26 November, 2015
Subjects: Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015; Mal Brough; lunching with colleagues; border security.
PETER DUTTON: I wanted to make a couple of comments in relation to the Allegiance Bill because we’ve had some media enquiries about where the Bill is up to.
The Bill was due to come before Parliament this week. There is some late advice from the Solicitor-General around a technical amendment. We’ve briefed the Labor Party and the Chair and the Deputy Chair of the Intelligence Committee in relation to those matters. I don’t think they’ve controversial. But nonetheless I respect the fact that the Labor Party has a process to go through.
So, the Bill will be amended in the Lower House next week. It will pass the Lower House next week and it will then be debated and passed in the Senate on our expectations, by the end of next week, so that the law will be proclaimed very quickly thereafter.
So that’s an update in terms of that process.
JOURNALIST: This new advice from the Solicitor-General, did you seek it? Or is this of the process that’s been going through Parliament?
PETER DUTTON: Obviously the Attorney-General has ongoing discussions with the Solicitor-General. There was that advice provided to the AG and we’ve advised the Labor Party of those minor amendments and the Labor Party – and I’m not critical of the process or the delay at all because they do have a process to go through and I respect that – so that will happen and the debate will continue next week.
JOURNALIST: Can you outline what those minor amendments are?
PETER DUTTON: No.
JOURNALIST: Is this in terms of shoring up any possibility of a court challenge, a High Court challenge?
PETER DUTTON: The Government’s intent always has been to minimise the risk as best you can. What you don’t want to do is open yourself up to a High Court challenge risk and with any piece of legislation that is always a possibility.
So the Government has taken advice – and I think prudent steps – to minimise the risk of a challenge and we’ll make an amendment, which we think further enhances the Bill and that will be debated next week.
I don’t believe it to be controversial but I think it clarifies some wording within a particular part of the Bill and on that basis I think we have a stronger Bill to defend – which is always the case with any piece of national security legislation – lawyers will challenge it.
JOURNALIST: When the Bill passes, when will the legislation then be enacted, how soon?
PETER DUTTON: It will depend on executive council and the process there – but it will be into effect very quickly.
JOURNALIST: Labor’s been critical of the fact that you haven’t released to them the Solicitor-General’s advice, will you release this latest advice to help them form their decision?
PETER DUTTON: No. The same practice will be adopted as it was by Labor and the previous Coalition Government and that is not to release the Solicitor-General’s advice in relation to various matters.
Obviously we’ve been able to provide a brief to the Opposition and they obviously have a process to go through internally, and that’s fine.
JOURNALIST: On another matter, do you think that Mal Brough should stand aside while the Federal Police investigation is underway?
PETER DUTTON: No I don’t and obviously the matter is being investigated, as Mr Brough’s pointed out, and I think frankly that process should continue and that’s as it should be.
JOURNALIST: And just back on the citizenship stuff, Bill Shorten said this morning that you had sprung some last minute changes on Labor. Is that how you would categorise what happened last night?
PETER DUTTON: No. I’ve had good discussions with Mr Marles late into last night and again early this morning. I’ve got a good relationship with him and we’ve provided him with information to all of the questions that he had.
So as I say, I respect the fact that they’ve got a process to go through, which can’t happen this week, it can only happen next week, and on that basis I understand they’re not ready to deal with the Bill.
JOURNALIST: What can you tell us about the lunch that you had with Mr Abbott and a number of his supporters here in Parliament?
PETER DUTTON: I have been going to ‘Tuesday lunch’ for about 14 years and for as long as I have been in Parliament I’ve gone to a Tuesday lunch with colleagues and with friends.
I think it’s fair to say, I had a drink with James Massola, the journalist who broke this so-called story on Tuesday night – and the story wasn’t even put to us before it was printed – I think it’s fair to say without speaking out of school, Mr Massola is a bit embarrassed by the way in which some have tried to portray the catch up.
Just bearing in mind, the ‘Monkey Pod’ is a meeting room located between my office and Mr Pyne’s office. Christopher, who is a very good friend of mine, the leading moderate; I think if there was some underground movement by the right that we wouldn’t be holding a lunch in a meeting room beside Christopher Pyne’s office.
So I don’t think any of this adds up to anything more than colleagues catching up for lunch.
JOURNALIST: And just on the boat that arrived at Christmas Island last week. I know you don’t comment on operational matters, but are you able to tell us whether it was an asylum seekers or whether it was an illegal fishing vessel?
PETER DUTTON: I just don’t have any comment to make in relation to operational matters. The Government has been very consistent about that. It’s a an important part in our response to stopping people smugglers getting people back onto boats and the last thing I want to do is allow people smugglers to get back into business and I see that the Labor Party was calling for all sorts of statements to be made and frankly it demonstrates how unfit they are to deal with this issue.
They pretended to people at the Labor Conference that somehow they had a formula that would be a continuation of the exact policy of the Coalition to stop the boats – well they demonstrated this week that they don’t have that approach at all and frankly I think many of our operational people would be horrified at the Labor Party’s calls this week because it undermines the ability for us to deal with situations where there is an event and to deal with it effectively and in our nation’s best interests.
I think Labor demonstrated this week frankly that whilst they’ll all talk when it comes to stopping boats, they demonstrated when they were in government, and now in Opposition, that they just don’t have the capacity to deal with this continuing threat.
JOURNALIST: [inaudible] a boat managed to slip through the [inaudible] though, that it managed to bypass Custom’s ships and actually make it into Flying Fish Cove. I think it’s the first boat in about two years to make it so far in?
PETER DUTTON: Well again, I just don’t have any comment to make in relation to the suggestions, the allegations that people are speculating on. I don’t comment on operational matters.
Obviously the Government has a number of assets deployed strategically at areas that we think are important to stop boats from arriving and if we do detect boats on water, then we negotiate the return as quickly as possible, where it is safe to do so because that has been the formula of success in stopping boats and we’re not going to deviate from that policy and we’re certainly not going to weaken at the knees, like Labor did in government and is now doing in Opposition, because that is a green light for people smugglers to recommence this horrible trade.
JOURNALIST: But how does it harm the Government’s operations by simply just saying whether they were asylum seekers or not? You don’t have to go into the details about what’s happening with them but just simply letting us know whether they were or not asylum seekers?
PETER DUTTON: Well, there are reasons for it and I’m just not going to publicly canvass those. Thank you very much.