Subjects: Illegal Maritime Arrivals; Senate voting reforms; Tony Windsor; foreign criminals.
Minister good morning to you.
Good morning Ray.
News Limited papers say that you've got a report given to the Commonwealth Government this month. The report warns asylum seekers in Indonesia are waiting with baited breath for people smuggler routes to re-open so they can come here.
Are you aware of all of this?
Yes I am and look it's a pretty sobering report because I think a lot of people have forgotten about the boats and don't think that the boats are a problem anymore that we have dealt with that issue and moved on.
But all of the intelligence says to us, and this report confirms it, that there are about 14,000 people or so in Indonesia ready to get onto boats now. As I said before, we don't talk about it publicly much, but we have turned boats around on a regular basis and quite recently we have done that.
We are very worried that the boats can restart and one of the biggest threats is that if there is a change a policy, if the people smugglers believe that there is going to be a change of government or there is going to be a weakening of our border control policies then they will get onto boats and they will come and the drownings will start again.
We just need to be resolute and make sure we keep up our hard line.
Is there any other reason that they would start again apart from your hard line policies? Is there another reason that they will have a throw at the stump, so to speak?
Well they might be looking at Europe and decide that its too hard in Europe now. People smugglers might be saying 'look were going to reduce our prices and you can get onto boats and we can try and test the resolve of the Australian Government to make sure that we can try one more time to see if you can get through.'
People are desperate to get here and you can understand that, but we can't take our foot of the throat of these people smugglers. They are evil organised criminals and they are desperate to restart their trade.
I spoke to a couple of your colleagues in the Senate this morning via text and email. They are expecting a very long day, night, into next morning on the Senate voting reforms.
Are you confident that by this time tomorrow they will have passed though?
They short answer is yes. I think people realise what's going on here Ray. We can't go to the ballot box, cast a vote and not know where that vote is going to end up. I think most people when they vote in the Senate for a particular independent they would be amazed that it goes through some secret deal that's been done back to a different candidate that they wouldn't support at all.
I think Clive Palmer demonstrates what's wrong with the Senate at the moment and I think the fact that we can clean it up is a good thing and I think it's good for democracy.
I was absolutely astounded by Tony Burke and his appearance with Kieran Gilbert this morning on Sky News where it was, Labor were, supportive of this policy until it got to the crunch.
Tony Burke made the point, the Leader of Opposition Business, that 'look we can change our minds.'
He kept talking about the three million voters that vote who vote for anyone other than the major parties being dislocated and not part of the deal and yet when Kieran pressed him again on Ricky Muir with a few hundred votes, or point five of one per cent of the Victorian vote being elevated to the Senate, he still had that line about the three million people not being represented by someone in the Senate.
It's just ridiculous, particularly as the Labor Party basically agreed with what you are doing.
Well Ray, I think that Bill Shorten and Tony Burke are definitely playing politics here. I mean there is no question about that.
Gary Gray who is a very decent bloke, a Labor member from WA, he is the Shadow, or was the Shadow Minister, in this area. He supported all of these recommendations and still privately, and he has publicly said it as well to his credit, that he supports what the Government is doing here.
You are right, up until a few weeks ago Labor supported what we are doing and have now back-flipped for political reasons and I think people can see through it.
I think people understand that if you look at Jacqui Lambie, Clive Palmer, all of these people, it can't function properly in the current state.
We want to do the right thing by our country. There are tough decisions that we have to make and we can negotiate that through the Senate, but you can't sit down with people, agree to resolve issues, you negotiate and they renege on the deals anyway. You can't run a Government like that.
The most important point is that we don't want people disenfranchised when they cast their ballot and they find out that Ricky Muir or somebody else who might be a nice enough bloke, but there has been some backroom deal done in relation to the swapping of preferences. I don't think people expect that when they cast their ballot at the election.
When we spoke last Thursday morning it was being suggested that Tony Windsor would make that announcement. We endured a 70 minute long press conference…
…like the good old days Ray.
Yes, yes. I lasted for 40 minutes before I bailed out. Sky News went to about 58 and even the ABC 24 hour channel didn't last that long. He described himself as being a great bore and no one argued that point.
But then we see Newspoll figures suggesting with preferences that he has a rough hope of beating the Deputy Prime Minister. It's worrying for of course Barnaby Joyce, who has the seat of New England, but I think it's more worrying for the country isn't it?
Well there are a couple of points here. I mean yes Tony Windsor supported and propped up both Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, he worked very closely with the Greens, he abandoned the values of the people he was representing in New England.
The difficulty now is that he is not driven by wanting to get better outcomes for his electorate, for a better outcome for the country, he's driven by hate. He hates Barnaby Joyce and he hates the National Party and that's why he is putting himself up again at the age of 66. He retired; he said he had had enough.
Didn't he say he had a medical condition? Didn't he say he had some sort of medical problem and the time was to pull the curtain down on the career?
Well he suggested that I think at one stage. It's clear to all of us…
…he's got a very red face, I don't know what the medical condition is but it could be high blood pressure, I know he gives me high blood pressure.
Well it may be that he's just running out of words and his body is desperately searching for more.
I don't know what the problem is. I think the reality is Ray, that if you're driven by hatred that is a bad motivation and it's not going to be in the interests of New England.
I was speaking to Barnaby Joyce yesterday, he says he's been overwhelmed by the number of people that have pledged their support, stopped him in the street, and I think people want to have a Deputy Prime Minister in their electorate in New England because he's got a seat at the Cabinet table and he get things done for his electorate.
Look I speak to people in Tamworth, business people and community members as well regularly who email me and listen online and because I go to the country music festival I have many friends in that region.
They can't believe the Newspoll, they say it couldn't possibly reflect the thoughts of people and that goes hand-in-glove with him selling his farm for $4.65 million to a mining company then renting it back.
He's now got interest in farmland west of Coonamble out towards Quambone which they tell me is prime coal seam gas land.
They also are concerned about his role – and I'm investigating this – where he may have access to, you know, a whole range of confidential matters when he was in Parliament previously relating to mining leases and the like; so there's a whole range of things they're concerned about in relation to Tony Windsor in the New England.
Well I think people will hear about all of that in the run-up to the election, but in the end if he's motivated by hate and not wanting to get a better outcome for his electorate, people will see through that.
I mean he pretends to be a champion of the anti-coal movement, but as you say he sold his farm out, made a huge profit, turned his farm into a mine. I just think it's pretty shallow and I think people will see through it.
Barnaby is a hard worker, he's able to wear his heart on his sleeve and he fights for people in rural Australia and I think the people of New England have got in the Deputy Prime Minister a very good local member and I hope they can support him,.
OK, just one final thing, everyone saw the vision from your home state of Queensland of three Chilean men, a father and two sons in custody after allegedly injuring a woman – not allegedly, we saw it on video – during a bag snatch on the Gold Coast. The lady apparently had seven and a half grand in the wallet where she'd just got it from a bank or some sort of financial institution.
Now I know you can't comment because they are before the courts, but does someone go back and see what these Chilean men were doing in their native Chile before they came here?
Well it will depend on the circumstances Ray, so if they've come as tourists for example then there won't be a criminal history check.
Look in these cases where they come up we look at them very closely. We have cancelled now, as you know, over 1,000 visas including 84 bikies and many people who have committed serious criminal offences. Yes we have secured the borders and we do want to make our community a safer place.
The footage I saw of that was absolutely disgusting. The treatment of a lady like that is just appalling and we don't want people of that character in our country and that is why we're going to step up and work very closely with the Queensland Police and all the state police forces to identify more of these people that aren't worthy of remaining in our country.
We welcome people in record numbers and if they do the right thing and they're abiding by the law they're welcome to stay, but if people want to take us for a ride or cause harm to Australian people they can pack their bags because they'll be on the first plane out.
As always thanks for your time we'll talk to you next week.