JOURNALIST: I'm joined live by the Immigration Minister. Peter Dutton, Mr Dutton, thanks for your time. First of all on the dual national approach in terms of stripping citizenship off those engaged with terrorism. Does that also apply to extremists in Australia who are found to be sympathetic or engaging with terrorist groups?
PETER DUTTON: If the minister of the day forms an opinion that that person has been involved in a terrorist act or supporting terrorism, financing, there's a prescribed list that we have in terms of the offences that they will be captured by this [indistinct] no doubt. If they're an Australian citizen, if they're a dual national and they're not going to be rendered stateless then this law applies equally to them.
JOURNALIST: Aren't we guilty then of - in that instance exporting a terrorist problem?
PETER DUTTON: No we're not. We need to be realistic about the threat that we face and ASIO's been very specific about this. We face at the moment 400 high priority terrorism cases that are under investigation. There are 100 Australians who are fighting in the Middle East now in the name of terrorism. There are 150 at least Australians who are involved on our own shores in terms of planning or supporting terrorist and terrorist acts. We need to be realistic about the threat that we face.
Now this law has operated in the UK since 2006. If you look at the actions of our Five Eye partners otherwise, most other countries have acted in relation to this already. As I say it's operated in the UK for ten years, so...
JOURNALIST: …Well the Brits have gone further haven't they? Do you understand why some of your colleagues are reticent about going even further in stripping citizenship of individuals who don't have another citizenship already?
PETER DUTTON: Well I think you're over stating frankly Kieran the situation here. There was overwhelming support yesterday in the discussion that we had within the party room in terms of the actions of modernising the Citizenship Act - and I think Australians like the party room, want to make sure that this government is doing everything we can to keep people safe.
Now we have said as a fundamental principle we aren't going to render people stateless and that is a very important principle. In addition to that we also have judicial review of the decisions made by the minister which is entirely appropriate and as the law operates now in relation to other decisions that I make as Immigration Minister.
That's how it operates in the UK. It's been tested by the courts there and it's been in operation for ten years. I think we've learnt lessons from the UK and I think we have a model here that will serve us well as just one other tool in fighting this...
JOURNALIST: But you want to go further and target individuals who might have their citizenship removed if they're first, second generation Australians who have access to another country, but I guess the question is who's going to take someone that's been deported, who's going to take them in?
PETER DUTTON: Well this is a fundamental point. There are many countries where there is a constitutional legislated obligation to provide citizenship to a person because of birth right or because of the fact that they were born in that country or whatever the case might be, even if they haven't yet availed themselves of that citizenship.
Now the way in which that part of the law works in the UK is again the person can't be rendered stateless and the minister needs to satisfy himself or herself that that person if they lose their UK citizenship is not going to be rendered stateless, they could avail themselves of citizenship in another country and they act in that regard. Now we've said in terms of [indistinct]...
JOURNALIST: [Interrupts] if the reverse happens. If the reverse happens, say if a UK citizen is a dual national with Australia, they deport them to us. Do we have to take them?
PETER DUTTON: We have the constitutional obligation to provide citizenship to that person. We have obligations under the convention that we won't render somebody stateless and if somebody's been involved in terrorist activities in the Middle East for example and they come back to Australia, they'll face the full force of the criminal law. This is not a criminal sanction...
JOURNALIST: [Interrupts] it’s a cycle then isn't it? So someone deports, you know, a dual national of this country and then we cop one back and then it's all - why shouldn't the country just take responsibility for the individuals in their midst?
PETER DUTTON: We have not an academic debate to conduct here Kieran. We are facing advice from the agencies in relation to the threat that our country faces and I can tell you it is at a very high level. The security threat is high in this country, a threat from some of these individuals and their activities as we've seen is as high as it's ever been and we need to modernise the Citizenship Act to deal with that threat.
Now, that's what we do in a responsible way both in terms of not rendering somebody stateless, making sure that we have judicial review, it's as it operates in other countries, it is used sparingly in the UK only in 27 cases over the last ten years or so and it would be used sparingly here.
JOURNALIST: Is there a different mood in the party room to the cabinet? Because the broader party room from the sounds of what you're saying is sympathetic to as hard as you can go on this issue, where as in the cabinet there are disagreements on basically the principle of the rule of law that this might breach that.
JOURNALIST: No I think the mood within the cabinet is the same as within the party room, and that is people want to make sure that, yes, we go as hard as we can against terrorism, but making sure that we have the safeguards to protect Australians, and I think that's an important balance that we've put in place here.
We've said that we will have a discussion paper and consultation process led by Philip Ruddock.
I think it's a very important principle that we adhere to, and having judicial review I think provides people with comfort, but it's a very serious power that we're contemplating here, and rightly the Government would want to have measures in place; there's been a debate about that and the Government is united in our stance against terrorism.
JOURNALIST: Is it likely do you think that the Government will target those individuals who have access to another citizenship if they're not dual nationals? Is that your inclination?
PETER DUTTON: Look my inclination is that we are open to that aspect and that's why it's been included in the discussion paper. We've been very clear that we want to legislate for the first part - that is in relation to dual nationals - and we're open to discussion in relation to the second aspect, and that's why it's included in Philip Ruddock's process.
JOURNALIST: Finally, Khaled Sharrouf, that notorious terrorist in the Middle East; those shocking images of his children in recent times, apparently the family of his wife are trying to get them home. They are kids. Would you let them in?
PETER DUTTON: Well I'm not going to comment in relation to individual matters, but if people have been involved in criminal activity, if they've been involved in terrorism or supporting terrorists, and they have breached the Australian law they will face the full force of the Australian law. We aren't compromising with people; if they've committed acts they will face Australian law.
Now in relation to children, the Government obviously will take a pragmatic approach in relation to children, particularly infants, and the rest. There's a common-sense approach here, but if adults have broken the Australian law, if they've involved themselves in killings within Syria or elsewhere, they will face the Australian law.
JOURNALIST: But these children would be brutalised by the experience. It would take a lot - I'm not obviously making a point one way or the other as to what decision you make on that, but you would concede that children coming out of that sort of circumstance would need a lot of counselling to get them back into some sort of normality in this country.
PETER DUTTON: Kieran these parents have destroyed the lives of their own children. Some people have abandoned children here to go off and fight, some people have taken their children away, and holding up severed heads in the presence of children. You can only imagine the conversations that are held in private between those parents so-called, and their own children.
It's an act of savagery, and we are a compassionate country that provides support to children in particular who are in need, and the Government will meet their obligations. But in terms of adults or those to whom the criminal law applies, if they've breached that law they will go to jail if they're convicted.
JOURNALIST: Mr Dutton thanks for your time.
PETER DUTTON: Thanks Kieran, thank you.