Subject: New Ministry; Australian Government approach to border management and security; free speech.
Minister, good morning and congratulations.
Good morning Ray. Thank you very much mate.
It was probably a little closer your seat than you would have liked I'd imagine?
I'm glad it's only every three years mate or I would have no hair left at all. So perhaps we took the long road, but we got there in the end.
Yeah. The new Ministry sworn in, it's a massive number of people and that would be indicative of the Prime Minister not wanting to sack anyone because of the tenuous hold you have in the Lower House in Parliament I'd imagine?
Well I think every leader would say to you that the most difficult part of the job is telling people that they aren't going to continue as Ministers because they get angry about it and those that you promote say thanks and you never hear from them again in terms of praise.
So look it's always hard.
Everybody I think in the Cabinet had achieved a lot during the course of the last three years and it would have been very difficult for Malcolm to justify dropping anybody.
But under the Coalition agreement, which is sort of a mathematical formula in terms of the number of National Party members that will sit in the Cabinet, it meant that one more was to join the Cabinet and that's Matt Canavan. He's a great bloke from central Queensland and I think he will be a good addition to the Cabinet.
So big in number, but hopefully that means that we can deliver on a lot over the course of the next couple of years.
The elephant in the room is Tony Abbott. He has got 20 years in Parliament, he is a former Prime Minister, he's a former Minister. People were saying that he's been very well behaved prior to the election, through the election period. It may have been a magnanimous gesture by the Prime Minister to say, 'well look, yeah we know you weren't too happy with things that happened, but we need your experience somewhere on the front bench here.' It didn't happen.
My view is that Tony during the campaign I think did himself a lot of credit because I think he carried on and conducted his campaign in a very decent and honourable way and that's as you would expect from Tony Abbott.
I mean he is a very decent and honourable person.
As the Prime Minister said he is keen to try and promote younger people in. I don't think there are any of us in Cabinet or the Ministry that want to stick our hand up to say that we will step back for somebody else. So look politics is a tough game, there's no question about that, but Tony Abbott has contributed greatly to our country and I'm sure as you said he wants to continue in the Parliament on the backbench in the seat of Warringah and I'm sure he will continue to do that.
But for all of us, we are absolutely determined to make sure that the Government remains united and that's one of the things that we promised at the election to provide a stable Government and we all need to make sure that that happens and if we do that then we can deliver on our agenda.
You put a video together apparently, warning people smugglers in other parts of the world that you're back and as a result the policies won't change.
I thought it was important to do that Ray, because there was a lot of information around about the fact that people smugglers were hopeful for a change of government. I believe absolutely with great certainty that if Labor had been elected people would have been on boats coming to our country and I don't say that without seeing a lot of information behind the scenes.
I thought it very important to put a message out there, a very clear message, that the Turnbull Government had been re-elected, that I had been appointed back into the portfolio and that should signal very clearly to the people smugglers that we are not going to allow them to get back into business.
I think we can deal with the threat, but it is ongoing and people smugglers are trying to put ventures together every day and we have turned back just shy of 30 boats now. We have to continue to do that because if you see what's happening in Europe and in particular most recently in France, we need to know the identity of every single person coming across our border whether it's by land or sea.
In the modern age it is completely incomprehensible that people could argue that you can allow people to cross your borders without knowing who they are and whether or not they pose a threat.
That leads to my next point. Sonia Kruger from Channel 9 is under fire from those from the left for her comments about Muslim immigration.
She wanted Muslim immigration in Australia to be paused in wake of the terror attacks in France.
Now I have said all week since those comments that I don't necessarily agree with her opinion considering many of those charged here in Australia are actually born in Australia. I support her right to voice it. I don't think I have a problem in any capacity that she feels that way about it.
Then I went on to say that I'm a supporter of yours and that we have to protect our borders and make sure that people that we do welcome to our country come here without any baggage.
She may have been clumsy in how she expressed it, but I think at the end of the day she is saying what you're saying, but she went about it in an entirely different way.
Well look Ray, I mean my view is similar to yours.
I think we have to allow people freedom of speech and one of the things that terrorists want in the Western world is for us to give up elements of our democracy.
They don't want young girls to be taught in schools, they don't want people to enjoy the same religious freedom that we do in our country and one of the great things about our country is that we welcome people from the four corners of the earth and that is what has made us a great country.
And if people are coming here to do harm well I don't care what religion, what part of the world they're from, my job is to stop them from coming here and doing harm to other Australians.
Now, I think one of the things that terrorists would love to see is people stopping from, being stopped from speaking their mind or not able to express their point of view.
Now I don't agree with Sonia Kruger. I don't think that we should stop the Migration Programme, I think that would be a bad outcome, but I defend her right to speak her mind.
We can disagree with her as we do with people on the left and the right, but I think we need to recognise that the vast majority of people from all religions that come to this country seek to do so in a safe way and in a way that they can contribute and we should celebrate that.
Well one of my callers made a very valid point. Those from the far Left of politics who are condemning her on social media are saying far worse things about her as an individual than she ever perhaps said about anyone from the Muslim faith.
Well there are so many hypocrites and you saw that during the campaign.
I mean you look at the work of GetUp. GetUp is funded by the CFMEU and by supporters of the Greens. Essentially they are a front for the Greens and some of the lies that they put out there in relation to hospital funding etc. was completely mendacious. I mean their behaviour was appalling. Now they would be the first to be out there attacking Sonia Kruger and others.
And I believe very strongly, whether people voted for Pauline Hanson or didn't, we should respect that fact that people have certain views. We don't have to agree with them, but that's the great strength of Australia Ray.
We can't have thought police out there for the Left or for the Right saying that this is ok, but we sensor this element. I think if we don't allow people to speak their minds even if they are incorrect in what they're saying I think we do give rise to a more extreme view of the discussion on both the Left and the Right.
So be honest. Let's say that we do want people to come to our country including from any part of the world. If they're of Islamic faith, they're of Christian faith, whatever – they're welcome in our country, but if they are coming here to do us harm or if there here as a second or third generation Australian and they want to do us harm then they will face the law like anybody else.
We should apply the law equally and that's the basis on which we discriminate. We discriminate against people that want to do us harm and that's the only way that we can approach it in a civilised country like ours.
Have you been briefed on this 38-year-old journalist who's appearing in Parramatta Local Court almost as we speak?
I have had some briefing Ray, but as you said before, I think certainly from my perspective I want to allow the matter to proceed.
It's just a reminder though that the Federal Police, ASIO and other agencies do a great job every day. Australian Border Force officers at the airports, we deal with these threats every day and already the AFP have thwarted a number of planned terrorist attacks in our country and if we think that we are immune from what's happened in other parts of the world including France, the United States, we're not.
That's why we must be vigilant and the agencies have many people that are of interest to them and they are working on that every day. We need to stop them at the borders and where they are in our country we need to identify that risk, arrest them and put them before the courts as quickly as possible.
Minister, thanks for your time. We'll talk next week.
Thanks Ray. All the best mate.