Subjects: Illegal visa overstayers; counter-terrorism unit offloads; detention figures; regional processing.
JOURNALIST: Minister, good morning.
PETER DUTTON: Good morning Ray. How are you?
JOURNALIST: Good thank you. We found out almost 62,000 illegal visa overstayers are on the run in Australia – with that number increasing significantly over the past decade – half of those overstayed for five years or more, 17,000 have been hiding for more than 15 years, how do you catch them?
PETER DUTTON: Ray, we need a lot of information from the community. So people can call the hotline on 1300 853 773 and report somebody that they know is overstaying in our country.
But to put it into perspective; 99 per cent of people here on a temporary visa leave before their visa expires. The problem is really about point two of a per cent, but nonetheless, given the number of…
JOURNALIST: What did you say, point two of one per cent….
PETER DUTTON: Point two of one per cent….
JOURNALIST: Well that’s not bad….
PETER DUTTON: It’s not bad because, well look, we’ve got about just under six million temporary entrants each year – so tourists who are coming in, people on visas otherwise – so you’ve got to put it into perspective, but we have to work hard and work hard with the community to identify those who are doing the wrong thing, round them up and send them home.
JOURNALIST: Ok. Now, in relation to these people, is it being suggested that they – well I guess they would have to be productive to live here for more than 15 years, the 17,000 you’re looking for – so would that mean they’re lodging tax returns and they’re paying their way, so to speak?
PETER DUTTON: It may do or it may mean that they’ve assumed another identify, it may mean that they’re operating in the cash economy somewhere, maybe they’ve got their own business or operating in a spouse’s name, there could be a number of things.
But we do a lot of data matching with the ATO, with Centrelink and elsewhere to try and identify people that are doing the wrong thing, that are here illegally and trying to find them sometimes after a long period of time is hard because, as I say, they do integrate themselves well into some of the ethnic communities in particular that provide support.
So we need that information from the public. So please if you’ve got any information give us a call.
JOURNALIST: There was a report in News Limited papers this week that counter-terrorism units have offloaded 652 people from planes in Australia who wanted to go to the Middle East, in the main, August 2014 that started – that’s almost two people a day trying to make their way back to the Middle East.
There’s one in custody at the moment that got overseas on his brother’s passport, then was relocated here, he’s currently in custody over terrorism charges.
Now, I get all the emails that I got when your predecessor or one of your predecessors Scott Morrison was there saying, can’t we just let them go?
You know we don’t want them here, if they want to go back there and fight, once they get overseas, withdraw their passport as you can do, but why do we make it so difficult for these people who wish to go over and perhaps lose their lives there, why do we make it difficult for them to go?
PETER DUTTON: Ray, look we do, and there are a couple of reasons here. One is of course, if they’re an Australian citizen they have the constitutional right to come back to our country and we do cancel passports and suspend passports and restrict travel movements, but ultimately people if they’re Australian citizens have a right to come back to our country.
The difficultly is if they’ve been over there, being trained by ISIS and by some of these people that are teaching them how to make bombs or commit mass acts of terrorism, then they comeback with those skills – so they come back even more radicalised than when they left – so that’s part of the responsibility
We’ve introduced legislation, as you know, which will allow us to strip Australian citizenship away from terrorists if they’re dual citizens so that we don’t render them stateless, but that will have an impact.
The reality is that a lot of these people are being killed in the field and we’ve got a significant support that we’re providing to the US and to many others in this fight against ISIS but it will go on for a long period of time. These young people are being radicalised online, it’s a big issue to deal with.
JOURNALIST: The number of people in detention, how many do we still have in detention as of today?
PETER DUTTON: Well in terms of boat people, we’ve got just under 800 people.
Now, bearing in mind that that was at 10,000 when Labor was in power and the 50,000 people came on 800 boats, so we’ve got it down significantly.
I can report on your show today that the number of children in detention, which had peaked at 2,000 and 8,000 kids had been in detention when Labor lost control of the borders, that number is now down to 58 – and as I’ve said before Ray, I want to be the Minister to get kids out of detention and to stop the boats at the same time.
So that’s our juggling act at the moment and we’re getting the number closer to zero, but of course there are lots of hard cases there and I’m just not going to compromise the security of our nation by allowing people out, parents out that would do the wrong thing.
JOURNALIST: What about the much talked about baby Asha who was in hospital in Brisbane, then she’s been taken out on the basis that she’ll be housed in Australia, for the time being, and then you indicated to me a fortnight ago she would go back to Nauru or maybe Nepal with her family. Where is baby Asha up to?
PETER DUTTON: All of these people that have come for medical assistance they will go back to Nauru, that’s the Government’s very clear policy.
The difficulty that we’ve got is that there are lots of lawyers playing in this space and so we’re likely to be back in the High Court again shortly.
This costs the taxpayer millions of dollars each year to defend all of these actions and essentially it’s a stalling tactic to stop people from going back – but that’s their legal right – and it becomes very frustrating because we won a recent case in the High Court which said that regional processing was both legal, and constitutional.
We’ve bought these people here for medical assistance, we want to send them back to Nauru or back to their country of origin if they’re not owed protection – but it looks like we’ll be in the High Court for some time to come.
JOURNALIST: Ok. As always, thanks for your time.
PETER DUTTON: Thanks Ray.