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News and media

Contains news and media resources, speeches and links to social media.

2019 Speeches and messages


24 April 2019 – ANZAC Day

Michael Pezzullo, Secretary, Department of Home Affairs

All Staff Message: ANZAC Day 2019

Every year, on 25 April, we remember all who have served, and especially those who did not return from war. We do so not to glorify war, or to signify a deep-seated enmity towards another people. Australians have never exhibited the militarism which has marked the history of some nations. Ours has always been a reserved patriotism—which is expressed as a commitment to serving the nation when there is a job that needs doing, before a return to a quiet life of family, home and friends.

Perhaps some might have gone off to the Great War of 1914-18 in search of adventure, but after a few months in the trenches of Gallipoli or on the Western Front all romanticism would have been replaced by a grim determination to see the job through.

In preparing this message, I reviewed my earlier messages and remarks regarding Anzac Day. I should like to share once again my thoughts from my 2013 message, which I issued as the Chief Executive of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service. I said in that message that I had often thought about the courage shown by the Diggers in the Great War. Their memory still lives in my mind because when I was growing up in the southern suburbs of Sydney in the late 1960s and the 1970s, my neighbourhood was filled with retired Diggers of that war, and the Second World War. Many who had served in the Great War had settled in the streets of St George and the Sutherland Shire in the 1920s and 1930s.  Some were young enough to have served in both the First and Second Australian Imperial Forces. They never glorified their deeds and hardly ever spoke about them.

What they did struck me vividly when I visited the Gallipoli battlefields in 2000, on the occasion of the 85th anniversary of the landings. I had always been haunted by the painting that I had first seen as a boy, by George Lambert, called The Charge of the 3rd Light Horse Brigade at The Nek.  On that day in April 2000, we visited The Nek in the late afternoon.  It was sunny and quiet. All that could be heard was the chirping of birds. High above Anzac Cove, with the Aegean Sea in the distance, speckled and dark blue, on an eerily peaceful field which is no larger in size than two, perhaps three, tennis courts, I tried to imagine how on the morning of 7 August 1915, 600 men of the Light Horse bravely charged forward in the face of the Turkish machine guns.  About 300 Diggers died in this brief and savage action.

Why does this matter today?  First, we should never forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice—for their mates, but also for their country, which had asked them to do a job from which they did not shirk. Second, courage and commitment is found in many corners of the human spirit. Those men at The Nek, like those who survived and settled in the southern suburbs of Sydney, and like so many others, were what we would call ‘ordinary Australians’. Hardly any were professional soldiers. They were farmers, grocers, ironmongers, clerks, blacksmiths, teachers and accountants. Some would have been Customs officers and members of the still fledgling Australian Public Service. We must never forget that our men and women in uniform are first and foremost drawn from our community at large, and are not a caste apart. Third, our national identity is rightly grounded in part in the values that they demonstrated in the Great War—courage and perseverance, the determination to finish the job, and if the hard thing has to be done, the drive to get it done in the face of odds which would daunt many others. War is terrible and it draws out the worst in the human condition—but it also draws out the very best.

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It is perhaps natural on such a day to reflect on the ‘futility of war’, which too often slides into a supposed maxim that we should avoid fighting in ‘other people’s wars’. I prefer not to insult the memory of the dead. The Australians who fought in the Great War did so as volunteers—over 400,000 of them. They saw themselves fighting in the defence of Australia and our way of life against militarism and autocratic tyranny, against a foe who was trying to reset the global order through force of arms.

By 1916, Australians were fighting a war of bloody attrition in the trenches of the Western Front to defend Britain and France. On the Western Front, Australian soldiers displayed unsurpassable valour in extraordinary feats against hails of bullet and shell, which only failed because the dead could advance no further beyond where they had fallen. Accounts of these terrible battles all speak of fields strewn with the dead and the dying, felled in massed groups.
  
The Diggers of the Great War did not fight for the generals or the politicians, or for abstract strategic plans. But nor did they fight blindly and naively. Their diaries reveal that they were, on the whole, free-thinking and able to act with agency. They maintained their morale, comradeship, sense of duty, and unit cohesion until the end, when many other armies where breaking down amid the madness. The Diggers knew that the path to a better future and a prosperous peace passed through future fields of death. And that this future could not be realised for as long as tyrants and despots continued to strike down peace-loving peoples for reasons of ‘glory’, aggrandisement and territorial expansion.

By their feat of arms in 1918, the Australians (perhaps more than any other fighting force on the Western Front) ensured that the Kaiser would not win a victory before the arrival of the Americans, which did not occur in significant numbers until the middle of that year.  It was perhaps Australia’s most consequential moment in world historical terms. As Prime Minister Édouard Philippe of France said last year in an extraordinary speech given at the opening of the Sir John Monash Centre in France, the Australians fought and died on French soil as if they were fighting for their native soil.

Had Germany won the war in early 1918, it is probable that the British Empire would have had to settle for harsh terms, which would have diminished greatly our security—not least through the occupation of what is today Papua New Guinea by a belligerent Imperial Germany, which would have then had a strategic boot placed on our throat.  Counter-factual, “what if”, history is always difficult to play out, but one could not think of a worse strategic outcome for Australia, especially had a defeat of Britain and its allies been accompanied by an accommodation being reached between a victorious Germany and an isolationist United States.     

The dead of the Great War will always implore us to honour their sacrifice by living the full lives lit by liberty and freedom that they could not. This is the least that we can do to honour them.  But, unfortunately, a century later peace remains the interval between wars. Today, we continue to draw from the bank of freedom that the dead won for us a century ago, ever hopeful for the end of war.


4 April 2019 - Budget Estimates hearing

Michael Pezzullo, Secretary, Department of Home Affairs

Opening statement to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee

E&OE

The Administration of the Immigration Program

On 22 March 2019, I informed the Committee that the Department had published a paper on The Administration of the Immigration Program. The Department has since published a second edition with additional information, which I should like to table.

Over the last three financial years, visa application lodgements have increased by more than 1 million. This financial year alone, we expect 9.7 million applications. The Department’s processing productivity has increased—whereby the Department is consistently finalising record numbers of applications, year after year, while meeting Government directed efficiency and savings measures. Through significant investment in intelligence, biometrics and new technology, and closer relationships with partner agencies, our ability to identify threats, manage risk and process applications has increased significantly over the past five years, after we started to introduce more advanced intelligence capabilities in 2014‑15.

Assessing applications against more complex and targeted risk profiles has led to more visa refusals. As a result, there is a growing pool of applicants who seek to challenge visa refusal decisions, with appeal numbers growing. According to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal’s website, the number of cases awaiting review in the Migration and Refugee Division increased from 21,404 in February 2017 to more than 55,500 in February 2019. We have seen a resultant increase to the number of people on bridging visas. Of course, others on bridging visas are existing visa holders who are availing themselves of opportunities to apply for subsequent visas, such as working holiday makers or students.

Where review applications have been finalised, the majority of the Department’s decisions have been upheld, which speaks to the quality of our decision making processes and to the skill of the officers within the Department who undertake this work, many of whom are proud and honoured veterans of the former Department—but who are now armed with more advanced tools, higher security clearances, better connected systems, and the deep linkages to national security and law enforcement partners. I have prioritised capability development in these areas since taking up the role of Secretary in October 2014.

Budget

Over the last decade, the Department has contended with increasing fiscal constraints due to cost of doing business, efficiency dividends and required offsets. Concurrently, since 2008‑ 09, traveller numbers have increased by 95 per cent, temporary visa grants by 52 per cent, and air cargo volumes by 518 per cent—all continuing to grow annually. Since December 2017, migration and citizenship litigation costs have increased by 44 per cent. With greater integrity in our migration system, higher‑risk detainees now account for 74 per cent of our onshore detention population, putting greater cost pressure on the detention network. During this financial year we have also absorbed costs associated with the growing number of medical transfers from Nauru, which have increased from 35 in 2017‑18 to 461 as at 26 March 2019.

The Department has implemented measures to further contain costs. The Australian Border Force Commissioner and I continue to reprioritise resources for frontline operations within our budgetary constraints. While the Secretary of the Department is the budget holder of the ABF’s budget as the Accountable Authority, it is my practice to jointly develop and agree with the Commissioner the internal budget for the Department and the ABF. The Commissioner will discuss the ABF budgetary position in more detail, but I should like to make two points:

First, the ABF’s 2018‑19 budget was increased by $86 million—or 10.4 per cent—as compared with FY2017‑18, inclusive of the additional funding provided in the 2018‑19 Portfolio Additional Estimates process.

Second, funding allocated for the ABF’s Air and Maritime function was increased by $55.2 million—or 19.6 per cent—as compared with FY 2017‑18; and by $109.4 million—or 48.2 per cent—over four financial years since the establishment of the ABF on 1st July 2015.

Regional processing

Since the reintroduction of regional processing on 13 August 2012, 4,177 Illegal Maritime Arrivals have been transferred to a regional processing country. The combined regional processing population in Papua New Guinea and Nauru has been in steady decline since June 2014. As at 26 March 2019, 915 people are in PNG and Nauru, while 953 temporary transferees are in Australia. Further, as at 26 March 2019, 508 people have been resettled in the United States, with further departures anticipated in coming months. Those found not to be in need of protection are expected by the Governments of Papua New Guinea and Nauru to return home. As at 26 March this year, 822 people have voluntarily returned to their country of origin.

Regional processing is expensive, which is a function of location, distance and operating complexities. But costs from August 2012 have remained relatively stable, at around $1 billion per annum, with a clear downward trend as population numbers have declined. With regards to oversight, delivery of services are regularly reviewed by the Commonwealth Ombudsman, and scrutinized by a range of external organisations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Additionally, the Auditor‑General conducts audits in relation to contract arrangements. On 28 March, the Auditor‑General advised me that the ANAO would undertake an audit into the procurement of garrison support and welfare services in Nauru and PNG. I welcome the ANAO’s audit and note we are undertaking an internal audit into the procurement of garrison services in PNG, which will assist us to support the ANAO’s work.

After Christchurch: social cohesion and countering extremism

The Christchurch terrorist attack reinforced how social media is being exploited by extremists to disseminate their ideology. Following the Prime Minister’s Social Media Summit in Brisbane on 26 March, the Department will—along with colleagues in the Departments of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Attorney‑General, and Communication and the Arts—continue to engage with digital industry representatives to address the misuse of the online environment, and to counter violent extremism online.

In addition to our online efforts, we also support intervention programs run by our State and Territory partners which refer, assess and support people at risk of violent extremism, whatever the manifestation of radicalisation.

Complementing our work to counter violent extremism, the Department will administer a number of commitments made in the Budget to fund initiatives to bolster social cohesion. This includes the Fostering Integration Grants Program—which supports community organisations to help migrants integrate into Australian life—and financial support for community language schools.


22 March 2019 - Senate Estimates additional hearing

Michael Pezzullo, Secretary, Department of Home Affairs

Opening statement to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee

E&OE

This morning I should like to add the Department’s voice to the global expressions of shock and grief at the horrific slaughter of Muslims at prayer, which took place a week ago in Christchurch, New Zealand. The Department has since been working ceaselessly with our colleagues in ASIO, the AFP and other agencies to assist our New Zealand comrades with the investigation into this unspeakable act, and with other elements of the New Zealand Government’s response.

During this Harmony Week, the Department has rededicated itself to standing resolutely against the extremist ideology of ‘white supremacy’ and its adherents, to whom I say: you are on our radar and you will not be able to incite the racial strife that you seek. The scrutiny and pressure that you are under will only intensify. For the information of the Committee I should like to table the Department’s Harmony Day message which was issued yesterday to all staff.

In order to assist public discussion about immigration, this morning the Department will publish an information paper titled The Administration of the Immigration Program. Should it be the wish of the Committee I can table that paper for the information of Committee members.

Under Australia’s non-discriminatory visa system, applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis, regardless of the applicant’s nationality, gender or religion. The Department makes decisions about who comes to Australia on the basis of what they can contribute, not where they come from. Applications are considered against the individual’s risk profile, but not their country of origin. This was not always the case.

Technology is playing an increasingly important role in our business. The Electronic Travel Authority introduced in 1996 allowed people from 33 different nationalities—considered at the time to be ‘low risk’—to enter Australia. It collected very little information about the traveller.

Since then, the Department has deployed new technologies and techniques to improve visa decision making grants and travel facilitation. Such systems range from electronic and online visa applications through to automated passenger SmartGates at Australia’s international airports. As at 28 February 2019, 95 per cent of all visa applications were lodged electronically.

In 2017-18 the Department granted 8.7 million temporary visas. We expect to receive over 9.7 million visa applications in 2018-19. In addition, demand for Australian citizenship has continued to grow with citizenship applications increasing by 177 per cent between 2010-11 and 2017-18.

As volumes escalate, the source countries of travellers coming to Australia continues to evolve. In 2007-08, around 51 per cent of visitor grants came from the UK, Japan, the US, South Korea and Germany. Today, these countries represent 36 per cent of visitors to Australia. There has been a significant increase in visitors from China, India and Indonesia.

Over the past five years, the Department has moved away from broad and coarse nationality-based risk profiles to more nuanced, targeted risk assessments of individual visa applications. It undertakes significantly more rigorous security checks as compared to the checks that were done when I became Secretary in October 2014. Since then the Department has completely overhauled and modernised its national security capabilities by applying the latest technology, analytical tools and intelligence techniques to support decision-making.

As a result of enhanced scrutiny of applications, visa refusal rates have increased. There was a 46 per cent increase in visa refusals for the permanent migration programme in 2017-18 compared to the previous year. These factors—combined with inconsistent application quality and increasing complexity of the caseload—contributed to the lower migration program outcome last financial year. We anticipate a similar number of finalisations this year, an outcome which will be similarly driven by enhanced scrutiny and vetting.


21 March 2019 - Harmony Day

Michael Pezzullo, Secretary, Department of Home Affairs

All Staff Message: A Home Where Everyone Belongs

Today we celebrate our twin strengths of unity and diversity, and the values which unify the diverse ethnic, cultural and religious communities which make up our nation.

Tragically, we also continue to grieve for the victims of the unspeakable act committed last Friday (15 March) in Christchurch, New Zealand, against innocent Muslims at prayer. While it does not lessen the shock, we are uplifted by the fact that, irrespective of race, culture, faith or creed, so many on both sides of the Tasman have come together with messages of unity and compassion, and have voiced a powerful rejection of racism and hate. There has been a universal outpouring of sympathy and prayers for the victims, and their loved ones, as well as expressions of solidarity with Muslim communities in New Zealand and Australia.

It falls to all in positions of authority and influence to call out and reject the vile and odious ideology of extremist white supremacist nationalism. Regrettably, it lurks in our midst, seeking its chance to once again come forth from the abyss to menace our peace and unity. Three decades ago, as a university student taking a major in Modern Europe History, I studied European Fascism between the World Wars. It was a chilling experience. The 1920s and the 1930s saw the rise of Fascism in Italy, and elsewhere in Europe, and Nazism in Germany. We should never forget how in the centre of European civilisation there arose demagogic politics, the irrational mysticism and symbology of the fascists, the vilification of minorities, and the mobilisation of violent hatred – which led ultimately to the ‘final solution’ of the Holocaust, a crime against humanity which must be never forgotten, and never repeated, until the end of time. In this case, forgetting is not acceptable, and cannot be excused. This evil did not arise in the face of apathy and indifference. It was able to tap racism, and translate supposed political and cultural grievances into perverted ideas and actions, in plain sight, and gaining power in the face of weak or non-existent resistance.

Compared with those dark days, today our societies are stronger and more cohesive. Economic opportunities are more widespread. More is done to counter extremism. We must remain vigilant, lest the personal fixations and the supposed disempowerment and loss of identity which are exploited by such groups, and translated into political support, form the basis for a revival of fascism on a more widespread basis. We owe it to the victims of last week’s attack to redouble our efforts against the proponents of this ideology here and abroad, in partnership with all who value the dignity and worth of all, whereby the stranger is not ‘the Other’, shorn of humanity, vilified and reviled.

I am proud to lead a Department which is, with our colleagues across the portfolio, in the vanguard of the fight against extremist ideologies. We do so by managing a non-discriminatory immigration and citizenship programme, promoting social cohesion, countering violent extremism, coordinating national counter-terrorism efforts, and more besides. I would ask that across the Department today we rededicate ourselves to standing firm against all forms of intolerance, hatred and racial vilification; and to guarding against the incitement to violence which is often found within extremist viewpoints, irrespective of their ideological or supposedly religious rationale.

We must also stand against the revival of ancient hatreds and their promulgation through the ungoverned space of social media platforms. For too long the digital industrial complex has sought to have us believe that connectivity can exist in a value-free world. It cannot. It is well past time for values to guide the online world, and for accountability to be accepted by its self-interested proponents. The global community, including world leaders, must come together to ensure that technology companies, which are richly endowed with innovative capabilities and rapid development processes and systems, do more to meet their global corporate responsibility obligations to protect the very communities that they say they serve, and from which they reap such stupendous riches.

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I have made a point of reflecting in all of my Australia Day messages (2015-2019) on the difference between an inclusive open nationalism and its exclusive, insular antithesis. As I said in my 2015 message, for all of our achievements as a nation before the 1970s, we would never have become a “more complete commonwealth” had we clung to the conception of Australia as being 'Britain beyond the seas'. For nearly two centuries, Australians saw themselves as members of the global family of 'the white race'. One of the first Acts of the new Commonwealth Parliament in 1901 was an Act to restrict immigration, which formed the basis of the 'White Australia' policy. Before the 1970s, we built walls to insulate ourselves from the outside world, and especially the region around us.

Imagine what would have been our standing in the world today had we sought to preserve those walls and that insularity? If we had not cast off the anxiety about Asia. If this Department was still required to ensure that Australia remained 'white'? Today we recognise that for all of the beneficial inheritance that is ours as a result of our modern British origins, we would never have become the modern Australia without the dismantling of White Australia, and the reversal of discrimination in immigration (which was only finally achieved in the early 1970s, almost a decade after I was born, the son of Italian immigrants). Or had we not undertaken the remarkable programme of mass immigration and settlement after the Second World War.

In my 2016 message, I wrote that our diversity has laid the foundations of our national outlook as a confident and internationally engaged people. Australia’s success as a multicultural society challenges the very idea that citizens of a nation-state have to share a singular identity that is grounded in culture, race or belief. Our nation nurtures active social participation and shared national values, while being mutually respectful and tolerant of our diverse identities. Long may all participate equitably in our society, with a full appreciation of the rights and responsibilities that come with membership of that society.

In my 2017 message, I wrote that a nation is not an arbitrary geographical construct that happens to be inhabited at any one time by randomly selected individuals who lack any prior connections or common history. The very idea of ‘the nation’ implies continuities in terms of common identity, the durability and strength of institutions, as well as expectations of mutual trust and recognition, and common allegiance. Each of us carries a shared heritage, history and identity. Our national biography contains many chapters, some dating back thousands of years, some a few hundred, and some, of course, yet to be written. Australians are not given to highly symbolic expressions of nationalism, and the pomp and ceremony that is found in some other national cultures. Our national culture is not reproduced in every generation on the basis of some deep historical enmity which is held against another people, and where the sorrows of long and violent grudges are ingrained into the collective consciousness and passed from one generation to the next. Our nationalism is a civic compact, and not a racial or cultural one. Our civic compact is expressed as loyalty to the community, and allegiance to the sovereignty of the people, as expressed through our institutions of governance.

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In recognition of the many events celebrating inclusiveness which are taking place during the week 17-23 March, from this year on, the Department will support the celebration of 'Harmony Week', with a focus on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, held annually on 21 March. The theme of Harmony Week is “Everybody Belongs”. Today, we welcome all to our shores, subject only to their willingness to observe our laws and identify with our values. Our nationalism is inclusive. It is founded on the proper conception of the idea of nation, and not on the perverted idea of an exclusive nation of ‘blood and soil’.

As you all know, our principal job is to protect our home, and to contribute to an Australia that is prosperous, secure and united. On this Harmony Day, let us ensure that we are all working to protect a home where “Everybody Belongs”.



13 March 2019 - Australian Strategic Policy Institute

Michael Pezzullo, Secretary, Department of Home Affairs

Seven Gathering Storms - National Security in the 2020s

Canberra

E&OE

I am sometimes asked about future national security challenges. This evening I should like to provide a framework for thinking about this question. I do so with 32 years of experience in the field of national security, defence and international affairs – a modest basis for claiming that I have seen enough of the past to perhaps have something useful to say about the future.

Tonight I present a list of seven ‘gathering storms’ of the 2020s, ranked by their intrinsic importance as risks to be mitigated, having regard both to their likelihood (which, in a number of cases, would be mercifully low) and their consequences for our economy, society and, in some cases, way of life. This is a framework for thinking about risk. It is not a list of predictions. Nor is it a gratuitously drawn ‘dark view’ of the world, designed to frighten children, readers of this city’s newspaper, or the subscribers of certain commentary blogs. Here is the list:

  1. The prospect of Great Power war will in the 2020s approach, but not reach, a level of probability last seen in the mid-1980s – occasioned not by design on the part of any Great Power, but by the risk of strategic miscalculation and operational misadventure as the Great Powers project military power around Eurasia and its maritime environs, and across the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans. No rational actor ever seeks a catastrophic war, and yet history tells us that such wars occur.  We often then argue later – for decades, if not centuries - about why they started, and what it was thought might be achieved by going to war.
  2. The employment of chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons outside of Great Power war, not necessarily by readily-identifiable actors. As with the prospect of major war, this would be a mercifully unlikely contingency but one which needs close attention, especially in relation to the potential use by terrorists of readily transportable but difficult-to-manufacture biological weapons (including those which could occasion a severe pandemic) or nuclear devices which could fit into a small container.
  3. A cyberattack with economy-wide ramifications, targeting the nation’s financial, energy, water or transportation systems. Unfortunately, this contingency is more plausibly likely, notwithstanding the significant efforts and investments that have been undertaken by governments and the private sector in recent years. Much more needs to be done in this area. Our traditional ways of thinking about deterrence and defence simply do not map directly across to the cyber realm. The negligible imposition of costs for malicious conduct in the cyber domain will embolden yet more malicious conduct—which is ever ratcheting up, and which will, in the 2020s, make the cyberattacks of the past decade seem like the first dogfights in the earliest days of aerial combat.
  4. While the deliberate subversion of our democratic institutions and our social cohesion is an old enemy – seen in the past in political warfare and subversion, espionage and disinformation – it is taking on new forms, especially in this highly connected age. In the 2020s, we are likely to see regular attacks on our elections, the spread of disinformation for geostrategic purposes, and deliberate attempts to fracture our social cohesion and unity. Compounding this risk is the rise of social media and the ‘digital industrial complex’, whose proponents and beneficiaries have managed to seduce many with the false belief that connectivity without values enables the untainted expression of 'popular will'; (free of the taint of power and manipulation) and creates a platform for a supposedly 'authentic'; expression of self. Instead, connectivity has become a new site of power, monetised for the enrichment of the self-interested proponents of its supposedly liberating qualities.
  5. The security implications of the world's ungoverned and dangerous territories, which host terrorist groups, as well as insurgents who are at war with the nominal state authority of the territory that they occupy. These territories, and the disputes which are fought across them, will continue to generate the mass displacement of peoples, as will poverty, hunger, water and resource scarcity, and a changing climate, which will have to be thought of as a systemic risk factor. Fragile or non-existent state sovereignty and control over territory co-exists with the interrelated challenges of terrorism, insurgency and the mass movement of people who are seeking protection from violence and conflict. We treat these problems separately at our peril.
  6. Radical extremist Islamist terrorism, which will continue to mutate and evolve, posing risk abroad and at home. While the defeat of ISIS is to be welcomed, its ideology will fall on fertile ground elsewhere. Worryingly, al-Qa’ida would strike again if it could. Of course, home-grown terror cells and lone wolves, and returning foreign terrorist fighters, continue to be a very high priority concern.
  7. The globalisation of transnational, serious and organised crime which in the 2020s will threaten national security and public safety in hitherto unseen ways – in terms of the volume of illicit narcotics and other illicit goods crossing our border, the incidence of the trafficking and smuggling of people, the level of violent criminality that we are likely to see, the threat to our revenue base (as increasingly sophisticated techniques are employed to thwart taxation and customs detection and enforcement efforts), and increasingly worrying attempts to infiltrate our public institutions and to corrupt officials in order to create an ever more permissive environment for crime.

Again, to stress: this is not a randomly generated list of 'scares';. It is an evidence-based risk framework for thinking about national security in the 2020s, and for making decisions about capabilities, strategies, plans, operations and resource allocation.

Lest it be thought that this represents a sinister and cynical 'dark view'; of humanity, let me stress that I am a strategic optimist. If threats are realistically assessed, if risks are properly appreciated and managed, if all do their duty, if the nation is engaged intelligently on the challenges that lie before us, in a discourse which brings together parliamentarians, journalists, business leaders, academics and others, if difficult choices are taken in good time, then we will be able to navigate these storms, ever hopeful of clear skies and calm seas.

If, however, we take the path of neglect and apathy, if those so charged fail in the discharge of their duties, if the nation does not engage purposively, and in good time, then I do fear that one or more of these storms will break savagely upon an unsuspecting and unprepared populace. Were that to happen - and I refuse to believe that those of us who are charged with acting would so wantonly fail in our duty, but were that to happen – then I fear also that the calamity would be too great to bear, and there would follow significant social and economic dislocation. I especially fear that were an unprepared Australia to be faced with dealing with an unheralded cataclysmic event, one which might shake the nation to its economic, social and moral foundations, then the urge for draconian and excessive reaction might prove to be too great, and in ways too injurious to our precious liberties. Over-arming the state could be as great a danger as under-powering it. In policy, as in life generally, we tend to over- and under-correct at the wrong times, when we should in fact typically operate in counter-cycles. All the more reason therefore to honestly and resolutely prepare for the storms ahead – avoiding them where we can, and riding them out where we cannot.

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I should like to step back and provide a personal historical perspective to these challenges. My thesis is this – we have seen and dealt with these types of challenges before. What will challenge us in the 2020s will be their concurrency, confluence and interdependencies. The risks they occasion will have to be both managed separately and collectively, in part and in aggregate.

When I joined the Department of Defence (specifically, the Defence Intelligence Organisation) in January 1987, we were closer in time to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 than 1987 is to us today – that is we were 25 years beyond the Cuban Missile Crisis, while today we have moved 32 years past 1987. The focus at the time was on superpower competition and confrontation. Indeed my first three assignments were research tasks associated with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which was signed later that year in 1987, Soviet fleet movements in Southeast Asian waters, and the prospective shape of US-Soviet naval confrontation in the northern Pacific. I soon after moved into an area in Defence which dealt with the Joint Facilities at Pine Gap near Alice Springs (NT), North West Cape near Exmouth (WA) and Nurrungar near Woomera (SA), where we did highly classified work (much of which remains classified to this day), which was concerned with strategic nuclear forces, space and missile activities, and other very sensitive matters.

Tom Clancy had just published Red Storm Rising in 1986, and would soon see another of his books made into a movie in 1990 – The Hunt for Red October. Art was imitating life, as there had been a nuclear scare in 1983 – about which we know more today due to the release of classified documents and extensive research by scholars in recent years. We now know that the Soviet leadership was convinced that a NATO exercise to be held in 1983 – Able Archer 83 – was a ruse for a possible surprise first strike on the Soviet Union. They were perilous times.

During this period – from August 1990 to February 1991 – the US and its allies fought the First Gulf War with the aim of evicting Saddam’s Iraq from Kuwait, which it had invaded in August 1990. For the first time, the world saw an awesome display of US conventional military superiority, which was enabled by advanced technologies (such as night-fighting and stealth capabilities), unrivalled intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems and precision strike weapons.

Today, anyone who is aged under 30 is likely to be vaguely aware (if at all) of that era through the lens of popular culture – perhaps through the movie Atomic Blonde (2017). They might even know that the German rock ballad 99 Luftballons (1983) by Nena was about accidental nuclear war, but perhaps not. In any event, this perilous era vanished it seemed in a moment, as if it had been but a dream. From the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 to the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991, events moved with astonishing speed. The soundtrack of the decade was rounded off with another German rock ballad – Wind of Change by the Scorpions (1991), an anthem of hope and optimism after a century of tragedy.

Looking back, even though we did not know it at the time, we enjoyed five minutes of strategic sunshine in the early 1990s. It seemed as if the liberal democracies had prevailed and the spread of capitalist democracy would be unchecked – perhaps finally bringing the 'End of History'; into view, to reference Fukuyama’s famous book of 1992. There were voices of dissent to be sure – Huntington, Mearsheimer and Kaplan to name three – but generally the following formula came to be taken for granted: defence spending could be reduced, as Great Power war had been foresworn; authoritarianism had been defeated and democratisation would prevail; technology and communications (including the new technology known as 'the Internet';) would bring us closer together; globally-agreed rules would dictate behaviour, and the rules-based order which had emerged out of the Second World War could finally be universalised; Russia and China would integrate relatively easily into the global trade and investment system; and the world would be enmeshed ever more tightly through the spread of global supply chains, financial markets and networks of trade, investment and commerce.

To continue with some personal reflections, after the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, I moved to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in 1992, and then into the Foreign Minister’s Office in 1993. In both roles I worked on the Uruguay Round of world trade negotiations and the proposal, which the Australian Government championed, for there to be held an annual summit of APEC Leaders, which was realised in 1993. The annual gathering of the great, good and famous at the World Economic Forum in Davos became institutionalised at this time, with its particular brand of denationalised globalism put on display at the start of every calendar year.

Looking back over a quarter of a century to that time, the world is so different. The sense of possibility seems to have passed, just as the blue sky, glimpsed briefly during a break in a storm, disappears when steely grey clouds close the heavens from view. Of course we should take stock of the positive gains from this time. Today the global order is indeed more connected, networked and interdependent than at any point in history. Poverty has been reduced, living standards have improved, and technological progress has created positive opportunities in terms of saving labour, connecting people and enabling creativity. These are positive developments, and not marginally so. However, it did not entirely work out as imagined in those heady days of the early 1990s, when it felt as if the world could be made anew, and risks and challenges emerged after the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War which were not properly anticipated and managed.

Two major developments then emerged in the early 2000s which reset the game, forever I suspect. I will not deal with them in depth, as they each warrant a separate address. First, the attacks on 11 September 2001 brought radical extremist Islamism to the fore, in the most spectacular way imaginable. Starting with operations in Afghanistan, we embarked on what some have called the 'Long War'; against extremist Islamist terrorism, which placed a premium on counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency capabilities and operations. We became very familiar with al-Qa’ida, and later ISIS, as well as domestic home-grown terror. Our militaries reorganised themselves and reacquainted themselves with irregular warfare, with a consequential diminution of focus on conventional warfare. This is a well-known part of the story for such an audience, so I will not dwell here.

At around the same time, Russia and China started to seriously accelerate investment in their advanced conventional military capabilities, including in relation to power projection, a trend which continues to this day. In the 2020s, US military superiority will be increasingly challenged. Greater potential costs are likely to be imposed on US freedom of action. This will, in all likelihood, affect the calculus in the 2020s for how and where the United States employs military power around Eurasia, and across the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans.

Moreover, we did not anticipate how Eurasia would emerge in the 21st Century as an increasingly coherent and salient strategic system, a hundred years after Mackinder set out his thesis that this would happen. New patterns and networks of trade, investment, infrastructure, telecommunications, energy and migration across and around Eurasia - which will become more pronounced as the Arctic Ocean becomes a zone of increasing importance - began in the 2000s to upend the traditional strategic advantage which had been enjoyed since the 15th Century by maritime trading powers. This trend has become entrenched over the past two decades, and its consequences will be increasingly felt across the board in the 2020s. Relatedly, we are seeing the deliberate use of investment, industry and research policies to create strategic advantage and technological superiority for the purposes of Great Power competition, which will intensify in the 2020s. Notwithstanding these trends, it cannot be stressed often enough that China’s rise has been the most peaceful of any Great Power in 500 years – and all have a stake in ensuring that this remains the case.

By 2006, at which time I was the Deputy Secretary in Defence with particular responsibility for defence strategy and force planning, these trends were very much on our minds as we dealt with the twin challenges of the so-called 'Long War'; and the prospect (however slim) of Great Power war. Across departments and agencies there were sincerely-held and widely divergent views about the future force structure of the Australian Defence Force, and especially whether to structure the ADF principally for low-intensity operations against insurgents and terrorists, or for maritime warfare against conventional adversaries in the defence of Australia, including a Great Power adversary which might seek to attack us as part of a larger military campaign against our principal ally.

Tonight is not the night to retell the story of what became the 2009 Defence White Paper, which was launched in May 2009, and which I was honoured to author. Regrettably, its conjectures and its prescription for a heavier, maritime-focussed ADF, which were greeted with incredulity at the time, have proven to be all too prescient. They are now the orthodoxy in defence planning. My only regret is that I did not stick to my instincts and insist that the deterioration of our strategic circumstances would occur even more quickly than the final document suggested. I decided then not to make the same mistake again over the rest of my career.       

Since then, I have been honoured to hold roles in the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, the Departments of Immigration and Border Protection, and Home Affairs. Over this decade I have been focussed on borders and the migration of peoples, including overseeing Operation Sovereign Borders over its entire existence; the customs aspects of Australia’s links to global supply chains; and more recently terrorism; transnational crime; aviation and maritime security; cybersecurity; critical infrastructure; foreign interference, espionage, and disinformation; and emergency management. What I have learned is this: strategic dynamics are cycling at a tempo to be measured in months, or at most a year or so at a time, and not decades. Rapid and significant changes are occurring within parliamentary terms and the security landscape can be transformed across one or two of those terms. The additive effect of the different threats and risks creates its own systemic complexity – or to return to the central idea of this speech, we are facing the separate and combined challenges of dealing with the 'gathering storms'; distinctly and concurrently, independently and conjointly. Earlier distinctions between 'home'; and 'abroad'; are breaking down completely as a result of advances in technology, communications and finance; the rapid movement of data; the mass movement of people; ever-changing global supply chains; and much more besides. The duality of globalisation – opportunity and prosperity on the one hand, coupled with terror and criminality in its shadows and seams – is disrupting our societies, for good and ill. The state’s role in protecting sovereignty and the citizen is being challenged and deconstructed, and how the state operates in partnership with industry, international partners (traditional and new) and the populace to be protected is still a work in progress, especially with regards to the use of data which avoids the peril of mass surveillance of that populace; and the need to strike the right balance between prosecution on the one hand, and disruption on the other.  We must, above all, hold fast to the supremacy of the law – without which there is only barbarism. 

Looking back over three decades and then casting forward to the 2020s, I can see a dark kaleidoscope of future stormy possibilities which, if not navigated successfully, might come to pass to our great cost: I can see a Red Storm Rising (although the likelihood of a Great Power war, especially involving nuclear weapons, remains thankfully low, but it is not unthinkable);terrorist use of a biological or nuclear weapon; a massive cyber-attack; increasing attacks on our democratic institutions and our social cohesion by subversive means; the persistence of ungoverned and dangerous territories which generate terrorism, insurgencies and the mass movement of peoples which will directly affect our national security; continuing attacks by adherents of radical, extreme Islamist ideologies; and criminality which is increasingly sophisticated, organised on a global scale, and difficult to attack.

In the face of these ill tidings, should we panic? Well, only if it helps. Otherwise, we should focus calmly and realistically on what lies ahead. We should above all draw on the strength of our traditions, values and history, which show us above all else that courage, cunning and organisation in the face of adversity will always prevail over the darkness, whether it takes the form of the tyrant, the invader, the terrorist, the saboteur, or the criminal who thinks nothing of selling death to a child. If we are sure of our values, confident in our abilities, certain of our arrangements, and unified in our work, we will prevail, as did our forebears in other stormy times.


18 February 2019 - Senate Estimates hearing

Michael Pezzullo, Secretary, Department of Home Affairs

Opening statement to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee

E&OE

The Department and the Portfolio of Home Affairs has been in existence for almost 14 months. As I noted in my statement to this committee on 26 February 2018, Home Affairs would observe four key principles of implementation:

  • First, preserve the traditional strengths of the Home Affairs agencies, respecting their statutory independence, professional skill and tradecraft, which are deeply embedded in their workforces;
  • Second, take advantage of the creation of this larger and more integrated Portfolio to build ‘scaled‑up’ capabilities and exploit previously unattainable synergies—such as intelligence, data exploitation and highly advanced digital systems;
  • Third, preserve the statutory independence of Home Affairs agencies and decision makers, and ensure that all Home Affairs activities and operations are always conducted under law, and subjected to the supervisory checks that this Parliament decrees; and
  • Fourth, ensure that ‘protection’ and ‘security’ are means to pursue greater ends—namely economic prosperity, social cohesion and an open society.

I should like to take this opportunity to outline some examples of how Home Affairs has gone about this integration process.

# # #

Transnational, serious and organised crime—or TSOC—threatens the safety, security and trust of our citizens, the prosperity of our businesses and economy, and the integrity of our institutions.

The appointment last year of Mr Karl Kent—a serving Deputy Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police—to the role of Commonwealth Transnational Serious and Organised Crime Coordinator signalled a more integrated and strategic national response to this pernicious crime. The Commonwealth TSOC Coordinator has significantly strengthened our fight against TSOC by drawing together capabilities across the Home Affairs Portfolio, more broadly across the Commonwealth, and the States and Territories.

In December last year, the Council of Australian Governments agreed to the National Strategy to Fight TSOC. The National Strategy sets out how Australian Governments will align our efforts to combat TSOC, providing a framework for government agencies, the private sector and the broader community to address the threat.

Countering foreign interference is a whole‑of‑society challenge, requiring the mitigation of vulnerabilities which extend beyond the traditional national security realm. Australia’s institutions of democracy, our academic and research sectors, our social cohesion, critical infrastructure and the media are all potential targets of foreign interference.

The Office of the National Counter Foreign Interference Coordinator—also established last year—has leveraged its access to other agencies under the umbrella of the Home Affairs Portfolio to develop an integrated national effort to identify, assess and respond to foreign interference; and is drawing together the key policy, operational and social cohesion levers to respond. The Coordinator, Mr Chris Teal—a serving Deputy Director‑General of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation—is working with Federal, State and Territory entities to focus on foreign interference, and engaging with those sectors of Australian society most at risk from foreign interference, including diaspora communities. The Coordinator is supporting the Australian Electoral Commission and the Department of Finance to ensure the integrity of Australia’s electoral processes, including in the lead up to the federal election. 

Moreover the Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have worked closely to ensure that there is close synergy between the domestic and international elements of Australia’s counter foreign interference approach. This has included active engagement with the valuable network of Australia’s international Posts to strengthen links with like‑minded countries and the secondment of a senior DFAT officer to the Office of the National Counter Foreign Interference Coordinator.

I also welcome the appointment of Ms Linda Geddes to the position of Commonwealth Counter‑Terrorism Coordinator. Along with the National Cyber Security Adviser—Mr Alastair MacGibbon, a serving Deputy Director‑General of the Australian Signals Directorate—and the aforementioned National Counter Foreign Interference Coordinator and the Commonwealth TSOC Coordinator, the Coordinators are ensuring that a unified, whole‑of‑government approach is taken to protecting Australia’s security, sovereignty, values and national interests.

The beneficial synergies afforded by Home Affairs are also experienced by industry and the broader community alike.

Australia’s Aviation and Maritime Security functions are now co‑located in the Department of Home Affairs, supporting their integration and coordination with the Australian Border Force, the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. This construct is enabling Home Affairs to work more closely with industry to deliver future solutions to ensure the security of the travelling public.

In collaboration with industry, Home Affairs has pushed greater integration between security screening requirements and border clearance processes at major airports. This close partnership is working towards a more secure and ultimately seamless movement of people and goods across the border, providing joined up border protection, trade integrity and security outcomes.

# # #

To ensure that the Department is best positioned to achieve its outcomes, we monitor and adjust our budget settings and apportion our resources toward prioritised objectives. I wish to reassure the Committee that the Department of Home Affairs continues to work increasingly efficiently and effectively, but I would take this opportunity to stress that this effectualness is challenged by a range of ongoing factors.

First, with the establishment of the Home Affairs Department and Portfolio, our core functions have expanded far beyond the remit of the former Department of Immigration and Border Protection—now incorporating all of Australia’s domestic national security and law enforcement functions. These areas will be of increasing importance to Australia’s domestic security in the years ahead, and will have implications for resourcing—particularly in ensuring that we have the necessary capabilities to work cross‑jurisdictionally and internationally.

Second, we continue to grapple with increasing volumes.

Over the last four financial years; 2014‑15 to 2017‑18:

  • air cargo consignments processed increased by more than 50 per cent,
  • and visa applications and grants each increased by more than 20 per cent.

These trends are forecast to continue over the coming years and decades.

Additionally, we are continuing to see increasing demand for Australian citizenship. Over the last four financial years the number of citizenship applications increased by almost 25 per cent (from more than 244,700 to more than 305,000). More than 16,000 people became new citizens on Australia Day this year—the largest number ever to take the pledge on Australia Day.

Third, we are managing a more complex threat environment that demands greater focus on integrity. Professionally resourced individuals and sophisticated groups continue to seek ways to exploit border flows for criminal opportunism and self‑profit; to embed themselves into legitimate supply chains to obfuscate their activities; and to circumvent border controls for nefarious ends. The increased proportion of high risk cases across Australia’s visa programs—stemming from our better intelligence capability and the shifting risk profile of many markets traditionally considered low risk—means more applications require greater scrutiny, including more identity, character and bona fide checks.

While we have been able to resource these functions largely within existing budgetary instruments, these areas will be of increasing importance to Australia’s domestic security in the years ahead, particularly in having the necessary capabilities to work cross‑jurisdictionally and internationally.

While it takes considerable and intensive effort to assess 21st century risks it is essential to do so to support the prosperity and security of the Australian community.

For example, the skilled visa reforms that the Government introduced in March 2018—including the introduction of the Temporary Skill Shortage visa—strengthened the integrity of skilled migration and resulted in better quality skilled migration applications.

This is being seen in higher approval rates and faster processing for Australian businesses.

In the permanent employer sponsored caseload, applications lodged since the reforms have a 90 per cent approval rate, compared to a 65 per cent approval rate for those lodged prior to the reforms.

# # #

In closing, while Home Affairs is charged with carrying out the security functions of the state, our goals go beyond security and protection. Home Affairs exists to support and enable Australia’s economic prosperity, social cohesion and the maintenance of a free, united and open society.

I thank the committee for its time.

Thank you.


26 January 2019 - Australia Day

Michael Pezzullo, Secretary, Department of Home Affairs

Secretary's Australia Day message - All Staff Message

On Australia Day 2019, we will specifically celebrate the 70th anniversary of the establishment in law of Australian citizenship.  On this day in 1949, our nation's first citizenship law came into force.  This was another significant step in the evolution of Australia's emergence as a fully independent and sovereign nation.  It was an especially important step, as Australians would ever thereafter acknowledge each other as 'citizen', as legal compatriots, whether friend or stranger.  Moreover, as 'citizens', from that day forth Australians would all owe common allegiance to the Commonwealth, its democracy and its laws.  Prior to this day, as British subjects our forebears formally owed allegiance to the British Crown, as they had from the time when the Australian colonies were first established (beginning with New South Wales in 1788).  

It follows that Australia Day in January 1949 was an auspicious occasion for our predecessors in the Department of Immigration, as indeed it is for us today, as we continue to steward the framework of Australian citizenship.  This we have done for seventy years, administering one of the most important public programmes insofar as Australia's sovereignty, national solidarity and civic engagement are concerned.  We have held that mantle in an unbroken line from when the then Department of Immigration was charged in 1948-49 with the establishment of the Australian citizenship programme.  It is a charge that we take most seriously, and I should like to take this opportunity to praise the efforts of all who are today involved in its administration. 

In preparing this message I spent some time examining the Hansard record regarding the relevant legislation, namely the Nationality and Citizenship Bill 1948, which was introduced into the House of Representatives by Australia's Minister for Immigration, the Hon Arthur Calwell M.P., on 30 September 1948.  This Bill, once passed, came into force on 26 January 1949, and the first citizenship ceremony was held a few days later, in Canberra on 3 February 1949.  In 1973, the Act was retitled as the Australian Citizenship Act 1948, and in 2007 was replaced with the current Australian Citizenship Act 2007.

It might be thought somewhat strange that Australia, having legally come into being on 1 January 1901, did not have in place the legal form and status of 'citizen' before 26 January 1949.  Our Constitution does not refer to the idea of 'Australian citizen'.  It could be argued that the closest it comes to an implied concept of citizenship is by way of reference to the Parliament's power to make laws with respect to 'naturalisation and aliens' at Section 51 (xix).  In signifying the political community that was to be formed at Federation, the Constitution refers relevantly instead to 'the people' in various places.  Upon Federation, Australia was, at law, inhabited by British subjects who were permanently resident in the Commonwealth ('the people' as described in the Constitution, socially and culturally known of course as 'Australians'), along with British subjects who were ordinarily resident in other parts of the Empire, but who were living here for a period of time, as well as all others, who were legally styled as 'aliens'.  So while we emerged as an independent nation in 1901, it was not thought necessary or indeed desirable at the time to cut the tie to the legal notion of British subjecthood, which signified membership of that Empire, and 'the British race', to use the language of those Edwardian times. 

Attitudes had hardly changed half a century later, when the Parliament of Australia finally came to terms with the challenge of creating a distinct legal identity for the nation's permanent inhabitants.  Indeed, what struck me as I read the Hansard and some of the commentary of the time when the Bill was introduced in 1948 was the close resonance, on the one hand, with many of today's debates regarding sovereignty, allegiance and civic engagement, along with on the other hand a strong dissonance with today's sense of Australian identity.

Let me explain the latter point first.  There is no doubt when one reads the debates of the day that most if not all members of the then Parliament still thought of themselves and their fellow Australians as being 'British'—something which would have also struck the framers of the Constitution as perfectly natural and unexceptional in the 1890s.  The concept of Australian citizenship was not formulated and codified in the 1940s in order to distinguish Australia and its permanent inhabitants from 'the British race'.  To the contrary, as Mr Calwell made clear when introducing the Bill, Australian citizenship would sit alongside and not supplant our status as 'British subjects'.  Accordingly, the Act expressly provided that on 26 January 1949 those British subjects who were permanently resident in Australia, and who would become citizens of the Commonwealth, would remain British subjects, as would those who were subsequently born here or who otherwise acquired Australian citizenship under the new Act.

It would take another 35 years for this nexus to be forever broken, when in 1984 the dual status of Australian citizens as British subjects was abolished in law.  The Australian cultural worldview in 1948 was so different from our outlook and attitudes today, as to be incomprehensible to those more recently born or more recently arrived.  As someone who grew up in Sydney in the late 1960s and the 1970s, Britain was even then made to feel like 'home', and no doubt did in fact feel like 'home' to many, including those of Anglo-Australian descent whose feet had never walked upon England's mountains green and pleasant pastures.  It is a challenge to convey this sense of growing up surrounded by a strong aura of Britishness to those who are, say, under 30 years of age, or who have come in that time from other lands, and especially from lands beyond the former Empire and the British Commonwealth.

#         #         #

For all of that dissonance and those memories of days long passed, as I read the debates and commentaries from the 1940s, another strand of the discussion struck me very differently and did in fact resonate strongly with a more contemporary outlook—that is the central theme of Australian sovereignty and allegiance to our nation and its democratic institutions.  At the first citizenship ceremony, held as mentioned already on 3 February 1949, Mr Calwell asked the new Australian citizens to "…respect the Australian flag and swear allegiance to our concepts of government…".  He went on in his address:

"We do so not because we want to regiment convenient cannon-fodder for another war, but because we know from long experience that the democratic concepts we cherish are for adaptable and usable means for achieving social change and national progress without dangerous social dislocation or the chaotic spectacle of revolutionary disturbances ending in dictatorial minority rule.  We pledge our faith in the common-sense and national goodwill of the Australian people.  We ask our new citizens to swear allegiance to the system of government which enables that goodwill and common-sense to guide democratically elected rulers, and we do not propose to risk the very real gains we have made through democratic evolution for want of vigilance towards our enemies, whether they come from outside or work from inside."

I contend that the very same statement, made today, would not suffer from being archaic, and from having seen better days.  On the contrary, as a statement of the value of citizenship, it would be as relevant today as it was when it was first uttered.  I have attached a link [here] to the audio record of Mr Calwell's statement and a link [here] to the marvellous black and white Movietone 'moving picture' (as they were then called) of the first citizenship ceremony.

Looking back, it was clear that the Government of the day, and the Parliament in turn, were concerned that as the post-war immigration programme was working up to full speed, our traditional reliance on commonly understood and internalised 'British' norms and values regarding national governance, the rule of law and democratic processes generally would not necessarily always resonate instinctively with those who would in future years come to call Australia home.  In addition to dealing with the question of citizenship which was then emerging as an issue requiring attention across the former Empire in the aftermath of the Second World War, I suspect that the establishment of Australian citizenship in law in the 1940s at around the time of the deliberate expansion of the population was an attempt, in part, to instruct and guide those who would come from other lands in the conventions of our democratic culture, which of course is so evidently drawn from British practices, beginning with British settlement in 1788, and continuing to this day, through our on-ongoing adherence to the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy and ministerial government.

For seventy years, we have used Australian citizenship to set out the terms of membership of the national political community which was constituted at Federation in 1901—a political community which is free to elect its own government and determine its own laws.  In a world of rapidly changing social and cultural attitudes and mores, ever-evolving modes of expressing 'identity', and the constant reinterpretation of, and contestation over, history (and specifically the legacy of our colonial past), the only agreed and binding identity that we all possess in common is that of citizen of Australia—to which attaches rights and obligations, and from which flows the expectation and protection of common allegiance.

Citizenship in this sense is "exclusionary"—one is either a member of the national political community or one is not.  This does not mean that others are not welcome to live, work, study amongst us, subject to our permission to do so, and under such conditions as are set under law.  It does not mean that others cannot become citizens, subject to their fulfilling the relevant criteria, and being afforded the honour of citizenship through due process, as so many will be tomorrow around the nation.

What citizenship does entail, as was made clear in the first ceremony in 1949 is this: it is the collective membership of the Australian political community which determines who will represent us in the halls of power, who will govern us, and which laws are made, so that we might best live in peace and security, in a united and prosperous society.  In return, members of the Australian political community are obligated to engage in the democratic processes of the nation, to abide by democratically-made decisions, and to respect the laws of the land.  Citizenship is not about cultural homogeneity and social exclusion, at least not in a free society such as ours.  Nor is it a signifier of common racial, religious or social identity.  It is at its core an expression of sovereignty signified at the level of the individual who is so graced with the title 'citizen'.  From this, the following flows: the citizen has a stake and a say in the governance of the nation; the nation safeguards and protects the citizen, in return for the citizen's allegiance; and the citizen accepts that the price of living together harmoniously is that all are obligated to uphold democratic processes, and to obey the laws which are thereby generated.

It is uplifting to think that in a discordant world, where so many others around the world are finding it so difficult to harmonise their differences, or who have such 'harmony' as might be achieved amongst themselves imposed from above by the State or the Party, we have internalised a sense of being freely bound together in a unified political community, which deals with difference and disagreement through democratic processes, in which we all have a stake.  Citizenship is the expression of that common bond and so we should joyously celebrate the 70th anniversary of its establishment.

Movietone 'moving picture'

Announcer: At the Albert Hall, Canberra, the first certificate under the new Citizenship Act is presented to the Prime Minister Mr Chifley by the Minister for Immigration Mr Calwell.

Calwell: The Prime Minister of Australia.

Announcer: And then the audience stands as Mr Justice Simpson of the Federal Supreme Court presides the naturalisation ceremony. The first applicant, a Czech, renounces his previous nationality

Simpson: I, and your name

Pucek:  I, Jan Jandura-Pucek

Simpson: renounce my Czechoslovakian nationality

Pucek: renounce my Czechoslovakian nationality.

Simpson: and my allegiance to the Republic of Czechoslovakia

Pucek: And my allegiance to the Republic Czechoslovakia

Announcer: And after taking the oath:

Simpson: And here sir is your certificate of nationalisation.

Announcer: Men of seven nationalities are sworn in. A Norwegian takes his oath.

Marstrand: I, Thiel Marstrand

Simpson: Swear by almighty God

Marstrand: Swear by almighty God

Simpson: that I will be faithful

Marstrand: that I will be faithful

Simpson: and bear true allegiance

Marstrand: and bear true allegiance

Simpson: to his Majesty King George VI

Marstrand: to his Majesty King George VI

Simpson: And I will faithfully observe

Marstrand: And I will faithfully observe

Simpson: the laws of Australia

Mastrand: the laws of Australia

Simpson: and fulfil my duties

Marstrand: and fulfil my duties

Simpson: as an Australian Citizen.

Marstrand: as an Australian citizen.

Simpson: Congratulations Mr Marstrand, and your certificate of naturalisation.

Announcer: A moment ago he was a Norwegian, now he is officially an Australian. And as a word of welcome from the Prime Minister.

Ben Chifley: As the leader of the government of this country, and speaking, as His Honour has spoken and Mr Calwell has spoken, to say you, you have come to a country in which I believe great opportunities will present themselves. You have come to a country where democracy is not just a platitude but something that is practised.

Announcer: So concludes an historic ceremony. In time, Australia may become like America. A new world aided by the crafts and traditions of the old.