About Us

Secretary's remarks to the Trans Tasman Business Circle

Michael Pezzullo
Secretary Department of Immigration and Border Protection
Secretary-designate Department of Home Affairs

13 October 2017


Thank you for that very kind introduction, Tony. Thank you also for your kind earlier remarks. I'm really grateful to the Trans-Tasman Business Circle and to PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) for putting on this event. I think it's a terrific opportunity to gather together as a network and to hear from senior leaders, often from the public sector here in Canberra, but I know also from the private sector, and I always enjoy coming here.

My discussion today will centre on the narrative or the context, the philosophical context, if you will, on the establishment of the Home Affairs Department. Australians enjoy the fruits of an open economy and an open society, and of course of globalisation and its global networks, whether it is trade, travel, shopping, international work mobility, global connectivity through the internet, cultural experience, study, access to capital, access to research, collaboration in research, the gaining and the sharing of insights, and knowledge through academic endeavour. And these are on a two way basis: Australians going out into the world and other citizens coming here, either for temporary or, indeed, permanent purposes.

We have certainly moved far beyond what Paul Kelly, the distinguished Australian journalist and political historian, has called ‘the Australian Settlement’. When we federated in 1901, what a different national model we had: White Australia, tariffs, protected industries, and a highly regulated and indeed arbitrated labour market. What a different world we have entered.

Globalisation, however, is not an unalloyed, positive force. In parallel and, indeed, the very duality of globalisation makes this inevitable: there is also emerging a “dark universe”. The globalisation of terror, crime, and indeed evil is becoming much more manifest and apparent to people. Terror has become de-territorialised; it can strike you from anywhere on the globe. Global networks of crime and exploitation, and the enablement of crime and exploitation, is becoming more apparent. There are global dark markets for hacking, money laundering, cryptocurrency movement, assumed identities for criminals, terrorists, child exploitation perpetrators and others.

When I was growing up in 1976, AC/DC released a song. Many people in this audience may not remember this, so I'll need to describe it. For those who can remember it, I do apologise for going through the basic details. In the song Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, released in 1976, Bon Scott the singer of AC/DC, memorialises the contract hit man who is just sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring. And if you need a job done, he's the man to do the job. Dirty deeds done dirt cheap. But then you'd have to meet him in a pub. You'd go secretly to the back of the pub, money would exchange hands and the deed would then be carried out. This is no laughing matter: today there is a global dark web market for murder. You can jump on the web, if you know where to go, and you can contract a fly-in assassin if you so desire. No doubt, and hopefully no companies in this room will assist these people, global contract hit men will soon have their own apps.

Non-state actors are also cashed up. Relative to Western democracies, all of whom are in deficit and carry significant public debt, non-state cartels and criminal syndicates are in booming surplus. And just take the example, to put another lens on it, of 9/11. An attack on America which was as devastating as the attack on Pearl Harbor, which took the might of the Japanese Navy to execute in 1941, was executed by 19 hijackers operating from a safe haven well outside of America's then reach.

So globalisation has a duality and we have to accept that. The boosters of globalisation, sometimes unfairly, and certainly from a gender point of view unfortunately, called “Davos Man”, the boosters of globalisation are frankly naïve if they don't have regard to the duality of globalisation. And the boosters and the promoters of globalisation need to have their claims tested. But equally, I don't believe it's the “end of days” either. It's not the “end of days” if we purposefully attack the problem and make it not so.

Now, the difficulty, though, is that we have a very emotional view of our ‘home’ environment. It's almost ingrained in us from childhood: home is where you are safe; home is where you go to be safe. An analogy, in fact more than an analogy, a literary construction of this, is of course contained in that wonderful book of English literature: The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien: the Shire. Frodo, for those of you who know the books, preferably, the movies if you must; Frodo, the main protagonist, leaves the Shire with his friends and comrades, Samwise, Merry, and Pippin. They go through these adventures; it takes three very long books and Peter Jackson decided to make three very long movies to tell the tale. Frodo destroys the One Ring that sees the defeat and downfall of Sauron in his citadel of Mordor, and they return to the Shire having saved Middle Earth from this evil; they return in noble robes that have been given to them by the now-King of Gondor and elvish swords and all the accoutrements of grandeur.

And when they get back, the comfortable hobbits who'd stayed behind look at them suspiciously: “these fellows are a bit above themselves”. “Why are they wearing those fancy clothes?”, “Those robes look a bit foreign”. And they go back into their gardens, they go back into their very, very beautifully kept hobbit-holes, not knowing the sacrifices that have been endured to keep them safe. Not knowing – indeed, blissfully ignorant of the fact that at the very start of this tale, the Black Riders, who'd been looking for the One Ring, were on the borders of the Shire, seeking to penetrate their very comfortable, safe, and blissfully ignorant existence. And certainly, growing up in the 1970s, other than when I was listening to that AC/DC song, where risk was always outside of the home, and you felt comfortable in your home, risk was out there somewhere else.

Moving from literature to political philosophy – we'll get practical soon enough – the classical model of the modern nation-state that started to emerge in the 17th century with the great books of political philosophy that formed the constitutional basis of the democracies that evolved in England, as it then was in America, and subsequently ourselves. The great works of people like Hobbes and Locke describe the Sovereign. Hobbes calls the Sovereign – by which he doesn't mean the king, he means the state – Leviathan. Leviathan is all-powerful. We cede our power to Leviathan, and Leviathan keeps us safe. Keeps us safe in our home – because Leviathan deals with crime – and keeps us safe in terms of the external enemies, by waging war.

But is this model of the protector state, of Leviathan, standing majestically at the apex of the state, defending the citizens of that state, is it fit-for-purpose in the 21st century? In an era of global connectivity, and in the face of this duality of good and evil, which is at the heart of the globalisation project, can Leviathan protect the Shire once the Shire is connected to the internet?

Sovereignty has been penetrated by supply chains, for good reasons. We like supply chains because they get goods to us and they allow us to engage in efficient manufacturing. Sovereignty is affected by temporary migration. Air travel - people coming and going. Connectivity – yes, which connects us to the internet, which includes the Dark Web. Sovereignty has been compromised by fake news and global campaigns of information subversion and psychological warfare designed to undermine our democratic institutions and public discourse.

So this romantic and, frankly, obsolete binary pairing of “home is safe”, “outside is dangerous”, but you can keep them separate with a wall; this binary pairing has to be deconstructed, has to be reimagined and rethought. Indeed, to protect and secure home, we have to be prepared to act globally and to develop networks with like-minded actors, including industry and protecting those supply chains that I just mentioned, as well as other states. So, to take an example, the work we do with our Five Eyes partners in homeland security - the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand. Of course, I make New Zealand a particular reference today given the Trans-Tasman Circle project that is hosting us.

The state has to increasingly embed itself - not majestically, sitting at the apex of society, dispensing justice - but the state has to embed itself invisibly into global networks and supply chains, and the virtual realm, in a seamless and largely invisible fashion, intervening on the basis of intelligence and risk settings. Increasingly, at super scale and at very high volumes.

Traditional models of policing, security intelligence, customs, immigration, transport security, border protection, all have to be disrupted, just as business and commerce has been disrupted, as are other facets of our society. And it's not just the state that has to repurpose and re-engineer itself. Businesses and households need to think about the duality of globalisation and act on it. Now, you all understand this in this room, particularly those companies that are involved in the tech sector, for instance, from the point of view of cyber security. Households are increasingly coming to understand this, as are families.

To take one example, why did Bec Judd – who's a well-known TV personality and businesswoman – why did she choose to wear flat shoes to the AFL grand final recently? My source for this is an article in Mamamia, published on 3 October, earlier this month, and she stated, when she was asked about this on a radio program that she appears on in Melbourne: “well, I wore flat shoes in case if I needed to run, in case there was a terrorist attack”.

I applaud her judgement. I applaud her risk-savviness, but above all, I applaud, and indeed congratulate her on that great attitude, first coined in Britain, of “keeping calm and just carrying on”. Well done, Ms Judd. You're an ornament in that respect, and we look up to you for making that judgement, and to be prepared to speak about it in those terms. Not in a sense of panic. Not in a sense of anxiety. In a very practical, Australian sense of, yes, I just need to plan for this and if it happens I'm then ready, but otherwise I'm going to enjoy a day at the footy. Well done, Ms Judd.

Home has to be pushed out in this globalised world, because security is a task, it's not an end-state. You can never stop thinking about how to improve your security settings and for reasons that I've mentioned and articulated, home is no longer sealed off from the outside. Accordingly, we need to rethink the structure of government and, indeed, the architecture of security, because how we did things yesterday is not going to be – and we know this already – how we will need to do things tomorrow. So plan for the change, manage the transformation, and don't wait for the crisis to befall us, followed by the inquiry that inevitably would say, you need a single department with a single accountable minister bringing all these functions together to deal with this world.

I'm reminded, in that respect – another literary reference, I do apologise – I'm reminded of the Italian nobles, who are described so beautifully in that wonderful novel The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, published in 1958, and of course made famous in the English-speaking world in the film starring Burt Lancaster in 1963. The Italian noble says, as they're recognising 1860s Italy, that everything is changing, the middle class is starting to make money, commerce is starting to rise, the ‘peasants’ are seeking rights, and the old nobility, the old noble ways are changing. The progressive noble says: ‘If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.' What a wonderful summing up of what presents us - the dilemma that presents itself to us.

So how you organise a structure of government in this environment is very important, and I don't mean in terms of wiring diagrams. But the very architecture of security has to be re-engineered in this environment, and how you organise your departments is actually critical. You need to be able to operate at scale, you need to focus effort, you need to ensure unity of purpose and clarity of direction and, critically, in this day and age, you need a single accountable minister under the Prime Minister and the Cabinet at the apex of the entire security apparatus, supported by a department of state whose responsibilities mirror that minister and can support he or she.

Now, this does not mean an oversight function. There are other mechanisms properly established – and which will be further refined for the oversight of agencies such as ASIO, the Federal Police, the Border Force, the Criminal Intelligence Commission and AUSTRAC – all of which, properly need to be overseen and supervised from the point of view of integrity and proper use of data. But this commentary is misplaced, to the extent that it sees Home Affairs as that overseeing, overriding, bureaucratic layer. It is not. Let me give you an example to show the difference, and I go to the Defence portfolio.

Let's imagine in an alternative universe, we had in the defence world the sort of security apparatus or the apparatus of defence that we have in domestic security affairs and we had the South China Sea issue starting to emerge, now some years in the making. Islands have been reclaimed, artificial reefs have been established, a foreign power is starting to militarise those reefs. Would it be reasonable to go to the Navy – because they have the ships – to say we'd like you to strategically assess this situation; evaluate the threat, our interests, the risks; develop policy options for the Prime Minister and the Cabinet; develop a strategy which would have a spectrum of ambition and a spectrum of risks associated with it; develop a plan; be prepared to execute that plan subject to what the Cabinet decides; and, oh, by the way, assess what capabilities you need to carry this task out; address any gaps in your current capability; and come forward with offsets to fund any capability requirements that you otherwise don't have in your inventory?

Well, of course we wouldn't ask the Navy to do that. It's the Navy's job to execute the plan that's decided by the government of the day. And in the course of which – and I know, because this happens within the architecture of national security - it would be consulted for its professional military judgement as to: if we decide to go down this path, what are the risks involved in putting our ships in potential harm's way in this environment?

So we do it in the Defence environment. My contention to this gathering is this: absent this re-engineering of our security apparatus around Home Affairs and the appointment of a minister in the creation of the department that I've described, we don't do it in an area of similar and indeed in some cases more immediate and poignant threat and risk.

So the core functions of the department will indeed be policy; strategy and the coordination across multiple agencies of those strategies; assessing capability development requirements; assessing resourcing strategies; along with the delivery of certain programmatic responsibilities such as transport security; visas which will remain a function of the department; citizenship programs, as well as emergency management.

We will under the direction of the NSC and the Minister, in particular, have some early focal areas, of course. I won't list them, and perhaps they might come up through the course of the discussion. In law enforcement, we're going to have to globalise our approach. Counter-terrorism, which works very, very well, will need to be looked at in terms of the evolving threat. Critical infrastructure needs to be rethought: the thought that you can just simply have a register of critical infrastructure and just simply assume that industry will do most of the heavy lifting might well have been adequate up until recent times; it is no longer the case that it's adequate.

We need to look at the protection of our institutions and democratic institutions in relation to foreign interference and political subversion. We need to look at the cohesion of our communities in terms of their fragmentation and fracturing, through the fracturing of public discourse and, indeed, the phenomenon of fake news.

All of these, and other matters such as cyber security and integrity of our citizenship arrangements, for instance, all require an integrated effort with critical assessment from the centre, strategic planning endorsed by the government, and then joint activities which are executed in an integrated fashion by the statutorily mandated agencies who are responsible for execution.

This Home Affairs enterprise will, in effect, create the third force of security - the third pillar, if you will. In 1970s we started to gather together all of the individual Defence departments, when there were separate departments of the Navy, the Army, the Air Force and we created a single complex that's taken – and it's still a work in progress some people would say – it's taken four decades to constantly evolve that joint approach to Defence. In the 1980s, with the bringing together of Foreign Affairs and Trade, having brought together hard power and Defence, we started to bring together what the academic literature calls ‘soft power’. Our diplomacy, our trade and, in more recent times, our aid; our cultural diplomacy, our investment promotion and our tourism.

Now the third force, the security power, which is designed to protect the home front acting on a global scale, is being organised into a single enterprise to deal with the interconnected and globalised threats that we face at home, recalling that home is not what it used to be. Thank you very much.