11 November, 2015
Subject: Christmas Island Detention Centre disturbance; UN Human Rights Council; people smugglers.
E & EO Transcript
JOURNALIST: Peter Dutton, welcome to the program.
PETER DUTTON: Thanks, Michael.
JOURNALIST: You've heard there the concerns from some in New Zealand that this is in effect a double jeopardy and that some of those people are there for six months or more after already serving a sentence of 12 months for petty crimes like shop lifting and traffic violations. Haven't these people already served their time?
PETER DUTTON: Well Michael, the first point to make is that there were many inaccurate statements made in the piece that I just listened to by the New Zealand Maori Party MP.
And I'm happy to go through each of those allegations because some of them are quite false.
But the broader point, to answer your question, is that if somebody has committed an offence they will face the full force of the Australian law.
If it's armed robbery or they're involved in the distribution of ice or amphetamine for example, they will go through the justice system and they would face the criminal penalty for that, and that's been the case in many of the examples cited on Christmas Island.
JOURNALIST: Is it true that some of them are there for traffic offences and minor violations?
PETER DUTTON: Well, no it's not. And I've heard this allegation about this particular lady who is alleged to be there – well she's not on Christmas Island – but alleged to have had her visa cancelled for shoplifting.
I went back and had a look at the criminal history which spans back over many years, includes break and enter, includes other serious offences.
Nobody's jailed for 12 months for shoplifting and it defies common sense – so I think people should frankly stick to the facts and I think we'd have a better debate – now once somebody has breached their visa condition though, that is a separate issue to the criminal law and that's the way that migration law has operated in this country since the Second World War.
If somebody is here on a visa, whether they're from New Zealand or elsewhere, if they've committed a crime they have their visa cancelled and they face the criminal penalty and then administratively their visa is cancelled.
In this case they're taken into custody and they await deportation.
JOURNALIST: Ok, but let's look then at the mix of people who are there because, as you say, there are some pretty dangerous people there.
PETER DUTTON: Yes.
JOURNALIST: There's people who are bikies and all sorts of people who are now mixed up with people who are asylum seekers. I mean…
PETER DUTTON: Let me deal with that, Michael, because I think it's a very important question.
We have a look at each of the individual detainees within the detention network.
Now, their risk is assessed on their behaviour.
And whether you've come by boat or you've come by plane, if you've been involved in assaulting somebody, if you've been out on a bridging visa, as a boat arrival, you might have had work rights, you may well have involved yourself in criminal activity out in the community, you have may have threatened an officer, you may have assaulted or sexually assaulted somebody within the detention centre.
That individual risk profile is worked up for each detained. That is the basis on which the Border Force officers make a decision about whether somebody is at a high security facility or whether they're at a low security arrangement.
JOURNALIST: So the asylum seekers who are there are high security asylum seekers, are they?
PETER DUTTON: And some are extreme. Some have had an extreme threat assessment worked up and that's as a result of their own behaviour.
Now, we're talking about people at the margins because what's happened in the detention network, and I explained this about six weeks ago to the Press Gallery here in Canberra, there has been a dramatic change in the composition of our detention centre detainee network.
So if the boats were still coming of course people would be going into detention.
But the boats aren't coming, we've stopped the boats. And so people who have arrived by boats are now out in the community on bridging visas.
At the margins, people are in detention centres and the big influx of people into our detention centre network is made up of serious criminals, of people that have had their 501 visas or their visas cancelled under Section 501 of the Act and that's now the composition of the population within the detention centre network and certainly that's the case on Christmas Island.
JOURNALIST: Why have you got New Zealanders on Christmas Island, though? I mean why not…is there no facility on the mainland secure enough to hold these people?
PETER DUTTON: Well, as we demonstrated I think in the last 24 hours, Michael, these people are serious criminals and people who have been involved in attempted murder, in manslaughter, convictions for rape, convictions for grievous bodily harm and serious assaults otherwise.
They deem the risk in relation to each of these people, and they're accommodated in the detention network according to that risk.
JOURNALIST: How much force was used to quieten this down? There were reports of tear gas and rubber bullets. Is that appropriate?
PETER DUTTON: Well, and there are reports of an inmate with a chainsaw. And so the police will respond accordingly. These are professionally trained Australian Federal Police Officers and they use reasonable force and they attempted to negotiate with many of the people to start with and many of the detainees were compliant and adhered to the directions given them by police and by the Australian Border Force officers.
Others barricaded themselves in, had access to improvised weapons and they pose a serious threat.
JOURNALIST: Okay, can I just turn quickly to the criticism of the UN about our general treatment of asylum seekers and the detention regime.
Now, I know you've spoken about this before but you point out that some of that criticism came from countries like North Korea and Bangladesh…
PETER DUTTON: Yes, good of you to point it out.
JOURNALIST: Fair enough, fair enough. But it is true that more than 100 countries wanted to speak at this and some of the criticism also came from countries like Germany, France, Sweden, Spain, Brazil, Turkey – a country dealing with more than two million refugees – isn't this just a little bit embarrassing?
PETER DUTTON: Michael, I think what it demonstrates is that there are many people who are opposed to the Government's policy of Operation Sovereign Borders, including some at the ABC, I might say. And that's fine. We live in a democracy and people can express their view.
The fact is that this Government was elected to clean up the mess that had been created by Labor…
JOURNALIST: I know, but I'm asking you about the criticism of the UN and the fact that more than 100 countries did want to speak, that does suggest that it is becoming an issue that the rest of the world is certainly engaged in.
PETER DUTTON: People have for many years, including back to the Hawke years, had an opposition to tough policies when it comes to border protection.
People were critical of the Howard years and they were critical initially of Kevin Rudd until he dismantled the Howard solution.
We have restored integrity to our borders. We've stopped the drownings at sea. And at the same time we are taking more refugees on a per capita basis than any of the nations that you speak of. And I think…
JOURNALIST: Has it undermined our human rights record and our message that we might be wanting to put to the rest of the world?
PETER DUTTON: I think the fact, Michael, that we take more refugees than any other country in the world on a per capita basis, now supplemented by the 12,000 Syrians that we're taking, I think demonstrates the fact that we are a very compassionate society but that, as the Scanlon Foundation recently pointed out in their research through Monash University, most Australians support migration policies of governments that can have an orderly migration program.
And that's what we've done in restoring order to the borders. We've been able as a dividend of that, not only to stop the deaths, which is the most important aspect to our success, but also to make sure that we can bring in more refugees than we have ever before.
JOURNALIST: Okay, just quickly on the citizenship laws that are coming in this week, or we expect them to be passed this week. The Government has agreed to adopt all 27 recommendations from the cross-party committee on intelligence and security. Some of these laws will be retrospective going back 10 years. How many people do you expect that'll apply to?
PETER DUTTON: Not a great deal, but it will apply to potentially some very serious threats to our national security and that's the basis on which we sponsored this legislation.
We hope that the Labor Party can see fit to support legislation, given that they formed part of the bipartisan committee that made the recommendations now accepted by the Government.
The bill will be introduced today and debate will commence today. We don't expect that it will be voted on this week but we want it voted on in the next sitting week.
And the fact is that we have foreign fighters, people who have left our shores, whilst we're stopping a number of those on a regular basis from departing our shores there are some that have departed and will want to return and we need to deal with that threat.
So we're not talking about rendering people stateless but if people have been involved in terrorism then there is a consequence to pay for their own conduct.
JOURNALIST: Do you still expect a High Court challenge? I suspect that's probably where it'll be tested, isn't it?
PETER DUTTON: Look, I think there's no question that lawyers will want to sponsor some of these cases to the High Court. That's an issue for them.
The Government is confident of the position that we've put forward in the legislation and we believe it's in the national interest.
JOURNALIST: Okay, just one more quick question. We have a story coming in about an Indonesian court yesterday hearing that money paid by Australian officials to crew of asylum seeker boat was given to the crew and has now been spent.
You have addressed this in the past as well, but were Australians involved in paying this money? Was ASIS involved in paying this money?
PETER DUTTON: Well, I dealt with this as recently as Sunday with Barrie Cassidy who's obsessed with the issue as well. I've provided a response.
The Government has a very definite policy to stop the boats and to make sure people smugglers don't get back into business.
Our officers operate within the law and they do what they are able to within the law to make sure that we stare down this threat, because I'm not going to allow people to drown at sea.
I haven't seen the reporting out of Indonesia so I'll wait until I see what the findings might be.
But the point that I would make is that there are people smugglers out there that are pushing particular versions of events that they say took place.
You're talking about people smugglers, I mean, people that are involved in the distribution of drugs, the running of prostitutes and illegitimate businesses otherwise. These are organised criminals…
JOURNALIST: But ASIS agents making these payments is within the law, is it?
PETER DUTTON: …and people repeating these claims, based on the advice from people smugglers and organised criminals, I think need to be put in that context. And in relation to the matters otherwise, as I say, they're well canvassed and I don't intend to add to them.
JOURNALIST: Ok, but it is, just to clear it up, it is within the law, they can do that?
PETER DUTTON: As I say, Michael, I have nothing further to add to it.
JOURNALIST: Ok, Peter Dutton, thanks very much for joining us.
PETER DUTTON: Pleasure, thank you.