30 October, 2015
Subject: Amnesty International
E & EO Transcript
JOURNALIST: Peter Dutton there were serious allegations raised by Amnesty International and your response was simply ‘trust the military, trust the Australian authorities and don’t trust Amnesty’.
PETER DUTTON: Marius, my point was that the Government has provided a response to the Senate inquiry, we made public comment at the time and at the time we said we wouldn’t be publicly commenting further.
My point out of this report is that Amnesty for a long period of time, over both Labor and Liberal Governments, has been opposed to Operation Sovereign Borders, to detention centres, to the way in which we turn-back boats where it’s safe to do so.
I thought this report was more about ideology than anything else.
JOURNALIST: But is it reasonable to simply say that ‘trust us, trust the Government, trust our agencies, trust the border protection agencies’?
Because the lesson of any number of Royal Commissions and inquires is that Governments, agencies, church organisations, trade unions - any group with power and authority - has to be subject to scrutiny.
You simply can’t say ‘we’re in power, trust us. You get to vote us out every three years if you want to.’
PETER DUTTON: Well, Marius, that’s not what anyone’s saying.
There’s a Senate inquiry in relation to this. There’s been countless reports in the media and people have scrutinised all of that publicly and…
JOURNALIST: … but there’s such a high degree of secrecy surrounding what goes on in these offshore detention centres.
PETER DUTTON: Well this is a military operation in terms of the fact that we have ADF staff deployed, we have Australian Border Force staff deployed.
They operate within the Australian law.
The Senate Estimates process examines General Bottrell, the Commander in charge of Operation Sovereign Borders, on a regular basis.
Sarah Hanson-Young makes this her cause célèbre, to try and pull off these cheap shots all the time.
There is lots of scrutiny that takes place and, as I say, we have…
JOURNALIST: … but people aren’t allowed to the offshore detention areas and the operations at sea, are simply, the answer always is it’s ‘operational’ or it’s ‘on water’. Obviously…..
PETER DUTTON: Well just to finish my point before.
We have an amount of scrutiny which is right, proper and appropriate and we’re happy to provide responses.
But the Government is not going to be bullied into a position where we’re going to change what has been a very successful policy.
It’s exactly the policy that the Government was elected to implement and we are not going to return to those does of dysfunction where Labor lost control of our borders.
JOURNALIST: But going back to the process, rather than the outcome, which you say is publicly supported, the outcome of stopping the boats.
The process itself - people don’t know what’s going on. They don’t know whether bribes are being paid to people smugglers to turn back boats, beyond your general assertion that our officers work within the law.
PETER DUTTON: Well, any Minister who is presiding over their area of responsibility has to make sure that their staff are operating within the guidelines, within the law, within the Conventions that we’re a party to and that’s no different in this portfolio.
If people have evidence of wrongdoing or they believe that they have some case to mount, they can mount it.
JOURNALIST: Can I just clarify the sharp point at issue.
Are you denying that Australian officers paid people smugglers to turn-back boats or are you making no comment on that?
PETER DUTTON: Marius, I made comment in relation to the matter at the time.
The Department has provided a submission to the Senate…
JOURNALIST: … can I just clarify.
What was your comment then? What is your comment now?
Are you denying it or are you saying no comment?
PETER DUTTON: Well, just let me finish this point.
So I made comment at the time and I’m happy to come to that in a second.
Also the very important point is that the Department made a submission to the Senate inquiry at the time which was the appropriate thing to do.
The scrutiny of the Senate is appropriate and we complied with that request, the information was provided.
I said at the time and I repeat again now, in relation to this or any other matter, the Government doesn’t comment in relation to operational matters.
Our staff operate within the law and the conventions that we’re a party to.
But this is more an ideological attack on the Government’s approach…
JOURNALIST: … sure, you’ve made that point…
PETER DUTTON: … and I think it’s worth repeating…
JOURNALIST: … your comment is, your comment is to refer us back to your previous comment, which was no comment?
PETER DUTTON: And the submission that we provided to the Senate inquiry, which was the appropriate forum to do that…
JOURNALIST: … does that answer whether a bribe was paid?
PETER DUTTON: Well it provided the information that was necessary at the time and I can only repeat to you, Marius, that our staff operate within the law.
We are not going to allow people smugglers to get back into business because we are not going to allow children and women and men to drown at sea and we’re not going to go back to those days.
JOURNALIST: Peter Dutton, thank you very much.
PETER DUTTON: Thanks, Marius. Pleasure.