NSW Police Minister Troy Grant talks about the new laws that will see police legally protected if they shoot a terrorist dead
Introduction – New shoot to kill counter terrorism laws
Ross Greenwood: Let’s now go to an issue that I think every person in Australia is affected by right now and that is the threat of terror attacks. In terms of what we’ve seen around the country in recent days certainly in Brighton, in Victoria is one classic example of that but then what we’ve seen in London and we do recognize that the community is vulnerable. So then what does the community do about such attacks. How does it prevent it? Well quite clearly, superior intelligence is one thing. But that only goes so far because the intelligence forces already, clearly, are very thinly stretched. Then it comes to the response and whether the response is swift enough in this country. Well, New South Wales government today has decided to try and create more powers for NSW police not only in the weaponry they use but also in their rights in situations of terrorist attacks when they are declared, by the NSW Police Commissioner, that they can in those circumstances shoot to kill.
Now you saw that very much in the London Bridge siege situation. But you’ve also got a point where even in Queensland, say, for example in just only the past couple of weeks Rick Maddison killed after that siege at the farmhouse near Gatton. And he was the man who took the life of the police officer Brett Forte there, with the funeral just yesterday. But let’s now go to the NSW Police Minister Troy Grant to explain why this has happened and also what the community will see and expect from it. Troy Grant, many thanks for your time.
Interview with Troy Grant, NSW Police Minister
Troy Grant: You’re welcome, Ross. Good afternoon.
Ross Greenwood: Okay. A lot of people would say, why would these types of powers not already have existed inside the police’s hands?
Troy Grant: Well, the truth is that this is an evolution of change in the crime landscape and the counter terrorism threat is growing immensely and it’s coming at us in so many different forms shapes and sizes. Now we’ve had on our own doorstep different types of terrorist threats and instance already. Now, the murder of Curtis Chang, that was another but completely different in circumstance.
And what we found and what was clearly identified through the coroner’s recommendation, specifically number 24, that there was a gray area in relation to the potential response from the snipers who were not sure whether they had the power under the very strong laws we have to shoot to kill or use reasonable force to save a life or protect a life with the amount of information I feels it’s justified and essentially exposed to a criminal prosecution if I got it wrong.
Ross Greenwood: And you can’t have a police officer under such circumstances having any shadow of doubt in their mind because while Man Monis may have had hostages at gunpoint himself, there were police snipers at three positions overlooking the cafe. Those three snipers never ever fired during that period of time. What you’re saying is that this change in legislation is all about trying to overcome that moment of uncertainty.
Troy Grant: That’s right and we’re not sure where else this sort of scenario will play out as well. It will be probably a very similar type situation or a protracted type of an incident would be more relevant to the use of this power than the murder of Curtis Chang as an example, where the current powers allowed those special constables to shoot and kill that assailant. Now this is to give clarity and certainty to the police to protect lives and hopefully save lives when they potentially have to take a life in order to do that which is not an enviable situation in any circumstance.
Ross Greenwood: The truth is some people will be confronted by this one day. This is a step forward and some people may have some qualms about these changes the government’s making.
Troy Grant: Look that’s acknowledged. But I think those that may be confronted, there’ll be more people who will be comforted to know that the NSW police force do have these powers and will have to potentially save their life and protect the community more broadly. That’s the focus. That is the only focus. This isn’t about some extrapolation of NSW police powers that they’ll be using every day. They’ll be used in unique circumstances, hopefully never ever have to be used, that’s been very limited and controlled circumstances to give the NSW police every opportunity to save lives in a controlled, professional and appropriate manner.
Ross Greenwood: One thing that is being sort of talked about is that in the London Bridge situation that security forces took just eight minutes from the time that the first call was made to emergency services to the point at which those terrorists with their knives were shot dead by the police forces. Do you believe in our major capital cities which is the most obvious place where attacks may occur, do you believe that the response times would be as swift at least certainly in and around our capital city’s?
Troy Grant: I absolutely do. And probably more swift, given that we have a very different situation in London. They are largely enough armed police force where they have to deploy a squad of armed officers, where all their front line officers are armed and trained to their different capacity. And with the announcement today of the long arms roll out that will occur, that will just give us greater capacity to respond in a time far superior to London. Although, I’m not critical of that response time in any way whatsoever. So I guess I do have that confidence.
Ross Greenwood: Interesting thing, because I did note today that Daniel Andrews at Victorian premier, after there was that security scare where a man threatened to blow up a Malaysia Airlines flight and took nearly an hour and a half for security force to get on board. Well, Daniel Andrews come out today and said this. Let’s pick up the Victorian Premier.
Daniel Andrews: I think the time has come for us to have a dedicated 24/7 tactical response provided by the Australian Federal Police. We stand ready to support them of course, as we always have. But I think when you think about across the world airports have so often been the target. We need to take that next step.
Ross Greenwood: Do you think, Troy Grant, that that is something that New South Wales the government here would also welcome if Sydney Airport had similar types of additional security and forces around them?
Troy Grant: Well, Sydney Airport is the federal jurisdiction so ultimately that’s a call for the Commonwealth because that is policed by AFP police. You’re talking about within the perimeters of the Sydney Airport, that really is a matter for the Commonwealth to consider. We’re always open to working on opportunities to enhance our capability with the Commonwealth but we, in New South Wales, have a 24/7 TOU, a tactical operation, a high quality high level response capability. And that’s in addition to our front line capability, which is 24/7 as well, different to London. I’m sure our government is always open to any idea to continue to enhance public safety, would never close doors on discussions and ideas but there’s no need to necessitate that more broadly across New South Wales. Again, the Sydney Airport is in AFP jurisdiction and that’s really a matter for them to consider.
Ross Greenwood: Troy Grant is a New South Wales Police Minister and we appreciate your time in the program this evening.
Troy Grant: You’re more than welcome Ross. Thank you.
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