Journalist: The Immigration Minister Peter Dutton joins us from Brisbane. I know that you guys like to do things differently up there in Queensland, but what's going on here with Ian Macfarlane – do you share Jamie Briggs' view for example when he tweeted that there's really nothing surprising in this if you know Ian Macfarlane's character.
Peter Dutton: Well Queensland politics has always been pretty interesting and there's always able to be some rabbit pulled out of the hat.
Look I think the fact is that the LNP has a process which is quite different to the other states and territories. I think that's the first point for people to understand in Melbourne and Sydney for example. The branches there operate very separately and the organisation is separate.
In Queensland there was merger of the two parties, so the Liberal and National parties in the State Parliament sit in the one party room, at a Federal level the way in which the agreement was struck originally meant that there was effectively a nomination of each of the seats – the seat of Dickson for example, you contest that preselection on the basis that you will sit in the Liberal Party party room and that was the case for Groom as well – and others are designated to the National party room and that's the way in which the arrangement was struck, an agreement sought on that basis by Bruce McIver and Lawrence Springborg and others at the time.
So the LNP will have to work through this process and I know the State Executive meets again shortly to discuss the issue.
Journalist: Minister we now know that Ian Macfarlane was in secret talks with the National leaders Warren Truss and Barnaby Joyce for a couple of weeks.
Malcolm Turnbull didn't know this, what does this tell us about trust within the Government?
Peter Dutton: Paul, I think what it says is that Ian Macfarlane is obviously disappointed by not being appointed to the frontbench and he obviously harbours an ambition. He has been around for a very long time and Malcolm Turnbull made the decision that he wanted to refresh and bring some younger people into the Cabinet and obviously Ian Macfarlane is disappointed about that. There are disappointments for all of us in politics over a long period of time and people deal with that in different ways.
I think the next step now though is for the organisation in Queensland to sort out what happens because I don't think this is a fait accompli. I think he State Executive will have something further to say in relation to this because as I say when the LNP was brought together, those of us who supported the LNP and its formation, did so on the basis that this arrangement would be in place and would continue into the future and I think that's what the State Executive – amongst other things – will contemplate when they look at this proposal by Ian Macfarlane.
Journalist: But Minister isn't the reality here that there is significant suspicion inside the National Party, particularly among Queensland Nats, towards Malcolm Turnbull?
Peter Dutton: Look Paul I've spoken with the Prime Minister in the last 24 hours on a few occasions in fact and he is very respectful of the Coalition and very determined to make sure that that relationship works and works well.
As you pointed out, quite rightly in your opening remarks, Liberal leaders to be successful need to have a successful coalition and I think Malcolm Turnbull's applied himself to that cause.
I think what's happened here is we've got a disappointed person that thinks they should be on the frontbench, they've conducted an operation which is behind the scenes and as I say I think the State Executive of the LNP in Queensland will contemplate whether or not that's going to be a feasible step.
So this issue hasn't been resolved as yet and I think we'll wait and see what happens over the next couple of weeks.
Journalist: Ok you just the point that Macfarlane had been operating behind the scenes. Obviously the Liberal Party is quite legitimate in having a lot of concerns and anger about this. How much dismay and anger do you think there is in the Liberal Party towards what Macfarlane's doing?
Peter Dutton: Paul, I don't think it's helpful for me to express that to you on this great programme this morning.
I think it's fair to say I've expressed my views privately behind the scenes to a number of people and publicly. I think for us to talk about beltway issues and issues around the machinery of the party is just not helpful.
So I think if we can resolve these issues internally I think that's always a better course than having to traverse them publicly.
Journalist: Let me ask you how much dismay would there be inside the Liberal Party and would it be acceptable to the Liberal Party if Macfarlane came back into the Cabinet as a Minister – this time a Nat?
Peter Dutton: Paul, I just think it's very important to recognise that this race is not yet run.
The State Executive needs to consider the whole issue. As I understand it Mr Macfarlane's preselection was only ratified a couple of weeks ago, but on the basis that he would sit in the Liberal Party party room. So I think the State Executive will contemplate whether that issue needs to be revisited and whether or not this outcome that Macfarlane proposes is realised or not.
I think there is a lot of water to go under the bridge so we should just wait and see and take one step at a time.
Journalist: So essentially what you're suggesting is this whole thing could be torpedoed?
Peter Dutton: I think there is a lot of discussion to be had internally, Paul, and as I've say I just don't think it helps to be discussing it out in public. But I think the LNP State Executive is looking very closely at what is a very sensitive and significant issue and I think this race has a long way to go yet.
Journalist: But if that's the case though Minister Dutton, what does that say about the actions of the National Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss or indeed Barnaby Joyce who of course is the leader in waiting as well as their deputy?
They were both complicit in this, not only over recent weeks, but recent months. So if this has a long way to run at the State Executive level up in Queensland, it doesn't have a long way to run in the minds of these senior National Party Cabinet colleagues of yours who quite clearly have been trying to help orchestrate this behind the scenes.
Peter Dutton: Peter, as I say I think it's an internal party matter now for the LNP given that Mr Macfarlane was endorsed or rather his preselection ratified on the basis that he was sitting in the Liberal Party party room. Potentially other people would have sought preselection if they'd knew it was going to be a National Party seat or a LNP seat resulting in that person sitting in the National Party party room.
As I say it's a unique situation in Queensland given the merger of the two parties as opposed to the way in which the system operates in New South Wales or Melbourne.
Journalist: It sounds like there could well, from what you're saying, be a long way to go with what happens vis-a-vis his preselection and what the State Executive decides to do. What though, which seems like a separate issue, he's made the
decision he's come out an announced it – whether he has his preselection revoked or not – it sounds like he's now a Nat, he certainly considers himself one for the remainder of this Parliament, what does that mean in terms of the Coalition arrangements around frontbench positions because all the suggestions seem to be that the Prime Minister may now need to sack a Liberal and promote a National, whether it is Ian Macfarlane or somebody else?
Peter Dutton: Peter, there's a Coalition agreement that's in place. The Prime Minister will honour the agreement and we'll work with the Nationals as we have done over a long period of time. Over the course of the agreement, between successive Liberal leaders, there have been glitches along the way, but there's goodwill on both sides and I think issues can be resolved and again it's important to recognise that it's a unique situation, as you point out often it is in Queensland, in terms of the LNP as opposed to other states and territories. So we just need to work through that.
The difficultly of course is that it is a distraction from the important issues – the most important issue in my portfolio this week was the passing through both the House and the Senate of Citizenship Bill, the Allegiance Bill, which strips dual citizens of their citizenship if they've been involved in a terrorist attack or preparation for a terrorist attack.
So there's a lot of good work that's going on and we need to put these party matters to one side and move on to the substantive issues which are important to the Australian public.
Journalist: And one of the great benefits of this programme as you well know Minister is that we have plenty of time, so we will be able to get to those important issues, not the mention the Mal Brough saga as well which I'm sure the viewers are at least somewhat interested in.
But just on the Macfarlane thing, if I can just follow this up, from the perspective of Warren Truss, certainly when they had their discussions on the last parliamentary sitting day, he was throwing out there the notion of the Coalition agreement, that we are talking about, so it sounds like it could well be forced on the Prime Minister to promote a Nat and dump a Liberal.
Now if that were to happen, I'm not sure I'm asking you the question, what is the process here? Does the National Party get to select who that person is, therefore it could be Ian Macfarlane as part of a stitched up deal or is it up to the Prime Minister to promote a different National if he thinks that they're more worthy? Someone like Darren Chester for example has expressed concerns that Ian Macfarlane might be able to just waltz straight in.
Peter Dutton: Peter, on the basis that this is the last question on this topic, I'm happy to answer it as fully as I can.
First point is that there is a legislative upper limit in terms of the number of Ministers
– both Cabinet and Outer Ministry – and there's a statutory cap if you like.
The second point is there is a formula that operates within the Coalition agreement as to what the composition will be depending on the make-up of the respective party rooms and then there is a discussion between the National's leader and the Liberal leader as to the nomination process.
So the only other point that I would make is that I have known Warren Truss and Barnaby Joyce for a long period of time, they're both very decent and honourable men and I think that agreement will be struck and commonsense will be arrived at.
As I say there's a way to go in terms of the internal deliberations on what is an important issue for the LNP and a real test for the organisation here. So I'm sure they're up to that test and that will run its course.
Journalist: So there's essentially a quota system for the National Party. Why does the Liberal Party have a problem with a quota for women?
Peter Dutton: Well the way in which the system operates, as you would expect in any Coalition agreement – I'm not sure that it operated this way with Julia Gillard when she was in coalition with the Greens, it may have in Tasmania where the Greens and the Labor Party were in Coalition there – but the way in which the Coalition agreement has always operated is that there is representation depending on the number of people, as you would expect, the number of seats won and the number of people that then sit in the respective party rooms.
So there's a formula that applies to that, as it would under any Coalition agreement, so quite a separate proposition to having mandated quotas based on sex or religion or some other basis.
Journalist: Minister as you know the Mal Brough issue dominated the last fortnight of Parliament, particularly the last week. How serious is this in terms of an embarrassment for the Turnbull Government?
Peter Dutton: Paul, obviously it's been a difficult week and we need to recognise that because the Government has had a very good run and we go into the end of the year in a very strong position, because I think the Prime Minister and the Treasurer and the frontbench are talking about issues which are very important to the Australian public, and predominantly that's a message of jobs and growth and making sure that we can get the Budget back on track.
Obviously these issues run their course and the Opposition will take every political advantage they can. They take a very different position I might point out in terms of Mr Shorten who's had a dark cloud hanging over his head for a long period of time with respect to the union Royal Commission and allegations made there.
I think the most important thing here is for the police to conduct their investigation and for that to continue unhindered without pressure and it will be resolved one way or the other.
Journalist: What about the argument made by a number of people, that given the situation, Mal Brough should stand aside?
Peter Dutton: I don't think that case is made out Paul, I think what needs to happen is that the police investigation, which is quite separate of course as it should be from the executive arm of government, they conduct their investigation and they will take whatever course they believe is appropriate according to the law.
Of course the Opposition is going to make out that some allegations has been substantiated or that somebody has misled. Ultimately the arbiter of that should be due process and the police have initiated their investigation. They are conducting it which is completely and utterly appropriate. Mr Brough has provided all that's been asked of him, as I understand it in that process, and let the police decide and then the consequences flow one way or the other from that.
Journalist: You've seen the edited version of the 60 Minutes interview that Mr Brough did as well as presumably the unedited version which came out after some of the comments that Mr Brough made in Parliament, do you see a difference between the two, a material difference?
Peter Dutton: Look Peter, I am not in a position to comment because I just don't have all of the nuanced detail in it and as I say really the only people that can make judgment about this particular issue are the police who have initiated this investigation.
They will look at the views on every side and every angle in relation to this investigation and that's why, I think, as opposed to taking one snippet out of this particular debate, I think it's best to let the experts judge and make their analysis and then determine the outcome. That's why I think its best left to them.
I've known Mal Brough for a long period of time and obviously he's working hard in his portfolio and he's got a particular point of view in relation to these matters that he's put both to the police and to the Parliament. The proper authorities will decide.
But I just don't think that we can prejudge any of that and as I say the priority for the Government now is to make sure that we continue that message to the Australian people that we want to provide them with support in getting their kids into jobs, in making sure that we can pay down Labor's debt and making sure we can secure the future of this country.
That's what's important to people and in terms of my portfolio, making sure that we can keep people as safe as humanely possible.
Journalist: And we are going to get on to those portfolio issues shortly, but just on something that your colleague Cory Bernardi said during the week about Mal Brough, he described it as a 'captain's pick' by Malcolm Turnbull to put him in the Special Minister of State portfolio. In hindsight that was pretty unwise, wasn't it?
Peter Dutton: Well Cory's a good mate of mine, but the point is that in our party the leader always picks who goes into his or her Cabinet.
In the Labor Party they are dominated by the factional bosses and there are backroom deals done and you are seeing the consequences of that in Queensland at the moment, where you get some complete duds who make it to the frontbench.
The beauty of the Liberal leader and his position or her position, as the case may be, they have free reign and they choose across the party and I think we have got an enormous amount of depth within our party and ultimately the Prime Minister or the leader of the Liberal Party makes a call and it's based on his or her own judgement – and that's what's happened in relation to this frontbench composition.
It's what happened for Tony and for John Howard when he was Prime Minister. So that's the way it's always been for the Liberal Party and long may it be the case because the last thing we want is to be dictated to by faceless men, as operates within the union dominated Labor Party.
Journalist: Mr Dutton can I just ask you before we move into your portfolio a quick question on the by-election that was held yesterday for the seat of North Sydney, obviously vacated by Joe Hockey.
Trent Zimmermann has won the seat, but with a pretty substantial swing against the Government. It looks like, according to where the vote's at so far, a larger swing against the Government than occurred in the seat of Canning, what does that say?
Peter Dutton: Well Peter obviously the first point is that nobody likes by- elections.
People are reluctant to turn up to the polling booths every three years and so there's generally a bit of a backlash just because of that, which people can understand, but in the circumstances Joe had been a very long serving and popular Local Member, so there's that personal vote that is lost as well.
I think what you'll see in Trent Zimmerman (a) is that he's a very credible candidate and now Member-elect and he will over time build up that same personal following that Joe Hockey did. So I think a combination of those factors obviously result in a swing.
The fact is that Joe Hockey was a great member for North Sydney and people will reflect that in the vote when they take their vote away and I think it will return to Trent over the next couple of elections. But it takes time to build up a local following in that regard until people can make a final judgement about whether you're worth supporting on a personal basis or people are just voting on a party basis.
Journalist: I think most viewers accept and understand that, the same thing could have been said in relation to Canning with Don Randall's passing, particularly with the circumstances, but a lot was made by Malcolm Turnbull's supporters and anti-Abbott people within the Coalition, particularly within the Liberal Party, about the risk of the size of the swing in the seat of Canning because of the unpopularity of Tony Abbott.
In the end, the size of the swing in North Sydney is worse than in Canning and Canning occurred right at the moment of a pretty bloody coup?
Peter Dutton: Well I think if you have a look at the pre-polling numbers out of Canning that was pretty indicative of what we saw on polling day, proper, that was in the WA by-election.
Ultimately there is a fundamental difference because there is a different response by the public when a by-election is caused by the premature death of a sitting Member and somebody retiring mid-term. So there's obviously that fundamental difference – I think that's obvious we saw it in Canning and we saw it in North Sydney many years ago as well.
It happens. There is quite a difference in a situation where somebody retires before a general election and somebody has an untimely passing.
Again, Don Randall was a very popular local member but there was not much difference between the pre-polling when Tony Abbott was still leader and ultimately the general election when Malcolm had assumed the job.
Journalist: Minister when we are likely to see some practical results from passage of the Citizenship Bill this week and what is the size of the potential number of people that could be affected?
Peter Dutton: Paul, there are a couple of points I think that are important here. The first one is that this only applies to dual citizens and it involves people committing or planning to commit a terrorist act.
There are a couple of ways in which people can be captured.
They can commit an offence onshore and then flee to offshore before they can be charged under Australian law.
It could be an offence committed in Syria where they're involved in the beheading of somebody there and we could move against them. But again, we can't render anybody stateless, and it can result as a course of their actions, otherwise; that is in relation to a conviction of terrorism and we have the retrospectivity element to this Bill as well – that is if somebody's been convicted of a terrorist attack in the last 10 years to a cumulative sentence, of 10 years of more – then by those actions they're captured and they can have their citizenship stripped.
The department will now commence work with DFAT, with the Australian Crime Commission, the Federal Police, ASIO, ASIS and others to look at potential candidates.
The law has operated in the United Kingdom for some years and it has only had limited applicability and we would expect that to be the case here.
But the reason it's been so important is that we do have the potential to stop some people returning to our shores and in the UK that has been hailed as an opportunity to reduce the risk of a terrorist attack on their soil and that has been the same approach that I've taken here.
I think and believe very strongly that we have the ability to stop some people from coming back to our shores, having trained with ISIS or been involved in a terrorist organisation elsewhere, and frankly we don't want them back here.
We are looking at some individual cases at the moment, but we are not talking about vast numbers at all.
Journalist: Ok. You made the point that this relates to dual nationals. Is there still an expectation the Government can take some sort of action in relation to other people who are not dual nationals?
Peter Dutton: Paul, the Government is contemplating what the next steps might be because the threat is not diminishing and we need to make sure, firstly, that people understand the threat that we face – and people see it now playing out in the United States, on the back of the Paris attacks, and before that, Lebanon, in many attacks before that, including in Indonesia where our own citizens have been affected in great numbers, but also in Sydney and Melbourne here most recently – so we need to recognise the fact that the overwhelming message is that the Government has a very strong approach and that we are supported, very ably, by our intelligence and security and border protection agencies. They work collaboratively to make sure that we reduce the threat.
Ultimately we need to make sure that the police and the intelligence operatives have as much in their kit bag as they can. We need to have every option available to them.
We are seeing, as ASIO's pointed out, a real threat from people who may have been here for a period of time, [inaudible] Australian citizens have denounced their birthright citizenship or have just been born in Australia to migrant parents.
So there are a number of ways in which we need to look at what options might be next, but we don't take that decision lightly, we need to balance it with all of the appropriate measures and make sure that the rule of law is adhered to and our democracy respected.
But ultimately we need to make sure that we can do whatever is possible to keep people as safe as we can.
Journalist: We had your ministerial colleagues Josh Frydenberg on the programme last Sunday and he said that he would not accept any sense that accepting a terrorist attack in this country is the new norm and he said we've got to face up to the fact there is a problem here with religion, there is a problem here within Islam.
Do you think that there is a mood in the Government to speak more frankly and honestly about the problem?
Peter Dutton: Paul I think there is a real mood for us to be honest and truthful in the debate. I think that is very important because frankly I think if we're not we are compounding the problem.
As the detail comes out, in relation to the latest shooting in the United States, it is clear that some people, some of these terrorists believe that they're acting in the name of Islam when really they're not, but the subversion of that religion doesn't do anybody any good.
But not to talk about it, in particular when young people and people who are able to be influenced by words both online, but those words that they hear on their television sets and elsewhere, we need to make sure that we are honest about the debate and we need to condemn Islamic leaders who come out with qualified statements about terrorist attacks, as much as we need to condemn people who come out and say everybody of a Muslim faith is bad or going to do something wrong.
If you were a young kid running around in our country and you were hearing that sort of message, then I think you would be confused and you would be open to propaganda and the mind manipulation that we're seeing conducted over the internet.
So we need to make sure that in a society like ours, which has been very successful in integrating people from all over the world, in a very different way and a more successful way than many other countries have even in Europe, we need to make sure that we have a message of tolerance for the people who are law abiding – regardless of their religion or background – and an absolute position of condemnation for those that would seek to do us harm and people who would seek to subvert the name of any religion.
Journalist: Do you agree with Josh Frydenberg's view that the Grand Mufti's subsequent comments, where he basically added to his initial comments, was nothing more than a cover-up?
Peter Dutton: Look my position – and I was very firm in my words Peter when I came out in response to the original statement – I compared it to statements of other Islamic leaders across the Western World across the Middle East; those leaders in their initial statements offered words of unqualified condemnation of the terrorist attack in Paris.
I think there are Islamic leaders in our country who are frustrated by some within their own community and they want their moderate voices to be heard. I think we should facilitate that voice to be heard because their voice, like the others in places like Kuwait or Amman or places like Indonesia or Malaysia where they have huge Muslim populations, they are able to deal with these issues as we are here, but they do it through an honest debate and they do it through calling out what is a terrorist attack, that is not done in the name of any religion, it is done in the name of ISIS – which is a terrorist proscribed group that does not act in accord with the fundamentals of the Islamic faith – and people recognise that and this is why the western alliance, as well as many Middle Eastern countries are involved now against the fight, against ISIS in Syria, in Iraq and elsewhere to make sure that we deal with this threat because it is marching.
We need to recognise that they are not in retreat but they are treating us with complete contempt and the fact that we are in Syria, and we were an early participant in Syria to deal with this threat, I think recognises the fact that Australia respects our democracy, our way of life and we will defend it forever.
I think these terrorists need to recognise that we will never cower in relation to some of this activity and I think many people from across the world feel the same way.
I think the vast majority of people, of an Islamic faith in our country, as well as a Christian faith or whatever it might be, feel exactly that same way that people should be able to practice their religion in peace, with respect and at the same time we should condemn those that seek to subvert the name of their religion or a religion probably that they don't even understand and we need to, as one, stand united to make sure that we stare down this threat.
Journalist: Let me ask you this. Why do you think Minister Dutton that we don't hear more from moderate Islamic voices or we don't hear enough from moderate Islamic voices, which is one of the criticisms that's been levelled by Ministers?
Peter Dutton: Peter I think there is obviously, in terms of the local politics of any organisation, including religious organisations; operates differently.
It's different in the Anglican or the Catholic Church as opposed to the Uniting Church and so it is different within the different Islamic communities across the countries.
I think now though it is recognised that all of us at a leadership level need to support those moderate leaders so that their voices of reason can be heard.
I think it's also important not only for young Muslim boys and girls to hear that message as well, it's also important for the broader Australian public to understand that so that there is a message of tolerance, that there can be a combined message of condemnation of criminal acts, but that we need to recognise that young people, regardless of their faith growing up in Australia today, will be influenced by the words of those that older than themselves and those words become even more important as they pulldown internet content and are influenced by that
It does mean that all of us need to support those people of goodwill and good faith from all communities and if we do that then I think together we can stare down, defeat, crush and destroy what is a violent extremist element that continues to garner support across the world.
If we do that then we will be a safe country for generations to come.
Journalist: Minister will your supporters and Tony Abbott's supporters continue to campaign for you to become a full member of Cabinet's National Security Committee?
Peter Dutton: Paul, my view is that the Prime Minister was very clear in his original announcement and that is that he would call me into NSC when it was required, and that's taken place; that he would review the decision at some point and decide whether or not I should return as a full time member of the NSC.
It's really, and as I say, and as we've alluded to in our earlier discussion, these are issues for the leader of our party.
I've got a very good working relationship with the Prime Minister and I've been very strong in my public and my private utterances in relation to these very important issues.
This is a very significant threat that we face and we need to protect and secure our borders which we've done. We can't have a secure society if we don't have strong, secure borders.
That's been my approach and from my perspective what's important into the future now is that we continue to perform strongly in this area of public policy. If we do that then I think we keep our country safer – and that to me is what's most important.
Journalist: Ok. Let's talk about borders then. What do you do as Minister if the court finds against offshore processing?
Peter Dutton: There's a case which is before the High Court, no doubt that you're referring Paul, which is referred to as M68. We expect a finding in that case either before Christmas or now it seems more likely in February.
The Commonwealth is certainly, I think, on strong ground, but we'll wait for the court to make their decision and we respect that process.
But nonetheless it's prudent for my department – and I've given instruction to the Secretary of my department and the Commissioner of Australian Border Force – to put in place contingency arrangements if there was some disruption….
Journalist: …and what are those arrangements?
Peter Dutton: …..well for instance if we needed to accommodate more people on Christmas Island, there is some preparatory work that's taking place there now.
Obviously we've got a significant on water assets and we'll have those, as they've always been, strategically placed because the Government's resolve in Operation Sovereign Borders is as strong as it's ever been and we're not going to allow the boats to recommence.
So for instance if some people smugglers in Indonesia were able to manipulate a message out of the High Court that somehow the green light had been lit up again for people to come to Australia, then we would quash that uprising.
We are not going to allow these people smugglers to get back into business and we will come down very firmly against those people that would seek to take money off refugees or people seeking an economic outcome. We would stop that through whatever legal means is available to us.
I think the Labor Party, in concert with the Greens in Parliament over the last couple of weeks with a few stunts that they've tried to pull, demonstrate that they would have a recommencement of the boats within weeks or a Shorten led government and I don't think that's what the Australian public wants.
Journalist: Now just on that point you've just made, is the reality here that if the court finds against offshore processing, the policy of turning-back boats becomes more important than ever and more weight will fall upon that particular aspect of the policy?
Peter Dutton: There's no question Paul that turning-back the boats where it's safe to do so has been a fundamental underpinning to the success of Operation Sovereign Borders.
We do it in a sensible way. We do it in a way which ensures the security as best we can for those people on the boats, but as I said, a very clear message that we are not going to allow people to arrive on the mainland and to subvert the process.
By stopping the boats we've been able to increase the number of refugees that we accept into our country and we've also been able to reduce the number of children from 2,000 at its peak in detention under Labor, now down to 96 which includes 85 children that are due to go back to Nauru. So therefore 11 children who have come off boats and we are working through those, which are the hardest cases – I want to have no children in detention – but I've got some parents or a parent within family units, where they've got an adverse ASIO assessment, I'm not going to allow that person out into the community because of the risk that they pose, but I need to try and find some alternative arrangement for the children in that family….
Journalist: ….just on that point, at the time of the next election, how many children do you think will still be in detention?
Peter Dutton: Paul, the important thing is the vacancies are not being refilled by new boat arrivals. There are11 children off boats in detention at the moment, that aren't subject to going back to Nauru, where there's an open centre arrangement, so there's not detention up there for these children. They can come and go through the centre or out into the community at will, 24/7. So out of the 11, I'm determined to get that number to as close to zero as I possibly can.
Journalist: One final question if I can before we let you go Minister. You've been generous with you time. Tom Switzer in TheWeekend Australian wrote an article holding a flame to the possibility of a Tony Abbott coming back. He point out various world leaders throughout history; Winston Churchill, De Gaulle, Robert Menzies, indeed Malcolm Turnbull himself and of course John Howard all managed political comebacks when people thought it unlikely. Is it a case of never say never?
Peter Dutton: Peter as I've always said I think perhaps exclusively on your programme that I don't think to build up Malcolm Turnbull we need to pull down Tony Abbott.
I think Tony was a very good Prime Minister. I think he had some tough decisions to make off the back of a long period of a dreadful six years of Labor rule.
We had tough decisions to make in the first Budget and I don't think, as I say, we need to denigrate Tony's time in Office and that's been Malcolm Turnbull's approach I think as well.
So, what Tony does in terms of his future in the Parliament or beyond that is entirely a matter for him and I have privately said that to him as well. I think it's a decision for him to make when he is able to make it, when it is right for him and I don't think he should be pressured one way or the other.
Journalist: But surely you'd think he's got an ongoing contribution to make in the national Parliament, isn't that your view?
Peter Dutton: Well as I say Paul, my view to him has been that 'you need to make a decision that's in your best interests at the right timing' and I think that is the approach that he is taking and no doubt he'll weight up the options outside of Parliament, the virtue of staying on, but ultimately I suspect it's not just his decision, but that of Margie's as well.
All of us have long suffering spouses in politics and it's a very personal decision that people need to make and I think that is a decision that he and his family will make in due course and I think that should be respected.
Journalist: Peter Dutton we appreciate you joining us on the programme this morning, thanks very much.
Peter Dutton: Thanks Peter, thanks Paul.