03 April, 2016
Subjects: Delivering on our commitment – no children in onshore detention; Labor’s failed policies when in government; Bill Shorten’s proposed reforms to negative gearing.
Peter Dutton: It is a very significant day because the Government is very proud of the fact that we've been able to get kids out of detention. The Government promised that we would stop the boats and we’ve delivered on that promise.
We promised that we would get kids out of detention and we have delivered on that promise and I’m very proud of the fact that we’ve been able to work very hard, particularly over recent months, to deal with the most difficult of cases where there may be adverse ASIO assessments or security concerns about a male within the family unit; we've been able to deal with those on an individual basis and get kids out of detention.
The Government's absolute resolve to make sure that the boats remain stopped is as strong as it's ever been. When Labor had control of the government and this country for six years, they presided over dysfunction in relation to this particular area of public policy and Australians condemned them for it in the 2013 election.
I want to say that I don't want to see kids go back into detention and the way that we can do that is if we stop the boats. Labor has promised that they will unwind the policies of the Coalition. If they do that, the boats will recommence. The people smugglers will take advantage of all of that change and we will see a return of the dysfunction that we saw presided over by Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd.
In 2007, when John Howard left Office and Mr Rudd assumed the Prime Ministership, there were no children in detention – so it's almost a decade since we've had no children in detention – and I'm very proud of the fact that we've been able to not only stop the boats, but also to get the kids out of detention – it's been a significant achievement.
I want to say thank you very much to Scott Morrison and to Tony Abbott for the work that they did in relation to Operation Sovereign Borders and I know that I speak for the Prime Minister, as well as myself, when I say thank you for the work that our predecessors have done.
We want to continue that good work and there's been a lot of hard work over the course of the last six months or so in working through the most difficult of cases of those families in detention, but we've got there. We've been able to release all of those families out into the community.
I've always had as my primary objective our national interest and our national security interests and we've not compromised in any area, but we have been able to get children out of detention and we want to make sure that we can keep the boats stopped.
Journalist: : You said you wanted to be known as the Minister that gets children out of detention. Do you feel you've achieved that now?
Peter Dutton: I feel a great sense of achievement in doing this but I think this is a significant achievement of the Government. I said that I wanted to be the Minister who stopped the boats and to be the Minister who got the kids out of detention, and to do that is personally satisfying, but I think it's a milestone for our country as well.
I think all Australians should be proud of the fact that we're able to have secure borders, which means a safer community, but we're also able to get kids out of detention.
Journalist: : Is this only a temporary solution for most of them? I mean is there a chance that they will end up back on Nauru or somewhere like that?
Peter Dutton: Obviously the Government doesn't want boats to restart. There are 14,000-plus people in Indonesia at the moment that we know would hop on boats tomorrow – that is not to speak of ventures leaving Sri Lanka or Vietnam or India or many other places and we're seeing in Europe the devastation where countries can't control their borders – we have done a lot of work to secure our borders here.
We offer refuge to people that can make out claims of protection, in record numbers – 13,750 people this year will be accepted under the humanitarian and refugee programme and that number climbs to 18,750 by 2018-19 – on a per capita basis that makes us the most generous settler of refugees in the world and there's more that we can do, particularly around the Syrians.
We announced 12,000 that we would intake but we are not going to do what Labor did and that is surrender control of our borders, which means that people come the wrong way, not the right way and Australians expect their government to have control of the borders and that is exactly what we've delivered.
Journalist: : There's been a leak from your Department indicating that the only reason that children are out of detention is because some of the areas of detention centres have been re-named as community detention. Is that correct?
Peter Dutton: No, the same principles apply to designation of particular Alternative Places of Detention, as they did under Labor. Now, 2,000 children were in detention at its peak under Labor, 8,500 children went into detention under Labor, they had no children in detention when they went into government and we've now got that number back down to zero.
Have we dealt with some very difficult cases? Yes, because we've had people that have had adverse ASIO assessments. In some cases we have requested the mother and children to leave detention whilst the father remains in detention because we have security concerns about that individual.
In many cases they have complied with that arrangement but we've looked at each case on its individual merit and we have been able to get the last of the children out of detention – and I think that's a significant achievement.
Journalist: : So have there been areas in places like Villawood, under your watch now, that have been re-designated as family?
Peter Dutton: Look, I understand the point that you're making and I've seen the reports, and I just refer you back to my statement just then. I mean, this is a significant achievement for the Government. The same definitions apply today as they did before. There are certain characteristics that need to be met in relation to all these definitions but that's all beltway stuff.
I think people want to know that from a peak of 2,000 children in detention under Labor, today we have no children off boats in detention and that is a significant achievement of this Government and if Labor is re-elected at the next election, I give you this assurance: the boats will re-commence, the detention centres will have to reopen.
We've closed 13 of 17 extra detention centres that Labor opened. We've been able to get the number of children in detention down to zero and Labor, by changing our policies, as they said they would, particularly around Temporary Protection Visas, would ensure that the detention centres once again would be filled with men, women and children.
Journalist: : So they may still be in those facilities but different areas…?
Peter Dutton: No, they're outside of held detention, so that is the answer that I provided to you before.
Journalist: : Is there any update on baby Asha?
Peter Dutton: No, there is not.
Journalist: : Just finally on another matter, Tanya Plibersek this morning has indicated that Labor's election plans so far have improved the budget bottom line by $100 billion more [inaudible] spending proposal that they have made. Is Labor showing that it has a better economic plan than the Government?
Peter Dutton: I am sorry for laughing because Tanya Plibersek sat around the Cabinet table with Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd and made disastrous decisions that plunged our country into generational debt.
They were economic vandals and the policy that now they've come up with from Labor, to destroy house prices in this country and drive up rents, when people understand the detail of what Labor's offering, by way of this negative gearing policy – where house prices will go down and rents will go up – they will realise that Labor is dangerous when it comes to the management of the economy and management of national security.
Tanya Plibersek was a central figure in the Rudd and Gillard years. She would be Bill Shorten's deputy prime minister. She was a disastrous Minister in the Rudd-Gillard years and she has continued that disastrous approach in Opposition. She would be frankly dangerous to the Australian economy, as she demonstrated when she was in the Cabinet sitting around the table with Mr Rudd and Ms Gillard.
Thank you very much.