Subjects: Visa cancellations; Khaled Sharrouf; fixed four year terms.
Journalist: The Minister Peter Dutton is on the line. Minister good morning.
Peter Dutton: Good morning Stuart.
Journalist: Thank you for your time. Some suggestion among some MPs in New Zealand that these compatriots are petty criminals, how would you describe them?
Peter Dutton: Stuart I have seen some of those claims from time-to-time but when you go back through the criminal history, they’ve been extensive and many people have been involved in outlaw motorcycle gangs and criminal gangs otherwise.
So I think all Australians believe that if you come to Australia, if you’re a non-citizen, you’re here on a visa, we expect you to abide by the Australian laws. If people commit offences against Australians then they can expect to have their visas cancelled – it doesn’t matter where they come from, if they’re from New Zealand or any other country, we expect people to abide by the law, if not, we’re going to cancel visas at an increasing rate.
Journalist: Are there difficulties in having them returned to their country of origin?
Peter Dutton: No, we have an arrangement with New Zealand for example where people can return until their matters are heard and finalised and then if they’re able to get up on appeal, they can then return to Australia.
We’ve got a pretty robust regime in place. But if people are taken into detention once their visa has been cancelled, pending their deportation, but as I say if they take legal action they can do that either from a detention centre here or they can voluntarily return to New Zealand and the matter can be heard and if it’s found in their favour they can return – so it’s quite an advanced process – and I think we’re making our society a safer place and we’ve done that on [inaudible] making sure that we can secure our borders.
Journalist: And so in a case like this, you’ve got a whole range of people, just run through some of the offences they’ve been convicted of.
Peter Dutton: We’ve had people who have committed sexual offences against children, murderers, people who have been convicted of armed robbery, people that are involved in trafficking and distribution of amphetamines, including ice and that’s why I think it really will make a big difference out in communities.
Mums and Dads are worried about their kids getting access to amphetamines. We know that that bikies are the biggest distributors of drugs in this country and we’ve gone through and cancelled a significant number of their visas and the view of the police and the view of my own Department of the Australian Border Force is that this is going to save as many people from becoming victims into the future and I think that’s a good thing.
Journalist: What happens, in terms of a visa where a crime is committed, do all crimes necessarily then result in a visa being automatically cancelled or is there a benchmark if you like?
Peter Dutton: It depends on the circumstances. So, it does meet the serious offence carries a term of imprisonment of 12 months or more in most cases, or it can be any conviction of a sexual offence against a child and we go through, with the police forces from each of the states and territories, to have a look at their [inaudible] target.
So we are generally talking about the most serious of criminals but people that have been convicted of a crime, 12 months or more, as people know, it takes a fair crime to receive that sort of sentence and that’s what we abide by and I think we are making our community a safer place and I think that is a good thing for our country.
Journalist: Why is there a backlash then against some MPs in New Zealand? Is it because they don’t want these undesirables back in New Zealand?
Peter Dutton: I suspect there’s part of that and I think the other part is just a little bit of grandstanding. There’s one MP here at the moment I think loves a bit of media attention….
Journalist:…..this is this Kelvin Davis who’s been over here….yeah….
Peter Dutton:….that’s right and that’s fine if he wants to grandstand but my job is to make sure that I firstly secure our borders and secondly to make our community a safer place and I think we’re doing that and I think Australians [inaudible] people can grandstand all they like, this same law applies to Australians if they’re overseas in different parts of the world, if they commit a crime then people expect to be deported back to Australia and similarly here – if people are here as a guest of our country we treat them with respect and we expect that in return and if people are going to abuse that trust then they can expect to have their visas cancelled and be returned back to their country of origin.
Journalist: I suppose the question some might ask is well, this is all well and good, New Zealand is one of our close neighbours, a key ally as we’re prepared to talk tough with them, do we take the same approach in relation to people from many other countries where we don’t necessarily share the same relations, are we just as tough on them where they commit offences and are on visas?
Peter Dutton: Absolutely. The law applies equally and it’s a non-discriminatory basis that we apply it. So it doesn’t matter where people come from.
But we have a special relationship with New Zealand which means that people can travel to Australia from New Zealand without criminal checks being undertaken that they normally might with other countries. So obviously we’ve got a lot of New Zealanders because it is a very special relationship and as a result we have a higher proportion of people from New Zealand that are being captured by these laws and that’s as you would expect.
New Zealand is not being treated any differently to any other country.
Journalist: And those other countries where we perhaps don’t share the same sort of relationship, they will accept their citizens back where they do the wrong thing while they’re on a visa here in Australia or can that be a little more protracted?
Peter Dutton: Well no, the short answer is that they do accept them back. There are a few countries that don’t – Iran for example, we have difficulties in returning people to Iran and that’s true, not only of visas that we cancel but also people that arrive by boat, where people have been found not to be refugees and we’re trying to discuss and negotiate that with Iran at the moment – but that is a difficult situation and there are others.
But generally speaking, countries are happy to accept people back because that’s the basis on which they apply the laws of their non-citizens and Australia abides by that as other countries do.
Journalist: So we’ve got a situation now where you’ve got 600 New Zealanders who’ve had visas torn up. How many more could there be, do you know how many more there are potentially in the system that are yet to be processed still and could be returned to New Zealand?
Peter Dutton: Stuart, I don’t know the number, is the true answer to your question but we are working through as I say with all of the police forces to identify, particularly people that are involved in outlaw motorcycle gangs or involved in gangs otherwise because we do know that they are involved in human misery, creating human misery by standover merchants of small business, they’re involved in extortion, armed robbery, importation, manufacturing, distribution of amphetamines, including ice – we’ve got a huge problem with ice in this country and we’re working through trying to stop the source of that – and if we can cancel visas of bikies, in particular, then I think we make our country a much better place.
Journalist: There are these reports that Karen Nettleton who is grandmother of the children of Khaled Sharrouf is travelling towards Syria in the hope of tracking them down, the 14 year old girl has been in touch with The Telegraph saying that she’s struggling with the stress of now being the sole protector or her newborn and four young siblings. It follows the death of Khaled Sharrouf and also her mother, Tara Nettleton. Do you have any idea as to what dispensation there might be if Mrs Nettleton is able to get to Syria and then returns to Australia? Could she face charges?
Peter Dutton: Stuart I just don’t have any comment to make in relation to that family. Obviously the police intelligence agencies are best to deal with these matters and they’re not best to be publicly commented on. The only general comment that I would make is that people who take their children to war zones really condemn those children to a life of misery and…..
[phone line disconnected]
Journalist:….I’m sorry Minister we just lost you there.
Peter Dutton: Yes mate, sorry about that….
Journalist:….you were just making a general comment in relation to those who do travel overseas, take children with them to some of these war zones.
Peter Dutton: Well Stuart, I think any Australian recognises Syria is a very difficult place. We don’t have an embassy there. We don’t have support on the ground and potentially we put our own soldiers at risk because people that expect to be extracted or have their children extracted from war zones, it is a terribly, terribly complex situation in that part of the Middle East and we want to make sure that all Australians get the message that it is just not the place for adults, let alone children to be taken.
So if people have any inclination that somebody in their family group or at work is radicalising or they believe that they’re at risk of departing our shores, particularly young teenagers, they need to advise the authorities immediately because it is inconceivable that you could take your children into a war zone like that and obviously the authorities here and our people in the Middle East otherwise will provide what assistance we can but these are complex matters and it is obviously very difficult to comment on the individual circumstances.
But our general call, our plea would be, if you have any information that people are at risk or you think somebody is in trouble overseas, please contact the Federal Police as quickly as you can.
Journalist: And we just saw, in your home state, it looks as if potentially this referendum on fixed four year terms might get up in Queensland – they are in effect in New South Wales – is there an argument to extend those to the federal level do you think? Fewer elections meaning less disruption – I know it was a comment from new MP for North Sydney Trent Zimmerman a couple of weeks back in his maiden speech.
Peter Dutton: I don’t think it is a priority at the moment but I think over time there is an opportunity to have that discussion. Obviously the Government is determined to work through the priorities that we’ve got at the moment and the Government has a lot on its plate, we’ve got a lot of reform to implement, we want to make sure that we’ve got a huge jobs and growth package for the economy as we transition into a new economy.
So there’s a lot that the Government has to implement over the next few years. We need to I think address one of the big issues in this country and that is the divide of funding and delivery of policy responsibility between the states and Commonwealth. So there’s a lot to do and no doubt at some stage we may look at four year term.
But I think in Queensland the fact that it got up is a good thing. I think it’s a reflection of the fact that people are happy to support logical change to the constitution to the way in which government operates in this country and I think it’s a good outcome for Queensland. But at a federal level no doubt people will have their views for and against.
Journalist: I appreciate your time this morning. Good chatting with you.
Peter Dutton: Thank you mate.