Subjects: Terror attacks in Brussels; screening of Syrian and Iraqi refugees; children in detention; border control; federal politics.
Journalist: Minister good morning.
Peter Dutton: Good morning Ray.
Journalist: Brussels, described by your Prime Minister, our now Prime Minister as the result of the perfect storm of failures and talking mainly about the loss of border control.
Now, I’ve been talking to a number of people, including Channel Seven’s Hugh Whitfeld, this is not new, the legislation that removed borders from European countries has been there for a decade or more and now we’re seeing what happens when you take away border control. We have border control here and let’s hope we always have it.
Peter Dutton: That’s exactly right Ray and it’s a problem right across Europe and it can be a problem for us here as well if we didn’t control our borders.
Now, we’re lucky because we’re an island nation, but we know now that people, terrorists, are trying to get into the line with other refugees and seeking to come to western countries and that is a very significant concern for us.
So the fact that we’re able to secure our borders, not only where people are coming in by boat, but also by air as well, just shows why it’s necessary to stand up Counter Terrorism Unit officers – and they do a great job every day for Australian Border Force.
So there’s a lot at stake and we only need to get it wrong once and we’ve disrupted six terrorist attacks already. The Federal Police have done great work and ASIO and the rest. So this is a very significant period in history and this is going to continue on for a long time to come because ISIL are barbaric and they’re determined to try and destroy the west.
Journalist: I won’t mention names, but I’ve been dealing in recent times with a family before the courts, members of a family, a younger brother at the moment before the courts, another brother in Goulburn for murdering someone when he was a member of an outlaw motorcycle gang, but these people came from Afghanistan in 2005 as refugees.
Now, I don’t know their status or how they arrived here, but police tell me that the family have caused them great concern in recent times.
Now, the younger of the brothers, who is in strife at the moment and being dealt with by both the federal authorities and New South Wales Police, is aged 20 and that means that when they arrived, in 2005, he was only a small child.
What checks and balances do we have that the 50,000 people that came here – in 2005 it was under a Coalition Government – what checks and balances do we have that the 50,000 that lobbed on our shores during the reign of Rudd-Gillard-Rudd, aren’t going to cause us the same sort of problems down the track?
Peter Dutton: Ray, we know with some of those people we haven’t been able to verify their identity and at the peak of Labor having lost control of the borders a 1,000 people a week were being pulled off boats and taken onto Christmas Island and then essentially transported straight to Australia – and that’s why Labor had to open 17 new detention centres.
Now, we’re working our way through what now is a number down to 30,000 – it’s still a lot of people – and you’re right, I mean ASIO says that they have 400 high priority investigations and we have a problem in this country with second and third generation new Australians and people that are radicalising online, people who believe that they owe some allegiance to another part of the world and this is why the authorities work around the clock to keep us safe.
If we can find people who aren’t Australian citizens – this is why it’s very important, this 501 character cancellations that we’ve spoken about on the show before.
We’ve cancelled visas of people involved in outlaw motorcycle gangs, people that are involved in all sorts of criminal activities and over a thousand visas have been cancelled in the last 12 months, which is a record number, and we’re going through each of these cases with the police to cancel and wherever it’s possible because I think it makes us a safer society and where we can identify these threats, we need to get rid of them.
Journalist: One of your constituents Beverly in Brisbane is on the line. She says the Government…you keep saying you are getting the number of kids in detention down, where do these kids go?
Peter Dutton: They go out into community housing and we provide them with medical support, if that’s why they’re here from Nauru, but ultimately if they’re not owed protection, if they’re not refugees, then we do whatever we can to help them go back to their country of origin.
We’ve done that with a great number of people but we’ve obviously got the number of children in detention now down to 21, which is at a record low, it was at 2,000 and we want to get it down to zero. So we’re working through that but people go out into the community.
Journalist: Look, there’s news coming out of Turkey today, reported extensively, that one of the suicide bombers was detained in Turkey in 2015, identified as someone that they had suspicions about.
They deported him out of Turkey and I guess Turkey are saying, well we don’t want to deal with this bloke, let’s get him back to where he came from – and in many instances it’s not known, but it should be reported that the people causing the damage in Brussels, in Belgium are first generation Belgium – I mean they’ve been there since the 60s and 70s and these are people who in the same way they came to our country, and are you would think Australians or Belgium as the case may be, but this one particular bloke came back to Turkey via Syria and he was a Belgium national.
I mean what guarantees can you give us that the Syrian refugees that the former Prime Minister Tony Abbott said we would take, come here with you know, a clean slate so to speak?
Peter Dutton: Well Ray, there’s a couple of things that we’re doing. One is, we’re taking biometric tests, we’re checking that with our intelligence partners including the US, we’re taking referrals from Australian Syrian based Christian leaders and other leaders here who provide us with referrals.
So we are going very slowly through the process and I’ve been criticised because we haven’t got the full number here, in fact under 100 out of the 12,000 have arrived but we are not landing anyone in this country until we are absolutely certain about their background, certain that they pose no threat, as best we can establish it and then we provide support to those people.
We’re helping genuine refugees, people that are fleeing the terrorists in Syria and in Iraq and we want people that share our values and we want to make sure that they’re contributing to Australia, like many refugees have done before, but we are not in any circumstance taking young men of fighting age, if there’s any suggestion whatsoever that the person may pose a threat to us, then we put that application to one side and move on to the next one.
Journalist: Peter Jennings from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute told my colleague Alan Jones this morning, he doesn’t believe any more than a handful of the 12,000 Syrian refugees will come here. He says that it’s just too tough the screening process. Do you believe it’s too tough or do you believe it should be tougher?
Peter Dutton: I think we’ve struck the right balance to be honest. We’ve screened in 9,000 people, but we’re going very slowly through the security checks, the health checks and making sure that people do meet the standard that we’re setting.
Now, in other parts of the world they’re taking people in very rapidly and that’s a decision for those government’s but my responsibility is to make sure that we keep our borders secure and our community safe and I’m not going to rush the process – and that’s been the view of the Prime Minister as well – that we go through it methodically and as I say if there’s any suggestion, a hint of threat, then they’re not coming.
Journalist: Ok. The Attorney-General George Brandis has been on Sky this morning, he says security is being beefed up at our main airports following the attacks in Belgium, is that something that was discussed at the highest level?
Peter Dutton: It has been and there’s obviously been a lot of activity between our law enforcement and intelligence agencies over the last couple of days. There’s a lot that happens at the airports that people see and there’s a lot behind the scenes through closed circuit television, through security checks before people get to the airports, obviously a lot of human intelligence and gathering of information otherwise that takes place.
I think, frankly, we’ve got the best intelligence agencies in the world and the best law enforcement agencies and I think they’re working very closely together to make sure that we provide whatever security we can because these people do want to destroy, not only our way of life, but our culture and we’re not going to allow that to happen in this country.
There’s been a different approach in some European nations to terrorists, a more passive approach, that’s not the case in Australia. We’re not going to tolerate any view at all which is designed to kill-off the Australian way of life or cause mass harm and our agencies are working around the clock to make sure we can keep people safe.
Journalist: Now, the Prime Minister went on Channel Nine Today programme yesterday, confirmed that Scott Morrison wasn’t among the small circle of Ministers he contacted before making the announcement, prompting Scott Morrison to come on this programme in the same way you do for regular chats on a Monday – he comes on Monday, you come on Thursday – and maintained the line that it would be a Budget in May, on May 10, not May 3.
I’m just doing a little questionnaire for Ministers. When did you find out that there would be a change in Budget and when there would be possibly a double dissolution on July 2?
Peter Dutton: Well Ray, there was a Cabinet hook-up and we discussed the issue there and the decision was made there. But look, I’ve got to be frank; I think a lot of this stuff is fairly beltway.
I think people are worried about jobs, they’re worried about the economy, Labor has got this proposal about negative gearing which will I think drive rent prices up, it will definitely drive rents up and it will drive down the value of houses.
I think people are worried about national security, they’re watching on the television every night what’s happening in Europe and other parts of the world and they want to know that we’re providing whatever support we can to the agencies.
So people want to talk about those issues, not about beltway issues, who knew what when. I think all of that you can leave to the commentators. But for us, from my perspective, I mean I just got back from Bali earlier this morning and I’ve been up there for the last 24 hours, we’re looking at serious issues – I mean people smugglers involved in trans-national crime, smuggling women for prostitution, distributing drugs, all of that is frankly what takes up my time and I think that’s where people want us to concentrate.
Journalist: I note Sharri Markson has a story on the front page of The Australian about a dinner at The Lodge attended by a number of Cabinet Ministers where it’s alleged the Prime Minister, [inaudible] the day before he didn’t come on my programme for various reasons, gave the Treasurer a dressing down. Were you at the dinner?
Peter Dutton: There was a dinner at The Lodge where I was in attendance, as other Ministers were, but….
Journalist:…did you see the Treasurer sitting in the naughty corner?
Peter Dutton: Ray, you can try this from every angle mate….
Journalist:…but you won’t tell me will you?
Peter Dutton:…if you don’t mind, I’ll politely decline and talk about some of the other issues which I think people are more interested in.
Journalist: Ok. Well, we’ll leave it there on that basis. Thanks for your time.
Peter Dutton: Thanks mate. Take care.