Subjects: Children in detention, Eric Abetz’s comments, Real Social Dynamics
JOURNALIST: Alright now first things first. I have noticed today the usual moaning that’s around there about children in detention. There is people trying to focus in on again how the Government is still got way too many kids in detention.
Can we just make this nice and clear for everyone who needs a piece of paper, a pen and paper. When the Government took over it was Scott Morrison first and now you second, how many kids were in detention then versus the start of 2016?
PETER DUTTON: There were 1,342 children. It had got to a peak of just under 2,000 and at the moment we are down to 79 which includes 72 kids who are scheduled to go back to Nauru. So we are talking about seven children in detention.
I have said for a long time that I have been working hard to get that number down to zero and I intend to do that as quickly as possible.
Bearing in mind that some of the parents of some of these kids have adverse ASIO assessments and I won’t be releasing that parent out into the community.
So we are trying to make arrangements for the mother and children to go out. In some cases they don’t want to do that so it’s hard, but the worst thing that we can do is allow for the boats to restart which would just fill those vacancies.
It’s taken a lot of hard work to get down to this number, but we haven’t stopped that effort yet and we are still working really hard to get it down closer to zero.
JOURNALIST: So take me through the process there. If, let’s be honest, dad has got an adverse report against him by ASIO, he has got some form in a home country, you are not 100% sure if he is a legitimate asylum seeker.
What do you do here if there say is a mum? Obviously mum gets the chance to move into the community, but what happens if there is no mum? What do you do?
PETER DUTTON: Well we can have a look the different family scenarios.
So if, for example, the father is a suspected terrorist or he has been involved in serious criminal activities somewhere in the world and we are waiting for that information to come through or we have just made a decision that he is not going to come out into the community because he poses a significant threat to the Australian public. I’m just not going to release him out because I’m not going to run that risk.
But I have looked at those individual circumstances and said ok well there’s a mother in this scenario, there are a couple of children, they pose no significant risk to the Australian community and therefore we will release those people out. We make a decision based on the individual’s circumstances.
Sadly I think in some of these cases there’s pressure from the father for the children or for the wife and children not to be released because if they are he thinks that is going to relieve the pressure on us to release him out into the community.
So I have got to make a tough decision in some of these cases about issuing an instruction for the family to be removed even if it’s against the will of the father and that’s the decision that I’ll make if it’s appropriate because I do want to get those kids out of detention.
JOURNALIST: So let’s make this very clear again when people are inevitably in this election year, including the Greens Sarah Hanson-Young, all the usual wind-up toys, talk about children in detention we are talking about seven?
PETER DUTTON: Seven well that’s it.
The Greens and the Labor Party came up with crazy plan just before Christmas where they wanted to have a mandated arrangement so that new boat arrivals would have a situation where within only a few weeks automatically those kids would be released out into the community even if the identity of the parents hadn’t been established.
I just don’t see how that makes any sense at all and we are not going to fall for that trick.
JOURNALIST: Yeah alright I want to move onto a couple of other quick things here too.
You colleague Eric Abetz, the Senator, a well-known conservative, has gone very, very hard on particularly the NSW Liberal Party that seems to be, or some people in it, trying to get ready for a purge of particularly conservative MPs.
Do you agree with his assessment that there are people who are trying to effectively purge conservatives and turn the Liberal Party into a moderate party?
PETER DUTTON: Paul I’ve seen the media reports of it and if they’re accurate then I just don’t think anybody should listen to it at all.
I think the Prime Minister has been very clear that he wants to continue the policy of John Howard and that is to have a broad church, so that we’ve got people with conservative values, we’ve got people who are more liberal in their approach – particularly on social issues.
The Liberal Party has thrived for a long period of time because we’ve been accepting of a diversity of views and I believe very strongly, and will fight very strongly, to make sure that that diversity of views is heard for a long period of time to come.
So if people have a thought in their mind that somehow they’re going to knockout conservative candidates in New South Wales or anywhere else, then I think I’ve made my position very clear.
I think that would be the view of other colleagues within the parliamentary party in Canberra and obviously the Prime Minister has been very clear that it’s his view as well.
JOURNALIST: Alright. I also want to ask here, there is a lot of noise over the past few days about a bloke who has been, apparently, running seminars as a pick-up artist in and around Australia.
Now there seems to be some confusion. One whether the bloke is still in the country and two was he ever given a visa that allowed him to enter the country to run pick-up seminars?
PETER DUTTON: Well Paul, the first point to make is that when you have a look at some of the information that these guys are promoting, it’s pretty repugnant to say the least and I asked my Department to have a look at this.
I can say that a person associated with this particular movement has had his visa cancelled. The person is already out of Australia anyway and they make it difficult as I understand it because they’re arriving, or at least they operate online with different names than they arrive on in terms of their passport and travel documentation.
So I think there’s a lot of confected outrage if you like by the Greens and others that have jumped on this bandwagon.
The Department has already moved very quickly to tidy this situation up and full praise to the Department and the officers who have identified these people, who are completely without legitimate cause to be here, don’t meet our character tests and in this instance the visa has been cancelled.
JOURNALIST: It’s concerning though if somebody is saying one thing online and then turning up on a passport with a different name and still getting through the front door, what’s happened there?
PETER DUTTON: Well, as you’d be aware, we have about seven million people who come to our country each year.
If they’re coming from a country like the United States or France or the United Kingdom, they can come on an Electronic Travel Authority. So they can apply online and because they’re a US citizen, for example, if they say they’re coming here as a tourist, we may not have that person on the alert list.
So there’s work obviously that has to be done in the background when some information like this comes to the attention of the Border Force authorities.
They’ve done that. They’ve acted quickly and I think people should be reassured by the fact that Border Force I think has done a really good job in this example.
JOURNALIST: Alright Minister Peter Dutton thank you very much, Happy New Year, we’ll talk to you many times in 2016.
PETER DUTTON: Look forward to it. Thanks Paul.