JOURNALIST: Minister, good morning.
PETER DUTTON: Good morning, Luke. How are you?
JOURNALIST: Very well. Nice to talk to you again, Peter.
PETER DUTTON: Thank you.
JOURNALIST: I want to talk to you about citizenship and Cabinet leaks, but first that article in the Daily Telegraph. I made mention of it and it made me really angry today concerning a woman who has recently received citizenship.
This Agnieszka Swiatlowska has lived in Australia for the last eight years, but only became an Aussie citizen in March. She’s now demanding we pay her more welfare than the $530 a fortnight she receives. She’s living in far northern New South Wales; five-year-old son who she sends to a private Steiner school and she refuses to vaccinate or have him vaccinated. She says she doesn’t want to regret becoming an Australian citizen.
How did you feel reading that?
PETER DUTTON: Well, Luke, I checked the date on the Daily Tele this morning. I thought it was April fool’s day – I thought it was a joke. If you’re really not happy then presumably pack your bags and off you go.
I think people are here in a country where we provide enormous amount of support to people who are either here on a permanent basis or even a temporary basis.
There are lots of welfare arrangements we pay, we have one of the best hospital and health systems in the world. People come here to start a new life and they need to help themselves.
I presume this lady is off to work and providing support to her family so that she won’t be a burden on the taxpayer and the Australian taxpayer is happy to welcome people to our country. We are a multicultural society. Millions of people here in Australia today weren’t born in this country and we have one of the greatest countries on earth, but we are not going to be taken advantage of.
That’s the whole idea of this new Citizenship Act changes that we want to implement because we do believe there’s great privilege attached to being an Australian citizen and we’re not going to be taken for a ride by people like this.
JOURNALIST: And the other part of that is for people who contribute, and not everyone can and that’s understood, we do have the safety net. But when you hear this idea of entitlement, not only does she expect to be paid more, but she wants, wants it to be back-paid. That whole idea of, you know, the society owes me something – it does infuriate, you’d understand, taxpayers.
PETER DUTTON: Well it’s a cancer in our society. We have a great society where we do provide support to people who can’t help themselves or because of injury or inability or disability and they are given support by the taxpayer.
But we are in a society where all Australians expect that if you can work if you’re able bodied and you’re able to work; you should be going to work to support your own family.
It says to me that a lot of these people don’t understand the culture of Australia and what it is to be Australian.
That’s why I think we need to tighten up in relation to the Citizenship Act so that we can say to people if you want to come here from a country where frankly you wouldn’t have got any support whatsoever from the taxpayer, if you want to come here you contribute to society, you help build a better country, you don’t detract from it.
JOURNALIST: Yeah, well said. Now, there’s a story this morning; an asylum seeker boy being held on Nauru could be flown, they reckon, 10,000 kilometres to India rather than Australia for surgery on a broken arm.
Is there any truth to that story and why India rather than Australia?
PETER DUTTON: Well, there’s no truth to the story. The first I heard of it was when I saw it in the press this morning.
I notice some people have been out there commenting on it, giving their advice, unsolicited of course, but based completely on something that’s not true.
We have medical services that are available in Nauru. The Nauruan Government obviously has the system up there to provide people with support that need it when it comes to medical attention.
We will provide support otherwise, but the story about going to India is not true.
JOURNALIST: Cabinet leaks; pretty damaging press reports if you’re inclined to believe them. I don’t know really what, what to think. There was apparently a fiery meeting where a number of your colleagues argued against your proposal to strip second generation citizens of their Australian citizenship if they’re supporting terror.
Apparently Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop have denied leaking the details of the meeting. Apparently only four other Ministers spoke against your proposal; Ministers Pyne, Brandis, Joyce and Kevin Andrews. Do you know who the leaker was?
PETER DUTTON: Well, Luke, I think the trouble with all of this sort of insider talk is that it detracts from what it is the Government is trying to do and that is try and stand up to this threat of terrorism.
Those of us who sit on the National Security Committee, including the Prime Minister and I, we are very concerned about the advice that we get from our intelligence agencies.
We know now that we have over 110 people fighting in Syria.
There are over 150 people back here who are providing support to those people or preparing acts themselves.
We know that some of the advice is that these people are in advanced stages.
We know that the police and the intelligence agencies are starring down this threat every day and what we want to do is say ‘if you’re going to try and harm an Australian because they are an Australian then you should expect consequences.’
When you take that oath and when you stand up at that ceremony and say that you pledge your allegiance to Australia and its people it has to mean something.
JOURNALIST: Course it does.
PETER DUTTON: And if people are going to try to carry out this barbaric act of trying to cut people’s heads off…
PETER DUTTON: …or blow people up, well I’m sorry, you don’t deserve to be an Australian citizen.
JOURNALIST: One hundred percent. You see, I get that, I agree with you. Everyone around here is nodding as you talk.
The other point is if you make the conscious decision, you know that I’m going to fly to Syria or somewhere else in the Middle East and be part of the Daesh and try and fight whoever it is they’re fighting over there. You have actively, apart from clearly breaking the law, you’ve actively said to me ‘I can’t be rehabilitated.’
There’s no process where you can go from doing that to think ‘oh, I want to go back to Australia now and live a peaceful life never again wanting to behead people or kill people because they’re free.’
If we’re going to jail them for life someone’s got to pay, pay for that, you know, whole process. Bugger them, leave them there. They’re no longer Australian, you made the decision. We can’t rehabilitate you. You’re too much a danger to society. Stay there, don’t come back and if that means you’re stateless, you know, tough you-know-what.
Surely, I think, most Australians, I know most people around me now are nodding, saying too right, that’s the way it should be.
PETER DUTTON: Well, most people understand, I mean, you can see it on your TV sets every other night what’s happening in other parts of the world.
We know now from Martin Place and from the attack on the two police officers in Melbourne that this is an issue, you know, front and centre for our country and the biggest threat that we face today is terrorism.
What we’ve said is ‘well, the UK has an Act where they’ve, since 2006, had this as part of their law, they’ve stripped citizenship from 27 people. They haven’t rendered people stateless and we’re saying, ‘well, in part, we want to adopt what the UK’s doing.’
That is, that if there’s a dual national, they’re a terrorist, or they’re involved in terrorist activities we take their Australian citizenship away and they fall back to their original citizenship.
PETER DUTTON: The UK has a second provision which says, ‘well we can take the UK citizenship away providing someone can avail themselves of citizenship in another country,’ then they satisfy themselves that that person is not being rendered stateless.
So we’re having a look at that second part, that’s part of Philip Ruddock’s discussion paper, but the first part we think is entirely sensible. We’re going to introduce that legislation within a couple of weeks.
The difficulty and the frustration in all of this, Luke, is that we still don’t know what Bill Shorten wants to do in relation to it. I think most Australians would say ‘well this is a pretty simple decision; you want to stare down this threat of terrorism, the Government’s putting forward a reasonable bill. What does Bill Shorten believe in?’
I think the fact that he’s remained silent on this issue now for over a week is unbelievable.
JOURNALIST: You see, I don’t, I just don’t understand why there are some in your party that suggest we want to play by the rules and we can’t leave people stateless.
We’re the only ones playing by the rules. The other mob want to cut our heads off so once you accept that reality, and that is reality, we’re at war with these bastards. What the hell are we even thinking twice about?
It is wrong that Shorten’s mute on it, but it’s also wrong that… I agree with your point, we should get bloody tough. Given the circumstances and make this a case; if you want to come here and cut people’s heads off, if you want to talk the country down, if you want to serve in the Middle East for the enemy, then see you later; you’re not part of the joint in any way, shape or form. What’s wrong with that thought?
PETER DUTTON: Well, I just think if you’ve got Australia’s best interests at heart, if you want to put Australia’s national interest first and foremost you have to take care of your citizens. That’s exactly what the Prime Minister and I are proposing in this Bill.
We’re not going to deviate from the path. We have said that if you rise up against Australians, either here on our soil or overseas, if you seek to do harm to Australian men, women or children, then there is a price to pay for it and you’ll pay that price.
JOURNALIST: Alright, better move on to something else quickly. A story in Fairfax today reports doctors and teachers working in immigration detention facilities could be jailed for up to two years if they speak out about conditions in those centres. It’s under the Border Force Act introduced last month and trusted people working in centres which could also be in trouble if they provide information to the media. So what’s going on here?
PETER DUTTON: So, just to give the full facts. There’s whistle blower legislation. So if people have got a difficulty there’s a process they can go through and the whistle blower Act overrides the provisions of this Act.
So we still provide protection for people that see the wrong thing, that want to report it in the right way. That’s the assurance that we can give, but we don’t make any apology for this and even the Labor Party support this Bill in the Parliament.
We say that we have some very sensitive information. There is a lot of work that we’re doing around counter terrorism and the Australian Border Force people are doing it at the airports and in our facilities otherwise.
There is sensitive information that’s being collected and our partners want to know that we’re treating information in a sensitive way when they share that information with us.
So, we’ve said in this legislation that if you do the wrong thing there is a penalty to pay. But if you’re reporting something that a whistle blower would report then we have the safeguards in place and I think that’s a reasonable balance, and, as I say, it went through the Parliament in a bipartisan way and I think it can operate sensibly so we can protect the sensitive information that we have.
JOURNALIST: Yep, alright. Before I let you go, I know you were in here last week with Ray and I think I heard him say you awarded him your Queensland State of Origin scarf.
Now he hasn’t been here for four days. I put it to you, Minister, that in fact this scarf was laced with a virus, or something like it, and that you knew that the voice of Hadley would turn the Blues fortunes around and almost like a spy on behalf of Meninga and others. You’ve sought to disable the great man so he mightn’t have impact on the next Origin. Is there any truth in that?
PETER DUTTON: Well of all the allegations you’ve put to me this morning, Luke, this is the most credible one.
It was laced with Maroon. He didn’t put it on, but I know that that is a toxic substance for the Blues and bring on game two.
JOURNALIST: Good on you. Good to talk.
PETER DUTTON: Thanks mate.
JOURNALIST: Thank you. All the best.