Subjects: Administrative Appeals Tribunal; strengthening citizenship requirements.
Let's talk to Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. Peter we seem to be – and thank you for joining us today – we seem to be accruing a longer, longer list of people who for all sorts of reasons ought to be deported, but you can't get them out.
Well Leon, good to be on the show, so thank you very much for having me on.
Look, it's a growing frustration for everybody and it should be a growing frustration for the community as well because 99 per cent of people who come to our country do the right thing, but those people that don't, they need to recognise that if they're non-citizens, they'll have their visas cancelled. And where they're overturned by the AAT, in some cases I can overturn that decision, but it is a cumbersome process and some of the laws that we've got before the Parliament at the moment in relation to the citizenship space, we do have some reform around the AAT, but we're not able to get support from the Independent Senators as yet.
See when I had Bill Shorten in the studio not long ago and I think you heard the quote because I played it on air a couple of times…
He was clear that if people are not genuine refugees or they are proven malcontents, we don't want them.
So I would've thought it would be a lay down misere for you to be able to change the rules to make those decisions. Not so?
No, this is where Bill Shorten frankly gets a bit tricky because he plays on words. In the Parliament his words are very different than what he has to say on your show and elsewhere around the country.
So at the moment the Labor Party's saying that they won't support those citizenship changes.
So what we're saying is that we want people to be of good character, to have abided by Australian law, to be working if they're of working age, to send their kids to school, to speak a competent level of the English language – but they're all basic elements which I think the public would support and at the moment some of the cases you're talking about; those people do become Australian citizens, they do go on to become Australian citizens under Labor's model and that's what we're trying to reform.
But at the moment Mr Shorten's being a bit shifty unfortunately and we do have to rely on the Independent Senators and I'm hoping that Nick Xenophon and his team will come through with their support.
So this is to change the rules where the AAT can actually be overruled by you easier? Is that what you want to do?
That's right and I'll give you one example.
There was a person who was non-citizen here on a visa, he pleaded guilty to and was convicted of eight sexual offences with a minor, including two of having sexual intercourse, three counts of assault, an act of indecency and three counts of an act of indecency. He asked that a further five matters be taken into account. So the eight offences took place over a period of 14 years and he was convicted and sentenced to six years imprisonment.
The AAT set aside the decision under review and the decision-maker at the AAT sent back the application for citizenship to the minister for reconsideration with the direction this person should now be considered as of good character.
Now I can go through case after case of these Leon and I don't think it reflects community values or community standards.
I think we need to tighten the law up here. I think we need to be reasonable. People should have their day in court, but my job is to do all I can to keep Australians safe and if these people go on to become Australian citizens, they have many more rights than if they're just visa holders.
I want good people – law abiding people that have contributed to Australian society – I want those people to become Australian citizens.
I don't want people of questionable character and certainly not those that have committed serious sexual offences against Australian children to go on to become Australian citizens and that's why we really need the support in the Parliament for this Bill.
You know what really gets under people's skin Minister, is that if you for example want to bring over let's say a student from Latin America who you've got a relative kind of a cousin relationship, often you'll get knocked back on the basis that this is a person from a third world country. Statistically they are more likely to overstay their visa so the answer is ‘no’ and yet we are protecting felons through this AAT process. That doesn't look good to the public.
It doesn't look good and that's why we're going to change the law. So we can't act outside the law and we obviously have to abide by the law which we do. But in some cases where obviously the decision making process is just plain wrong then we do need to reform the law.
I believe in this day and age it is important for us to know all we can about a person's background, all we can about their time in Australia before we grant citizenship, because as I say, under the Constitution, under the legislation, Australian citizens rightly are afforded special protections and that's why we need to get it right.
The visa cancellations are now about 2800 over the last couple of years. That's up quite dramatically and you and I have spoken on the show about this before. But many of those people under the previous Labor Government would've gone on to become Australian citizens and they're just not the people that we want to become Australian citizens.
We want people who are going to work hard, abide by our laws, integrate into Australian society, to become citizens. And that's why we've got this legislation before the Parliament at the moment.
Now Mr Shorten has said that he doesn't agree with that and that he can't support that legislation and in that case we need to rely on the Independent Senators to get the Bill through the Senate.
Peter Dutton Immigration Minister. Thanks for joining us today.