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Subject: Paris attacks, resettlement of Syrian refugees, Grand Mufti comments

E & EO Transcript

JOURNALIST: Joining us now is the Federal Minister for Immigration Peter Dutton. Mr Dutton, good afternoon.

PETER DUTTON: Good afternoon Tom.

JOURNALIST: Okay well I'm not only the one saying this. One of your backbenchers has said today we should close the borders.

Will you reconsider our commitment to taking 12,000 Syrian refugees?

PETER DUTTON: Tom, the Government has committed to taking the 12,000 and I want to provide an absolute reassurance about the checks that we've got in place.

I was in the Middle East the week before last and delivered a very clear to message to our staff at the embassies there and that is that we are not going to, in any circumstance, compromise on the security checks that take place. So we said ...

JOURNALIST: …okay, but at least two of the suicide bombers that according to the French officials that caused the carnage in Paris, so just over 48 hours ago, entered as refugees from Syria via Greece.

So I mean I remember reading a German newspaper a couple of weeks ago, which said in a boat of 100 people they found two convicted terrorists. Islamic State has said it is their goal to put terrorists in with refugees.

Can you guarantee us that none of those terrorists will end up here?

PETER DUTTON: Well I just finish that point Tom because I think it's important.

So in terms of the checks that we make for each of these people, we do biometrics tests, we take fingerprints, we check against our databases and with our intelligence partners, we have experts in document examination to make sure that we're not dealing with fraudulent documents. That is a very different situation than Europe faces, where people are going across land borders.

So in our country, as an island nation, as a continent, we have pretty strict measures in place whether you come by boat or by plane and we do all of those checks before people arrive.

Some countries have a regime where they do checks on arrival. They'll allow people to go out into their community and then they'll commence the checks.

We don't do that. So it's a very different way that we operate here in Australia.

The other point to make is that we've taken 825,000 refugees in this country since the Second World War.

The threat from terrorism in this country at the moment, as ASIO and others will tell you, comes from second and third generation-born Australians. And in particular young people who are receiving messages online and being radicalised within a matter of a few weeks.

They don't even understand Islam or what the religion is about.

They don't even understand, frankly, what the cause is about for ISIS.

They seem to have some macabre attraction to the appeal that ISIS puts out and that's where we're concentrating our efforts. But in terms of making sure …

JOURNALIST: …well okay. I agree that is a separate issue and a lot of the other suicide bombers in France were home grown. I mean they were born in France. Some of them lived in Belgium, but they were French.

But even so, I mean, because people are very worried about this and they should be.

And was Tony Abbott right a month ago when he said to the Europeans you should close your borders? I mean he was criticised by everybody at the time, but it seems to me like he was on the right track.

PETER DUTTON: Tom I think if people read the text of what Tony Abbott had to say as opposed to the way in which some people wanted to report it, I think there is a lot of sense in what Tony Abbott said where he highlights the substantial and growing threat.

This is a problem that will be with us for our lifetime and perhaps longer beyond that because these people are fighting a war.

There is a propaganda element to it which is proving very successful in a modern social media age - posting 100,000 posts a day - infiltrating the minds of young westerners of all backgrounds, answering the call including young girls travelling on false documents, lying to their parents and going overseas to form part of this death cult.

People recognise the significant threat ….

JOURNALIST: …okay I'm sorry but you keep wanting to talk about people who are here and then going overseas. I don't care if they go overseas as long as we don't let them back. But the point is …

PETER DUTTON: …well the point is that we must let them back because they're Australian citizens. And we don't want…

JOURNALIST: …yes well I would argue that we should change the rules. I know the United Nations says that we can't. But quite frankly, if you go over there, I think you can stay over there. Anyway that's a separate issue.

But look can I draw your attention to another thing and to me in here lies a big part of the problem.

The Australian National Imams Council, headed up by His Eminence the Grand Mufti of Australia Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammad, has listed some of the factors which he thinks are behind the terrorism in France.

He says it is imperative that all causative factors such as racism, Islamophobia, the thing he calls curtailing freedoms for securitisation, duplicitous foreign policies and military intervention must be comprehensively addressed.

So he doesn't acknowledge there's an issue with Islam he just says it's people who are Islamophobic who are the problem. He says that's the reason we have terrorism.

Now I've been called Islamophobic several times today, but is the Mufti, do you think, not prepared to look at potential problems within his own faith?

PETER DUTTON: Well there are two points there Tom, in my mind and the first thing is that anybody that suggests everybody of an Islamic faith is a terrorist or somehow has ill intent is as poorly informed as people who made similar comments about the Jews…

JOURNALIST: …Yeah but sorry…

PETER DUTTON: …and second…

JOURNALIST: …I'm talking about the head - I'm talking about the most senior Muslim in Australia essentially blaming Westerners for the terrorism on the weekend.

PETER DUTTON: Sure mate and the second point I was going to make, which I think is equally important, is that people who would seek to make excuses for the murder and for the acts of these individuals in Paris or in Lebanon the week before or wherever it might be, should be condemned for their own words…

JOURNALIST: …but this is the Grand Mufti of Australia saying this. I've got the statement in front of me.

PETER DUTTON: Well I don't frankly care who it is Tom. Murder is murder and if people are seeking to make excuses for that murder or for those actions in Paris, they should be condemned.

I've seen the words of some of the Islamic leaders that have come out and condemned quite strongly the actions of those in Paris and that is exactly the approach that should be taken.

If somebody is murdered in Melbourne today, we don't worry about what their background was or that they were influenced or that they were teased online or that they were bullied or that somebody had made a racist statement in relation to them, we care that they committed the act of murder and they pay the full price for that in the criminal court…

JOURNALIST: …well will you take this up with the Grand Mufti? Because I mean to me this statement's inflammatory.

I mean it basically blames us - us being the West - for what has happened in France and I find that quite disgusting. He is the most senior Muslim in this country.

PETER DUTTON: I make my words very clear Tom and that is that we don't condone or tolerate and nor should good Islamic leaders condone or tolerate, and I don't believe they do, the actions of these people at the margins.

As I say I think anyone who suggests that everybody of the Islamic faith or from a Muslim background is a terrorist is as wrong as somebody is who says that it's okay to murder or to commit an act of terrorism in the name of some religion or because they feel they've been persecuted or racially vilified. They are separate issues to deal with.

If the Mufti has genuine concerns about policy or about the approach of the Australian Government or the French Government or whoever then that is a separate issue to discuss.

But the issue for us today is in relation to those who have been killed at the hands of Islamic State and they are the people that should be condemned.

There is no mitigating circumstances, there is no background that can condone the actions that they've taken.

They have killed innocent men and women and they should be condemned for it without qualification.

JOURNALIST: Peter Dutton, Federal Minister for Immigration, thank you for your time.

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