Peter Dutton: Well David, I have just received advice that the visa has been issued to the mother and the brother.The decision maker in the first instance, on the advice that I've received, made exactly the right decision.
The difficulty in all of these cases is there's a lot of emotion involved, it's a terrible circumstance for anybody to be in the situation that this gentlemen is, with terminal cancer in this case, we would want to do everything we can for that individual.
The decision maker though has to weigh that up, in addition to what's in the national best interests and if we have people coming to our country that decide to overstay or seek protection or not return in accordance with their visa, it can in the end cost millions of dollars – either through the welfare system or through legal expenses – and that's the decision, a very tough decision, that the decision maker has to make.
Now, I had asked, as I said in a press conference only a few minutes ago, that I'd ask the department to, or the Post in Islamabad to have a look at the case to ask for additional information. That's happened and the visas have been issued.
So I'm hopeful that they can arrive in Australia soon, spend some time with their terminally ill son and brother and I think that's what most Australians would expect.
Journalist: And can you tell me what did change from the initial rejection to now, the approval for these visas?
Peter Dutton: I don't want to comment in relation to the individual case, but David obviously the decision maker will have a look at the circumstances of each applicant.
So they'll look at whether or not the person has employment, whether or not they have financial ties or family ties otherwise with their particular country or would there be an incentive for them to stay in Australia once they'd arrived.
All of those tests have to be undertaken and it may be that they've received further information in relation to one of those elements that now satisfies the decision maker.
There's no review by the Minister.
Labor is out trying to play politics on this at the moment, which I think is unfortunate at many levels, but there's no ability for the Minister to intervene.
There is within this portfolio a lot of ministerial power or ability within the Act to scrutinise particular special circumstances and to overturn a decision, but in relation to this process, there's not.
So what had to happen was further information sought. That's been provided and the Post I think in a very efficient way has dealt with the matter. The people will now travel and see their son.
Journalist: I appreciate you don't want to go into the specifics of these individual cases, but would I be right in assuming that a lot of the time when you're concerned about someone overstaying, you need to see a return ticket, that they're going to go home to, well Pakistan in this case.
But when it's visiting your son who's terminally ill you don't know when or if, how long you are going to need to stay in Australia sadly, that you may not have a return air ticket to go home?
Peter Dutton: That's just one element David. Obviously they will have a look at the immigration history, the travel history of applicants, of the family member that's here in Australia as well, they'll have a look at whether or not there's anything worth going back to and in particular cases whether people have a job or they have a family otherwise, whether they have any financial incentive to return to their country of origin.
We obviously are a favourable destination for millions of people that would come here tomorrow because of our welfare system, because of our health system, because of many other reasons - our lifestyle and freedom - lots of reasons why people overstay each year and the point that I'd make is that the decision maker has a tough decision because they need to weigh up the personal emotions involved in the particular case, but also balance that with what's in our country's best interests.
I think taxpayers would say; 'look fair enough, we want to provide a compassionate arrangement for a mother and a brother to visit, but if there is a definite risk that that person is going to overstay or not return or not comply with their conditions around their visa, then extra scrutiny should be applied' – and that's the decision that the decision makers at Posts around the world have to make every day and this is a difficult circumstance.
Journalist: Minister could I turn to the French national who was detained at Melbourne Airport last month and then deported the following day.
He was apparently found with extremist material and three cans of mace. A thing that jumps out to me here; how does someone get on a plane with three cans of mace? I assume that was in the checked luggage, hidden away?
Peter Dutton: Well David obviously those inquiries are undertaken with the port of origin and there'll be investigations underway in relation to every aspect of this matter.
Obviously there's a high level of exchange of information and the relationship with the French authorities is very high as you would expect it to be.
Journalist: Can you tell me that? Was it in carry-on luggage? Or was it the checked luggage? Because if he's gone through with carry-on luggage and three cans of mace there's a problem there isn't there?
Peter Dutton: David, obviously it's a different arrangement in relation to checked luggage than carry-on as you say and I think it would be very hard for somebody to bring three cans of mace or other prohibited articles onto a flight – so there are those aspects – so what's contained in the stowed luggage and that which is carry-on luggage.
So all of that is being investigated, but I don't want to pre-empt any of that and obviously the French authorities are conducting their own investigations as the authorities are….
Journalist: Okay so either way he was picked up by the Border Force authorities at Melbourne Airport and he was detained and deported the following day. Do we know what's happened since then? Are you able to tell us what French authorities have done since he was returned?
Peter Dutton: I don't have any information to provide to you at this time. Obviously they will conduct their own inquiries and I don't have anything that I can say publicly in relation to that David, no.
Journalist: Can you tell me are security screening procedures now tighter for anyone coming from Europe on an EU visa?
Peter Dutton: We've increased the number of our Counter Terrorism Unit officers at the airport. So we had 80 officers in place at our eight international airports. That was actually a policy initiative in the opening months of the Abbott Government and we've put extra money into our frontline agencies, including Australian Border Force.
So we've now increased that number from 80 up to 100 and the Prime Minister is looking at every aspect to see what additional support we can provide because we want to provide a message of reassurance to the Australian public, particularly the Australian travelling public this time of year.
But the threat from terrorist attack is probable and we do need to recognise, as we've seen in Sydney this morning, that people would seek to do us harm but our agencies everyday are working around the clock to make sure that we can neutralise that threat so that we can keep people safe and the CTU officers, all of the officers within Australian Border Force I think do a great job every day to protect our borders and to keep our community safe and they'll be doing that over Christmas as the rest of us are relaxing with our families.
Journalist: Speaking of the fight against terrorism, there is still ongoing talk within amongst some of your colleagues about the ASIO boss Duncan Lewis, phoning a couple of Liberal MPs.
Where do you stand on this? Do you think Duncan Lewis or indeed the Prime Minister has done anything inappropriate, anything wrong?
Peter Dutton: I provided comment on this issue the other day when I was asked whether Mr Lewis had contacted me, he hasn't and I just don't have any further comment to make in relation to it. I think it's a story that's now been dealt with and I just don't have anything further to add to it.
Journalist: Where do you stand on this question of whether MPs should be entitled to say what they think about Islam or whether they need to be a bit more careful, a bit more guarded in their public commentary?
Peter Dutton: Well David, as I've stated previously, I think it is appropriate for MPs to speak on topics that they feel that they're entitled to speak on.
It's a significant issue for us in our country, across every western democracy, but equally the point that Mr Lewis was making was that the authorities need to continue their good work with the Islamic communities.
There are many leaders within the Islamic community in this country that absolutely share the same disgust as we do with people in our community that would seek to do us harm and we need to work with those leaders, we need to work with people within the community that have information and we would encourage anybody that has information to come forward to the Australian Federal Police or to ASIO or any of the other agencies to furnish that information because it could prevent an attack taking place on our soil.
So I don't think there's anything inconsistent. People will interpret, in whatever way they want, the particular contributions to public debate, but I just don't think the contribution of MPs and the advice from Mr Lewis are inconsistent or mutually incompatible.
I think it is important for us to speak up about issues that are important to Australians and this is a very important issue and we have to bear in mind the advice that agencies provide because in the end they're acting in our best interests as well.
Journalist: Immigration Minister Peter Dutton we'll have to leave it there. Thanks for joining us this afternoon and a Happy Christmas.
Peter Dutton: Thank you David. To you too and to your listeners. Thank you.