PETER DUTTON: I wanted to make some comments in relation to the issue of Operation Sovereign Borders and the fact that the Labor Party, still, is all over the shop when it comes to their policy on stopping the boats.
Now when John Howard left office in 2007 we had four people in detention including no children.
During the Rudd/Gillard years we ended up with 1992 children in detention at its peak. 52,000 people came on 800 boats and 1200 people drowned at sea.
Now we have been able to stop the boats and we have been able to turn back boats where it is safe to do so.
We have seen from the Opposition front bench arguments for and against turn- backs ever since.
Now, Mr Fitzgibbon is out today, he was a Defence Minister in the Rudd Government for a short period of time, he says that personally he believes in turn-backs as Mr Marles, I think, does also.
The question is what does Bill Shorten believe in because the Australian public is now starting to ask themselves what does Bill Shorten believe in?
You can see bits of Julia Gillard and bits of Kevin Rudd in Bill Shorten, but he is combining the worst of both of those people when it comes to Labor’s policy on boats.
The difficulty for the Australian public is they don’t know what Mr Shorten really stands for.
We know that Tanya Plibersek and other members from the left within the Labor Party are vehemently opposed to turn-backs where it’s safe to do so.
I think what is becoming obvious now is in the run up to the Labor Party conference there will be some cobbled together programme, some cobbled together policy, from the Labor Party on boats which will unravel if they are elected at the next election.
Don’t forget that Kevin Rudd and Labor promised coming into the 2007 election that they would be John Howard lite when it came to the economy and boats, but they didn’t follow through with it.
You will hear lots of things, lots of promises from Mr Shorten.
My very strong belief is that if Mr Shorten is elected at the next election, Labor will not follow through with their commitment that they will make at the conference.
I think Mr Shorten needs to explain why the front bench of his party is all over the place when it comes to boats and I think Mr Shorten needs to come out an explain what it is the Labor Party is going to take to conference and what it is they are going to take to the next election.
JOURNALIST: Minister, Joel Fitzgibbon also accused the Prime Minister of distilling fear into the community with his language in relation to terrorist attacks yesterday. Is he fear-mongering?
PETER DUTTON: I can only point you to the facts. Since last September there have been two terrorist attacks in our country. Six terrorist attacks have been thwarted by authorities. ASIO advises that they have 400 high priority investigations. All of the advice we receive from the intelligence agencies and the Defence Chiefs in the National Security Committee is that this is a very, very real threat.
Now, we have seen in various parts of world over the course of the last couple of months and the last 24 hours some terrible, terrible outcomes in relation to terrorist attacks.
People have lost their lives and there is the potential for further terrorist attacks across the Western World. There is no question about that and that is why our security alert is on high at the moment.
For the Labor Party somehow to be in denial in relation to all of the facts really demonstrates that they are not fit for Government.
JOURNALIST: You are taking steps in relation to dual nationals. Are the Government’s hands tied when it comes to dealing with sole nationals?
PETER DUTTON: Well the Government has been very clear in relation to this, we’re not going to render people stateless. We have adhered to that principal in the legislation that we have put forward to strip terrorists, who are dual citizens, of their Australian citizenship, but we have included it as part of Phillip Ruddock and Connie Fierravanti-Wells’s process. There is the option to look at the second part of what the UK does and in addition to other aspects of citizenship.
Now, as the Prime Minister has said, as I have said, we are looking at other options in relation to privileges that may be suspended, but we will have more to say on that in coming weeks.
JOURNALIST: Minister, your colleague Steve Ciobo said that Zaky should lose his Australian citizenship and be thrown out of the country. Do you share his view?
PETER DUTTON: My responsibility as Immigration Minister is to have a look at the facts in relation to particular matters.
If people have committed offences for example if they are here on a visa and committed a criminal offence then we can act to deal with that person.
The law otherwise in relation to the criminal law is very clear. If people have committed criminal offenses then they face the full force of the courts as that’s as it should be.
In relation to citizenship issues I don’t comment in relation to individuals, but I have made comments in relation to the Q&A matter otherwise.
JOURNALIST: Is that the kind of threshold that you would be setting though for the kind of offenses or kind of person that you would be targeting?
PETER DUTTON: Well we have laid out in the legislation what it is that we want to do.
We want, where somebody has committed a terrorist offense - if they are fundraising for terrorism, other preconditions otherwise - that is their conduct then they renounce their citizenship and a notice is issued to them.
So they need to come within that threshold and that’s the way in which the legislation has been provided.
JOURNALIST: Can you tell us what you know about the fate of Khaled Sharrouf and has the family been in touch at all to try and return to Australia?
PETER DUTTON: The latest advice I have is that it’s still uncertain in relation to Mr Sharrouf.
We know that he is an evil terrorist. He has been involved in activities in the name of ISIL and the name of terrorism which would be abhorrent to all Australians.
I don’t know whether he is alive or dead, but no doubt agencies will be looking into that issue right now.
What we do know is that he has inflicted terrible pain and suffering on people at his own hands in the Middle East.
We don’t want these sorts of people back in our country.
In relation to his individual circumstances following the presumed death of Mr Elomar I don’t have any further information.
JOURNALIST: What about his family?
PETER DUTTON: Well I don’t have any comment to make in relation to that.
As I said last week, and I have made it very clear, if there are negotiations or discussions to take place with the family, they shouldn’t be conducted through the media. They need to be conducted between the family and the Australian Federal Police.
JOURNALIST: What message have Australian authorities taken from the incidences in Tunisia, France and Kuwait over the past couple of days?
PETER DUTTON: Well these are reminders to all of us that terrorists are reaching out across the world.
They are infiltrating the minds of young Australians and young people across the world through social media. We know that ISIL itself is putting out 100,000 social media propaganda bits of information each day.
This is a very serious threat and the fact that in Kuwait we saw a Mosque being blown up and that people of the Muslim faith died there demonstrates that these barbaric murderers attack Christians as they do Muslims - they don’t discriminate.
These people need to be stopped and the work that the Australian Government is doing with our defence forces and training up forces in Iraq is incredibly important.
But the attacks that we have seen over the course of the last 24 hours or so it really sends a message to all Australians to be safe when you are travelling and make sure that if you see anything suspicious at home to contact the National Security Hotline as a matter of urgency.
JOURNALIST: Sophie Mirabella is up for preselection in Indi. Do you welcome her back into the Government at the next election or do you think the Liberal Party should cut their losses?
PETER DUTTON: Well I think Sophie Mirabella contributed greatly when she was here before and I wish her all the very best in her quest to win back Indi.
It is very important the member for Indi has a very strong in with the Prime Minister of the day – with the leader of the Government of the day – and Sophie Mirabella has that and I think because of that she will be able to work very hard and for the benefit of her constituents.
JOURNALIST: Minister, can I take you to the Supreme Court decision in the United States on gay marriage. Do you think that puts any pressure at all on the Coalition party room or am I misreading it?
PETER DUTTON: Well, obviously, this wasn’t a move by President Obama. His position in relation to gay marriage had been known for a long time.
This was an action from the Supreme Court and I’m not aware if any action could be or has been taken in our Federal Court or High Court here in Australia.
This is obviously an action from the Courts it will have impacts across the United States and people will be for and against that.
In relation to the Australian Parliament, the Prime Minister has made our position clear and there is no change in relation to that position.
JOURNALIST: Do you think there will be a free vote?
PETER DUTTON: Well again these are all issues for the party room and for the caucus and that’s not something I wish to comment on publically.
JOURNALIST: Minister, Indonesia has said that it’s going to continue its investigation into alleged payments to people smugglers whether or not Australian volunteers any more information.
Have you had any contact with Jakarta? Have they requested any information from you?
PETER DUTTON: Well we know that when Labor was in power 50,000 people came on 800 boats and a lot of them originated from Indonesia.
We do want the Indonesian authorities to do whatever they can to stop people smugglers in Indonesia.
Turn-backs where it’s safe to do so is at the heart of the success of Operation Sovereign Borders and the fact that the Labor Party one day is in favour of turn-backs and against turn-backs the next day, demonstrates that they haven’t learnt the lessons from the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd years.
Whilst there wasn’t much concentration on the failure in relation to boats in the Killing Season documentaries of the ABC, it was at the heart of the failure of the Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd administrations.
Bill Shorten was a senior Cabinet Minister within those administrations and he didn’t support turn-backs, he didn’t support policies which would stop the boats and the fact that he is equivocating now just demonstrates that Bill Shorten can’t get it right when it comes to boats.
JOURNALIST: And on the specific question of information to Indonesia?
PETER DUTTON: Well I have already commented in relation to that matter.
JOURNALIST: Minister, back to the recent terrorist attacks. Do you or the Government agencies interpret anything in particular – any special message about the timing given it’s a year since the declaration of the supposed Caliphate?
PETER DUTTON: Well, obviously, instruction had been issued by leaders in that terrorist group to conduct attacks and it seems as though it has happened.
I’m not aware of any information that there is a link between the attacks and the fact that this evil voice reaches out across the globe demonstrates just how extensive the network is.
We are not exempt from this in our own country and people need to recognise this threat from terrorism is as great as it’s ever been and it’s only going to get worse in the foreseeable future.
It’s why the Government is absolutely determined through stripping dual citizens of their Australian citizenship if they’re terrorists while making sure that we arm our intelligence and defence forces with the proper legislation.
We will do what it takes to keep the Australian people as safe as we possibly can.
JOURNALIST: What makes you say that it’s only going to get worse?
PETER DUTTON: Well because you can see that the fact that the movement for example in the last couple of weeks, having taken Ramadi, having these three recent attacks in the last 4 hours.
All of the advice that we receive says that these people are pulling together more supporters and we know from our own country of 24 million people the fact that 120 people have left our shores already to go and fight in the Middle East and that number increases. We know that there are 150+ people on our own shores that are planning or supporting those who are in the theatre of war at the moment.
So, we know that this is a very serious threat and we know that it’s ramped up, the fact that 23 people have been charged with terrorist related offenses since last September really shows how significant and how this threat has ramped up in recent months and over the last couple of years.
My judgement is that this will get much worse before it gets better.
JOURNALIST: Does that indicate that ISIL is winning in Iraq?
PETER DUTTON: Well it demonstrates that that the threat continues and that we need to stare this threat down.
As was experienced in the United States with the September 11 attack and attacks since then – these people once they have the capacity to build an arsenal, to build the intelligence and to gather the people together to undertake these attacks through what is calculated planning. We need to realise that it is a very serious threat.
JOURNALIST: In terms of sole nationals, are you willing to push the boundaries of what is constitutionally possible and possible under our international relationships and instruments to make sure Australians are safe?
PETER DUTTON: Well, the Government is willing to do everything within the law and within our international obligations to keep Australians safe.
So, within the law and within our constitutional constraints we will look at what is possible to keep the Australian people safe.
This has been our clear approach in relation to citizenship and it remains the case in terms of any future considerations.
JOURNALIST: Can I just clarify Minister, on Zaky Mallah, any of the changes that have been made or anything that would affect his citizenship or him remaining in Australia?
PETER DUTTON: Laura I just don’t have the information in relation to this individual.
Given that I am the Immigration Minister, I wouldn’t seek to comment in relation to an individual given the responsibilities that I have under the legislation and under the proposed legislation.
So as Immigration Minister I just don’t want to comment on individual cases.
Alright. Thank you.