Journalist: Peter Dutton is the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection. Welcome to
Peter Dutton: Patricia, thanks for having me.
Journalist: Nice to see you in person too.
Peter Dutton: You too.
Journalist: I want to talk about citizenship in a moment, but first; Tony Abbott has openly attacked Julie Bishop this afternoon, saying she lied about telling him of a phone call between Malcolm Turnbull and of course Scott Morrison, making plans for a post-Abbott government, also about appointing women to Cabinet and various other things. Is Julie Bishop a liar?
Peter Dutton: Well Patricia, I'm sorry to disappoint you; I've seen the media reports this afternoon, I haven't seen the comments – either from Julie or from Tony – I'll leave it to them to discuss the comments, the respective comments that they've made, but I don't have any comment to make in relation to it.
Journalist: Does she need to clarify her position though because Tony Abbott appears….these are quotes, extensive quotes saying that she's wrong and she's lied.
Peter Dutton: Well as I say, I haven't seen the respective quotes, so I think it's an issue for others and I just don't have any further comment on it.
Journalist: Okay, I'll ask one other way. Is it reasonable then for Tony Abbott to respond the way he has? To be putting on the public record criticism of the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, the Foreign Minister?
Peter Dutton: Patricia, the only comment that I'd make is to repeat what I've said publicly and that is that we have no need to pull Tony Abbott down to build Malcolm Turnbull up and the fact that we're doing well in the polls at the moment is a significant achievement – Malcolm deserves great praise for that – and we all need to pull in the same direction so that we can continue that momentum because a Bill Shorten lead CFMEU inspired government would be a disaster for this country.
So there are many reasons why we need to get in behind the Leader. But at the same time we don't need to trash Tony Abbott's record. We don't need to prosecute these matters which are now in the past.
I think all of us are determined to make sure that the Turnbull Government is a success and that's why we've introduced – and I hope they'll be passed tonight, these Citizenship Bills – because we obviously face a significant threat from terrorism in our country and the Government is realistic about that threat and we've provided a balanced response.
Journalist: Okay, but does Tony Abbott have the right to correct what he thinks is correcting the record about the past – that's what he's trying to do?
Peter Dutton: Well, as I say, I've given you the comment and I'm happy to talk to you about policy matters but I just haven't seen the comments that have been made, so I don't think it's fair for me to comment when I just haven't seen the full transcript of what people have had to say.
Journalist: Well I'll ask another thing then; did you have your regular Tuesday lunch meeting in the Monkey Pod room today?
Peter Dutton: Well, it's been going on, in my case, for 14 years that Tuesday lunch….
Journalist: So it did happen today?
Peter Dutton: ….it happened today and it used to happen at Timmy's itself, which is a great restaurant in Canberra, but with the change of sitting hours we now hold it in the House before Question Time and it's a gathering of good people and those sorts of lunches and dinners happen on both sides of Parliament – always have and I hope they always will – because it's an opportunity to exchange ideas and work on policy matters that people believe to be important.
Journalist: Your Citizenship Bill is about to pass Parliament but all the attention is on stories like this; the Tony Abbott one and also Mal Brough and James Ashby. Mr Ashby now says Wyatt Roy told him to copy Peter Slipper's diary and has mentioned Christopher Pyne too. How damaging is this? Would it help if Mr Brough stepped aside?
Peter Dutton: No and again I'm not going to be a commentator on these matters, I'll leave it up to the experts like you, I'm very happy to answer questions about the Citizenship Bill because I think it is a significant step forward in our fight against terrorism and there was a bipartisan position in the end.
We were able to work well with the Labor Party. We had a number of amendments moved or recommended to be moved by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on National Security and we worked well with that committee. I think in the end we've devised a Bill which will make us as a nation safer and I hope that it passes through the Senate tonight.
RN Drive, my guest is the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. Now since we last spoke you've announced some late changes to that Citizenship Bill that you just talked about. One was to clarify that you, the Minister, are not the one making the decision to revoke a person's citizenship but you've also admitted the definition of terrorism conduct was too broad – which Labor pointed out to you I think, well they said they did – are you confident the Bill is now water tight?
Peter Dutton: We've had advice obviously from the Solicitor-General but we've taken legal advice otherwise.
Look, there's always a constitutional risk with any of these Bills and we have narrowed that risk on the advice as best we can and there are some important principles here. If somebody is convicted of a terrorist offence, they come within scope – and as you said in your opening remarks, it's important to remember here that we're only talking about dual nationals, so somebody can't be rendered stateless by this legislation – but if people have engaged in a terrorist act, either onshore in certain circumstances or offshore, then we would seek to act against them.
It's worked well in the United Kingdom because they've prevented a number of people coming back from the Middle East that would be a potential threat and a significant threat if they came back onto British soil.
So I think there is a lot of upside in this Bill. There are safety mechanisms that are in place and I think it's a reasonable balance and that's been the approach of the Government to try and get a bipartisan position and we've achieve that with Labor.
Journalist: If I can paraphrase Greens MP Adam Bandt; what is stopping someone blowing themselves up if they're faced with the prospect of having their citizenship revoked, that's what he says.
Peter Dutton: Well, Adam Bandt had a bit of rant yesterday in the debate – never asked me a question actually in relation to this Bill – so look, I think there's a bit of grandstanding going on. The Greens have never supported national security legislation. It's a question to them as to why they don't support national security measures…
Journalist: But is that a threat that someone might fear losing their dual citizenship and use that and become a terrorist before that happens? I mean is that something that could happen? Is it something that you've been told about?
Peter Dutton: No, and I think frankly, it's an opportunity to grab attention by Adam Bandt. I don't think it's a useful contribution. There were no amendments moved by the Greens in the Lower House. They didn't have anything positive to say or constructive to say and as I say what was a bipartisan Bill and if the Greens had amendments to move, they would have presumably moved them in the Lower House and they didn't, they opposed the Bill in its entirety.
I think in the end, what's the Government trying to do? We're trying to keep people safe but have a balance in the approach and that's what we've struck in this Bill.
Journalist: Your critics say you have colluded with Labor to rush it through, that you haven't given the Parliament enough time to consider it – obviously the Greens are part of that criticism but there are other voices – saying that an issue as important as citizenship, it just happened too quickly. Why haven't you been more patient with the legislation?
Peter Dutton: This Bill has been around for nine months and it's had different iterations and I think it's improved during the course of the negotiations and the independent committee has taken advice from constitutional experts, it's taken advice from a number of other expert witnesses in the national security space and we've taken all of those recommendations on board.
So for people to say that it's rushed; I just think defies the fact that this has been a long run discussion and in the end it will keep our country safe, as safe as it can be in the circumstances and as we've seen in Paris and elsewhere, including in Lebanon, this is a very significant threat for countries like ours.
Journalist: Are you now effectively the leader of the conservative wing of the Liberal Party?
Peter Dutton: Patricia, I saw that report and people, as I said before, commentators will speculate and they can make their own comments.
From my perspective, I want to make sure that our Party works cohesively to win the next election. I think it's important to recognise that the Liberal Party has always been a broad church and we should always be a broad church and all of us now are determined to make sure that Malcolm Turnbull wins the next election.
In the end though, the Liberal Party is a centre-right Party and that's our constituency, that's our base and we'll reflect that in our policy….
Journalist: …so it does need a strong Minister of your sort of seniority to takeover that kind of role of being the leader of the conservative wing, to make the conservative arguments in a Cabinet which a lot of the MPs I've spent time with this week in Canberra tell me has become very liberal?
Peter Dutton: My view of the Cabinet is that we've been able to work through some pretty tough issues and we've been able to resolve them appropriately.
So from my perspective I want to stay true to my beliefs and values and I've expressed those over a number of years and I've worked with colleagues, I've got good friends right across the Party and from my perspective there's only one game in town and that is to make sure that we win the next election, because we've had a number of policy successes, we want to continue that and that's the approach I think that we should all take.
Journalist: But does some of this stuff we're hearing, Tony Abbott speaking out, make it difficult to potentially win an election because it's creating a sort of instability?
Peter Dutton: Patricia, I think in the end what people want is policy and it delivered in an efficient way.
There's a debate going on at the moment around tax which has a definite impact on families, on small businesses and on the economy more broadly and people want to know that the Government is in control of that debate, which it is, they want to know that ideas are being put forward, and they are, and ultimately I think what people are seeing in this Government is a capacity to deal with the big issues, such as climate change in Paris at the moment and ultimately that's how we'll be judged at the next election.
Journalist: Just another thing; Coalition MPs have been making some strong comments and I quote; about a problem with Islam. What are your views on that? I mean you're Immigration Minister, do you agree with them? Josh Frydenberg for instance, and others who have raised this?
Peter Dutton: Well I've been offended by a couple of things recently; one was the statement of the Grand Mufti after the attacks in Paris. They were qualified. He later sought to correct that statement which I accept.
The second thing that offends me – and you get it in a lot of emails – but people who somehow believe that everybody within the Islamic faith is somehow a bad person.
I mean intellectually it's nonsense and there are many people from an Islamic background that have contributed significantly to our country and there is a problem though with some people within our society who are radicalised, who seek to misuse the religion….
Journalist: But is it a problem with Islam [inaudible] extremism?
Peter Dutton: I think it's a problem with the extremism and those people who seek to take the cover of Islam and misrepresent it into something that it's not, to practice an ideology which is ultimately damaging to our country.
Journalist: So you don't think it's a problem with the religion perse?
Peter Dutton: I think there is a problem with people who seek to misuse the religion and use it to their own advantage in a negative way and for me, as Immigration Minister, I have a responsibility to keep our borders secure and to keep our society as safe as possible and that's what we're doing through the security checks that we have in place, in particular for bringing people in from Syria and Iraq and the 12,000.
National security will always be our number one priority. But we need to have an honest and open debate. There's no sense in saying that we don't have a problem, that it's okay for young people to be radicalised, that it's okay for people here in leadership positions within the Islamic community not to condemn these terrorist attacks.
If you have a look at many Muslim countries where across the Middle East; Amman, Kuwait or in Asia, in Indonesia or Malaysia, the Iman's there and the leaders of the Islamic community, condemn without reservation these attacks and I think the call here for more moderate leaders to come up and speak more frequently, is not only going to be of a benefit to the Islamic community here in Australia but I think to the broader community.
Journalist: Minister, thank you so much for dropping in.
Peter Dutton: Patricia, thanks for having me, thank you.