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  • Written by Scott Morrison

Thank you very much, Julian, for that very kind introduction.  It was very generous. Thank you very much for those words.  It's great to be here with you.  I'm here today to give the vote of thanks for Katrina's [inaudible].


[Laughter]

Now that I don't have to tell that ET story.  Thank you, Katrina, for having us here and hosting this very important oration this evening and I'm very pleased to be here to be part of it.  Tom, for you and all your family, it's tremendous to see you and I look forward to this evening and have been for some time now, since [inaudible] first invited me.  You are a great Australian and so to be here with members of your own family as well to pay tribute is a great honour for me.  Can I acknowledge the Gadigal people also, the Eora nation, elders past and present and emerging.  In addition to that, can I also acknowledge the veterans in the room.  I can see one over there Jim Molan.  There he is.

 
[Applause]

And also, of course, Tom Hughes and I will come to that very, very shortly.  But certainly any other serving members of our Defence Forces.  We have the nation we have today because of those who served and particularly in that way and we should be grateful and I do say thank you for your service.  I'm honoured to be invited to deliver this address tonight.  It was established in 2017.  And my distinguished predecessors Malcolm Turnbull and John Howard both have taken the opportunity to deliver this address in the past.


Now, of course, Tom's connection to Malcolm is well known, Malcolm being his son-in-law.  But what may be less well known but certainly not less well known to Tom is that John Howard was indeed his first campaign manager when he ran for Parliament back in 1963 where he was the candidate at that time for the electorate of Parkes.  Tom was 40, John was 24.  The Labor incumbent was a fellow called Les Haylen and he had held the seat of Parkes, as it was then known, for 20 years. 


Now, Tom pulled off what was described and thought of at the time as a surprise victory.  Political miracles are not new, are they, Tom?

 
[Laughter]

But back then the pundits couldn't blame the polls for falsely setting their expectations as they have it these days because seat by seat polls didn't exist back then.  But John Howard knew about Tom what others hadn't appreciated taking up that job.  And that was Tom was a very serious candidate with real gravitas and presence.  He was the real deal, as we might say today.

 
John Howard would later describe Tom at that election as a candidate right out of national security central casting and this is what I want to talk about tonight.  Tom had served in the Air Force during World War II, spending his time scuttling German U-boats in the English Channel on behalf of the allied forces.  In his maiden speech he recalled having enjoyed what he described as a relatively lucky and safe war.  Yet the awarding of the Legion of Honour by the French Government for his role in the invasion of Normandy suggests that Tom has probably somewhat underplayed the bravery of his service.  This was very characteristic of his generation, our greatest ever generation of Australians.


Having played his role in securing our peace and defending our liberties, as part of that great generation Tom brought to his public life his role, a very special insight and importance to Australia's national security.  But also as one of Australia's sharpest, most passionate, deepest thinking legal minds he also understood that to protect our national security, you must also value and preserve the freedoms you are seeking to protect and of course in doing just that. 


So tonight I want to talk to you in honour of that - how we as a Government have been seeking to practically do that job as a Coalition as we have been now for just over six years since we were first elected back in 2013.  Now, during that time I have had the great honour to serve as a member of our national security committee and I have served there in- under two of my predecessor in Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott.  And I have served on that committee longer than anyone in our government over these last six years. 


And in serving my predecessors in my role, I saw very clearly from them, as it was clear courtesy of John Howard also and a lot of other Australian Prime Ministers, that the first duty is to keep Australians safe.  Much of what we have done over the course of these last six years was done under the watch and under the leadership of my predecessors in Malcolm and Tony.  And they deserve great credit for the tremendous work we've been able to do over that time.  There has been a clear line that extends over that period of six years and it's something I'm very pleased to be now leading over this last year and continuing, I think, the legacy that has been laid down. 


More than a half century on since Tom first joined the Parliament, threats to our nation today may be different in character but certainly very real.  And so our responsibility as a government remains the same to ensure the security of our citizens.  Keeping Australians safe and secure is not just about the geopolitical tensions of our time but it's more than that.  As Liberals we understand that security must recognise the rights and freedoms of individuals and that it’s best grounded when we understand the values and democratic beliefs that is so essential to those liberties.

 
These values, these beliefs, they guide nations just as they do individuals.  They are principles that inform our conduct.  Lighthouses in rough seas and stormy weather, as a liberal democracy, Australia is defined by these.  Adherence to the rule of law.  Upholding the democratic principles.  A deep respect for citizenship.  Sovereignty of the people through mediating and governing institutions that exist at the people's pleasure.  By tolerance and a culture of mutual respect.  And not just high sounding words.  They matter greatly to our daily lives and I have no doubt this audience understands that well. 


We have an Australian nation of which we can be very proud.  We are a people relatively free of the prejudices that divide so many other nations.  We give ourselves a hard time about this but that's how we enable ourselves to maintain such a high standard when it comes to these things.  Free of the prejudices - race, religion, gender, sexuality, disability, political views, any other attribute or identity.  We are a nation who lives with all of these issues quite harmoniously, particularly [inaudible] with countries with whom we deal. 


And that's why I'm so resolute about calling out extremism in whatever shape or form it may present itself in any of these areas.  Whether to the right, whether to the left, secular or religious, coordinated by a group or carried out alone.  It's also why I'm always happy to call out identity politics.  Because I don't see Australia as a nation of tribes.  Being Australian is always enough.  And it's a great privilege to call ourselves Australian. 


So our strength and security is ground in that great democratic and humanitarian equals that broadly governs the attitudes and values and actions of our people.  At the same time, though, of course we can't be naive about the world in which we live in which these things are not all shared.  The global environment is increasingly challenging and there are serious threats.  A range of hostile actors is intent on undermining our democracy in numerous ways - terrorism, malicious cyber activities, interference in our institutions and in the comfortable bonds that exist between us all. 

Our global environment is deeply affected by the acceleration and pace of technological change.  Advances in 5G, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, all of this underpins our future prosperity but we cannot be blind that this new and complex technology, we cannot be blind to the challenges that it poses for our security as well.  Australia's intelligence, security and law enforcement agencies as well as the Australian Defence force are at the front line of our efforts to navigate these challenges and keep Australians safe.  They serve us well and deserve our absolute respect.  In such an environment, keeping Australians safe starts with ensuring that those who defend us have the resources and capability they need to do the job. 


Our $200 million investment in improving the capability of the ADF is underway.  Next year we will meet our commitment to increase the Defence Force budget to two per cent of GDP.  As well, we've made ongoing investments in our national security and intelligence capabilities.  In the last Budget we announced almost $1.3 billion in national security initiatives.  That's why you need a strong Budget. This includes some $513 million for the AFP.  We are also working with ASIO to ensure it has the capabilities it needs to meet an increasing and evolving threat environment.  This funding builds on earlier initiatives.  In particular, we established the Department of Home Affairs, something I worked very closely with my predecessor Malcolm Turnbull on, to improve coordination between Australia's immigration, border protection and domestic security agencies. 


We also set up the Critical Infrastructure Centre which works across government and with industry to manage the national security risks arising from foreign involvement in our critical infrastructure and we created the Office of National Intelligence to make sure our intelligence community is prepared for the challenges of the future, including the opportunities and risks of new technologies. And we will soon finalise a review of the legal framework done in our intelligence community, equally as important.  Leading that review is Dennis Richardson, the former Secretary of both Defence and DFAT.  The review is about ensuring our intelligence laws are as clear, coherent and as consistent as possible. 


We are also strengthening our cyber capabilities.  In 2016, Malcolm delivered the landmark cyber security strategy.  I remember being there on the day.  This invested $230 million to foster a safer internet for all Australians.  Since then we've opened the Australian Cyber Security Centre as a single point of cyber expertise.  We've also formed the joint cyber security centres across the country to work more closely with industry and we created a 24/7 Global Watch to respond to critical cyber incidents. 


All this paints a picture of a strong progress and decisive action.  The threats we face have shifted significantly and they will intensify as we become more connected and we need to keep responding in this way.  That's why we are now delivering a new cyber security strategy next year building on all the work that has been done.  We are also investing $156 million to grow Australia's cyber security workforce to counter foreign cyber criminals and provide cyber security training to small businesses, older Australians and families. Cyber crime affected almost one in three Australian adults in 2018.  And cyber incidents cost our businesses billions every year.  So we do need to work together, governments, businesses and individuals to increase our resilience.  The threat of terrorism, of course, remains a very real concern.  While the territorial defeat of the Daesh caliphate and the death of Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi are significant, the threat of Daesh remains.  We have to remind ourselves why Daesh is a threat to the world and why those who would fight or have fought with them are a threat to everything we hold dear. 

This is a group whose violence and depravity is an offence to all who believe in the dignity of humankind.  Home grown terror cells and lone wolves and returning foreign fighters all continue to pose risks.  We are doing everything we can to combat this.  We are constantly reviewing our national security and counter terrorism laws to ensure our law enforcement and intelligence agencies have the powers they need to prevent attacks. 


Since 2014, we’ve passed 18 tranches of legislation to do this.  These cover everything from temporary exclusion orders to continuing detention orders for high-risk terrorist offenders, to enhancing the ADF's ability to support State and Territory's responses to terrorist attacks.  We've also strengthened the security at our airports and set up programs to counter radicalisation and we are working with international partners to cut off the supply of financing for terrorism.  And we are working with international partners on that continually now.


We are hosting an international conference on counter terrorist financing in Melbourne just next week and this conference will be an opportunity to bolster global action on this agenda.  But the achievement I think we can take most comfort from is that since the national terrorist threat level was raised in September of 2014, our security agencies have disrupted 16, 16 major terrorist plots on our soil.  

[Applause]

Hundreds of Australian families still have loved ones with them because of the dedicated work of our security agencies.  You may not know many of them.  They are not household names, those who serve in those agencies.  But I do.  I know them.  I work with them.  And they are incredibly brave Australians.  They do an extraordinary job and we all owe them a great deal.  Of course, we can't completely eliminate the risk of terrorism.  We all know that.  But we can mitigate it and we will continue to do everything we can to keep Australians safe from terrorism.


And we can't allow ourselves to be intimidated by it either.  I remember soon after Malcolm became Prime Minister, one of the things he did was he caught the ferry to work because he always used to do that and still does, but the point was he wanted to demonstrate to Australians that they should get on with their lives.  And I think that is exactly what we should do.  We should prepare, we should plan, we should resource, we should do all of these things.  But one thing we should never do is be intimidated by them.  The best way to counter that terrorist threat is to be who we are and proudly be who we are. 

We are also committed to take on the terrorist and violent extremists threat [inaudible] to exploit to the internet for these evil purposes.  Of course, the internet is vital to our prosperity but it is being used by those also to try and do us harm.  We cannot let it become an ungoverned space where terrorists plan and broadcast attacks.  This came into being in stark relief with the terrible atrocities that occurred in Christchurch.  Now, we acted swiftly in response.  This was a case where the internet was weaponised by the terrorist.

 
And our action was to sign up to the Christchurch Call to Action and work closely with our Kiwi cousins.  We brought together social media companies and internet service providers – could say we summoned them. I will with say diplomatically we organised a meeting. And then we set up a taskforce to combat terrorist and violent extremist content online.  We passed new laws to send the message that live streaming of violent crimes is unacceptable. 


Since April our eSafety Commissioner has also issued 16 notices against eight items of online content showing violent terrorist acts.  This includes violent footage of shootings, beheadings, torture and murder.  In the majority of cases the items have already been taken down or restricted for Australian users.  We've also taken the agenda global.  Soon after that attack I got in touch with Shinzo Abe, the Prime Minister of Japan who was chairing the G20 in this past year, and asked for this matter to be put on the Osaka agenda, and it was. 


At that Osaka meeting for the first time, it is no easy thing to get 20 nations to agree, but we did on a very comprehensive statement.  We sent a very clear message that the biggest economies in the world were not going to tolerate large internet-based companies allowing their technology to be weaponised by terrorists and they either got it sorted out or we would sort it out for them.  At the G7 Summit in France where we were invited to participate because of our initiative in this area, we partnered with New Zealand and the OECD to develop a common global standard for online platforms to report on how this progress was being achieved to de-weaponise the internet and this will provide a global report on how platforms have been removing the content, holding them to account to ensure they do not provide this haven for terrorists. At its best the online world is a place to share knowledge, to celebrate diversity of views, build relationships and that's fantastic but at its worst in the hands of evil it can do destructive and terrible things.

 
All of us need to stay safe online but children are especially vulnerable to exploitation.  We must do everything we can do to protect them.  In June 2014, we passed under Malcolm’s leadership, what was known as Carly's Law, named after the 15 year old Carly Ryan who was murdered a decade ago by a predator posing as a teenager.  Carly's Law makes it a crime to plan to harm a child under 16 and in particular targets predators who misrepresent their age.  It's a testament to Carly's mum Sonya who has worked tirelessly to shine a light on this issue. And in September we also passed a law to provide extra protections for children and address operational challenges that authorities are facing in regard to emerging forms of child abuse.  The new law has already led to three arrests.  And I call now on the Parliament to pass our sexual crimes against children and community protection measures bill.  This will address inadequacies in the criminal justice system relating to sexual abuse of children.

 
We are also investing in other initiatives.  We are providing $69 million to the AFP-led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation.  And $10 million to charities like the Carly Ryan Foundation to develop tools to protect children online.  Our eSafety Commissioner is a world first and is evolving to the online challenges we face.  The Commissioner provides the resources parents need to talk to their children about online safety and has tough powers to take down cyber bullying content.  And we've also introduced a civil penalty regime for image-based abuse online.

 
Extremists always target difference and seek to scapegoat others.  Sadly, we live in a world where religious institutions and places of worship are being targeted.  We know the stories.  A mosque in Christchurch attacked during Friday prayers.  An Easter Sunday massacre in churches throughout Sri Lanka.  A synagogue in Pittsburgh attacked during a Shabbat service.  And a new round of anti-Semitism that has even targeted the good man, Julian Leeser, who hosts us here this evening.

 
It's why after the Christchurch massacre we did expand our Safer Communities Fund to give priority to religious schools and places of worship.  I can't think of anything else more sacred other than time we spend with our family, of humbly going to a place of worship to seek out the solace and solemnity of pursuing a faith, only to have all of that attacked and shattered in an instant. 


The fund has already provided $70 million in grants since 2016 to keep these places of worship safe.  And we’re adding $58 million more to it over the next four years to keep doing that job.  Of course, I wish we didn't have to do this.  I wish that others saw our churches and our temples and our mosques and our synagogues and other places of worship for what they are, places of community, places where women and children, they seek safety, solace and support that we all as Australians can be in these places and contemplate how we can be better citizens,  better fathers, better parents, better sons, better neighbours.  So we must protect people of all faiths and those with none, because we should all be free to be ourselves with our beliefs and walk safely through the contours of our lives.  That's the peace that Tom fought and his generation. 


Our strong national borders are also vital in ensuring our national security protects all Australians.  Our success as a migrant nation rests on a social compact that the public support will support a sizable immigration and humanitarian intake so long as we run our immigration properly and our borders are secure.  Since 1945 in particular we've opened our arms to more than 7 million migrants.  We are immeasurably richer because of this.  We are the most successful immigration multicultural nation in the world today.  Not arguably - we are.

 
[Applause]

As I said when I was Immigration Minister, our border is not just a line on a map, it's actually an asset.  It holds economic, social and strategic value for our nation.  Our border creates the space for us to be who we are and to become everything we wish to be as a nation. That's why in coming to government, working closely with the Prime Minister at the time and Jim, I should say, that we took the action that was difficult and hard but necessary to stop the scourge of people smuggling, to stop what was happening on our borders. 


The images of what we saw under the previous government are too horrible to recall but they were forever in our minds as we worked through those difficult months in the early part of our government to ensure that there would be no repeat of it.  Since then, 800  people from 34 boats have been stopped coming to Australia.  Another 80 attempted ventures have been disrupted.  We've closed 19 detention centres.  We've removed all children from offshore detention as well as onshore detention.  And until quite recently we have been able to ensure that the full integrity of all of our border protection regimes and legislation has been able to maintained since it was first established when we designed Operation Sovereign Borders over six years ago. 


Earlier this year during the uncertainty of a minority Parliament for the Government, one of those laws was changed and we intend to have that fixed before the end of this year. But border protection doesn't end with stopping people smuggling.  It also means protecting Australians from organised crime.  Although organised crime is often based offshore, its impacts are felt in our communities.  That's why we've launched a National Strategy to Fight Transnational and Organised Crime.  We've also provided a $94 million funding boost to the national Anti-Gang Squad in last year's Budget.  We introduced a national approach to strip criminals of their illegally attained wealth no matter what jurisdiction they operate in. But there is a lot more to do.  For example, our Transport Security Serious Crime Bill is currently before the Parliament to stop criminals who have been convicted of serious crimes from having access to sensitive areas in our airports and ports. Now, Labor have actually opposed this, no surprise to me. I hope there is some time for reassessment of their view, that they will reconsider.  But our view is clear.  There is a choice, you back the people protecting our families and you give them the powers and resources to do their job and you ensure in the administration of law enforcement that is done in according to the liberties and values and principles of who we are as a nation. 


Tonight I've spoken about the threats to our national security and our work to ameliorate the threats which we face today. I also want to say a few words about a defence we don't often talk about, and that is the Australian people.  Tom is one of the last parliamentarians who served in World War II who are with us still today.  People from all walks of life who interrupted their own lives, risked their lives indeed, and in the worst of cases and so many lost their lives because they believed in a country bigger than themselves. 


I was reminded of that last week when I met Ken and Tina Boden, the parents of Kirsty  Boden.  I presented them with Kirsty's posthumous Florence Nightingale Award, an award of the international Red Cross, together with the British High Commissioner.  Kirsty, as you may know, was a nurse.  For many years she volunteered at the Tama Surf Club and also in Vietnam helping children with disability.  She was an adventurous traveller who wanted to see the world. As I discovered last week, she was also a wonderful daughter and a joy to all who loved her.  In June 2017 she was enjoying the next chapter of life.  She was living in London and went out to dinner with friends.  At 10.07 pm there was a deafening crash.  A white van collided with a railing.  It was a terror attack.  Kirsty didn't need time to deliberate, to ponder or to ask what she should do.  She acted with her instincts.  She told her friends, "I'm a nurse, I have to go and help.  I need to see if they need help." As she tended to a wounded victim she also became a victim of terror.

 
She is known as the Angel of London Bridge.  The best of our Australian humanity taken from us by the worst that humanity can produce.  Eight innocents fell that evening, including another Australian, 21 year old Sara Zelenak.  Sara's family have shown their own strength.  Her mother Julie and stepfather Mark have established Sara's Sanctuary in her name, a charity which provides support those suffering from traumatic grief as a result of a sudden death.

 
Our country, like all countries, will always face threats.  As a Coalition government we will always do everything we can and I hope tonight I've been able to set out exactly what we have been seeking to do.  Many of these measures you may have known about or may not.  But we should never forget that a country that produced great men like Tom Hughes and that produces amazing women like Kirsty Boden and the families like Sara Zelenek's family, that in this asset we have an enormous capacity to face these things and not be intimidated by them. 


I sometimes wonder, you know, when I grew up, we grew up with the threat of the world being blown to smithereens through a nuclear holocaust.  When my parents grew up, they lived through World War II and ferries being sunk by Japanese subs in the Harbour behind us.  And in Tom's generation, the greatest generation of Australians, those and those before him who grew up during World War I lived through the depression and then went on to fight and defend Australia's liberty and give us the peace we enjoy today.


I ask ourselves to look at their example, understand how they looked at these threats but walked into them in the great Australian spirit of irrepressive optimism and a passion and belief in our nation.  We need to reflect more on these things as we think about the threats we face as a nation. We should feel great about who we are as a nation. There are many threats and existential challenges that we face in today's generation.  But we should face them with the same optimism that Tom's generation did and draw strength from their example and not be intimidated, and talk positively to our kids about their future in this country. I worry when kids growing up today are concerned about thinking the world will end in years.  I do worry about that.  We've got to take the action we need to address the policy challenges of our age but we owe it to our children as Australians, as our previous generations have, to give them the sense of optimism and purpose that will see them carry forward in the same way that Tom's generation did.


So we are a people, a country of good, decent Australians.  But when required, incredibly brave as well as Tom has demonstrated throughout his life. That's why we will always, in my government and the government I've been proud to serve in now, draw on the great example of Tom to ensure that we continue to keep Australians safe because there is no greater responsibility and no greater privilege.  Thank you very much.

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