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Subject: Transfer of detainees; Christmas Island Detention Centre disturbance.

E & EO Transcript

JOURNALIST: Minister good evening to you?


JOURNALIST: Alright. Can you give us an idea; the seven people who were involved in the unrest, the riots, they have now been moved from Christmas Island. Are they in jail now?

PETER DUTTON: Paul, just a quick update. So, obviously the Australian Federal Police and the Border Force staff did a great job in containing the situation.

There’s a clean up going on now. The initial estimate is of about a million dollars of damage. I saw an estimate today of about $10 million – so there’s a lot of damage that’s been caused by these criminals.

The seven who have been taken from Christmas Island now have gone to WA and they will be housed in a maximum security prison there and we’ll work out what the next step is, the police will, very shortly.

JOURNALIST: Now, are they the worst of the seven? Are these seven the worst of the worst? Are there more that are going to be scooped up in the coming days?

PETER DUTTON: Well Paul, obviously there’s an operation underway. The officers, the Federal Police and the Border Force staff who I say do a great job, they have conducted the initial stages of the investigation but it’s still underway, so I think you’ll see more activity.

But we are sending a very clear message to these people. I think they thought we were going to somehow cower in the sight of them rioting – well it just made our resolve stronger to make sure that we cancel visas of people like this – because out in the community I don’t want to see these people causing harm to Australians.

We’ve got people who have been charged with or convicted of manslaughter, grievous bodily harm, sexual offences against children.

These are very significant criminals that now form the population in the Immigration Detention Centre in Christmas Island and we’ve got a lot of work to do to make sure that this can’t happen again.

The investigation is underway to see what went wrong and obviously the Government is determined to provide what support we can to make sure that these people can’t act out like this again.

JOURNALIST: We’re watching the footage a couple of times over of this damage, yes, that million dollars looks like the starting point and we’re on our way to the $10 million when we’re able to work out exactly what has been destroyed in all of this.

I’ve got to ask the straight up question though; if these people are people who are convicted of manslaughter, child sex offences, some pretty serious crimes, why were they allowed into the detention centre in the first place? Because we have to assume there are people still waiting to be processed under asylum seeker claims. Why did they move to the lowest security facility possible, mixing with people who, bar how they enter the country, are not criminals themselves?

PETER DUTTON: Well look Paul, I think this is a common misconception because obviously since we’ve stopped the boats – and we’ve not had a successful boat arrive in about 18 months or so – the numbers of people in detention that have come off boats has dropped dramatically.

I sign bridging visas each day so people can go out of detention, if they’ve arrived by boat, into the community onto a bridging visa as we assess their claim – so the numbers of people that have come off boats that are in detention has dropped dramatically – but at the same time we’ve had lots of these character cancellations.

So people who are on a visa, whether they’re from New Zealand or any other country, if they’ve committed serious crimes we’re cancelling their visas at a record number – so the detention centre is being filled up with those people not boat people.

What Border Force does is, they have a look at each of the detainees – it doesn’t matter whether they’ve come off a boat or they’ve come by plane, they’re an overstayer, they’re a character cancellation – they determine the individual risk.

So the vast majority of people in Christmas Island Detention Centre are people that have got criminal histories or they may be people who have come off boats but have committed serious criminal offences or they’ve assaulted somebody in the detention centre – that’s how we analyse who is in this centre.

Now just in terms of Christmas Island – because I do think that people conjure up this view about boat people when they think of Christmas Island Detention Centre – it’s not that anymore at all and we’ve spent a lot of money making Christmas Island Detention Centre a hardened facility.

It has been for us now, out of all of the detention centres we operate on the mainland and Christmas Island, it is the most secure for us and we spent millions of dollars upgrading the facility to make it a high security environment.

But nonetheless there is obviously more that needs to be done and we’re working with the state authorities in the interim to house some of these people until we can address these shortcomings.

JOURNALIST: So in the period of time between when they go to jail, when they go to this facility and when eventually they go to New Zealand, what dictates the length of time and things like legal appeals and the rest means this is dragging on because again, to the common man and woman watching now, it would seem a pretty simple transit stop rather than somewhere that should be any longer than a couple of weeks or dare I even say a couple of months…

PETER DUTTON: Well Paul, you know how some of these people play the system. So I cancel the visa. They get taken into immigration detention – so that’s not a criminal penalty, they’ve served their sentence for their armed robbery, whatever it is – I cancel the visa, they’re taken into immigration detention awaiting deportation – we can take them straight to the airport effectively, on to a plane and back to their country of origin – but of course they lodge appeals and they appeal my decision to revoke or cancel their visa and that’s what takes the time.

So they then go through a number of processes. These bikies are cashed up, they have deep pockets, they are criminals, career criminals, they have lawyers on tap and so they stretch this out.

There was one case recently with a bikie that went all the way to the High Court and we won that case and I think other matters will be stretched out so that they can stay in Australia.

But look, I’ve said that we are prepared to pay for these people to go back to New Zealand, in the case of many of them. Now I think some are going to take that offer up – and I hope they do because they can still run their legal defence from back there – if they’re successful in the legal case, well they can come back.

But look, my job is to make sure that we can keep our community safe. We’ve taken dozens of paedophiles off the street, lots of bikies, people who are involved in the manufacturing and distribution of ice and you know I think we’re doing good work but we’re up against it with some of these people.

JOURNALIST: Alright Minister, I’m sure there’s plenty of viewers who are more than willing to chip in on top of their current tax take…. Minister stay strong, see you mate.

PETER DUTTON: Thanks again Paul.

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