Australian Prime Minister TV interview – ABC Afternoon Briefing

Prime Minister

Welcome back to the program. I know time is limited so we appreciate it all the more.

PRIME MINISTER: Good afternoon.

JENNETT: After the deaths of Zomi Frankcom and six others, you appointed Mark Binskin to seek, “clear information and transparency around the circumstances of those killings”. What details are missing from the IDF investigation so far released?

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: We don’t find the explanations to be satisfactory to this point. This is a tragedy. You have Zomi Frankcom who was there working, supporting her fellow humans, doing work in Gaza, providing aid in a way that should have kept her safe. She did everything possible to do the right thing, as did her organisation, and we had circumstances where one car was hit, then another car was hit, then a third car was hit. We need proper accountability, we need full transparency about the circumstances and I think that is what the Australian public would expect.

JENNETT: In highlighting those three separate strikes on three separate vehicles, it seems you are directly challenging the mistaken identification explanation from the IDF, are you?

PRIME MINISTER: That is something that Mark Binskin will examine and he will have the capacity to do that. He is someone who is well regarded of course globally, as well as in Australia. He has served the Australian Defence Force at the highest levels and by appointing Mr Binskin, we expect full cooperation from the Israeli Defence Force and their authorities.

JENNETT: You expect it, but have you had any indications or assurances from the Israeli Government or the IDF that Mr Binskin will be granted access to what I imagine in some circumstances are highly classified military recordings, including video recordings of targeting systems?

PRIME MINISTER: We are confident that that will be made available, because it is in Israel’s interest as well for there to be transparency around these incidents, they have shaken the world. And the seven people who were directly affected, aid workers who, their countries of origin, of course, have all expressed their anger about the events that occurred.

JENNETT: So will you be sharing or will Mark Binskin be cooperating in any way or sharing information obtained with those other affected countries? Of course, the UK, the US, Canada, Poland?

PRIME MINISTER: This is a decision that Australia has made in our own sovereign interests and it’s something that we would expect from the Israeli Government that they will cooperate. And Mr Binskin is very professional. He, of course, will keep whatever confidences are necessary in terms of national security issues for Israel.

JENNETT. So, he will be given some sort of temporary clearance to access that national security information, will he?

PRIME MINISTER: Well that, of course, is a matter for Israel and the authorities there. But we would expect that someone of Mr Binskin’s stature, frankly, will be given every cooperation from the Israeli Defence Force and the Israeli Government.

JENNETT: Do two IDF dismissals and one demotion qualify as appropriate action, so far?

PRIME MINISTER: We believe at this point that there hasn’t been an adequate explanation for how this has occurred. What structures will be put in place to ensure that these sort of incidents can’t occur in the future? There have been almost 200 aid workers have lost their life during the conflict that has occurred between Hamas and Israel, and that is unacceptable. And we have made the point that Israel, of course, has a right to defend itself. But how it defends itself matters and the international law continues to apply.

JENNETT: Is it being held to a higher standard in its conduct of this war, as has been alleged here in Australia, than Hamas? I think that’s a Coalition claim made over the weekend.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, Hamas are a terrorist organisation. That’s why they’re outlawed. They don’t respect the rule of law. They’re an organisation that targets civilians. And we saw that with the atrocities that occurred on October 7, which is why we unequivocally condemn it. Democratic nations have different responsibilities. They have responsibilities to comply with international law and that is what we expect of Israel.

JENNETT: And so in holding Israel to that standard, what might appropriate action be following these Binskin investigations? Would it be in the realm of military court martials or civil law, criminal law or even international law?

PRIME MINISTER: I don’t want to preempt Mr Binskin’s findings. That’s why we’ve appointed him to make recommendations to the Government.

JENNETT: Do you reserve the right as a government to engage in further forms of protest? Perhaps diplomatic protest as occurred with the forged passports back in 2010.

PRIME MINISTER: I don’t want to preempt Mr Binskin’s findings. I would ask the Israeli Government to fully cooperate with Mr Binskin. That is what we would expect and that’s what the Australian public would expect as well.

JENNETT: All right, let’s change tack and go to boat arrivals. Prime Minister, where are the latest arrivals who landed on the mainland? As far as we can tell, they’re thought to number ten people. Where are they presently?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, Operation Sovereign Borders is in place. And Operation Sovereign Borders provides that people who come as unauthorised boat arrivals in Australia won’t be allowed to be settled here. They’ll be removed.

JENNETT: Are they on Nauru as we currently speak?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, Operation Sovereign Borders also means that we don’t comment on the specific details, but they won’t be allowed to settle here. And that was the measures that were put in place. They were put in place very swiftly because these procedures, we want to make it very, very clear that there is no incentive on coming to Australia by boat, that people won’t be allowed to settle here because we don’t want people risking their lives and we also don’t want the quite evil trade of people smuggling to be able to profit from such activity.

JENNETT: Is it possible that, although sort of factually at one level unrelated, the High Court’s NZYQ decision of last year might have contributed to all three recent arrivals in as much as it might be marketed by people smugglers?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, people smugglers will always market whatever they can, what misinformation. What my Government’s job is to do is to make it very clear what our position is. We’ve done that not just in word but in deed. And the way that we have acted very swiftly in recent days again underlines the futility of the people smuggling business targeting Australia, because we have in place very strong measures.

JENNETT: Could the stalled deportation measures contained in the migration bill, which you failed to get through the Senate during the last sittings, have been marketed at least to this latest boatload of arrivals?

PRIME MINISTER: We put forward that legislation in good faith. It passed through the House of Representatives on one day and then the Coalition changed their mind and deferred it on the very next day.

JENNETT: Which is why I asked, because I suppose the question goes to, is there any thought in the Government’s mind that its delay by the Coalition and other forces in the Senate might in some manner be a pull factor to boat arrivals?

PRIME MINISTER: The Coalition need to explain why it is that they deferred that legislation, given that they have failed to come up with a single policy disagreement that is in that legislation. They’ve seen it, it’s carried through the House of Representatives, they voted for it there. And there was a Senate inquiry called, which we allowed and supported going ahead. And it is beyond my comprehension how it is that the Coalition have contradicted their own rhetorical position by not passing this legislation.

JENNETT: So, if there was any linkage between, you know, the marketing of the failure of passage of this bill and the more recent boat arrival, would the Government be of a mind to expedite that Senate inquiry, even have the parliament come back before Budget week?

PRIME MINISTER: Well it’s the Coalition and the Greens together have voted for the date, the reporting date for that inquiry, but the Coalition have failed to come up with a single issue with that legislation. At the same time, of course, we’ve seen, again, nonsense repeated by the Coalition. The fact is that the funding for Australian Border Force has never been higher than it is today from when it was created in 2015.

JENNETT: So, activity levels are up, are they? Aerial patrol hours? Maritime patrol hours?

PRIME MINISTER: Funding has never been higher. We’ve increased funding by a substantial amount and that is just a fact. And the Coalition’s rhetoric, which could be used by those who want to market the people smuggling business, they should think very carefully about some of the nonsense that they put out for political purposes, such as the linking of temporary protection visas that, of course, never applied to these people.

JENNETT. So, the Border Force monitors messaging and seeks, in some circumstances, to counter it. Do you have reason to believe that it is being, that Coalition messaging is being marketed?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, what’s important is what the Australian Border Force have said themselves, and the people in charge of Operation Sovereign Borders have said, that any undermining of the messaging is not in Australia’s interests.

JENNETT: Are any or all of the three boatloads of arrival since November, subject to the 90 day rule on the processing of their asylum claims, which was a Labor policy position adopted at the 21 conference?

PRIME MINISTER: They will never be settled in Australia.

JENNETT: What about the timeliness of their processing, though?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, those processes, I don’t talk about specific cases. That’s part of what we’ve adopted with Operation Sovereign Borders is to be very clear that they won’t be eligible for settlement in Australia.

JENNETT: Why can’t you confirm whether a Labor benchmark position set at the 2021 conference is being applied in government?

PRIME MINISTER: I’ve confirmed that Operation Sovereign Borders is in place.

JENNETT: I think you indicated publicly you and Jodie would be giving consideration over the Easter weekend to setting a date for your wedding. Just wondering, finally, whether there’s something you need to tell us?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I can confirm that I won’t be discussing the date of the wedding with yourself or anyone else on a TV program. That’s something that we’ll continue to discuss. Our diaries are both busy and my priority at the moment, of course, is setting the Budget that’s due on May 14. But at the same time, we’re both very happy, it must be said. And I do want to take the opportunity to thank you and thank others as well, your viewers, for the well wishes which we’ve received.

JENNETT: Noted and I’m sure many more people will ask you that question until such time as a date is set.

PRIME MINISTER: I’m sure they will. But diaries bounce around and the difficult task of setting a date as Prime Minister is something that is ahead of us.

JENNETT: That is understood completely. Anthony Albanese, with that in mind, we’ll thank you for your precious time and let you go.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much.

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