Joint Press Conference, Melbourne
The Hon Peter Dutton MP – Minister for Immigration and Border Protection
The Hon Michael Keenan MP – Minister for Justice – Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Counter Terrorism
Subjects: Disrupting the threat of OMCGs, Australia’s gun laws, Operation Sovereign Borders, ISIL, Iranian asylum seekers, proceeds of crime.
PETER DUTTON: I want to make some comments about a very important issue.
The Turnbull Government is determined to make sure that our community can be a safer place. We want to secure our borders, we want to make sure we can keep our community safe.
The fact that we have cancelled a record number of visas of non-citizens who are here committing crimes is a significant outcome and we have made Australia a better place already, but there’s a lot more work to do.
The Government is really determined to make sure that we can crack down on non-citizens who are committing offences in our country.
There has been a joint operation underway between the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Crime Commission, the Australian Border Force, state policing agencies and other intelligence agencies to make sure that we can identify those people involved in distribution of amphetamines and drugs otherwise, people who are involved in Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs who are committing all sorts of serious crimes including extortion and robbery and there are many victims across society.
So our Government is very happy to declare war on Outlaw Motorcycle Gang members because they are peddling in drugs, they are causing misery to mums and dads who have children, teenage children, who are buying drugs from Outlaw Motorcycle Gang members.
Outlaw Motorcycle Gang members are involved in extortion and are having a huge impact, a negative impact, on small business people around the country and much, much more.
So I’m very pleased to advise today that 81 Outlaw Motorcycle Gang members or associates have had their visas cancelled or refused since mid-2014. Seventy eight people with Outlaw Motorcycle Gang links have had their visas cancelled and six people with Outlaw Motorcycle Gang links have had their visa refused. Twenty seven of those people are offshore, 31 are currently in remand or in prison and 23 are in detention awaiting removal.
I want to send this very clear message to people who are involved in Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs – you are causing misery and pain to thousands of Australians who are falling victim to the purchase of amphetamines or drugs otherwise.
This Government is determined to work to make sure that we can cancel visas of people who are non-citizens who are committing crimes in our country and I’m very pleased to be working with a person who I think is Australia’s best ever Justice Minister.
He has presided over great success and significant investment into his areas of responsibility and the very close working relationship between Australian Border Force and the Australian Federal Police is reflected at a Ministerial level as well and I’m pleased we’re able to be here with you today. Michael.
MICHAEL KEENAN: Thank you very much, Peter.
As you’ve outlined, Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs are the public face of organised crime in Australia. We know that they are heavily involved in the drug trade, they continue to exert significant influence over Australia’s other black markets, they are involved in money laundering, they are involved in extortion, they’re involved in gun smuggling and they are responsible for a high level of violence in the community.
This is something that’s been reiterated this week with another incident of violence between members of the Rebels and the Finks in Sydney with the shooting, the deadly shooting that occurred up there.
We know that there’s 38 Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs in Australia. They have an estimated 4,500 people directly involved with them and there’s another 2,500 people who are supporting their activities. The five largest Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs in Australia are the Rebels, the Bandidos, the Comancheros, Hells Angels and the Mongols.
Since we’ve come to office, as Minister Dutton has outlined, we are waging war on these gangs and we are doing it through traditional law enforcement, but we are also finding new and different and innovative ways to disrupt their activities as well.
We’ve been doing this by really collecting all the information that the Commonwealth Government has on their activities and who these people are who are involved in these criminal gangs and we did it when we opened the Australian Gangs Intelligence Coordination Centre, a specialised unit located within the Australian Crime Commission, that brings together all of the resources on the Commonwealth to get the widest possible intelligence picture on Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs and their activities.
The Australian Crime Commission is obviously heavily involved in that, but they are joined in that centre by the Australian Federal Police, Australian Border Force, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and importantly the Australian Taxation Office and Department of Human Services.
The brief of the AGICC is to make sure we have a list, a current list, of people who are involved in Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, but also importantly to have a current list of their associates – the people who help facilitate their crimes such as their lawyers and accountants.
All Australian police agencies have access to this information, but importantly all Australian police agencies contribute to this information as well.
Since we opened the AGICC in December of 2013, they have supported 130 separate law enforcement operations and they’ve provided over 1,100 pieces of intelligence to their policing colleagues.
Now, the new and disruptive way we are looking at dismantling Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs has included executing warrants on their clubhouses, we’re heavily investigating their tax and welfare payments, we’ve been monitoring their travel movements and business activities and vitally importantly, and most effectively, what Minister Dutton has just outlined is in revoking the privilege of them being in Australia and throwing them out of the country.
We will continue to use absolutely everything at our disposal to attack Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs. We’re not going to tolerate their activities and I do congratulate Minister Dutton for all he has done in making sure that people who have arrived in Australia, non-citizens, specifically to prey on Australians, no longer enjoy the privilege of being here in Australia.
On that note, we’re very happy to take questions about this or other issues.
JOURNALIST: Minister Keenan, there’s been 15 shootings in Melbourne in the past 6 days, more than 2 a day. Apart from disrupting Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, what is the Government doing to prevent the flow of firearms into the country?
MICHAEL KEENAN: We don’t tolerate gun smuggling in Australia and we know Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs are engaged in it.
We have been keen to send the strongest possible message from Canberra that we’re not going to tolerate people smuggling in guns or smuggling in gun parts. You’d appreciate that even one smuggled gun can do an enormous amount of damage.
We have been engaged in trying to convince the parliament to pass tougher laws. The Labor Party has stood in the way of those laws passing the Parliament for the past almost three years. I would urge them to reconsider their position.
We want a mandatory sentence for people who smuggle in guns at five years. We’ve put that to the Parliament on separate occasions and on every occasion the Labor Party has knocked it back. This is the wrong thing to do. We want to send the strongest possible message that we won’t tolerate gun crime and one way of doing that is imposing the strongest possible sentence.
JOURNALIST: I know that this is a national issue, but have you been briefed on these latest shootings in Victoria? I know that Victoria Police has called for the State to consider tougher laws. Is there anything you can do?
MICHAEL KEENAN: We are doing everything we can by the things I have been outlining through getting better intelligence on Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, but also of course we created the National Anti-Gang Squad and we have a strike team based here in Victoria which involves the Australian Federal Police working hand in glove with their Victorian Police colleagues.
So we are doing an enormous amount to tackle organised crime. If there’s anything further that we can do we’ll certainly do it, but I mean it’s those sorts of measures that I was talking about that’s been blocked through the Parliament, for example, making sure that if you smuggle a gun and get caught you go to jail for a minimum five years.
JOURNALIST: Minister Keenan, did you just say that lawyers and accountants help Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs facilitate their crimes?
MICHAEL KEENAN: There’s no question that any criminal organisation needs people that help to facilitate their activities and that involves lawyers and accountants.
Part of the intelligence picture that we have been compiling involves people who are facilitating the crimes of organised criminals and we will continue to do all that we can to crack down on those groups.
JOURNALIST: So accountants and lawyers are going on the database that you’re building, that you’re tracking, to see who’s helping bikies?
MICHAEL KEENAN: Anyone who facilitates the activities of Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs or other organised criminals and come to our attention will certainly be a part of the wider intelligence picture, but importantly we’re going to do everything we can to crack down on their activities.
JOURNALIST: Minister Dutton, can I ask you what countries are people being deported to?
PETER DUTTON: People have been returned to many countries, but specifically a number have returned to New Zealand, we’ve had some that have gone back to the UK, back to Albania, to Iraq, to Vietnam, to Afghanistan, to Bosnia, Denmark and the list goes on and on.
Predominantly people have been of New Zealand nationality and they’ve been returned or they’re awaiting deportation back to New Zealand.
JOURNALIST: What can you tell us about an operation in Sydney yesterday involving Shane Martin?
PETER DUTTON: I can confirm that I took a decision based on the advice available to me to cancel the visa of Mr Shane Martin. I don’t have any comment to make in relation to an individual matter otherwise, but I will make this point – we are determined to, through this operation, target people who have been involved in, particularly at higher levels of Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs.
As I say, this Government is at war with Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs because they are distributing drugs across society and they’re involved in serious crime and we’re not going to take a backwards step.
The hierarchy of Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs should hear the message very clearly that we’re going to continue this operation until we can wipe out Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs because they are the biggest distributors of amphetamines and illicit drugs in this country.
If we can do that through cancelling the visas of non-citizens and providing assistance to Minister Keenan and agencies within his portfolio or otherwise then Australian Border Force will do whatever is within the law to make sure that we can stop these people in their tracks.
JOURNALIST: What specifically brought this case to your attention?
PETER DUTTON: I don’t want to go into any individual case, but just if I can make a general comment. There’s obviously, as I said, an operation that’s under way now and so we rely on advice, both open source and intelligence otherwise, which paints a picture for us about particular individuals.
When we form a judgment that that person fails section 501, the character test within the Immigration Act, then on that basis we can make a decision to cancel a visa and, as I say, we’ve done that in relation to 81 Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs members now and this fight is going to continue.
JOURNALIST: [inaudible question]
PETER DUTTON: Again, don’t have a comment to make in relation to individuals, but obviously there’s a legal process to go through where people can avail themselves of opportunities in the court to contest matters if that’s available to them and then once all of those matters are finalised they can leave or they’re deported.
It is open to people to go back to their country of origin and contest the matter from there. If they’re successful then they can return, otherwise they will stay in that country, they’ll go back to their country of origin.
JOURNALIST: Where is Mr Martin now? Is he in a detention centre?
PETER DUTTON: As I say, I don’t have any comments to make in relation to individuals and operational matters so I’ll leave it to the ABF officers.
JOURNALIST: The question goes to is it being handled by the Victorian police or being handled by the Departments under you?
PETER DUTTON: It is a joint operation obviously that takes place and then people will assess, the professionals will assess the risk of an individual and then the decision will be made about where that person is held until they can be deported.
JOURNALIST: What percentage of people who have had [inaudible] Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs members who have had visas cancelled end up appealing?
PETER DUTTON: I don’t have the stats around how many people appeal, but we’ve had a couple of cases go to the High Court and the High Court’s found in the Government’s favour.
I think most Australians, particularly mums and dads who have got kids that might be drug addicts or that have had their lives turned upside down by the activities of Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs members otherwise, I think they would want the Government to continue to cancel these visas because I believe very strongly, as Minister Keenan does, that we’re making our society as safer place by cancelling these visas.
Victorians are no strangers to organised crime and I think we are doing significant work here in Victoria, but around the country, to cancel the visas of Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs members – people who are involved in peddling drugs, involved in serious crime otherwise and our country will be better when they leave our shores.
JOURNALIST: Minister Keenan, Australia has the world’s toughest gun laws and yet we’re seeing things like pin pistols getting into the country. How are these weapons being brought into the country?
MICHAEL KEENAN: We do have a reasonable intelligence picture. There are a lot of firearms in the country and there has been for some time. We do have very strict gun laws.
They come in via different methods, but I mean essentially I suppose they could be imported from overseas or can be repurposed from the domestic market and both of those methods are used.
It’s only a very small number of guns, but of course a very small number of guns can do a very large amount of damage and as I said that’s why we are very keen to send the strongest possible signal that we’re not going to tolerate this activity.
JOURNALIST: Minister Dutton, can you confirm there was another boat turned back earlier this month off the coast of Indonesia?
PETER DUTTON: Obviously we don’t provide ongoing commentary in terms of on-water activities.
Operation Sovereign Borders has been very successful and we’ve not had a death at sea under Operation Sovereign Borders. We have been able to turn back boats where it’s safe to do so.
We’ll provide an update in relation to Operation Sovereign Borders in due course, but I make the general point that ABF obviously are called on from time to time to render assistance to vessels that may be in distress and particularly in that region where there is a large number of fishing vessels and vessels otherwise. From time to time they’re called on to provide assistance to the crew and otherwise their activities obviously are centred around trying to make sure we don’t allow the people smugglers to get back into business.
I’m aware of the commentary you’re referring to and I just don’t have any further comment to make on it.
JOURNALIST: Given the commentary though, are you concerned it is going to complicate the Bali process?
PETER DUTTON: No. We have got a good relationship with Indonesia and we work closely with them.
We’re the biggest donor into Indonesia to provide support for people on the ground who are claiming to be refugees, or they’re treating Indonesia as a transit country to come to Australia or to go to a third country otherwise. So we provide significant support and we’ve got a very good working relationship with the Indonesians.
I’m looking forward to the Bali process at the end of this month, which I’ll attend with Minister Bishop, but Australia is very determined to make sure that we continue the success that we’ve had in relation to stopping the boats.
People who think this problem has gone away need to look no further than what’s going on in Europe at the moment and we know there are about 14,000 people who are in Indonesia ready to hop on boats now.
I don’t want our detention centres to refill because we’ve been able to close 13 of the 17 centres and I’ve said continuously that I want to be the Minister not only that makes sure that we keep the boats stopped but that gets kids out of detention and that number is down to less than 50, bearing in mind Labor had 8,000 children go through detention in this country and we’re not ever going to return to those days.
JOURNALIST: Can I ask about a report from our Sky News colleagues in London. They had a number of documents leaked to them showing the sign-up sheets for a number of fighters joining Islamic State. One of them was an Australian which is the form has been translated into English on The Australian’s website.
Did you know of this case and where this person is at the moment?
MICHAEL KEENAN: I’m not going to comment on any individual case, but as you’ll be aware from those media reports there has been a large amount of information that’s in the hands of our German colleagues. I will actually be in Germany on Monday and Tuesday.
We will continue what is a very strong intelligence relationship with our allies and of course if there’s information we can share together that enhances the security of Australia, enhances the security of Germany or other friends, then we’ll certainly do that.
JOURNALIST: Minister Dutton, are you hopeful of progress to send non-refugees back to Iran to clear the back-log when the Iranian Foreign Minister visits next week?
PETER DUTTON: I have said this for a long time that we would work with people who are on Nauru and Manus in particular, but a number of people who are here domestically as well to try and help facilitate a return to their country of origin.
So we work with a number of partners and we do that behind the scenes, obviously, and many people have returned back to their country of origin because they’re seeking economic refuge in our country.
Whilst the Government has increased the number of refugees that we’ve taken in through our programmes, we’ve done it in an orderly way. So we’re working with the UN and we’ve made a significant announcement in terms of the numbers that we want to take from Syria.
So the bottom line here is that we want to preside over an orderly program and we’ll continue to work with partners, but individuals that are within the Regional Processing Centres to help them return to their country of origin if they’re not owed protection.
JOURNALIST: Minister Keenan, will the Government change the Proceeds of Crime Act so that criminals can’t use the proceeds of crime to pay off bank loans?
MICHAEL KEENAN: Well, we’ve actually – I’m not sure what you mean by paying off bank loans, but what we seek to do is confiscate that money and make sure it’s not used not just for paying off bank loans, it’s not used for anything.
It is actually in Federal Government coffers. What we then do is reinvest it in law enforcement and we have been very successful in doing that.
We’ve doubled the proceeds of crime that we collect since we’ve come to office and we have specifically done that because I invested $11 million of that proceeds of crime in enhancing the ability of a specialised unit of the Australian Federal Police to go after the money that criminals make from their illegal activities. It’s doubled the dollar amount they we’ve taken from criminal over the past two years.
What we seek to do is enhance that regime by a national unexplained wealth law. I have been talking to my state and territory colleagues about that for some time and that will soon be finalised with some of the jurisdictions around the county that have agreed to participate.
JOURNALIST: Is it currently legal to use proceeds of crime to pay off assets [inaudible] loan?
MICHAEL KEENAN: Well it’s not legal to use proceeds of crime for anything. If we identify proceeds of crime we seek to confiscate it and, as I said, reinvest it in law enforcement.
JOURNALIST: Just back on the IS list, have you spoken to our intelligence authorities, do they believe that this is real? And secondly, if I could just ask you about the ABCC Bill in Parliament – would you have a message for the Senate cross benchers who are holding out on it?
MICHAEL KEENAN: To deal with your second question last, I think the Prime Minister has sent them a very strong message this morning and I would reiterate that obviously his whole Ministry and indeed the whole Government stands behind that message that that’s an important Bill which we want to see passed. It is important that it is passed in the national interest.
On your first issue, I have conversations with our intelligence community every day and I think what this does show – this very significant leak of information is that ISIL is in trouble. They have had military reversals. We have been putting them under pressure in a whole series of ways.
Those who have gone to fight alongside them are understanding the nature of this regime and the fact that they are being used as cannon fodder in this fight.
Clearly when you are seeing information come out in this way then that’s an indication that they are under very significant pressure and indeed starting to disintegrate.
PETER DUTTON: Thank you very much.
MICHAEL KEENAN: Thanks very much.