Subjects: The Prime Minister’s lack of leadership; Labor’s immigration detention chaos.
The Government and Opposition have struck a deal to strengthen visa rules for asylum seekers. The Opposition maintaining the Government’s mishandled the release of 84 asylum seekers into the community, some of them hardened criminals. The group let out after the High Court ruled indefinite detention unlawful.
Yesterday, the Government introduced legislation to bring in controls on that group. The Opposition thinking it didn’t go far enough – put up amendments – the Government accepting six of those.
So, there are some visa restrictions, including wearing ankle bracelets and a curfew – that was the initial look of the Bill. The Opposition Leader Peter Dutton telling Parliament that didn’t go far enough and the Government agreeing to six changes, including more restriction of movement around schools and childcare centres, and harsher jail terms if the detainees, the people released, break the rules.
Here’s the clincher in all of this: it was 84 people yesterday, the Opposition fears the number could be over 300, ultimately.
Leader of the Opposition Peter Dutton on the line. Mr Dutton, good morning.
Good morning Matthew.
So this move, this compromise, it seems to be a win in your court, but the Government obviously agreeing its own measures didn’t go far enough?
Well, it’s certainly bittersweet because it’s a bad Bill, and I hope that we’ve made it a little bit better, but the reality is that we’re talking about 84 of the most serious criminals here. These are non-citizens, they’re people who have committed crimes against children as young as 10, paedophiles and rapists, murderers – one individual who murdered a pregnant woman and then blew her body up, unbelievably.
The Government had known about this since June and had the opportunity to legislate, to keep these people in detention, but they didn’t take that option up, and at the 11th hour – literally yesterday – we had only one hour to deal with the Bill, to get the amendments drafted – there would have been many more amendments to make to that Bill, but that was all the time that we had – so it’s been a rushed process, and I really do fear that other people will fall victim to these individuals now that they’re out in the community.
Do you believe Australians are safer now as a result of this?
I don’t. I think Australians are genuinely at risk because these are people who have demonstrated that they don’t have any regard for the law, or for victims, or for their rights, and I think that there is a very, very high chance that they will offend again.
As you point out, the advice, remarkably, that we got from the Government yesterday as well, for the first time, was that there’s another 340 people who could follow these 84 out into the community – and to rub salt into the wound, the taxpayer is providing welfare payments to these people – they’re not Australian citizens – and they’re providing hotel accommodation. It’s a completely and utterly unacceptable position and it does put Australians at risk.
What’s needed here? If you were the Prime Minister, what would you be doing to address this? Is it a matter of deportation for these people?
Well, it is, and the Government should be making a greater effort and pulling out every diplomatic leverage that they’ve got to get rid of these people and return them back to their country of origin.
There are migration zones that can be set up, there’s the option the Government seriously needs to consider, which is a preventative detention order, and they’re all available to the Government, but the Government hasn’t been minded to do that. I think they’ve sort of fallen on the side of the rights of the individuals who have committed these crimes and they’ve forgotten about the individuals who are victims.
I asked the Acting Prime Minister yesterday, because the Prime Minister is overseas again, ‘have you been in contact?’, ‘has the Department been in contact with these victims to let them know that these people are back out in the community?’, ‘have you offered any assistance, support, protection to some of these victims?’ – and we’ve seen some of the victims do media, particularly one woman who had been sexually assaulted and is devastated that this individual’s back out in the community, when she thought he was going to be deported.
If the Prime Minister was here yesterday – and there’s criticism, growing criticism of him for being away again – if he was here, do you think these changes would have got through?
It’s a very good question. Richard Marles was certainly more pragmatic yesterday and realised the gravity of the Government’s mess here and the consequences, the likely consequences, with more victims and he was much more engaging than the Prime Minister had been.
My argument was that the Prime Minister should deal with these domestic priorities before he goes overseas on yet another trip. It turns out I think, that not all of the leaders will be at APEC, and I thought the Prime Minister had a very important job to do here, to protect Australians, to negotiate this Bill, to deal with an issue Minister Giles and Clare O’Neil had created – it was just a complete and utter debacle the way that they were approaching it, and that they hadn’t drafted legislation since June – and I thought he should have stayed here in Australia until the matter had been resolved, because if these people go out and offend and commit crimes against Australian citizens, I think the Prime Minister’s got a very serious charge against him.
The Government, as you’ve mentioned, urged to overhaul migration laws – that’s coming in from all quarters, including the Opposition of course – but is there a sign that’s happening?
I just think there needs to be a willingness from the Government to act, and I think a lot of these matters, what’s at the core of it is that the Government doesn’t have the same resolve that we had when we were in government.
As Immigration Minister, there were plenty of cases that went to the High Court, to the Full Federal Court, and we found ways with the assistance of the government solicitors, to keep the community as safe as humanly possible. What we’ve got at the moment is completely the opposite of that.
Peter Dutton, Leader of the Opposition, appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.
Thanks Matthew. Take care.