TOM CONNELL: I'm joined by Immigration Minister David Coleman. David, thanks for your time today. Can I start by asking about the sort of general push on this; if you've got all the states overall saying they want a lot fewer people than we're getting at the moment, will that mean we have a lower migrant intake?
DAVID COLEMAN: Well Tom, I think the key point here is that we can improve the planning for the annual migration intake. At the moment, the states do have a role and a part of the immigration planning process, but there is an opportunity to give the states more of an input, to seek to link the requests of the states for immigrants to their capacity to provide the infrastructure. And also, very importantly Tom, to ensure there's a regional balance in immigration. So at the moment, we've got the overwhelming proportion of immigrants coming into the main cities, particularly Sydney and Melbourne. We know we've got opportunities going begging in terms of employment opportunities in the regions. There's an opportunity for the system to better meet those needs and we're already doing that in terms of the agriculture sector, through the initiatives we announced last week. We're negotiating at the moment a number of regional agreements around Australia in Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, Queensland. But there's, yeah, there's no question Tom, that it's possible to improve the planning of the annual migration intake and that's what we're doing.
TOM CONNELL: And I do want to get to the regions in a moment. But just on this plan; when you say give the states more of a say, what does that mean exactly? If we come back from this process and the states overall are saying 100,000 migrants and the previous cap was in the vicinity of 180 or so, do we shift to 100?
DAVID COLEMAN: Well the ultimate decisions around the immigration intake Tom are for the Federal Government. It's a federal responsibility and those decisions will be made by the Federal Government. But the opportunity to work more closely with the states, to link the number of people to the planning in relation to infrastructure, housing and other things, frankly, makes a lot of sense. It hasn't happened in the past and what we want to do is to ensure there is a greater link up in the planning of what the states are thinking and what the Commonwealth is thinking. But the ultimate decision-
TOM CONNELL: Yeah, so when you say greater link up and I understand the ultimate decision is the governments, so you can make that decision. But what's it going to be if there's a big difference between how many the government cap is at and the states is at and that one is lower. Would that not be ignored? Would we have fewer migrants as a [indistinct] intake?
DAVID COLEMAN: Well Tom, I'm not going to obviously pre-empt the outcome of the annual discussions, but what I would say is that we do think there's an opportunity for more discussion, for more input from the states. But the Federal Government has always been the decision-maker on immigration and it will continue to be.
TOM CONNELL: When it comes to the regional aspect as well, is this still purely incentive-based? How do you force people to go to country regions?
DAVID COLEMAN: Tom, there's a lot of opportunities to improve the distribution of the immigration system. There are numerous visas at the moment that relate to regional migration. Some of those have been criticised for not having sufficient compliance and sufficiently ensuring that people do ultimately stay in the regions. As the PM's indicated, there are tools that can be used in terms of conditions on visas and other tools that we're looking at.
TOM CONNELL: Can you give us an example of that Minister? So you've got someone who's come here; what sort of visa are you going to put them on to make sure they're in the regions and how is that policed through [indistinct] if they're living in Sydney. Are they kicked out? Is it a one strike, two strike?
DAVID COLEMAN: Yeah. Well again Tom, I'm not here to announce the policy today. But what I would say is that if you look back historically, if the question is - has the regional planning been as good as it could be? The answer is no. And are there ways of improving it? Absolutely. I'm working to a large degree on this matter at the moment and the government obviously will have more to say in due course. But the key problem here Tom, thousands and thousands of opportunities going begging in regional Australia and immigration system at the moment, which frankly, doesn't match up to those needs. And as the PM said, there are ways of addressing that but I'm not outlining our entire proposal to you today.
TOM CONNELL: Right. Okay, without going into detail though Minister, are we talking about moving towards forcing people rather than just incentives that it's going to be something that we would police in some way? Are you talking about cracking down on this more?
DAVID COLEMAN: Well you can place conditions on visas Tom and we've said that before. So, if you place a condition on a visa, you need to ensure that that condition is delivered upon and that's the sort of area that we're progressing.
TOM CONNELL: Minister, just on the terror threat, are you taking a fresh look at people on the watch-list at the moment to see if any should have their visas or citizenship cancelled?
DAVID COLEMAN: Well look Tom, just on this matter, the existing provisions around visas for non-citizens are strong through section 501 where under the character provisions we can and do regularly cancel peoples visas; 4000 since 2015. We put more legislation to parliament a couple of weeks ago to further strengthen those rules. So strong provisions in relation to visas, dual citizens who have gone overseas to participate in terrorist activities - we have very strong provisions there to stop them from coming back. And the other issue of course Tom that's really important, is people who are Australian citizens. The terror attack in Melbourne on Friday was perpetrated by an Australian citizen and it is very important that we have very strong rules around Australian citizenship that we demand that people sign up to Australian values and that we very, very thoroughly assess citizenship applications. We put a lot more resources into assessing citizenship applications in recent years and there's more that can be done in terms of the citizenship rules.
TOM CONNELL: And just to follow up on that, are you taking a fresh look in the wake of what's happened in terms of further visa or citizenship cancellations?
DAVID COLEMAN: Well look, we're obviously always looking at these matters Tom and anything that comes out of the investigations into the Bourke Street terrorist attack will be actioned Tom.
TOM CONNELL: What about broadening that? Michael Sukkar says perhaps we should be able to have an action when there are terrorist sympathisers. Is that on the table?
DAVID COLEMAN: Well again, under section 501 of the act Tom, if there are concerns about a person's character, the Minister has quite broad powers to cancel that visa. It's been used 4000 times in recent years and I certainly will not hesitate to use it.
TOM CONNELL: So that could be used, to make an example, of someone tweeting their support perhaps for this attack? That could be used then that ministerial power in that regard?
DAVID COLEMAN: Yes. Those powers are quite broad. The Minister has significant discretion Tom. And as I said, we've put more legislation into the parliament on this a couple of weeks ago, and if anything comes out of the investigation into Bourke Street that suggests that there's more that can be done, we will absolutely be adopting it.
TOM CONNELL: Immigration Minister, David Coleman. Thanks very much for your time today.
DAVID COLEMAN: Thanks Tom.