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  • 4CA interview with John MacKenzie
Subject: ABF Torres Strait operations, Syrian refugee intake, Tony Abbott’s comments on Islam, Baden-Clay appeal, Working Holiday Visas, Entrepreneur Visas

E & EO Transcript

JOURNALIST: Peter, good morning. Welcome.

PETER DUTTON: Good morning, John. Nice to be back.

JOURNALIST: Tell me why you’re in the North.

PETER DUTTON: Well I’m up here to see Warren Entsch and here talk about what I think is a very important issue - that is our border security, in this case to the North across the Torres Strait.

We’ve got some additional assets coming in. We’ve got another vessel and I think it will provide additional support to our staff from Australian Border Force who work very hard already in a difficult area.

There are a lot of movements, as people know, across the Torres Strait, not only of people, but of potentially drugs and weapons, tobacco, the rest of it.

There’s a lot of work, so we’re up here to announce today to give a little bit more support to those officers.

JOURNALIST: It’s almost your 12 month anniversary, almost, isn’t it? Your first year’s anniversary?

PETER DUTTON: It only feels like so much longer, but it is 12 months since I’ve been in this portfolio.

JOURNALIST: It’s been intense, hasn’t it?

PETER DUTTON: Look it has been a busy period because these people smugglers are determined to get people back onto boats.

We’ve got 30,000 of the 50,000 people still in our country to be processed that came on the 800 boats when Labor was in power, so there’s a lot of activity.

We’ve been cancelling record numbers of visas for non-citizens, so people who are involved in motorcycle gangs, people who are involved in sexual offences against children, others. We’ve really ramped up the number of cancellations.

We’ve obviously announced the 12,000 Syrian intake, and there’s a lot of work to make sure we can verify identities and proper documentation.

There’s obviously our number one priority in keeping our nation safe and that is in relation to increasing the Counter-Terrorism Unit officers within my own Department, but the work that we’re doing otherwise to try and stare down what is a significant threat.

The Government has put a lot of extra money and effort into our police and intelligence agencies.

So it has been a full twelve months, that’s for sure.

JOURNALIST: Let’s go to an issue that I was just talking with Bill at Mount Sheridan about.

You’ve called earlier this week for an honest and truthful discussion on Islam. Not Islamism. Islam in Australia, in the wake recent terrorist attacks.

Now, clearly, Josh Frydenberg only beat you to the jump by a few days. Your former Leader Tony Abbott has stepped into the void, too. He’s now calling for a ‘religious revolution inside Islam.’ He says ‘they haven’t had their version of the reformation and the enlightenment yet, they’re struggling to accept pluralism, they’re struggling to accept aspects of our democratic freedoms.’

Talk to me about what you’ve had to say about this? Are you pretty much in line with what Josh Frydenberg and what Tony Abbott have had to say?

PETER DUTTON: Well John, I think, like most of your listeners, I want to make sure that the Government can do all it can to keep our country safe.

We do have a significant threat. ASIO has advised that they’ve got over 400 high-priority investigations at the moment.

We’ve seen the attacks most recently in the United States, but before that in Paris, in Beirut and elsewhere.

The threat from ISIS will continue to grow.

Obviously the RAAF are involved in operations in the Middle East in Syria and in Iraq.

There’s a lot of work that is going on behind the scenes to keep our community safe and I think people should be reassured by that message.

But we need to recognise that we have an element within our society pretending to act in the name of a religion, Islam in this case, and they are subverting that religion and they are causing disharmony within our community.

We need to be respectful of all Australians, but at the same time we need to have an honest debate because my view is if we don’t talk about our problems they compound and we need to deal with them because this is a rising threat.

ISIS is reaching into the minds of young people around the world and we need to deal with it.

JOURNALIST: Well, the former Prime Minister basically experienced an onslaught of criticism suggesting this was going to make negotiations much more difficult. The suggestion being from some people, I think it was even Peter Leahy the former Army Commander, saying that this is sending all the wrong messages and it’s basically achieving for the terrorists what they want to achieve.

Talk to me about the sort of criticism Tony Abbott received when he first came out with that statement.

PETER DUTTON: Well John it’s hard to speak for others and they can put their own version.

I think people are trying to read something into Tony’s comments that aren’t there, that somehow this is a criticism of the Government or Malcolm Turnbull.

I don’t see it like that at all.

I’ve known Tony Abbott personally for a long period of time and he is very passionate about the security of this country. He’s a former Prime Minister and he believes, as all of us do, including the current Prime Minister, that this is a significant issue of our time. The fact that he, as somebody who has studied in this area, somebody who came to know the area very well as Prime Minister, he’s got a significant contribution to make to the debate and none of what he’s saying is contrary to Government policy.

I think some people will try and twist his words into something that they’re not, but I think he’s determined to make sure that we can, as a Government, as a country, do all we can to keep our people safe.

JOURNALIST: Well a hell of a lot more people in the last couple of days are coming out in support of what he’s saying – there’s something fundamentally wrong there that people are latching on to, we’ve got to identify what that is. People within the Islamic religion have got to help identify what that is and change it.

The terrorism threat that is seen by callers to this programme as accompanying the 12,000-odd refugees coming out of Syria.
Now, talk to me about the level of scrutiny that’s being applied there. Has it been tough enough? It is more thorough than before?
PETER DUTTON: Well, John, first to put it into perspective – we’ve accepted 825,000 refugees since the Second World War.

People have integrated well. In some cases there’s a long-term pattern of social welfare, there’s a long term pattern of unemployment, but for the vast majority of people who come to our country they work hard, they integrate into the community, they contribute.

There would be many cases of local migrant success stories across the North, as there is in other parts of the country.

The Syrians, the 12,000 people, not only from Syria, but from Iraq as well, we’ve said that we want to prioritise women and children and persecuted minorities, which will include Christians. Bearing in mind that these people are fleeing the same terrorists that we’ve seen inflict the carnage in Paris, in San Bernardino and elsewhere. They are wanting to start a new life.

Now, we’re conducing biometric and fingerprint tests. The United States has significant intelligence holdings and we’re working with the US, and our Five Eyes partners where it’s appropriate otherwise, to have a look at the individual cases.

We have experts in document examination and we are not going to compromise, not in one case. If there’s a suspicion that somebody’s not legitimate, they’re not coming.

I can provide that reassurance that we’re pulling out every stop to make sure that we can deal with people that might be a threat, but those people who are coming on the programme are fleeing terrorism and their country is under attack and I hope that we can provide them with a new home.

JOURNALIST: Now I don’t know the content of the phone call that you were involved in just a few minutes ago, but it reads on page one of the Courier Mail today that Malcolm Turnbull will pressure State Premiers to indefinitely lock up convicted terrorists who refuse to de-radicalise.

Is this an example here where our Prime Minister is now actually starting to toughen-up on this matter?

PETER DUTTON: John I think people make a mistake if they suggest that Malcolm Turnbull’s not tough on national security.

I’ve been in a number of discussions with the Prime Minister and most recently in relation to legislation around the Citizenship Bill, which strips dual-citizens of their Australian citizenship if they’ve been involved in terrorist activities.

So this will mean in some cases we can stop people coming back to our country if they’ve been fighting for ISIS in the Middle East.

We don’t want them back if they’re going to pose a threat here.

So that was significant Bill, first mooted by and discussed by Tony Abbott, but implemented by Malcolm Turnbull.

I’ve had discussions with the Prime Minister, whilst this has been made public in the last day or so, I’ve had discussions with the Prime Minister on this topic back over several weeks. He’s been contemplating this very measure for a long period of time and he’s raising it, as it should be raised, with the State Premiers and Chief Ministers today.

JOURNALIST: Now, you’re the acting Justice Minister, Federal Justice Minister. You’ve got your hands full, especially with this development in Queensland.

Now, let me just quote from this release from your office:

The Acting Minister Peter Dutton has backed a newspaper headline calling the law an ass over the downgrading of Gerard Baden-Clay’s murder conviction.

You are as mystified as so many other people in this State of Queensland. Can you give us the background to your position on this?

PETER DUTTON: Well John I remember talking in Cairns many years ago in relation to the Deidre Kennedy murder.

I was a policeman for ten years in Queensland and I came to know Faye Kennedy whose little baby daughter has been abducted, murdered and left on the top of a toilet block in Ipswich and it was a great injustice to that family.

We campaigned to have the double jeopardy laws changed. They were, with the support of many people in Cairns and across Queensland. We petitioned to have the law changed and eventually it was.

I think, like all Queenslanders, I want to make sure that those of us who are parents, those of us who want to have a great society for our kids to grow up in… we need to protect the values that are important to us.

People have seen, in this case, somebody who has faced a serious allegation, that they’ve been to jury, they’ve been convicted.

People want for the sake of Allison’s daughters, for the sake of her parents, for the sake of Allison herself – people want see justice done and justice needs to be seen to be done in this case.

I said yesterday that if Baden-Clay has a skerrick of decency about him he would be honest about what he’s done, admit to his crime, face the penalty and that would bring some closure.

But trying to avoid the law through some legal technicality is not what Queenslanders want and I think the courts should reflect the view of Queenslanders.

JOURNALIST: And with me in the studio is the Federal Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.

Back in just moment.


JOURNALIST: Here’s Federal Minister Dutton in studio.

Very little time now, but we’ll try and squeeze a talkback call in. Col is on the line out at Goldsborough. Col, you’re talking to Peter Dutton.

COL: Peter, thanks for listening to me.

PETER DUTTON: Thanks, Col.

CALLER: Firstly I’d like say that I think your Government is doing a wonderful job and thank you for that.

Peter, I’m a local businessperson and I think it’s fair to say I mix with a very large cross-section of my community and I appreciate the words you said in regards to Baden-Clay, however I do believe that there obviously a lot of frustration in the community in regards to this technicality.

I mean I guess the point is – why have a jury to spend two weeks or whatever time to come to a conclusion and then have it reversed later?

It’s a huge disappointment to all of us. I believe that if there is a technical issue that has caused this, why can’t that be reversed? Or why can’t legislation be changed to ensure that this does not happen again?

PETER DUTTON: Well Col it’s a good question.

The first point that I would make and I’m sure that you would agree with is that we need to make sure the courts are independent. Influence shouldn’t be exerted by governments or by politicians. All of us accept that as a fundamental principle.

But we also accept that courts need to implement the law, the black letter law as it’s provided by the Parliament, by the peoples’ representatives.

So if the Queensland Parliament decided that there needed to be a legislative change, if there needed to be change to the Evidence Act or to the Criminal Code in Queensland then that would be open to the Premier, to Minister Palaszczuk, to her Attorney General and to the Parliament to vote on that.

So that may well be a question for the Premier to answer at some point.

The issue at the moment is whether or not the Attorney General at a State level is going to appeal this matter. As I understand it it’s under contemplation and I hope that the right decision is made, but ultimately it’s decision for the Attorney General.

People in New South Wales, I’m told, put forward a different case. They say that this legal technicality may well be treated differently under the law in New South Wales.

Ultimately the judge’s responsibility is to interpret the law and not to make the law. In that sense they need to rely on the advice given to them by legislation from the Parliament.

So that’s the way in which the process properly works and should continue to work.

There may well be a question, Col, as you rightly put, for the Premier to answer at some point.

CALLER: Alright Peter. Thanks for your time.

PETER DUTTON: Thanks, mate.

JOURNALIST: Col on the line there.

Peter can I just change the focus for a moment.

Now, as soon as a restauranteur in Port Douglas heard you were in studio this morning I got a phone call saying please put this question to the Minister regarding visas.

It’s not these Entrepreneurial Visas which you can talk about in just a moment.

These are basically the visas that visitors from parts of Europe, parts of Asia et cetera, they come out here with a one year visa, it’s a Working Holiday Visa.

If they go and work for 88 days on a farm they extend for another year. Now the point this restauranteur is making is, just two weeks before Christmas she’s just had a chef come in and say I’ve got to go and work on a farm for 88 days, please could you consider changing that to include work within the tourism industry?

PETER DUTTON: Well John it’s a good point because farmers, rightly, are screaming out in many parts of the country for workers to go and pick fruit on vines or trees that otherwise is rotting away.

They need the support of, in particular, of a backpacker workforce but working holiday makers otherwise.

There’s some additional assistance that we’ve provided to North Queensland in a package which does allow some changes – maybe not as far your restauranteur would like.

Look I’m happy to have a discussion with her to go through it because in many parts of the country, in particular though in the North, there is a shortage - in Cairns for instance, in Darwin – another example, where is hard to get people to work and to work the hours that’s required to keep the restaurant open or to keep the business going.

So there may well be a case and I’m happy to look at the individual circumstances, but we have made some changes which has made it easier for people to work that second year and to work in hospitality as well.

JOURNALIST: Ok I’ll give you that contact before you leave.

Now, a word on your Entrepreneurial Visas.

PETER DUTTON: Yeah just a quick word. I think this is a pretty exciting announcement because we’ve been able to say that we’re, in this week of innovation the Prime Minister has been talking a lot about the Government’s approach to trying to get additional capital here, into start-up businesses ultimately that will employ young Australians and people of all ages.

The Entrepreneur Visa will allow people, take Steve Jobs for example, who made an amazing success story of Apple eventually, but had he without a tertiary qualification wanted to come to Australia to start his business he probably wouldn’t be allowed in.

Under this arrangement what we’re saying is if you’ve got a start-up idea, you’ve got funding behind you, you can come to our country to try and make that work.

That will help grow our economy.

I think it will be well taken up and I think we’ll identify entrepreneurs that will invest into Australia, they’ll employ Australians and ultimately if we can grow businesses here that will be of benefit to jobs and growth right across the economy.

It’s a good announcement but there’s a lot more that we want to do, as well.

JOURNALIST: Peter, appreciate your time today. This has been very interesting indeed. Come back soon.

PETER DUTTON: Thank, John. Appreciate it.

Posted in: Media Releases
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