JOURNALIST: [INTRODUCTION]…but we’ll talk now to Peter Dutton about this, from our studios at 4BC in Brisbane. Minister, good morning.
PETER DUTTON: Good morning, Ray.
JOURNALIST: All of a sudden some sort of experience that he’s had in the last ten or twelve days sees that you were right and he was wrong.
PETER DUTTON: I think he realises that he’s got a problem. He’s got a big problem, particularly with the left of the Labor Party, Ray.
I think this is the difficulty - the exact same words were used by Kevin Rudd in the run up to the 2007 election, as you say, and 50,000 people came on 800 boats and 1,200 drowned at sea.
What is a giveaway here is the language that Labor is using. Last night, on the 7.30 Report, he was all strong and full of bravado and today, Richard Marles is out there, his Opposition Immigration Spokesperson, and he’s watered the language down. It’s only taken 12 hours.
People who think that Labor is going to hold this policy up until the election, let alone implement it if they’re elected at the next election are just defying history.
Labor has been a failure on boats, and they’re evenly divided on it and they still are today.
JOURNALIST: But it might get knocked on the head at the National Conference anyway. I mean, if the Left are strong enough and say to him ‘no, you won’t be taking that to the electorate’. I mean I know the Prime Minister holds the call, well the Opposition Leader wanting to be the Prime Minister, but he won’t get it past them will he?
PETER DUTTON: Well I think that’s a good question. I don’t think he’d be out there on it if he didn’t have the numbers.
I think if people ask themselves - you see all of this corruption and whatnot allegations being made in the Royal Commission at the moment - people will say to themselves ‘why would Bill Shorten stand by the CFMEU?,’ well have a look at this issue.
I think he’ll get through Conference with the support of the CFMEU and some of the other union groups on the right, and why? Not because they believe in what the Government’s done in Operation Sovereign Borders, because they’re desperate to keep Bill Shorten there and keep Tanya Plibersek at bay. That’s what the unions want.
JOURNALIST: Well the funny thing about this, and you know there are people offering conspiracy theories about how he makes an announcement earlier in the week about he’ll be relying on no more fossil fuels by 50% in 15 years, in other words it’ll come from renewable energy.
So I would imagine as you drive down the Hume Highway to Canberra or up the M1 to Brisbane, there’ll be wind farms left right and centre. They’re much more expensive than any other form of energy.
So even if you were to achieve it, he’ll appease the left by making that announcement, and I thought well maybe that is true, maybe it’s he’s appeasing the left on renewable energy so he can get this other thing through. But then I read this morning that the CFMEU are opposed to the renewable energy plan anyway. So it becomes more complex.
PETER DUTTON: Well I mean in the end what are they trying to do? They’re trying to increase electricity prices, and people are struggling to pay their bills now.
So I think people made their judgment, passed their judgement on the Carbon Tax at the last election. The fact that Labor want to rehash that is unbelievable. But as you say, I mean he’s got to try and throw a bit of meat out to Tanya Plibersek and the rest of them.
But the fact is, Ray, that if Bill Shorten becomes Prime Minister, Tanya Plibersek is the Deputy Prime Minister. She is vehemently opposed to turning back boats – she’s even opposed to people being in the Regional Processing Centres.
We know that the Temporary Protection Visas, the turn-backs where it’s safe to do so – that’s been at the heart of the success of Operation Sovereign Borders.
The fact that Bill Shorten’s position has been weakened in a period of 12 hours just shows that this is more about the politics for them than any sincerity they’ve got in wanting to stop the boats.
JOURNALIST: Ok, you’re in Brisbane today. The Courier Mail has a report about a top-level intelligence briefing warning that suspected jihadists blocked from leaving the country pose an enduring threat to our security.
Now you’d remember I took a call from Mohammad from Merrylands in Sydney. He was angry because he wanted to go to Turkey to fight and his passport had been cancelled. I think Mohammad’s been taken into custody at various stages since then.
I made the point then to your predecessor – if people like Mohammad want to renounce their citizenship and leave Australia, why don’t we let them?
A Government’s highest priority is the security of its citizens, and by keeping that bloke here, and others like him, we pose a threat to the people who are here.
How worried are you by stopping somebody from leaving, are you sparking resentment and then a desire to seek vengeance, by keeping them here against their wishes?
PETER DUTTON: Well if you have a look at what’s happened overseas in Canada, the fellow who attacked the policeman there and went into the Parliament, he was frustrated, if you like, because he had tried to depart their shores.
There’s been evidence of that elsewhere, including in the UK, so we are very concerned about that. Obviously we do cancel passports but people do slip through the nets.
We know that there’s 120 people fighting in the Middle-East at the moment, in Syria. We know that about 30 have died.
What we’ve tried to do with this citizenship law change, Ray, is to say if you’re a dual-national, we’re going to strip you of your citizenship if you’re a terrorist, and the beauty of that is that you can stop people then coming back.
The UK has used it effectively now on 27 occasions and hopefully the Labor Party will support this Bill when it goes before the Senate when Parliament resumes in August.
If we get that, that is a pretty powerful tool for the intelligence agencies to try and keep us safe.
JOURNALIST: Well let’s hope so and thereby supported by Supreme Court Judges – and that may be another problem.
Look I raise a matter now without notice, because it’s only just arrived into my office via snail mail in the last half hour. And it will be news to you, and I’m trying hard to digest it, but it comes from a source that I’m prepared to accept is legitimate.
It’s from a staff member of Liverpool Hospital. This person and others at Liverpool are very angry about a blatant waste of taxpayers’ money. I’ve got a patient’s name in front of me which I won’t publicly share, but I’ll give it to you. That person is a Sri Lankan who’s in the Mental Health Unit South Sub-Acute of Liverpool Hospital.
This person is a detainee from Villawood Detention Centre, allegedly, and it’s underlined, suffering from mental illness. Although the person writing says I can’t find any form of mental illness dealing with the person. He’s been admitted to Liverpool Hospital’s mental health facility since February this year, we’re up to July, for “rehabilitation and treatment”.
He has his own room with an ensuite, a personal DVD player where he loves watching his Tamil movies, but he does not participate in any ward rehab programmes. He’s not a risk to himself or to others, he doesn’t have fluid English, rudimentary words of English.
Outside the room there is two to three Serco security staff employed around the clock 24-7 by the Department to ensure he does not abscond from the South Mental Health Unit Liverpool Hospital. Now this is telling. The Serco security staff, Minister, are not allowed to go into the unit. They sit outside the unit in the lounge room chatting to themselves, watching TV, watching movies, preoccupied with their smart phone or reading books or magazines. They do not see the detainee at all because the door to this Mental Health Unit is locked at all times and they can’t access the unit. They’re not allowed to sit either inside the patient’s room or outside the room, therefore they come to work at the unit, they’re not allowed to see or have any contact with the detainee.
I have never seen such a blatant waste of taxpayers’ funds on a detainee. You can verify all of this. The absurd situation is the security staff from Serco are being paid around the clock 24-7 to sit outside the Mental Health Unit, not outside his room, not allowed to see or come into come into contact with the detainee.
Can you please stop this waste of taxpayers’ money immediately? The bloke should be back in Villawood. As someone who’s observed him closely – he’s rorting the system and there is nothing wrong with the bloke.
PETER DUTTON: Well Ray I’m happy to get the details and look into it straight away, because I’m not supporting anything that wastes taxpayers’ money.
We obviously take the advice from the doctors and the medical staff in relation to individuals and the support that they need or the medical assistance that they need.
Part of the problem here is that we’ve got people in the court system for years, literally, where we’ve made a determination that they’re not a refugee and we’re trying to send them back to their country of origin and we’re stuck in that…
JOURNALIST: … so what the suggestion is someone like this, not necessarily this fellow, but someone like this, could feign mental illness? Even though he’s quite happy to sit in the room with his own DVD player watching his Tamil movies, but he doesn’t take part in any ward rehab programmes for the rehabilitation and treatment of his alleged mental illness?
PETER DUTTON: Well as I say, I’m happy to have a look at the facts of this case and if there’s a problem more broadly we will address it. I’m very happy to give that undertaking.
The reality though, as I say, is that we are stuck with some people for a long period of time.
We have emptied out a lot of the detention centres - we’ve closed 13 of the 17 that Labor had to open. We’ve got 31,500 people in the network at the moment, living out in the community, living in detention, which is a legacy of those 50,000 people who arrived by boat.
It costs us literally billions of dollars over a period of time to deal with all of these cases, to defend the legal actions brought by the refugee advocates, to make sure that we provide appropriate duty of care if that’s required in relation to certain medical conditions. All of that we do responsibly, but we spend a lot of money in this space.
For Labor to be talking now about, you know, belatedly coming to the table, talking about wanting to support Operation Sovereign Borders, when we know that they’re not genuine about that. I think these cases just highlight the difficulty of losing control of your borders, and the fact that we’re not refilling these positions in detention at the moment.
If we can get people out of the country as quickly as possible if they’re not a refugee, that is what we’re about.
JOURNALIST: Well the other thing that concerns me, because this is a State facility in New South Wales, you would be acutely aware, not just in New South Wales but in your home State of Queensland, that mental health beds are a premium. And this bloke being in there since February would mean that some other person with a genuine need for rehabilitation and treatment is being kept out of the system.
PETER DUTTON: Well that may well be the case, Ray. If people are on a waiting list and that bed is taken up, then you’re dead right.
As I say, we take the advice about the medical support that’s needed or that we must supply or provide to people. We take that advice and obviously we act on it. So there is a duty of care and responsibility that we’ve got.
But in the end my determination is, for people who are refugees, to provide them the protection if that’s required. But for those who aren’t, we need to get them on a plane back to their place of origin as quickly as possible because it is difficult, particularly in the mental health space, for anybody to get support and services and I want to make sure that those positions are only taken up by those who are in genuine need.
JOURNALIST: Ok, we’ll get a copy of this with all the other information off it, other than what I’ve just read to you and the name of the person who’s in the Mental Health Unit South Sub-Acute for Liverpool Hospital and see what you can do and come back to us with an answer.
PETER DUTTON: No worries.
JOURNALIST: Ok thanks for your time, as always.
PETER DUTTON: Thanks, Ray. Take care.