Labor’s push to outlaw lies in political advertising? Are you going to support it?

PETER DUTTON:

Well again, when you look back at some of the Labor Party campaigns around ‘Mediscare’ and the rest of it, the union movement are experts at all of this. You’ve got the CFMEU who have been in and out of courts for years and years and years, credibility questioned. How on earth would you rely on anything they had to say? And they’re major donors to Anthony Albanese and the Labor Party.

So, I think this is an example, frankly of – I mean Don Farrell’s trying to put a good face on this, but I suspect he’s up against it when he’s got the union crooks telling him that they should be running all sorts of dodgy ad campaigns. You’ve got the criminals in charge of the system. It’s probably welcome, but we’ll see what impact it has, and I really believe that, I think there’s a lot of window dressing here, and frankly, there’s not much substance to what he’s saying.

QUESTION:

The Treasurer seems to be tempering expectations for the next budget. What should they be hoping to achieve or be spending it on?

PETER DUTTON:

Well, you’ve got to listen to different speeches to cobble it all together when Jim Chalmers talks, because he tells different audiences different things. He’s either wanting to contain inflation – and inflation is a problem in this country, it’s home-grown because they’ve spent over $200 billion extra over the course of the last 18 months or so, that’s fuelled inflation, therefore fuelled interest rates.

The second point is that if you go to his next speech, he’s talking about spending because he’s worried about the cost of living crisis, which Labor created. He then goes to the next speech –it’s a combination of those two things. So, he’s going to deliver a surplus, but spend more money and tax less. It’s the usual economic magic pudding of Labor Governments.

I think the Labor Party here is slowly destroying the Australian economy. Australian families know that it’s hard to balance their budgets. They know that their families are paying $24,000 a year more for their mortgage, and they know that this is a Government that just can’t get their act together when it comes to the economy. Their energy policy is a train wreck, people are paying more and more when they go to the supermarket for their groceries, because of the policies of this Albanese Government.

I don’t think the Treasurer can get his story straight at the moment, but is he saving? Is he spending? Is he fuelling inflation? Is he trying to temper inflation? Don’t forget that the Reserve Bank will increase interest rates if they believe that the economy’s overheating. The inflation rate is not back within the band – the target rate for the Reserve Bank at the moment – and a lot of families can’t afford the 13th interest rate rise under this Labor Government. They’ve had 12 already, and it’s why a lot of families and small businesses are really struggling at the moment.

QUESTION:

So, what should the focus be: saving or spending?

PETER DUTTON:

Well again, if the Government believes that inflation is under control, then they’re going to move settings. But that is at odds with what the Reserve Bank is saying at the moment. So, let’s see what the Treasurer has to say in May. But clearly, there are pretty significant issues that they’ve got, and a lot of decisions they’ve made in two budgets have made it harder, not easier for families. There are many, many small businesses out there at the moment, like those families who are really struggling to pay their bills.

Okay. Thank you very much. Thank you.