Subjects: Sydney terror plot; same sex marriage.
Peter Dutton is the Immigration Minister. He joins me most Thursdays when he's available. He's online from Brisbane this morning. Minister good morning.
Now let's get to this story that's been bubbling along since Saturday. Four men arrested by counter-terrorism police, receiving intelligence suggesting a plot to take down a passenger plane using a bomb.
Now one of them has been released, Abdul Merhi, the others remain in custody. It's been reported nearly everywhere this was as close as we've come to a major attack.
Is that the information we are dealing with?
That is the information we're dealing with.
Certainly there was a lot of planning and the police are investigating all of that at the moment. So as you point out Ray, there is still people in custody so I think the most important thing at the moment is for the police to be able to do their work and we really reach out to anyone that's got any information to contact the national terrorist hotline on 1800 123 400.
It's tough for the police because they need to act as quickly as possible in relation to any of these incidents obviously to save lives, but it makes the gathering of evidence difficult in these terrorist related cases.
So that's the situation at the moment. There was a plot to target a plane – there's no question about that – and there'll be further detail that comes out over the coming days.
See I know with dealing with police officers, from the Commissioner down in New South Wales, it's all about timing in normal circumstances. You're doing covert surveillance, you're waiting, you're waiting, you're waiting and then all of sudden someone in command presses the button, you say ‘let's go now, let's go now.’ And sometimes they're catching people in the act, particularly in drug related matters; they catch them in the act and the prosecutions easy because they've got them in the act.
In these particular cases you can't wait for the act to happen. I mean, as we've seen with 9/11 and other acts of terrorism, you've always got to go early – that's the way it is – because you've got to try and stop the loss of life.
You're dead right. I mean that's just the nature of it. As you say, with a normal investigation in relation to a break and enter, or in relation to an armed robbery or whatever the crime might be there's a gathering of forensic evidence afterwards, there's taking of statements from witnesses and whatever the scene might show to the police and whatever picture that might paint. And then they can look at CCTV or gather all of that evidence and then track the offender down, bring him before the courts and charge him.
But as you say in this situation where you're talking about potentially hundreds of lives at risk, if they have information that it's an imminent attack or something has happened where they believe that they need to move before they've gathered evidence – without talking about the case that's there at the moment – then it's a dilemma obviously.
But in the end all of us are absolutely dedicated to making sure that we can keep people safe so of course police have no choice but to move in relation to these terrorist offences when they think there's an imposing threat.
Now I mentioned this earlier in the week – I notice there's been an apology, but it was way too late – a Labor member in the Northern Territory, her name is Sandra Nelson, said, in one of her weak moments apparently in social media, that how coincidental was it that the terror raids where conducted because the Government is down in the polls.
Now I'm calling, not just in the Northern Territory, but on the universally in Australia, for IQ tests to be done on people before they offer themselves for Parliament because if this person's got an IQ above double digits I'd be surprised.
Well if she was just by herself then that'd be bad enough. But look I think when you look at some of these people in Labor Party at the moment – I know the Labor Party's up in the polls federally – but go through who would sit in Bill Shorten's Cabinet. I mean go through ministry by ministry. Think to yourself whether or not these people would have the capacity to serve our country well. I mean are they as strong as they need to be? Will they have the capacity to make the decisions that are required in relation to national security and border security? They won't.
They're driven ultimately by green ideology and no doubt this woman's in that category and they run these conspiracy theories, instead of worrying about things that are important to people, about energy prices or about jobs or housing, whatever it might be, they run off on these green type conspiracies and as you say they're not fit to sit in Parliament; but unfortunately many of them get through.
I had a long yarn with Graham Richardson on air yesterday about same sex – which has evolved from gay marriage to same sex to marriage equality. There's a survey today published in the Australian Financial Review – you probably haven't caught up with it – by JWS Research. It's a quarterly survey which determines the area of policy that are regarded as important to voters. Health, education, the economy – they're the top three concerns – worries about terrorism increasing, electricity prices obviously surging, that's a worry.
We come to the issue of same sex marriage. Six per cent of the respondents cited it as an area of concern.
You've got four Liberal members Trent Zimmerman, Dean Smith, Trevor Evans, Tim Wilson – all gay men, openly gay men; good luck to them – deciding the fate of your Government by raising the spectre of this and perhaps walking across the chamber to vote at this crucial time with the Labor Party.
Now none of these blokes to my knowledge, Trent, Dean, Trevor or Tim, had a word to say about this when it was enunciated by your Party via your Prime Minister that there’d be a plebiscite. Not a word was said about it. A plebiscite was good enough. But when the Labor Party, not the Liberal Party, nor the Nationals stymied the plebiscite they want to walk across the chamber.
Can someone tell Trent, Dean, Trevor and Tim the enemy is not the right wing of their Government, it's the Labor Party?
Ray our position was clear and the Prime Minister's been very clear about this.
Our position at the last election remains our policy now. Our supporters who voted for the Liberal Party and National Party voted for us on this basis and that is that we would go to the Australian people via a plebiscite to ask their opinion about whether they supported a change to the definition of marriage, whether they supported gay marriage.
Now we're not going to step away from that policy. We've been very clear about the fact that people should have their say and as I've moved around the country over the so called winter break – we haven't stopped over the last few weeks – but people in record number say we want to have our say.
But as you point out people are more worried about how they're going to pay the power bill, how they're going to pay their rego, how they're going to pay for their kids or grandkids to go to sport. They're the issues that they're worried about and people are worried about national security. They're worried about their kids travelling overseas, they're worried about the recent terror plot here and these are the issues that people want us to concentrate on…
…but do these fellas know that if they pursue this they'll bring the Government down? And I'm not understating it – the Government will fall on this. The Government will fall.
Well as you point out Ray, I mean we can't get the plebiscite through the Parliament, through the Senate, because the Greens sided with Labor and sided with Nick Xenophon to vote against the plebiscite.
Now my view is that people do deserve to have their say and as I say the Prime Minister has been very strong on that in saying that the plebiscite is our policy.
This is why the discussion around a postal plebiscite has come up and that's worth debating because with a postal plebiscite there's no legislation required and people would still have their say so we'd keep the spirit of the commitment that we made at the last election.
Anyway certainly from my perspective I don't want to be distracted by these sorts of issues because we do have serious issues otherwise to deal with.
The support we're getting from the Australian Federal Police and all of the agencies including ASIO and the New South Wales Police – all of those people that have swung into action over the course of the last couple of weeks should make every Australian proud because they are doing a lot behind the scenes, including at our airports, to keep us safe. And this threat is not going away as we've discussed many times.
Okay. It's been reported Warren Entsch is being interviewed right now live on Sky News that National's MP Andrew Broad is refusing to comment on a threat he'll go to a party meeting today that he'll sit on the crossbenches and he's saying that he, I think, supports the plebiscite and he'll move away from the Government if things go the other way. Are you aware of any of these ructions at the moment?
Look I haven't seen the reporting this morning. My plea would be for people to – it's an emotional area and people have strong feelings on this topic and that's obvious.
We need to have a discussion next week, which no doubt will take place in the Party Room on Tuesday and frankly until then people, I think if they possibly can, might keep their comments and their views until next Tuesday.
The options are known to the Government, the policy position that we took to the election is well known and this is an issue that can be dealt with next week when Parliament returns.
I thank you for your time. We'll get more on the Andrew Broad story at the moment. He warned last year his support for the Coalition was conditional on honouring the plebiscite commitment. That's what he's saying, or that's what Warren Entsch is saying apparently on his behalf at the moment on Sky News.
Well Ray I mean Andrew Broad is a good bloke. He doesn't want Bill Shorten to become Prime Minister – none of us do. So he's a very important part of the National Party and the Coalition and I'm sure he'll weigh all of that up. So I'd wait to see what Andrew Broad has to say for himself.
Okay. Well he's not commenting at the moment, that's coming via Warren Entsch as I understand it. Thanks for your time. We'll talk next week.