Subjects: UNHCR meetings with Geneva; screening of Syrian and Iraqi refugees.
Journalist: What is the discussion over there about for example Brussels and is there any debate about this Schengen Agreement of open borders?
Peter Dutton: Well Alan, obviously Australia is more concerned with our sovereignty and making sure that our borders are secure and what happens in Europe is an issue for them.
I think it’s very important for us to recognise that we’ve settled 800,000 odd refugees since…
Journalist: …yeah I’ll come to that in a moment because people listening to you though are genuinely concerned about this international situation.
I mean who are you meeting with there in Geneva?
Peter Dutton: We met with the High Commissioner for Refugees today – so UNHCR…
Journalist: …and was there any talk about that borderless Europe and the problems now that it has produced?
Peter Dutton: No the meeting proper starts tomorrow Alan, so no doubt there will be discussion around that. It’s a hot topic right across Europe, as you say, because people in Germany, in France, in the UK – there is huge debate going on at the moment about cross border movements there.
The contrast that I make is that we have a very different situation in our country and we should be very proud of it and we shouldn’t step back from the tough policies that we have in place.
Journalist: But we do have…I’ll come to that in a moment. Just hearing you speak then I wanted to say one thing. There is a lot of evidence emerging now from people who know of what is being described as a larger and more sophisticated Islamic State presence in Europe than previously suspected. I mean for example in Paris there are 18 people in custody for alleged involvement in the Paris operation. Seven were killed during the assault so that’s a network of 25.
As you move around there are people genuinely concerned that this Islamic State terrorist operation now seems to be a bit better organised than people thought?
Peter Dutton: Well the short answer is yes. Across the world people are concerned and they should be because, as you say, we have got an organised arrangement, we’ve got people who are skilled in the art of bomb-making, of mass casualties. They are determined to kill off people who enjoy the way of life that Australians enjoy and that many of people across the rest of the world do.
We need to stare that threat down and its part of the reason that we have committed troops to Syria, why we have been involved in campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan before, it’s why the alliance with the United States and the United Kingdom is more important than ever and we need to recognise that this is a growing threat.
People are passing themselves off as Syrians. The Assad regime is selling Syrian passports, people are involved in organised crime groups that are smuggling people, trafficking people – this is a worldwide phenomenon and we have to deal with it. We need to deal with it very firmly.
Journalist: Ok well now the other day I spoke to Julie Bishop the Foreign Minister and I’m astounded really because I have had a stack of angry emails about the interview. They were annoyed that we don’t state things as they are and the criticism of you as well about Islamic extremism.
One of them said this ‘did Bishop really suggest that we done have enclaves in Australia. Has she ever spoken to a taxi driver like I have on many occasions, its common for those I’ve spoken to say that there are places that they simply won’t drive to because of aggressive Muslims of different ethnicity in particular areas. We have been continually shut down in expressing concern by being dismissed as racist’…and in a similar matter he went onto say other issues where we’re not allowed to speak.
Another writer said ‘things didn’t improve when Mr Dutton was interviewed by Ray Hadley. Like Ms Bishop he gave the prepared answer about the level of security checks that have been implements for refugees before they are selected for Australia. Strange as the head of the FBI seems to think they are unable to verify claims from prospective refugees about who they are and what they have been up to.’
Also the email says ‘if the security checks are so stringent as to weed out undesirables, why do we appear to have so many refugees convicted of attempting to visit murder and mayhem on the Australian community.’
Do you concede that this is a strain involving millions of people around the world of Islamic extremism?
Peter Dutton: Well Alan a couple of points to make. The first one is that I don’t accept that everybody of a particular faith is bad or wants to…
Journalist: … We’re not saying that.
Peter Dutton: …conduct themselves in terrorist activities.
So if we accept that point then what we need to do is accept the good people and reject the bad and that’s exactly what we’re doing. Regardless of somebody’s faith we’re going through…
Journalist: …but we’re not saying that, Peter. Peter, we’re not saying that. We’re not saying that.
Do you concede, as indeed Muslim leadership does, that this is Islamic extremism?
I mean Tony Blair…
Peter Dutton: …Yes, of course. Yes, of course, Alan.
Journalist: Then why don’t you say that?
Peter Dutton: Well I have no hesitation in saying it.
Journalist: Well say it. Go on. What’s the problem?
Peter Dutton: We have a problem with extremism in Islam.
We have a problem with people who are subverting the cause, the religion, however you want to put it…
Journalist: …Tony Blair said in the Sunday Times, Tony Blair said in the Sunday Times last Sunday, quote, ‘We are at war with Islamist extremism. We need a different rhythm of thought.’
Isn’t that the first step to solving the problem? To acknowledge what it is?
Peter Dutton: Well of course Alan and I don’t, as you said in your introductory remarks, I’m not known for mincing my words. I say it how it is and we do have a problem. That’s why I’ve said that we are going through every application, but I’m not going to say…
Journalist: …now how do you go through them? See the FBI have said that they’ve warned America, Obama and others, the FBI have said we can’t guarantee we know who these people are. There is no data.
Will you be accepting anyone in this refugee programme if there is no personal verifiable data?
Peter Dutton: No, we won’t and we’ve rejected many applications. If we’ve got any concern, even a hint of concern about an individual we’re not taking…
Journalist: …who’s checking?
Peter Dutton: We’ll we’re taking biometrics tests, samples. We’re taking all the necessary precautions that you would expect and we’re conducting those tests with the United States, with Canada, with the UK – our Five Eyes intelligence partners – anybody who has security or intelligence holdings on individuals and that’s why it’s a slow process.
So, I’m being criticised on the other side because we’re going to slow…
Journalist: …oh don’t worry about that.
Peter Dutton: …and we’re going through each of them and if there’s any…
Journalist: …but do you concede, Peter, do you concede that just as in Brussels and in parts of France there are no go areas in our country where non-Muslims and even police are afraid to go? Or taxi drivers or others?
Peter Dutton: Well it’s difficult for me to answer that, Alan, because I don’t have that advice from the police.
No doubt there are areas where people are afraid to go or people believe there high crime rates or people believe that they’re at risk.
If people believe that and they have that fear, well it’s real, so we need deal with it…
Journalist: …and if Australians are saying, if Australians are saying, as they are, right, 12,000 – there ought to be preference to Christian groups like Yazidis, who have been massacred and enslaved by Islamic State in Northern Iraq.
Will they be given preference?
Peter Dutton: Well yes they will because we’ve been very specific about the people that we want to come, that we want to bring under the programme, that we want to come to Australia.
We have said persecuted minorities, we have said people who can’t return back to their place of, to their village or to their home. We have said that we’re not going to take young men of fighting age. We have said that we are going to take families and focus on children…
Journalist: …just come back to that point. Young men of fighting age? Just amplify that. It’s a very good point, a very good point.
Peter Dutton: We’re not going to take those people because we don’t want people bringing their problems into Australia.
We want to help people who have been, as you say, for many Christians who have been slaughtered in the region, we want to bring those people and allow them to start a new life.
Just like 800,000 people have since the Second World War done when they’ve come to our country as refugees…
Journalist: …good on you.
Peter Dutton: …and we want to bring the right people in and reject the bad ones.
Journalist: Just one final thing. Can you guarantee the people listening to you that you will know when refugees are not telling you the truth?
Peter Dutton: Well, Alan, we’ve got probably the most sophisticated network of people in the world that are skilled in this art. They conduct interviews, they ask questions, they interrogate, they ask probing questions.
They provide me with advice on people that we shouldn’t accept and those that we should, so I think we’ve got the best skills in the world to enable us to be as assured as we possibly can that we’re allowing the right people in.
I think by allowing the right people in we will be able to celebrate the opportunity that we’ve given people a second chance at life that would face a near certain death, otherwise.
Journalist: Well done. Thank you for talking to us. Very grateful. Good luck over there.
Peter Dutton: Thank, Alan.