22 October, 2015
Subject: Trip to Malaysia, NZ deportations, foreign fighters, medical treatment for refugee on Nauru
E & EO Transcript
JOURNALIST: Immigration Minister Peter Dutton joins me every Thursday.
A little later than usual today because he’s in Malaysia.
Minister, good morning.
PETER DUTTON: Good morning, Ray. How are you?
JOURNALIST: Well. What are you doing there?
PETER DUTTON: I’m up here for an international security dialogue or a conference on terrorism, essentially.
It is being put on by the Malaysians and they’re a close partner of ours in border protection and in relation to information sharing on terrorist activities in the region.
I’m just up here for the day. I’ll be back, leaving here tonight, back to the Australia tomorrow.
JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister last weekend was in New Zealand and the New Zealand Prime Minister was making all sorts of noises about these criminal Kiwis who you’ve sent packing and there are many in detention at the moment awaiting deportation.
I garnered from what the Prime Minister of Australia said, Mr Turnbull, that there will be no weakening of the resolve of his Government in making sure these people who break our laws go back there.
PETER DUTTON: Well that’s exactly right, Ray.
Look, we’ve got a good relationship.
John Key is a great Prime Minister and New Zealand is a good friend of ours.
So we want to make sure that we can work through, you know, any administrative difficulties if there are problems around returns.
We’ve committed to working with the New Zealanders and putting in more resources to make sure we can process people more quickly.
But the bottom line for us is that the Australian public here expects us to deal with these criminals.
If they’ve committed offences against Australians, or indeed against tourists or people who are here temporarily living in our community like people from New Zealand, I think the public expects us to act.
When you go through what it is we’re doing, if people have committed an offence against a child, if they’re a non-citizen and they’re on a visa, then they’re going to be deported.
We’ve been clear about it. We are not going to apply the law in a different way to different nationalities.
The law applies equally to all criminals and we’ve had a 700% increase or so in the number of cancellations over the last 12 months and I think we are making our society a safer place.
JOURNALIST: Around one third of Australian fighters who have joined the conflict in Iraq and Syria have, we’re told today, reportedly died.
Now the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says at least 40 and possibly as many as 43 Australians who’ve gone to that part of the world have died fighting for Islamic State.
What message does that send to people who want to fight for Islamic State?
I guess it’s a death sentence to a certain effect.
PETER DUTTON: Of course it is Ray.
I think people need to realise that this is not a human version of a computer game.
It’s ok to be on your laptop talking to these terrorists and listening to the propaganda, but if you head across there you’re certain to face either the death penalty there because in particular young women who are going across are being brutalised by these animals who are fighting for ISIL.
If you come back, having fought for one of these terrorist groups, then you face a very serious jail term when you return.
So there’s no upside in any of this.
We provide a lot of humanitarian support for the people that we want to help out, the people who are being persecuted by terrorist groups and the rest of it.
There is a lot of support we provide to other countries, including those people coming out of Syria. We’ve been very open about that.
If people want to make a difference they’re better off to voice their concerns in a democracy, have the debate.
But to go off and fight in the name of these terrorists under that flag is just certain death or a certain jail penalty and absolute devastation for you family back here.
People should…..[telephone line breaks up]….. their actions and there are serious consequences to pay.
JOURNALIST: I know it’s a question you may not be able to answer, but how do we actually establish that either 40, 41, 42, 43 Australians have been killed?
How do we get that confirmed?
PETER DUTTON: Well Ray obviously it’s not an exact science, but we have good partners in the US and the UK and others that are involved in the activity against ISIL in Syria and Iraq.
Obviously they rely on intelligence reporting and information that they can gather otherwise.
There would be information that’s provided to us and that’s the comment that the Foreign Affairs Minister made based on the advice that she would have received.
So the number of people dying over there is increasing because the fighting is intensifying.
It’s something that young Australians, and it is, I mean we’re talking about people now who are in their young teenage years who are answering this propaganda call and we need to be able to stare it down.
JOURNALIST: Now, this woman. The Somali woman in Nauru who claimed she was raped. There was an investigation that illustrated, according to them, that she wasn’t raped.
She was flown to Australia apparently last week for an abortion because abortions can’t be conducted in Nauru.
Your Department says she changed her mind and I’ve read all of the documentation about the various people – GP, nurses, other medical professionals who spoke to her with interpreters and all the rest of it.
She changed her mind about the abortion.
She’s now saying she didn’t change her mind.
I mean is it true she declined further medical appointments when she was actually here?
PETER DUTTON: Yes it is, Ray.
I’ve gone through in some detail about the assistance that was provided, as you say, using interpreters, doctors, nurses, mental health specialists, all of that.
It was very clear at the end of it that the lady didn’t want to go ahead with the procedure and on that basis she was taken back to Nauru.
Now, our starting point is that we don’t want to see anybody sexually assaulted.
This is obviously an allegation of sexual assault that’s taken seriously and we provide advice, or we act on the advice provided to us by the medical specialists.
It’s a very difficult circumstance and I think it’s unfortunate that some of the refugee advocates have seen fit to misrepresent this lady’s case, because I think ultimately, whatever has happened, to try and contemplate that sort of a decision is a deeply personal matter between the patient and the doctor.
The fact that is has played out publicly, we wouldn’t accept that if there was an allegation of somebody being raped here in Australia and I think the fact that people are lying or misrepresenting this lady’s circumstances, frankly for their own publicity means, is a disgrace.
I’m going to do what I think is in the best interests of the individual, but ultimately we’ve got a very strict policy and that’s stopped people from drowning at sea.
We’re not going to allow people off Nauru to settle in Australia and we’ve been very clear about that.
That policy remains in force and Prime Minister Turnbull has made that very clear.
JOURNALIST: See, I think one of the things people find it hard to understand, and I have no idea about the process of bringing the woman from Nauru to Australia, but I mean there would be plenty of women who need medical care in Australia at the moment, Australian citizens, who are on waiting lists for surgery and on waiting lists for a whole group of procedures who can’t afford to get the bus to the hospital.
What’s the cost of bringing the woman to Australia and back to Nauru and back to Australia? I mean when does that stop?
PETER DUTTON: Well I think they’re fair questions and Australians have provided $11 million to build the hospital at the Regional Processing Centre in Nauru.
There is $26 million that we’ve provided to upgrade the hospital in Nauru.
We have a lot of support that we provide to the Nauruan Government because they are running the Regional Processing Centre in Nauru.
It has been a big part of why we’ve been able to stop boats, as well as the turn-back of boats where it’s safe to do so.
People are right to ask what the cost is associated with this, because on Nauru at the moment there are about 325 babies born a year and we provide support for obstetricians and for all sorts of specialists to go into Nauru to provide support, including orthopaedic surgeons.
There is a lot of money that’s spent and I think that people quite underestimate the level of support in terms of the medical care that’s available on Nauru.
Now, if people can’t get the care on Nauru that’s needed they can go to the International Hospital in PNG and the Australian taxpayer pays for that when we’re talking about refugees.
If they can’t get assistance there then they come to Australia.
But part of the difficulty, Ray, frankly is that some of the advocates and the lawyers in Australia have been playing games.
We’ve had 240 people come from Nauru. They step foot onto our soil and the lawyers automatically go straight to the High Court, an injunction is taken out against me as the Minister and I then can’t return those people to Nauru.
This is the game that some of the lawyers are playing.
When you talk about charter flights, you’re talking well over $100,000 each way. There’s a lot of money that’s involved.
But we’re not going to allow the lawyers to dictate the process.
If people need medical assistance, we bring them down, but, as I say, the difficulty is immediately the lawyers take out an injunction and we’re prohibited from sending those people back to Nauru because they think that’s a cute way of getting a permanent migration outcome for the person in Australia.
Well we’re not going to be dictated to by that.
JOURNALIST: Just very quickly. One of the listeners, David, says what do you mean by very serious penalties when fighters return?
I mean surely that’s not something you can determine and we do have in many cases - judiciary, judges, in the Supreme Court, the High Court who are reluctant to do too much.
What penalties are these people facing if they do come back?
PETER DUTTON: Well, a couple of things.
One is they do face a period of jail and, you’re right, that’s determined by the courts and it’s a decision ultimately by the AFP to bring a charge and the Director of Prosecutions in the first instance and then guilt or innocence is decided as normally would be and the jail sentence is imposed.
The second aspect to it is, and this is an announcement made some time ago, but the Government is going to introduce legislation in relation to stripping dual-citizens of their Australian citizenship.
So that is a pretty high price to pay and that will mean for some, hopefully, that they won’t return to our country and that will be a big consequence for people, because if they think they can preach hate from our shores or think that they can try and conjure up support for the terrorist cause on Australian soil the Government is going to do everything we possibly can to keep Australians safe and to stop that activity from happening.
So there are a number of consequences and we’re working with the police and the intel agencies to see what else we can do by way of penalty because this is a very serious threat that will be with us for a generation to come.
JOURNALIST: Ok, thanks for your time.
Have a safe trip back from Malaysia.
PETER DUTTON: Thanks, Ray. Take care.