JOURNALIST: I'm joined now by the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. Welcome.
PETER DUTTON: Thanks, Chris.
JOURNALIST: If you're looking at your border protection regime how important are boat turn-backs to achieving what you want to achieve?
PETER DUTTON: We've demonstrated that it is absolutely essential you adopt turn-backs where it is safe to do so, so we ensure we meet our international obligations.
But very clearly it's now been over 300 days since we've had a successful people smuggling operation and really from the moment the turn-backs started, that's where we've seen the most significant success.
The fact that Labor would contemplate withdrawing that, taking it off the table and allowing the smugglers to restart is unconscionable.
It's why Bill Shorten has to come out and talk quickly as to what his position is.
JOURNALIST: What about the offshore detention centre regime, the Labor Party has said over and again that 97% of the boats coming stopped after that was reintroduced?
PETER DUTTON: No question that's an important element and the Labor Party and the Liberal Party agree in relation to regional processing, but the turn-backs where it's safe to do so, and also the Temporary Protection Visas are absolutely essential because you starve the people-smugglers of their business model.
We've demonstrated through the turn-backs that we haven't had a boat, a successful one, in almost a year.
The fact that we've got people out there on the frontbench of the Labor Party now talking about their personal positions, the newly-elected president of the Labor Party Mark Butler saying that he doesn't agree with it, clearly Mr Shorten has internal difficulties, but he needs to show leadership and come out and sort out what their position might be.
JOURNALIST: The Labor Party does point out that we don't know much at all about what's happening at sea in Australia's name, isn't it reasonable that in a democracy people should?
PETER DUTTON: The fact is Mr Marles and Mr Shorten, others within the Labor Party, have had briefings in relation to different ventures where we have been able to turn boats back.
I think they've received clear advice and my judgment is that Mr Marles himself understands the importance of turn-backs.
The difficulty for Mr Shorten is he's got Tanya Plibersek only half a step behind him and he's very worried going into the conference what the Left will do to their boat policy.
I think the difficulty is, which is pretty much where Kevin Rudd was in the run up to the '07 election, I think Bill Shorten will come out and say ‘look we adopt turn backs, we’ve increased the number of refugees - he'll provide that sort of a balanced approach, he’ll describe it, to his conference.
That's exactly what Kevin Rudd did and the problem is that when they get into Government they get mugged by reality of the internal politics of the Labor Party. They unscramble their policy and the boats start again.
JOURNALIST: Wouldn't it be a better thing, though, if we had bipartisanship on border protection?
PETER DUTTON: Sure.
JOURNALIST: It doesn't seem the Government wants that and you want the Labor Party to look bad over this?
PETER DUTTON: No it seems to me that Labor has demonstrated in Government and Opposition that they just can't get their act together when it comes to boats.
I think the Australian public realise that given as we said in the intro that there were no children in detention when Mr Rudd came to power, almost 2,000 at its peak. We've got that number now down closer to 100, but I don't want those positions being backfilled by new boat arrivals.
JOURNALIST: Do the ends always justify the means though? Shouldn't Australians be concerned if Australia is spending money at sea to turn boats back because essentially you’re bribing crews?
PETER DUTTON: Australians should know that the Australian Government will always act within the law and within our international obligations.
We will do what we promise that we would do if we were elected at the last election and that is stop the boats. We've done that.
It's a very important policy, public policy piece for Australians and I believe it'll be a crucial issue at the time of the next election, because I don't think Mr Shorten has a credible plan when it comes to boats.
JOURNALIST: What about the damage though it may have done with the relationship with Indonesia? There is an enormous amount of ill-will there now, isn't there?
PETER DUTTON: Well, I just don’t accept that. There was an enormous amount of difficulty after the Snowden leaks and that went back to the time of the Rudd Government, those alleged actions.
We have been able to rebuild the relationship with Indonesia where we're very concerned that of the 821 boats the vast majority of those came during Labor’s period, came from Indonesia.
So we want to work with the Indonesians to help stop the people smugglers putting out the pamphlets, their business touting for these refugees to pay their money. That's happening in Indonesia.
We've been able to work as we've demonstrated over the course of the last 18 months or so to close that down. We don't want it to recommence.
JOURNALIST: Can I take you now to Karen Nettleton, who's the mother of Tara Nettleton. Tara's taken her children to Syria; because she's married to Khaled Sharrouf and now the family wants them to come home.
Does the Government have any sympathy with that at all?
PETER DUTTON: Well, Chris, our first responsibility is to keep the Australian public safe. That is our first responsibility and we've demonstrated that through the national security laws that we've put in place. We have put additional funding back into intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
In relation to this particular matter I've said for well over a week now, and I repeat the call today, I think this is best an issue discussed between the family and the Australian authorities if that's the family's desire.
I don't think it helps anybody. I don't think it ensures the security of the Sharrouf children whenever they might be, if there is speculation around them wanting to do a so-called deal or inquiring about coming back to Australia, I don't think that is in anyone's best interests to be canvassed on our television sets.
I do believe very sincerely this is a discussion best had behind the scenes and I would encourage the family to do that.
JOURNALIST: Is there anything the Australian Government could do though for this family given that they're in Syria and probably in Al Raqqa the capital of Islamic State?
PETER DUTTON: People need to understand what is happening within these regions. Within Raqqa this is a war zone effectively. There's not trains in and out, there’s not a functioning public transport that people can hop on a bus and go to the local airport and freely come and go. This is a very dangerous part of the world.
We don't have representation there. We obviously have posts and embassies around the world. People can seek assistance from the Australian staff within the embassy. They can make contact with the authorities otherwise, but it is a very dangerous part of the world and I think people need to recognise that.
I can understand the emotion involved with the family and the authorities discreetly can have discussions with people, but we have had examples where authorities have been able to speak to people and to facilitate passage or arrange travel documents, where passports have been cancelled. Those sorts of discussions are best had with the appropriate authorities in private.
JOURNALIST: And this is not a place where you can freely send Australian officials?
PETER DUTTON: Well, it's not. It’s not a place that we have Australian troops and it's not a place where we have diplomatic presence.
People need to recognise that this is an area that is controlled by these barbaric terrorists and people need to be very mindful of what they're saying publicly, particularly given the safety and the at-risk nature of the children within that region.
JOURNALIST: Peter Dutton, thank you.
PETER DUTTON: Thank you.