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  • Written by Scott Morrison


QUESTION: I suppose one question I'll ask is about the role of social media, YouTube, Facebook. And the sort of thought process that we’re having as a nation of how we can create that sort of society, taking into account the disruption of technology.

 

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you Leon. I think that’s an important question we will now work through. First of all I'd like to make it clear that the social media technology companies did cooperate with the requests from agencies and authorities in Australia. But clearly the capability to deliver on that willingness hasn’t been present. And that's the problem. There needs to be the capability to shut this… these horrific things down immediately. And if you can't do that then the responsibility of having those features available is something that really genuinely needs to be questioned. It's not something you just rush into with a knee jerk reaction. It’s something that is going to be considered very carefully by the Government about what our response can be specifically to this and we will do that in a measured way, we’ll do that in a very determined and informed way. But all companies, as you leave the market standing, carry social responsibilities. And I should say it’s not just limited to social media companies. A number of times we have had to also address the concerns that come out of the gaming, the online gaming sector as well. We can’t ignore the possible impacts of links also on how they can be affected and twisted, what those who engage in that sort of violence. So that is not an accusation, it’s just a simple observation that there are many things we need to address here in social media and other areas online, particularly to keep Australians safe, that’s certain.

 

QUESTION: Thank you very much, we’ve got microphones to my left and my right. One of the questions is we talk about civil liberties as being essential for our society. We talk about security. Are there red lines or how do we manage this as a society?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Well thanks Leon. [Inaudible] Liberties are [inaudible], that’s what societies do. It’s not a jungle. That's not a civilized place to be a successful civilization. That always requires a balance between personal responsibility for one's own actions, in particular being responsible for its impact on others. And what then is the responsibility of the state in [inaudible] that behaviour. And I think this is always a moving balance in response to issues that arise, technology that occurs. Various influences that present themselves and sometimes these things can be required for periods. And on other occasions on a permanent basis. And so I think it's very important to make… we’re all flexible. We know what the principles are. Australia believes in free speech, of course we do. But again, let’s not allow that debate to be hijacked by the tribalists and extremists either and turned it into the sort of black and white type of debate that occurs in this area. It’s just not as simple as that. I faced this, and anyone who is involved in politics does. You are expected to and I understand why we try and simplify issues. But the truth is, getting the balance right between civil responsibility and civil law making is very difficult. It’s extremely complex, it’s not straightforward. There are many shades of grey and I think it’s important to be responsible and understand that and don’t try for oversimplification on some issues when it simply doesn’t exist.

 

QUESTION: Thank you for that informative, interesting and courageous speech where you have shared everything you have about diversity and inclusiveness and how important it is for us to support each other and society to welcome immigrants and help each other. My question is about the success of our gun laws in Australia. Do you think that New Zealand should follow our lead and adopt Australia [inaudible] John Howard?

 

PRIME MINISTER: Unquestionably. I think this is what the Prime Minister has indicated. We have already been discussions about that, with the Prime Minister and I about how Australia can offer any assistance that is necessary to go down that path. And what John Howard did after Port Arthur, who amongst us would ever have thought we see something like again in our lifetime in our part of the world? And on this occasion the number was even higher. So I believe [inaudible] and we will see the support. I think it’s important to understand the difference between the gun law arrangements in New Zealand and Australia. It is very significant thanks to the bravery and the courage of John Howard and should never be allowed to be undermined or watered down with any deals that are done at a state level, or anywhere else for that matter. These… that was a unique moment in time where John Howard proved his leadership in response to this most horrific tragedy that happened on Australian soil. And we must preserve it and never forget it. Never forgetting is so important, to think oh it’s been many years now. No, no. As we’ve just learned, the danger lurks.

 

QUESTION: Thank you, Angus Livingstone from the Australia Associated Press. Our security agencies have been very effective in thwarting Islamic State inspired terror plots here in Australia. What assurances have you sought from them that they are on top of the threat from far right extremist plots here in Australia and do you believe that we’re doing enough to counter that threat?

 

PRIME MINISTER: In the area of counter-terrorism we are always seeking to do more. This is not a new area of activity for our security agencies, they have been monitoring this area for quite a long time. Sadly, white supremacy in sections of Australia is not new. It’s been around for well over a century and at one time in Australia’s history it could even be argued that it held some sort of mainstream position. Thankfully that’s no longer the case. I know there has been a number of comments made about how a terrorist was able to go for so long and be undetected. And I made reference to the fact that he had only been in Australia for 45 days out of the last three years. But I would encourage people who may think that this is an easy thing to identify, just go on social media. Read some of the comments that have been made in relation to the stands that I or others have taken in denouncing these attacks. And see some of the comments that are on there. There are hundreds of them, if not thousands. This what I found truly disturbing, in addition to the sheer atrocity. This is why I have given the speech I have given today. I have to call this out to my fellow Australians. We need to fix this, we really do. How we deal with each other, how we understand and manage differences between us. Because if we don’t, it goes to a very, very dark place and I do not want to see that happen in this country. A country in which my children are growing up, and yours are as well. So the short answer is yes, it’s a serious issue. It will always get more and more attention. It has not not been on the radar, it has very much been on the radar, certainly with ASIO and our intelligence agencies and to the extent by which this is done by state and territory police forces. I know there has been some commentary on that today, well that is something that I am sure will be pursued by the Home Affairs Minister with those state and territory jurisdictions to ensure that is all joined up. But as we assess the lessons of this, I think it is important - that’s why I’m quite open with answering the question - I don’t answer the question from a position of defensiveness. I think in all these situations, you look at what you’ve done well and what we have done in that area over a number of years will put us in a much stronger position over the last couple of days to stand up and deal with any potential further threat that might come in those areas. So we are forever vigilant, I can never take anything for granted, and so Australians right across the country, our agencies are working closely together both to counter that threat and any other threats.  

 

QUESTION: Thank you so much. The question that I would mention now is that you called these ‘troubled times’. My question is going to be what can you do as Prime Minister to get together people of different faiths and communities, and I think you’ve answered that question by the address you’ve given and [inaudible]. It’s very hard for us to ask questions because I think we’re all grappling with what we heard about in other countries but not so close to Australia and New Zealand. I could think of no person better that you in a time of [inaudible] so would like to propose a vote of thanks on behalf of us all here today. Ladies and gentlemen, PM Scott Morrison.

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