Transcript from SKY News Press Conference

NEWSREADER: We take you live now to the Maritime Union of Australia, the National Secretary Paddy Crumlin holding a news conference to respond to the Government's announcement today.

PADDY CRUMLIN: ...you know, and intelligence in that area is very specific [indistinct] intelligence, that shouldn't be a substitute between lazy crime fighting or just having a political process for things. That's it.

QUESTION: [Inaudible question]

PADDY CRUMLIN: Okay, Paddy Crumlin, National Secretary, Maritime Union of Australia.

[Pause] Okay, so there seems to be a bit of contro...

NEWSREADER: We're just waiting for the media to be ready to talk to the National Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia Paddy Crumlin.

PADDY CRUMLIN: Well there's a controversy around this morning in regards to the minister's statement following from the realise of a Polaris report which we haven't been through which is specifically in regards to crime fighting here in the state of New South Wales that seems to be growing pretty rapidly. And the Maritime Union of Australia would like to make a statement on it and happy to take questions afterwards.

The position of the MUA in the area of crime prevention is that as a union we have always been opposed to crime in any area of the sector of our involvement. We have a long generational history of cooperating with whatever agencies, state and federal, to stop crime prevention[sic].

On the other hand we have also been totally cooperative in the process of stopping terrorism and in the national security areas. And in fact the introduction of the Maritime Security Identification Card was specifically designed to stop terrorism and to ensure that up most standards are being applied in the fight for national security.

These are two strictly different areas. In the area of national security sometimes the issue of criminality may not be attached, and intelligence is an important factor in identifying risk. In the area of crime fighting it is absolutely essential that we have regards for the law of the land and the due process. And that due process is you are innocent until proven guilty and we will not be compromising in any way our cooperation in crime fighting in this important part of the overall sector that we have some influence.

In regards to the overall report, it had weaknesses in itself. It identifies that large areas, even in security, aren't covered by MSIC, that's Quarantine, Customs, private management, private security firms. That's where the high risk is. It's not a handful of waterside workers. And let's get this in to perspective, that are under 24 hour CCTV scrutiny, that are based on merit-based selection processes by their employers, that currently have MSIC screening. They aren't the high risk areas. The higher risk areas in import/exports are in those other areas not covered by MSIC, in those other areas not under scrutiny, in those other areas not under surveillance and we will be doing and making our best efforts to cooperate and assist in that area.

QUESTION: [Inaudible question].

PADDY CRUMLIN: Well, that's the exact - gets to the core point of where this whole thing seems to be flawed, and we need more detail. You are innocent until proved guilty and does that mean that there is criminal intelligence? How does it stand up? Is it empirical? You know, is it rooted in the ability that identifies in a real sense that there is a risk and there is a threat?

Or is just about making an allegation, a McCarthy like allegation, that immediately sees a worker lose his job, either family lose their home and their mortgage without any ability to identify their legal rights, without a process to enter into, these are the unanswered questions. Crime prevention yes, taking away civil rights and legal rights, no, we will not be cooperating in any process that dilutes and eliminates a process of law in this country. This is about increasing and enhancing the application of law, not taking it away from law abiding Australian working men and women that are citizens and residents.

QUESTION: If your members are law abiding Australian citizens, and all of them are, then surely they've got nothing to worry about because there'd be no serious criminal suspicion of any of them, right?

PADDY CRUMLIN: Absolutely. Well that's right. And we're quite confident that any process - of course from time to time there will be infiltration into an import/export sector and you need to identify those areas of higher risk. We are not in an area of high risk.

The high risk areas, for example, are in the 30 per cent of Australian ships manned by foreign seafarers permanently trading between Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne that have no background checks. From the Ukraine, from Russia, from the Phillipines, from countries all over the world, with no criminal checking, with no intelligence, not covered by MSIC cards. They are a high risk are that Polaris ignored and when we entered into a long conversation about how to cooperate in the process of crime prevention those areas of high risk have been studiously avoided, both by Polaris, and also by the minister this morning and they need addressing.

QUESTION: The dock workers are the gatekeepers though, right? It's - if there is anything being traded from those men at sea it's going to be coming through these dock workers so any kind extra security, surely that can't be a bad thing?

PADDY CRUMLIN: Well, security isn't a bad thing. And we've, as I said, indicated and entered into a process with the Maritime Security Identification Card that includes background checking, you know, that is specifically designed to remove terrorism.

We're not afraid of proper and orderly approach of surveillance. As I indicated before Australian dock workers are under CCTV surveillance 24 hours a day because of the sensitive nature of their job. And so we have nothing to hide but we are not entering into a process that isn't transparent, isn't properly structured and that the fundamental core, you know, recognises and enhances the individual rights that you are innocent until proven guilty. That is fundamental to the application of the Australian legal system and it must be fundamental to the application of this crime prevention initiative today.

QUESTION: [Inaudible question].

NEWSREADER: That's the National Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia Paddy Crumlin.