PRIME MINISTER:

This is an important announcement and it's another important announcement in a week of important announcements by the Government.

On Monday, we got the small business Budget boost through the Parliament. On Tuesday, we secured agreement to get our pension changes through the Parliament.

Yesterday we signed the historic free trade agreement with China.

And today we are launching the Northern Australia White Paper, a very, very important document which will build on the strengths of our great north and which will be good for the whole of Australia for the years and decades to come.

Everything that this Government does is about building a strong, safe and prosperous future for everyone and the four major measures that we have dealt with in successive days this week are an important sign that this Government is delivering for the people of Australia.

Now, anyone who has spent some time in northern Australia knows that northern Australia has come a long, long way in a generation. Yes, there's only a little over a million people north of the Tropic of Capricorn but they are very dynamic people and it is a remarkably dynamic part of our country. Darwin, Townsville, Cairns, Mackay are dynamic modern cities. They're certainly not the sleepy outposts of a generation ago. But our challenge is to do even better in the next two decades than we've done in the last two decades.

The challenge is to build on the strengths of our great north, not just for the benefit of people living in northern Australia but for the benefit of every single Australian because if the north does well, our country does well. The north is already the source of some 50 per cent of our goods exports so it is an extraordinarily dynamic part of our country already. We want it to be more dynamic in the future for the benefit of everyone including, obviously, the vast bulk of our population in the south.

We announced in the Budget a $5 billion concessional loan facility for economic infrastructure projects in the north. The white paper today involves a commitment of $1.2 billion in new money. This money is directed towards better infrastructure, it's directed towards getting more efficient and effective land use. It's directed towards making the north more attractive for people to live and work.

I particularly want to draw your attention to the $700 million that will be available over the next four years for better roads in northern Australia. I particularly draw your attention to the $5 million studies of the Ord Stage 3 and the Linger Dam near Cairns and the money that's available for land use pilots working with traditional owners, working with the jurisdictions to try to ensure that Indigenous land is an economic asset as well as a spiritual and cultural one.

It's very important that this White Paper is acted upon, that it doesn't become yet another government report that gathers dust on shelves. To ensure this White Paper is not just a series of good ideas and spending commitments but really is a blueprint for a generation of development in northern Australia, the Deputy Prime Minister will be delivering to the Parliament an annual statement on northern development. The strategic partnership that's already underway involving myself, the Premiers of Queensland and Western Australia and the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, will continue as an adjunct to every COAG meeting.

The Warren Entsch committee, the committee of the Parliament, will now continue as a standing committee of the Parliament and, as well, we are going to have a new Coalition implementation committee chaired by Senator Ian MacDonald which will ensure that Ministers and officials are kept up to the mark.

I want to thank all of my colleagues who have been instrumental in bringing us to this day. Obviously, the Deputy Prime Minister, Andrew Robb who has had a particular passion for northern development for many years, Barnaby Joyce who is equally passionate for northern development, Warren Entsch who has done an extraordinary job both as a local member and in chairing the Northern Australia Committee. I should pay particular tribute to Senator Ian MacDonald. Ian, for several decades now has been an advocate for northern development and I'm very pleased he will have this new role chairing this implementation committee to ensure that things get done.

This is a Government which is serious about developing our nation. There is a magnificent future for us. We need to go out and grasp the opportunities that are now before us and that's what this White Paper is all about.

Warren, over to you.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you very much, Prime Minister. It's certainly a pleasure to be assembled on the platform with the members of Parliament for northern Australia for the announcement of this white paper. Preceding this announcement today has been a great body of work. The people on the platform have been a part of putting together the package that is being announced today.

I particularly acknowledge the work and the leadership of the Northern Australia Strategic Partnership which has involved the Prime Minister and the Premiers and Chief Ministers of the north. The work of the Northern Australia Advisory Committee under Shane Stone that has been consulting with local communities. There have been hundreds of meetings across the north and indeed in the rest of Australia to prepare this package. Warren Entsch's Joint Select Committee. Particularly its report Pivot North which has underpinned the thinking and work associated with this package and, of course, the various communities, the hundreds and hundreds of submissions that have been received that have led to the adoption of what I believe is a very comprehensive programme to make a real difference in the north.

This is not just about more talk. This is not just more about pious platitudes about the potential of the north. This is a work plan to actually achieve the potential of our great north and enable it to contribute even more to our nation's economy.

Let me quickly run through the key measures.

Firstly, there are a range of measures which surround land title. Security of tenure is vital for major investments. We are determined to work with the Aboriginal community and, indeed, other landowners and the State and Territory Governments to ensure that there are flexible land tenure arrangements available to underpin new investment.

There is a $200 million commitment to water conservation and water projects in the north. That is a part of the larger commitment that we will be making in relation to water infrastructure as a part of the water White Paper which will be released in the weeks and months ahead.

A number of projects the Prime Minister has already identified but there are many more. There is a long list of projects that are being brought forward, some of them are close to being shovel-ready and we want to be a part of further investigating those projects with potential but also getting on with the task of actually building some of these dams and water resources. There'll be $75 million for a new cooperative research centre in relation to the north and that will help to focus attention and research efforts on projects and identifying the things we need to do in the north.

There's more money for the Indigenous ranger groups in the north and certainly significant quarantine initiatives which will be a part of a bigger announcement that will be made by the Minister for Agriculture in the agriculture white paper. A single point of entry will be established in Darwin for major project approvals.

There is money to assist northern tourism, especially through the Entrepreneurs Infrastructure Programme, to help tourist operators with management advice to get their projects under way. There is money to strengthen our links with the world in relation to tropical health and world class research institutions. More money for helping to commercialise some of the research that's already been done on tropical issues in the north.

Reforms to visitors visas so there'll be a trial for longer tourist visitors, particularly visitors coming from China and India.

We propose to streamline fishing legislation and to eliminate the dual supervision of many fisheries across northern Australia, having just a single jurisdiction to be responsible for the management. As the Prime Minister has already mentioned, there'll be $700 million, including the $100 million already announced for beef roads, for major road projects across the north. There is a list of potential roads that have been including in the paper but those are examples and we will be looking to the states to be partners in many of those roads projects.

There is also a series of measures to make it easier for workers to establish in the north. The seasonal workers programme will be expanded and also the working holiday maker visa programme to encourage more people from other parts of the world to work in the north and to help build the industries in that region.

We've already announced the major infrastructure finance facility, the $15.3 million tropical health strategy to commercialise tropical disease research development. To beef roads, $40 million to upgrade airstrips and subsidise air services in the most remote parts of northern Australian, and of course the northern Australian insurance premiums taskforce to try and deal with the issues of insurance premiums in northern Australia.

So, it is a comprehensive package. We believe it demonstrates a clear commitment that this is a Government determined to give the north the opportunity to achieve its potential. We are anxious to work with other jurisdictions to make a real difference to northern Australia.

PRIME MINISTER:

Andrew?

TRADE MINISTER:

Thanks, Prime Minister. Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to make perhaps one observation and then two principal points to add to a lot of the detail the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister have outlined.

Firstly, the one observation: in my view, and I have been in and around the north for 40 years in my professional capacity, the north's time has come. There's no doubt about it. The north's time has come.

For decades it has been obvious to so many people, especially those in the north, of the potential. Of course, so much has happened but there is enormous untapped potential because it costs a lot of money to get things away in the north. Just the nature of the north and there's never been a market around the north, around Australia, that's had the capacity to pay the premium prices for food and all sorts of things, frankly, services, resources and energy, there's never been the market for it that is in our proximity in our part of the world.

Now, we are on the cusp of an economic revolution going on around us: in China, in Vietnam, in Indonesia. Indonesia will be in the top four or five countries economically in the world within 15 to 20 years. And of course, with India – India is repeating the China experience, in my view.

So, the north's time has come. There is a market for what we can produce and it's at a level which will justify the huge investments. They will get a return on the dollar invested. Now the two points: the first point is this was never about big government – never about big government. The Government's certainly got a role. It certainly has a role, certainly has a role – it is to get the policy settings right. To get the regulations right so that we can provide certainty to investors that they can get on and not find somewhere down the track that the regulations are tripping up their investment and costing them.

There are issues, some of which the Deputy Prime Minister and Prime Minister already alluded to, but we have made a very serious attempt to do things which provide a regulatory framework, especially to do with land tenure, the uncertainty associated in many cases with the nature of land tenure across the north.

Water rights – the need for certainty about water rights.

The need for certainty about Indigenous issues. These are big issues but issues that have been tackled now, we've got a lot of experience in this area, from the temperate zones we can take north and apply but these are issues that must be dealt with as we try to get the big investment.

We want business to come in and develop the north and Government to help and encourage business to come in.

Big projects like the equivalent of mines – that sort of size. There is a project of $1.5 billion on the drawing board at very advanced stage up near the Ord for tiger prawns. It will employ 1700 people. This is from PhD people all the way through. A very sophisticated operation. So, there is endless numbers of these projects if we get the regulations right.

The second point I want to make is this is not about just resources and energy and agriculture. It is very exciting about agriculture. We've got in the north 17 million hectares of arable soil, up to 17 million hectares which currently is running cattle, one beast to 10 acres or five acres.

So, much of that area is arable soil. We've got 60 per cent of the water that falls in Australia falls in the north, two per cent of that we capture – two per cent. If you captured five per cent, you'd irrigate the whole north, not that that's in prospect but it is not a revolution. It's not going to cause any sort of… if it's done properly, there will be no environmental impact. We've got to preserve the pristine and world renowned resources we have got in an environmental sense.

It is not just about resources and energy though and not just about agriculture. There are still a lot of stranded resources and energy. Huge projects over the north which haven't got the transport or the power access et cetera, or water. All of those things, we make those available, all of a sudden you have a lot more resources and energy projects. All this agricultural prospect but the north is also in the tropical zone.

We are one of only three countries in the world that are developed countries in the tropical zone. In fact we've got the biggest land mass, 45 per cent of our country – the biggest land mass – is in the north, is in the tropics. It is the biggest land mass of any economy in the tropics around the world. Forty per cent of world's population is there. By 2050, they expect 50 per cent of the world's population in the north and 60 per cent of the world's children in the north and 60 per cent of the world's middle class in the tropics.

We are well placed to bring our first world experience into tropical health and medical research. That's why we've got a lot of this document is all about that. All the services, they’ve all got a northern application. Even things like architecture and design and construction. There are peculiarities about the north and that climate and all the rest which we've got expertise in already and we can build. So, it can be a powerhouse. It will be a powerhouse, not just for our region but for that tropical zone.

All of these things, the north's time has come.

AGRICULTURE MINISTER:

Thank you very much Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and colleagues.

It's great to be part of a Government that does things in a time that they are doing it. It's great to be part of a Government that goes beyond just the plan to actually backing it up with the money.

If we were to scope the globe and say where is an area that has potential, we would arrive back in Northern Australia. I think what is terribly important about all this for all Australians is the development of northern Australia for all Australians. All Australians are the benefactor of this. It gives us the potential to have the greater relationship with the massive populations to our north.

The reality is so much of the north of Australia is closer to the close 300 million people in Indonesia and the great population north and they are close to Canberra. This gives us the capacity to connect into that.

We always look in this nation for greater productivity outcome and anecdotally you can see examples of this which transposed across the whole area has a benefit to us. And I’ll give you one – Stanbroke Pastoral Company has a property called Warren Vale. It produces about 150,000 kilograms of beef a year. With development, with irrigation development, they can take that to 4.1 million kilograms of beef per year and the by-product is cotton. They use the seed because it’s high in protein to finish off cattle. This goes to show you that we have a potential. In fact, it is a necessity for Australia to make sure that we get that productivity capacity and we start to invest in it and incorporate it.

It's also very important for the indigenous communities, the Aboriginal communities, of the north and I am sure there are people such as Freddy Pascoe up at Delta Downs today who will be saying thank gosh that we now have a Government that is going from rhetoric to reality, that they're actually going to start doing things, it's actually going to start happening.

And it builds on a substantive base that is already there, so it's not a dream, it is a reality because we have substantial cities there with Townsville, with Cairns, with Darwin. We have the base to grow out and further develop this potential in this area.

If we look at the other reasons we are doing it, in the agricultural portfolio, whilst we have been in Government, we have had some of the biggest turnarounds, especially in the beef industry in the history of our nation – biggest turnaround in prices. Record prices for cattle, we're getting close to record prices for wool, we've had record prices in meat sheep, we have strong future in irrigated crops such as cotton, we have opened up markets so we can get access to tropical fruits into the United States such as mangos and lychees. We have secured three free trade agreements and I would like to commend the work, the Minister for Trade Andrew Robb has done on that – it’s been spectacular.

This is all part and parcel of a plan. This is the sort of plan that is the result of the deliberations of a prudent Government over a period of years and sees that plan become the reality. And I hope that that conveys to the Australian people a sense of confidence that you have a capable Government, a prudent Government, most importantly a Government with vision and with a vision that there they're willing to back with dollars.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you and I think the enthusiasm and the passion of members of this Government, senior members, all members of this Government for Northern Australia is pretty obvious.

Now, do we have any questions?

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, you rule out a special economic zone for the north as in tax breaks and so on. Why is that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, there are all sort of issues with that. One of them is the constitutional issue. So, we have here a very significant package of short-term and medium-term and long-term benefits for Northern Australia – the $1.2 billion of new spending in this white paper; the $5 billion concessional loan facility for economic infrastructure. There's an enormous amount here for the creative and dynamic people of Northern Australia to work with us to help.

QUESTION:

No tax breaks, no incentives?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, the $1.2 billion is obviously a massive incentive. The $5 billion concessional loan fund is a massive incentive. So, this is by far the biggest package ever brought forward for Northern Australia, for our great north, and we want to build on the strengths of the great north for the benefit of all Australians.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, one of the problems that occurs seems to be the lack of supply of sufficiently trained local workers and an unwillingness apparently for Australians who are trained to move to Northern Australia. The report suggests that some of the barriers to bringing in foreign worker need to be reduced. What are you talking about there and what sort of numbers of foreign workers are going to be needed to execute this plan?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, we're not putting a figure on numbers that might come in. But obviously, if people are prepared to work in Northern Australia, we want to make them welcome. So, provided you are prepared to work in Northern Australia, some of the conditions on some visas will be relaxed. But I do want to make it absolutely crystal clear that people who come into Australia will be working in accordance with standard Australian wages and conditions.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, you also said there's $200 million for water infrastructure development fund. Over what period will that be spent? And there's also like a long list of conditions and tests for federal money to be spent on dams in Northern Australia. So, do you think there will be federal funding of new dams and how quickly?

PRIME MINISTER:

It's available over the forward estimates period, and it will be spent as worthy projects that pass the relevant cost effectiveness tests come forward. We've got some specific funding, the $5 million for more work on the Nullinga Dam proposal, the $5 million for more work on Ord Stage 3 because we think based on the work that's been done that these are the most immediately prospective major new water storages.

But we are saying to people, both public sector and private sector, if you've got good proposals, if you are prepared to put skin in the game, we are here to help, with substantial resources. This is not just a statement of principle in favour of dams. This is putting money where our mouth is. This is saying, “if you want to get cracking, we are here to help”.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, this is a 20 year plan. Paint us a visual picture of what Northern Australia will look come 2020.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, my dream for Northern Australia is that the creative and dynamic people of Northern Australia will be better able to realise their dreams. As you know, I have spent a bit of time in Northern Australia. Recently, I have spent a fair bit of time in Northern Australia with indigenous people. Indigenous people want to secure their economic future, as much as anything else, and that's why we've got money for significant new pilot schemes to try to ensure that indigenous people can grasp control of their economic destiny, as well as simply maintaining their culture, maintaining their spirituality, maintaining their connectedness to land.

So, this is about helping people to realise their dreams. It's about helping people to seize the future. It's about helping people to grasp the opportunities which are self-evidently out there for them now and, as part of that, we will undoubtedly see significantly more people in Northern Australia because as people move to where the opportunities are, we will undoubtedly see our dynamic Northern Australian cities further expanding. I suspect places like Karratha and Broome will grow further. Rocky, I would like to see Rocky doing much better than it has, for some time. There is so much potential in Rockhampton. So, all of our cities will improve because that is what people do when they can make their dreams come true, we see all of these places expanding exponentially.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, the white paper talks about an increased Defence presence in the north. What do you have planned in that area?

PRIME MINISTER:

Obviously, over the last couple of decades, there has been a very, very strong expansion of our Defence presence in the north. As part of the general move to the north that commenced in the 1990s, our two most important military cities, if you like, are Townsville and Darwin. We will have more to say about Defence shifts as part of the white paper that will come out later are in the year.

QUESTION:

Mr Robb, how confident are you that big companies will want to invest billions in the north and just following on from Mark's question – are you happy about the relaxation to the visas? Would you have liked to see that go further?

TRADE MINISTER:

Firstly, I am very happy with the relaxation of visas. We are basically fast tracking and giving some preference to people who do make a commitment to working in the north. They will be treated in a way which will help build the numbers in a very significant way, I think, in the north. So, the visa arrangements and even with the work and holiday visas, that is going to be significant as an extension for any work and holiday depending on the visa type. But most of the work and holiday visas, whether they need young people, if they choose to work the second year in the north, in agriculture or in tourism, they can stay another year. So, these sorts of tweaking of a lot of different visa things is going to make a real difference. The three year multiple entry visa going to 10 years for the Chinese will lead to a lot more tourism activity in the north, et cetera.

The first question was?

QUESTION:

How confident are you that…?

TRADE MINISTER:

Yes, I've done now some 65, 66 business round tables in the last 12 months in 26 countries and the north has featured in just about every one of those. I've made a point of it. We have had a lot of interest. We are bringing lots of business groups out and taking them around the north. You will get a copy of this today, and it's mentioned in the document – we have got a major investment forum in Darwin from the 8th to the 10th of November. I've invited investors from New York, from Canada, from London, from the Middle East, from Zurich and across China and other parts of Asia. This will be most significant and I can tell you the interest is phenomenal. Once they get a further introduction to some of the projects, we've got a big team of people working up investment ready projects right across the north, not just agriculture as I said in resources, they feature strongly, but of course in tropical medicine and tropical health issues and in education, tropical education. All the things we're good at; so many of the services that we're good at for the tropics.

So, I've got no doubt there's an appetite, there’s a huge appetite actually. We’ve just got to make sure that when they start to look at the regulatory environment that they've got comfort. It is the only area of risk that they are not familiar with. They can't assess regulatory risk in any country. So, if we can satisfy them about that and with particular projects, we will work with them, state and territory and Federal Government, that is what that money is there to do, to work with them. So, I am confident there's a wall of money out there and there’s enormous interest we just have to crystalise it and identify projects and this will take off with a huge energy and a huge enthusiasm.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, has Malcolm Turnbull registered…

PRIME MINISTER:

Let's deal with Northern Australia questions and then we can go on to other ones.

QUESTION:

[inaudible]  indigenous engagement with all these people and all these businesses coming in, how did they not lose out?

PRIME MINISTER:

Because, obviously, they've got to operate under our rules, but we are hoping through these pilot programmes to, over time, make the rules much more user friendly. Now, I fully understand the passion of indigenous people to maintain control of their land. But you only have to take to indigenous people in Cape York or East Arnhem Land or anywhere to know that they also want to secure a better economic future for themselves and for their families. So, these pilots are about working with the traditional owners, working with the jurisdictions to develop better ways of ensuring that investment and development can come more quickly to these places.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER:

Could I just add to that there's $20 million in the package to assist Aboriginal groups in negotiations regarding the title to land and to help put in place, as the Prime Minister, said innovative ways to deal with land security issues and we've also made a commitment to complete the native title claims – the assessment of native title claims within a decade. So, these issues will be settled then and people will have a much better understanding about how they can invest and get the security that are necessary for their projects.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, it says in this report that in the north only seven per cent have access to high speed broadband, but with the rest of Australia it's at 30 per cent. Mobile coverage is also pretty patchy. Will the Government reprioritise existing schemes like the NBN and mobile black spot programmes to the north or are there new funds as part of this billion?

PRIME MINISTER:

What we have made clear as part of the NBN is that within a very short space of time, certainly by the end of the decade, that everyone will have access to I think it's 50 megs download speed, or better. So, this is the commitment that we have made and this is the commitment that we will keep.

AGRICULTURE MINISTER:

Also, as we speak, we have under construction, I think there’s two satellites that are part of the NBN process. This is part of our Government's design to make sure that we look after those remote regions. So, in answer to your question, we are currently doing precisely that.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, obviously a lot of this investment is going to be from foreign investors. Are you concerned that divisions in your own Cabinet and your own Government about appropriate levels of foreign investment in Australian agriculture and agribusiness could undermine attempts to attract investment to realise this plan?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, I dispute that there is the contention that you suggest, but obviously, this is a Liberal-National Coalition that has lively discussions of all sort of issues at different times. What we all absolutely support is an Australia which is open for business, an Australia which is open for foreign investment, but it does have to be the right foreign investment and that’s why we have a very rigorous Foreign Investment Review Board process. You might have noticed that we have tightened up the process in recent times. We've now got policing – actual policing – of the FIRB rules for residential land, we have lowered the screening thresholds for agribusiness and for agricultural land and, as always, there will be screening from the first dollar of any foreign investment by state-owned enterprises or by other governments.

Interestingly, notwithstanding all of this, there was a massive increase in foreign investment in Australia in the last year and that's because people overseas realise that this is a very good place to invest. This is a very good place to do business, particularly under this Government, and provided it's properly scrutinised by the FIRB, it will be a very good outcome for everyone.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER:

And there's very little contention about greenfield developments of some of the the scale that Andrew’s been talking about. People welcome that kind of new development which simply otherwise wouldn't happen.

QUESTION:

Previous reviews on exactly this – developing the North – have found that broad-scale irrigation projects are potentially inefficient or economically unviable. Why is this going to be any different?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, Barnaby will no doubt have more to say, but the world is changing all the time. Technology is improving, new markets are opening up. Even a decade ago, the Asian middle-class was much smaller than it is. The wealth of the regions to the north of Australia was much less than it is, but we have seen a spectacular explosion of wealth, spectacular growth of the Asian middle-class, and this is the foundation of the much-expanded prospects for Northern Australia that we want to take maximal advantage of, that we want to maximise the potential of our country and that means making more of the potential of our great north.

AGRICULTURE MINISTER:

If I could just add to that answer, I always find it an interesting question and I remember reading Robert Hughes’ The Fatal Shore where they made the edict that Australia wasn't working and they should fold it up and take it back to Liverpool, I think that was to Lachlan Macquarie. Well, all I can say is I am glad they didn't take that advice. Things move on and in answer to your question about irrigation, the technology is always at the forefront. That is why as a nation we invested around $700 million in research and development in agriculture – about quarter of a billion dollars a year in the Department of Ag in much funding for research and development. The sort of things it does, and to give you a classic example, that some of you here are wearing cotton shirts. Well if they came from Australia, they're all from a genetically modified crop. What that did is it gave the capacity to deal with pests such as heliothis moths and so we had an expressing gene that dealt with it. It meant that a lot of areas came into production.

And if I might just add to that in the irrigation, when I started as an accountant, they used to say you had to give a very good reason why someone could get more than 2.7 bales to the acre. Australia now has the highest yields in the world, averaging around about five bales to the acre – and I’m sorry to be back in the imperial form – in the last season’s crop, which of course means that you’re doubling the efficiency of water usage as well. So, we are a smart nation. We have new technology and we should not scare ourselves out of taking the next step.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, I was just wondering whether Mr Turnbull or any other Minister has registered their concern with you that your citizenship proposals won't be going back to Cabinet for approval?

PRIME MINISTER:

We have made a clear decision. The Government has made an absolutely clear decision that we are stripping the citizenship from terrorists who are dual nationals and that’s a decision that's been made. It was made in the National Security Committee, it was ratified by the Cabinet, it's supported by the Party Room. Now, legislation to give effect to this will be coming into the Party Room next week and it will be going into the Parliament next week, but the Government has made an absolutely clear decision and that certainly won't be revisited, and the reason why we have made this decision is because we have a very strong view: if you've left this country to join a terrorist army in the Middle East, we don't want you back – we don't want you back – and the best way to stop dual citizens from coming back is to strip them of their Australian citizenship if they're terrorists who have joined terrorist armies.

Now, the issue here is not the Government, the issue is the Labor Party because, having opposed this and called it “dog whistling” and then said that they actually support it in-principle, now they’re walking away from it with Mr Dreyfus saying this morning that in fact he wants those terrorists to come back to Australia. So, there’s a clear difference here. The Government wants to keep them out, we want to keep terrorists out of our country; the Opposition – the Labor Party – wants to bring them back. Now, we know that there are some divisions inside the Labor Party on this and I guess the big question for Mr Shorten – well one of the big questions for Mr Shorten – is does he agree with Mr Dreyfus that terrorists who are dual nationals should be brought back to Australia?

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, we know a bit more about that last Cabinet discussion than we usually know about your Cabinet discussions and according to those reports, yes, the Cabinet endorsed the idea of taking it away from dual citizens who are fighting overseas, but that there was no legal advice or a Cabinet submission, no documentation and since then leading constitutional lawyers have raised problems or concerns about the proposition as reported that you have said so far of what you want to do. So, in that circumstance, why wouldn't you bring it back to Cabinet so that it can be approved and the idea can be scrutinised?

PRIME MINISTER:

As you also know, from various things that have been in the papers, there's been very full discussion over many, many weeks in the National Security Committee of the Cabinet on this. It went to the full Cabinet for information and endorsement and the decision is absolutely clear and the fundamental decision does not and will not be revisited. The legislation will be coming before the Parliament next week after being in the Party Room.

QUESTION:

So are you sure it's constitutionally [inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, obviously there is all sorts of legal advice that the Government gets as a matter of course in a situation such as this and we are confident, based on the legal advice we’ve had from a number of different sources over quite a period of time, that we can craft effective legislation that minimises constitutional risk. Does that mean that no one will bring court cases? Of course it doesn't, but we are confident that we can bring in legislation which minimises constitutional risk and, most importantly, keeps our country safe. That’s the thing: we've got to keep our country safe. We are going to keep terrorists out where they're dual nationals, and it seems that the Opposition wants to bring them home; no doubt roll out the red carpet for them like it rolled out the red carpet for people smugglers when it was in government.

Thanks so much.

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