Subjects: Strengthening citizenship requirements.
Let's ask the Minister for Immigration and Border Control Peter Dutton. Minister, how will these changes to the citizenship process stop terrorism?
Well there are a few different aspects to it. Obviously we do want to modernise the citizenship arrangements. So in a country like Germany they require eight years of permanent residency before someone can become a citizen and in Canada it's five. So we're saying we want to extend it from one year to four.
We want people to abide by not only Australian laws, but also Australian values and we want to work with people – the vast majority of whom will become great Australian citizens – but at the moment, for example, there are people off fighting in the Middle East who would have received Australian citizenship and people rightly ask, well why are you going to allow those people back into our country? Well the fact is that they are Australian citizens and once you become a citizen, you get the rights and obligations under the law, you get protections under the constitution, you get access to health and welfare. So it is worth getting it right in the first instance and that's what we are aiming to do here.
So you're saying there's a connection between this and terrorism because some people who have become citizens have since gone on to become terrorists? Is that…I'm just trying to be clear on the assertion here. Is that what you think?
Well I don't think there's any one outcome here Waleed. I mean all of us want the best people to become Australian citizens. We've had five million people become Australian citizens since 1949. The vast majority of those people do the right thing, they engage, they work, they've educated their kids, they're great Australians, but I need to make sure that we are making every decision possible to keep Australians safe and I want to make sure that Australian citizenship is preserved for those people who want to abide by our laws, who want integrate into society, who want to educate their kids, who want work hard. That's what Australian citizenship is about and so there are many reasons why we would want these changes.
Alright I understand that point, but do you have evidence that re-framing citizenship in this way will have that kind of effect? Has ASIO advised you to do this because it will help in the fight against terrorism? Has the AFP advised you to do this? Has anybody who is expert and works on the front line of fighting terrorism said what we need to do is change citizenship laws?
Well we've have had a public consultation underway since 2015, so we've have had literally hundreds of people that have provided responses, engaged...
…I'm interested in ASIO and the AFP because I understand those consultations, those contributions from the public, won't be made public. So we won't be able to inspect those, but have ASIO or the AFP advised you that this would be helpful?
Well Waleed, as you know, I wouldn't talk about advice that I've received from ASIO or the AFP, but the Government wouldn't do anything that is inconsistent with advice that we've received from the intelligence or the law enforcement agencies. Every decision we're making at the moment is designed to make us a safer country and that's exactly what we're doing now.
It's interesting you say that though because we've had the Head of ASIO, the Director-General of ASIO say that there's no causal link between the Refugee Programme and terrorism, for example – which is a slightly different thing – but my point is they're not making noises that sound like this.
We know there was a document that was given to Cabinet, that was leaked into the public last year, which found that integration testing, which is kind of what you're talking about here, it's doubtful leads to improved understanding of and adherence to Australian values. That's the advice that you've been given that's on the public record. So I don't understand how you're hitching it to other advice that we apparently can't see that seems to contradict everything we're being told?
Well I think, with respect, you're conflating a couple of issues there. So Duncan Lewis' comments last week were in the context of a question out of Senate Estimates – or the week before I think it was – in relation to the Refugee Programme and aspects around terrorism etc. So that's a separate issue than what we're talking about here.
So what we're doing is making sure that, for example, in Melbourne at the moment where there's huge problems as you know with Apex gang members, where we have children, 16, 17 years of age following people home from restaurants, invading their homes, stealing car keys, breaking into shops, etc. At the moment some of those people, once they turn 18 will essentially automatically receive Australian citizenship.
We're tightening that up and saying that if people are not of good character, if they have been involved in criminal offences – leaving aside the terrorism aspect, which is an important one – but there are many aspects to the decision that we've made here; frankly I don't want those people to become Australian citizens if they've been involved in serious criminal activity and at the moment, I think the laws are too lax.
There are plenty examples in the UK, in France, in Germany, in the United States, etc. where the provisions are even tougher than those that we're providing here, so we're trying to get the balance right…
…Minister, if I could just jump in though. The United Patriots Front member Phil Galea was arrested for terrorism offences late last year. He was born here. He's a patriot, isn't he?
Well no, and people who want to act outside of the law make it very clear that they want to go to jail or they want to be prosecuted and they should be. So I don't care whether you're on the hard Left or the hard Right, if you're committing offences against the law then you know – people who are involved as perpetrators of domestic violence for example, I've said I believe very strongly that it's hard to mount an argument or hard for me to see an argument that those people should become Australian citizens. I don't think that's consistent with our values, with our laws and that's the stance the Government has taken.
Alright Minister, we will have to leave it there, but thanks for your time tonight.
Thanks guys, cheers.