Subjects: Delivering on our commitment – no children in onshore detention; Labor’s failed policies when in Government; Syrian refugee intake.
Journalist: Peter, good morning to you. Good news that there’s no kids being held.
Peter Dutton: Good morning gents.
It’s great news and when I came into this portfolio I said that we wanted to do two things – one is to make sure that we keep the boats stopped, but secondly to make sure we get kids out of detention as quickly as possible.
Obviously there are a number of complicated cases where there are security concerns about a father or brother or we’re not certain about identity, so we have always put our national security first and that hasn’t changed.
But we have been able to work through each of the cases and the priority now, of course, is to make sure the boats don’t recommence and we don’t get back to the days where 50,000 people arrived on 800 boats.
Journalist: Mr Dutton, the last people that were in Brisbane on Friday, and they were quite a controversial family; can you explain what has happened with them?
Peter Dutton: Well we’ve gone through, as I say each of the cases and necessarily as you get down the last two hundred, last hundred, cases they are very complicated and complex matters.
We’ve gone through each of those cases. In some cases I’ve had to say we’re not going to allow the father out, because ASIO has security concern about him, but we will allow the mother and children into the community because we’re not worried about them in terms of any security risk. So we’ve assessed each of the families.
The Government’s policy still remains very clear though and that is that we don’t want to allow people smugglers to get back into business.
So people that have come to Australia from Nauru, for example, once their medical attention has been provided and they’re right to go back either to their country of origin or to Nauru, then that will happen.
We know the people smugglers are still trying to sell their product. They’re still putting people onto boats up in Indonesia and out of Sri Lanka and elsewhere and this threat is going to be with us for a long time to come.
Journalist: Where are the people that have been, or the children that have been released? Where are they living?
Peter Dutton: They come out into the community, John-Michael, so they go into community housing.
If people don’t pose a threat whilst we’re looking at their individual cases it’s cheaper, of course, quite apart from the humanitarian argument, it’s cheaper to have people in residential accommodation as opposed to held detention and it’s obviously better for their mental health.
If we can resolve matters quickly then we do that, but a lot of these matters are protracted, they go through the courts and lots of appeals, lots of processes.
Ultimately my responsibility is to make sure that we ensure our national security, make sure that we get it right and make sure that the boats don’t recommence.
Journalist: Minister a lot has been written about the long-term impact of detention on children and this is obviously something that not just your Government was responsible for, but obviously the Labor Government before.
What is being done to look after the kids you’ve now released into the community, but you know have been genuinely affected by what they’ve seen in some of these camps?
Peter Dutton: There’s a lot of balancing to be done here. It’s not just the kids that are in detention, and you’re right, holding children in detention is not something that any of us want to do.
But we also need to be voice for the 1,200 people that drowned at sea, including women and children. We don’t want that outcome for young children that might be getting onto boats with their parents or thinking about it now.
So there are a lot of different angles that we need to consider and a lot that I need to balance up.
I can’t allow boats to recommence and we do know that Regional Processing Centres is a deterrent, we do know that turning back boats where it’s safe to do so is a deterrent, but we also know that there are people ready to pay to get onto boats tomorrow.
They need to know the very clear message that the Government is not going to compromise on Operation Sovereign Borders and we’ve still got significant assets at sea, in the air, working with the Indonesian police and intelligence agencies otherwise. There are many aspects to the success of this operation.
Whilst people are in the community we provide them with the health needs that they have.
But ultimately people have paid money, in some cases thousands and thousands of dollars, to a people smuggler and that they outcome that they want is to live in the Australian community.
Where people make out a proper claim of protection we’re actually a very generous nation in trying to help those people settle, but we’re not going to allow people that are just coming here for an economic outcome to come through the backdoor.
Journalist: You financed a movie to be seen, I think, in Afghanistan and other places, which is set out to deter people from a) getting involved with people smugglers and also the dangers that the face.
Peter Dutton: Well it’s a very important message because and for a long time we have into different fishing villages in different parts of the world put out flyers, information in local language, and we’ve conveyed a message and that has been part of the success here.
There are a lot of people who are living in remote parts of the world that know nothing about Australia other than that we’re a great country to live. They don’t fully understand the history, the Government’s absolute resolve in stopping boats and so they’re still prepared to pay money to, and be duped by, these people smugglers.
It is important that we get messages out in local languages and in non-conventional ways as well. There are lots of ways, through social media and whatnot that we convey a message that you know the path to Australia by boat is closed.
On a per capita basis we’re the most generous settler of refugees in the world and we’re going to make sure that it’s done in an orderly way.
If you lose control of our borders you end up with eight and a half thousand children going into detention which is what happened under Labor’s time. Bearing in mind that when they came into Government in 2007 Mr Rudd inherited a system where there was not one child in detention.
We just don’t want to go back to those crazy days.
Journalist: A couple of quick questions Minister. First of all, Nauru. Now there are still 50 kids on Nauru and you say that they can wander around the island, but you know, and I’m sure you’ve been there, you know that it’s hardly a paradise and it is effectively detention.
Are you planning to get those kids off Nauru? And also, of course, in general you’ve got about a thousand people in limbo there. Something has to be done. We can’t just ignore them and leave them there forever can we?
Peter Dutton: No and of course we haven’t ignored them. We’ve provided significant amounts of financial support to the Nauruan Government to provide health and education services; the hospital up there, the medical centre, the busses that go around and pick kids up to take them to school each day, the financial support that we provide the families. It’s significant.
Many people, hundreds, are working on the island, they’re remitting money back to their country of origin. This is a very, very different picture than some people might present to you, Nick. There’s a lot that happens on Nauru in a positive that the advocates just don’t want Australians to hear.
Journalist: But there’s also a lot that happens in a negative as well and there’s a lot of people there who are living in limbo.
They don’t know what the hell’s going to happen, they’ve been there for, what, two years, maybe more?
Peter Dutton: But for many of those people Nick they’re not refugees. I mean they are understandably wanting to get a better job and better life for their kids, which as parents all of us can understand, but there are 58 million people in the world that are in that situation.
I’ve got 14,000 plus in Indonesia now waiting to get onto boats and we’ve not had a drowning at sea…
Journalist: …I understand all of that. I understand all of that. But I also don’t think we can put our head in the sand and just leave these people in Nauru. And Manus Island of course is in probably a worse situation because a lot of people on Manus Island haven’t actually been assessed. So I mean…
Peter Dutton: …well again that’s not the case, but that’s what the advocates want you to believe. That is not the case.
We’re working, obviously, as I’ve said publicly before, with third countries to try and find suitable arrangements for these people because we’ve been clear that they are not coming to Australia.
The difficulty is that they hear messages from advocates through social media and through different media outlets in Australia that, you know, if you just hold out eventually you’ll come to Australia, don’t accept the settlement packages, don’t go back like hundreds of people before you have to your country of origin when you’ve been found not to be a refugee.
So again there are many aspects to this particular difficulty and we do want to get people off Nauru and Manus and we’re working tirelessly to do it.
But it is difficult when people in Australia are saying ‘just hold out, don’t accept the Government’s offers of settlement packages or assistance to return you to your country of origin,’ and we’re faced with that difficulty on a daily basis.
So yes we do want to get people out but we need to be realistic about all of the components.
Journalist: Minister, the Greens are trying to put through some legislation, or are putting forward the idea of legislation putting a restricted time that any child can spend in detention. I think they’re saying seven days or something similar to that.
Is there any, is there a benchmark that you can actually now put and say any child will no longer spend, you know, whether it be seven days as they hope or a month, or not?
Peter Dutton: Well Nick let me give you this scenario.
If you have a child, say a family of four children, and the father has been assessed by ASIO as a security threat to our nation, so he may have been involved in terrorist activities in the Middle East, and the children don’t want to go or the mother doesn’t want to leave the husband, doesn’t want to break the family unit up, and you’re at the seven day mark then what do you do?
Do you take those children and the father out into the community because the mother and children refuse to leave the father or do the children remain in detention until you can resolve the security issues because you’re worried about the threat that that man poses to the Australian public?
Now you don’t have the proper identity documents because they’ve destroyed their identity documents, so you don’t know whether they’re Syrians or whether they’ve come from another country. You don’t know whether they’ve been involved in serious crime or what activities they’ve been involved in because you don’t have any idea who they are. You haven’t done proper health and security checks, as well, so you don’t know whether people are positive carriers of a particular disease.
I mean do you let those children out after seven days?
Journalist: No and that’s the point I’m asking…
Peter Dutton: …that’s how ridiculous the Greens’ proposal is…
Journalist: …yeah so that’s what I’m asking. You’re saying you can’t put a particular time because every case is different.
Peter Dutton: No because I mean if I can get children out in 24 hours, then I will do that.
I want to make sure that we can deal with the threats that we face, I mean there’s a modern reality.
The Labor Party signed up to that crazy plan, I might say, which has superficial appeal to people because, you know, getting children out of detention is the objective for all of us.
But I’ve actually got the reality of having to look at each of these cases and not put Australians at risk and at the same time treating people humanely, but having a very firm message that yes whilst we settle on a per capita basis more refugees than any other country in the world, we need to do it in an orderly way so that we can check identities, as we’re doing with the Syrians now, and make sure that people are going to integrate well into our community, that they are going to be a positive not a negative influence in our community.
So we need to work through all of those cases and it’s not just as simplistic as the Greens would put it.
Journalist: We’re seeing the chaos of what’s happening in Europe and I mean we certainly don’t want that to happen here. It’s a nightmare and of course what is happening is now creating thousands if not millions of people who are just fed up with the whole thing. They’ve seen this as an invasion, an absolute attack on their way of life.
Journalist 2: And I suppose a question from that then Minister is how many of the 12,000 Syrians have actually come to Australia? And are you 100%, well as confident as you can be, that they are fully security checked and cleared?
Peter Dutton: Well Nick we’ve pledged to take 12,000. We’ve screened in 9,000 people.
We’re doing security checks with the United States and other partners, other Five Eyes partners, our security and intelligence partners, to make sure we can scrutinise each application. We take biometrics tests from each person.
We’re conducting the most rigorous tests available and there are lots of people that are touting false passports, false Syrian passports. The Assad regime has been selling passports, legitimate passports, to try and finance their war effort.
There are lots of people who have jumped into the queue.
There was an interesting study out of Paris recently with the interrogation of one Parisian, a young foreign fighter, that actually went into Syria and came back and was caught trying to create a mass casualty event, or a terrorist attack, in Paris.
It’s very clear now from the intelligence that people are being trained up to go to European countries like Belgium or like France with the express target of passing themselves off as refugees or travelling on false documents to commit terrorist acts.
That is something that we need to be mindful of and it’s a reality of the modern world.
That’s why we just can’t have people rolling up unannounced, turning up on boats. A thousand a week were being pulled off boats on Christmas Island when Kevin Rudd was Prime Minister.
We’ve got the situation under control, but Labor’s proposal to…
Journalist: …so Minister, the question, just quickly, in terms of figures how many of the 12,000 have already arrived?
Peter Dutton: We’ve issued 1,600 visas Nick, so some of those people have arrived and others are finalising their matters before they come.
There will be others through the United Nations programme that come as well.
So I haven’t got an exact figure, but we’ve issued 1,600 visas and we would expect those people to arrive shortly.
Journalist: Alright. Minister thanks for joining us on a Sunday morning.
Peter Dutton: Thanks, gentleman.