16 November, 2015
Subject: Paris attacks; resettlement of Syrian refugees.
E & EO Transcript
JOURNALIST: [start of recording] calls this morning about the potential for risk posed by the 12,000 Syrian refugees who are due to arrive here by the end of the year. Are you relooking at the whole issue?
PETER DUTTON: I’ll just repeat a couple of very important points; first is that obviously the 12,000 refugees – we’re talking about people who are fleeing from the Assad regime, fleeing from ISIL themselves, so they are Christians for example who are living in villages that have been attacked by ISIS, they’ve had family members lost to terrorist attacks themselves – so they’re the people that we’re targeting under this scheme and we are not going to compromise on the security checks.
I was in Amman and Beirut the week before last and the big reason for that trip was to make sure that we reinforced to the staff over there, that they shouldn’t feel rushed in doing the security checks or the health checks and we obviously work with the Americans and others to check names and identities, we take biometric testing and we’ve said that we want as a priority women and children in that program as well.
So we’re being prudent and in fact the Government was criticised only last week for the fact that we are doing these security checks so stringently and I said we're just not going to rush.
If the program time is blown out, it’s blown out because we want to make sure that we can be assured as to who is coming to our country and the Government’s not going to step back from that position.
JOURNALIST: How will our diplomatic postings in the Middle East ensure that say potential terrorists are weeded out? I mean when you talk about minimising the risk. What are they doing about that?
PETER DUTTON: Well they’re making sure firstly that we can guarantee somebody’s identity – and it is tough because some people travel with papers and others without papers – but there’s intelligence holdings obviously that we rely on and databases that we can check with our security partners, taking biometric measurements and doing the identity checks, doing the background checks within communities.
It’s not a perfect science. Nobody would suggest it is. But I can tell you we would have one of the, if not the most robust checking in the world and as I say it takes time and people are frustrated that we’re not getting some of the 12,000 here more quickly, but I think the Government’s been prudent in not rushing this approach and that’s the position that we’re going to continue to adopt.
JOURNALIST: Given your position, the Prime Minister said you would be attending National Security Committee meetings when it was absolutely necessary. Have you attended one in recent days?
PETER DUTTON: Not in recent days but I have been to the National Security Committee obviously to give an update in relation to this matter, Operation Sovereign Borders and as I’m required otherwise and I note some calls in the paper this morning – Andrew Nikolic is obviously one of our finest in Parliament having served our country for 30 years in the army – but the point he makes is that border security is very important to our national security and the Prime Minister obviously recognises that, of course he does, and you’re having to look at some of the scenarios that are playing out and being speculated on in relation to the Paris attacks now and it is important the fact that we have stood up 80 counter terrorism unit operations at our airports.
It’s a different situation for us because as an island nation we don’t have the land borders that some European countries do and look, the Government has been criticised again for having a tough border security policy but it is absolutely essential we must know who’s coming – whether they come by air or by boat – who’s coming across our borders, in and out and we need to continue that strong stance and I think people recognise that.
JOURNALIST: Essentially you are getting it on one said for bringing them in at all and on the other side for doing it too slowly because you’re checking very intensely the credentials of those coming in.
PETER DUTTON: That’s right. But look, in the end my job is to make sure that we can do whatever is humanly possible to keep our country safe and I think it’s prudent that we do the proper security checks. We aren’t going to rush the process and I think in the end we’ll be better served by that approach.
JOURNALIST: And just on the National Security Committee meeting, have you been to one of those meetings since Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister?
PETER DUTTON: Yes I have.
JOURNALIST: So since he became Prime Minister, just clarifying the timing of that, but at this stage no plan to make you a permanent member?
PETER DUTTON: The PM made it clear that it was under review and I think that’s perfectly reasonable. No doubt it will be considered in the coming days and weeks.
JOURNALIST: Ok. Thank you Peter Dutton.
PETER DUTTON: Thank you.