Media conference at Brisbane Airport

2 March 2021

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well look, dogs like Ulf are at the front line of our biosecurity, not just here in airports, but also our ports and mail centres around the country. There are 42 dogs, but only one winner in 2020, and that's Ulf. He intercepted 400 products and had 27 detections that went to infringement. That's an outstanding effort. And all our dogs, in fact, had 13,500 interceptions, which is an outstanding effort. And they've sniffed over 15.7 million parcels through our postal service. So the dogs are our front line, but we're also using new technology, 3D X-ray scanners, making sure that that complements the hard work the dogs are doing. And people also have a role to play in this, not just in decoration when they come through our airports, but also when they're bringing parcels in from overseas. We've seen an increase in our mail centre and we're seeing more infringements as they come through there. So people, when they want to bring products in, they got to understand the risk that they're going to provide, not just to Australian agriculture, but also to our natural environment. And if we just rely on the dogs, unfortunately we're not going to catch [inaudible]…

            [Unrelated - Airport announcements]

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: And so recently, we've increased the penalties for not declaration from $444 to $2664. And we're also looking at cancelling visas. In fact, we've cancelled 14 visas from people who have failed to declare at our airports. And that means that they are unable to come back to this country for potentially up to three years. So we're getting serious about this and we're saying that if you don't declare, then you have the potential of never coming back to his country for some time. Now, we're also increasing for importers from $444,000 to $1.1 million and the possibility of 10 years' infringement. We just can't let this be a cost of business. They actually have to know that there is a penalty. If you want to flout Australian biosecurity laws, you are putting too much at risk. And we will continue to invest in Ulf and other ways to make sure that we find you and square up with you.

QUESTION: Suggest that the attempts, the rate of attempts to get stuff in is showing no sign of backing off?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: No, it's increasing. As COVID-19, while we might have seen that few passengers come through airports, we are seeing a significant increase through our parcel service and through our ports. And so we're surging our resources into those parts of the chain to make sure that they are protected. We're going to have to pivot as international flights come back, and we're preparing for that now, and that's not just through using our dogs and our biosecurity men and women that are on the ground, but also looking at technology. And so we'll continue to work with that and work with other countries around partnerships, because one of the best ways we can do this is through intelligence and sharing intelligence about what's coming to our country from other countries.

QUESTION: And I've got a couple of other things…

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: I thought you might.

QUESTION:   …from the Canberra bureau. And apologies, gentlemen and ladies. Should the PM approve an inquiry into these allegations of historical rape involving a Cabinet Minister?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Allegations of that serious nature of criminal effect should be dealt with by the police, no one else. That is who is set up and who has the appropriate authority in which to make charges laid, and whether the prosecution should follow. That should not be for a politician to make a decision. That should be for the law of the land, which is done through our police force.

QUESTION: With the claimant being deceased, there can't be a police investigation.

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, I think you'll find that the police are continuing to investigate this matter and we need to allow them to do that through the full course of the law. I don't think it's healthy for anyone to become judge and executioner until such time as all these matters can be dealt with. We allow the police to do this in a calm way under the law of the land, rather than the law of the jungle.

QUESTION: Should the minister stand aside?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, until those charges laid, until the police are given the opportunity to investigate these matters and make a determination, then you have to have the presumption of innocence in our society. Otherwise, you tear away the very fabric of our society. It's important while these matters need to be aired, they need to be aired through the appropriate sources, which is the police force. We need to allow them to make those investigations and then obviously make a determination; not politicians, not the public, not the media.

QUESTION: Should the Prime Minister stand aside?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: I think that's ridiculous.

QUESTION: It's not a good look, though, for the government, isn't it?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, in any society, you see that there are always people that cut corners and do the wrong thing. What you need to do is put in the environment and infrastructure around making sure that we weed them out of our society and make sure that they pay the penalty, not being isolated from society for some time. But there has to be a process in which to do that. You have to allow that to take place, and the best way to do that is to allow our law enforcement agencies to undertake that, not to do it through trial through the media, but allow law enforcement agencies to be able to do that with fairness and impartiality.

QUESTION: And there's this claim as well from a source again, that there's a Labor MP implicated in an alleged rape.

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, I think this just goes to show that it touches everybody and we have to make sure we set that environment up for those plaintiffs to come forward. That's the first and foremost responsibility the Government, it's to make sure they feel comfortable to come forward and make those claims. But they need to make those claims to the Federal Police or the state agency in which they may have taken place. That's the appropriate body to investigate that, and we should simply, as a Government and as politicians, create that environment for those men and women to come forward to make their claims, but to do it through an environment that they feel supported in, but also they understand there will be consequences led by our law enforcement agencies if there is been found to be wrongdoing.

QUESTION: As a Minister of the Crown, are you disappointed this latest raft of allegations are coming out in our House of Parliament?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Yeah, of course. It's a pox on everyone's house. The reality is we have to make sure that we've got that environment [inaudible]…

            [Unrelated - Airport announcements]

QUESTION: As a minister of the crown, are you disappointed about all of this?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Of course, I am. And it's a pox on everyone's house. And the reality is, it's our job is to put that environment and infrastructure around those that have been wanting to come forward and feel comfortable in coming forward, but make sure there is due process where natural justice can take place, and not allowed to be a trial by media, but to be done in an open, transparent way through the police service and allow them to get on with the job. We've also got to do a lot of work with our colleagues in making sure they understand that respect is at the very first part of our culture that needs to be driven in Canberra and everywhere else.

QUESTION: How quickly do you think that can happen?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, I think it should have already happened. But the reality is, I think this is a wakeup call to all parts of our society - not just Parliament House - that we should do better. And respect is at the centre of that. Respect for men and women to one another and know the boundaries in which a society expects you to operate. And if you don't, then we should allow that the appropriate arbiter, which is the police force, to make that determination, and you should be prosecuted if you do the wrong thing.

QUESTION: Thank you.