Loading

Wednesday, 19 July 2017
Transcript

Interview with Ray Hadley, Radio 2GB-4BC

Subjects: 2017 State of Origin result; national security reform; establishment of a Home Affairs portfolio; Australian Greens.

E&EO…………………………………………………………………………………………..

RAY HADLEY:        

We usually speak to the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton on a Thursday, but in light of yesterday's announcement we've moved our chat forward one day. He's in our Canberra studio. Super Minister, good morning.

PETER DUTTON: 

Morning Ray Hadley. How are you?

RAY HADLEY:        

Good thank you. Congratulations.

PETER DUTTON: 

On the State of Origin you mean…?

RAY HADLEY:        

No…I've dealt with State of Origin for other reasons for the last three days…

PETER DUTTON: 

…okay….

RAY HADLEY:        

…I won't be dealing with it with you, but I will deal with it later in the day with a couple of senior journalists about the performance of the New South Welshmen. We now find out why New South Wales surrendered to 16-6 lead, and why Queensland absolutely annihilated them in Origin three – but you can gloat on that for another 12 months and maybe beyond – but it's serious stuff today: Home Affairs portfolio.

Now, it appears to me that the Prime Minister went to the UK, looked at their model, and sort of echoed things you've been suggesting to me without saying it directly for a number of years now; that it's very difficult, very difficult to pull all these different agencies together under the one umbrella and get a satisfactory result. He did it yesterday: ASIO, the AFP, the Australian Border Force, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Transport, and he says and people are saying that that trip to London got him across the line on it. Would that be fair?

PETER DUTTON: 

I think that might be right. I think the reality is though that he's been talking about it, mulling over it for a long period of time and he's spoken with his counterparts around the world – you're right – about what's working, what doesn't work, the lessons that can be learned because all of us Ray, I mean in a way we're living unprecedented times. We've never had the domestic threat that we've got now from terrorism, we've got it from espionage, we've got it from cyber terrorism, all sorts of aspects of organised criminal crime and activity that need to be dealt with and it does make sense. I mean it makes common sense to me, to people, certainly to the Prime Minister, that you have a co-ordinating function or a co-ordinating Minister or department to look over each of the agencies to make sure that they're working as best as they can together.

Five years ago for example we never had Counter Terrorism Unit officers at our airports. We do now. We've had 70 people charged with terrorist offences just in the last three years alone. We've had 12 terrorist plots thwarted and five incidents where they have been successful in hatching their plot and on three of those occasions innocent people have lost their lives.

So we need to deal with the reality of what we've got and I think Malcolm was perfectly placed, having come back from the UK, to give it final consideration, but this has been around for a long time. Kim Beazley was talking about the virtues of a Home Affairs portfolio when he was Leader of the Opposition many years ago and most leaders on both sides of politics since that time have supported the concept, but credit to Malcolm Turnbull who's been able to land it.

RAY HADLEY:        

I'll refer and defer to one of my colleagues from The Australian Greg Sheridan, as an example of someone whom I respect having a different view than mine and I guess he hopes it works, but he hopes it's not unmanageable – and that seems to be the main concern even from reasoned commentators, as opposed to the Left who just want to bag it because they think it's going to bolster the conservative vote in Government – but he thinks maybe it's just a bit too big.

Now, I was thinking about it overnight and again this morning. I know you're a very capable man, but crikey, pulling this all together, I mean you pull this off and you can do anything.

PETER DUTTON: 

Well Ray, I mean the Prime Minister's been good enough to say that in this portfolio we'll have two junior Ministers – so Michael Keenan, who's an exceptional guy out of Western Australia is very, very capable, he is part of this team; Alex Hawk, otherwise as my Assistant Minister at the moment in the Immigration portfolio. Over the next three months, we're going to look at the way in which responsibilities can be divided within our team and the point that the PM makes is right, that at the moment he has to reach into three or four different departments, four or five different Ministers he needs to speak to in relation to national security matters. This does condense it down to one.

So we're not saying that we're rolling the AFP into ASIO and putting the ABF in there. These organisations retain their autonomy, their statutory independence remains, they have absolute, 100 per cent eye on the activities that they've got going on at the moment – so there'll be no disruption to their investigations or their cases that they're working on at the moment – but we will work at a higher level than that. We'll work with the Commissioners, with the Directors-General and whatnot to work out where they can work on a pretty good model that we've got now to make it even better.

There's no sense waiting for an incident and then a coronial inquiry afterwards which says, well, this agency could have been talking more effectively to that one. We're pre-empting that. We're giving ourselves the best chance to keep Australians safe in what is a very uncertain environment and one that's going to get even harder over the coming years.

RAY HADLEY:        

ASIO comes from the Attorney-General to you, but the Attorney-General still has power over warrants. Is that how it works?

PETER DUTTON: 

Yes, and I think that's important. I think it's important for there to be a separation between the operational side, if you like, and the scrutiny or the issuance of those warrants. So I think it's appropriate that the Attorney-General retains that power and it gives a level of oversight as well – so we can give people an assurance about, yes, there are extensive powers that our agencies have, but they're designed to keep us safe, not to be misused – and we reinforced that in that decision.

RAY HADLEY:        

I listened to a replay with Steve Price and Andrew Bolt last night of your interview with Leigh Sales on the ABC and I noticed you arched up a bit in relation to Shorten, the Opposition Leader Mr Shorten saying that oh this was just to bolster the conservative vote – and you're the leading conservative, obviously – and that's a way that Malcolm can prove to the electorate that he is not as Left as perhaps some people like me suggested.

But at the end of the day; I think the idea is a good idea, so it's hard to then delve into it and say well, it was done for this reason – I think it was done for the right reasons and I believe the Prime Minister that he's done it for the right reasons –  

however, however, however, there is a benefit. As you know there are a lot of disaffected conservative voters out there who are thinking about doing something else come the next election. This will not of course encourage them to go somewhere else. This would encourage them to stay with the conservatives – being the Liberal-National Coalition. So even though you deny that it was done for those reasons, there is a benefit there Minister.

PETER DUTTON: 

Well Ray all I can say is that…

RAY HADLEY:        

…you can't deny that…

PETER DUTTON: 

Well, I'll come to that, but the first point you make is that it has been done for the right reasons, and it has. I think Malcolm Turnbull is genuinely interested. He was genuinely moved when he met with the first responders in the UK, where he visited the site where two young Australians had been attacked. No leader, as a Prime Minister, as a Minister, none of us can help but be moved by these stories and you look at the intelligence, the advice that you get from the agencies – this is a very real threat – and to suggest that he's done it for any other reason than that which is obvious – and that is to make us more joined up in the departments, better coordinated, sharing more intelligence and information – would be a nonsense. So he is starting with that intent.

But you're right in the sense that conservative voters around the country should look at a couple of issues: one; economic management and we can talk about the mess that we inherited, the work that we're doing in tidying the Budget up – it's not been an easy path and we've got a Senate that blocks every measure that we put forward – that's the reality of what we're dealing with.

The other aspect which is incredibly important to conservative voters, to voters right across the spectrum, across Australian society, is the issue of national security. Labor got it wrong in opposing us on Operation Sovereign Borders, on opposing us in our efforts to clean up the boats and we did it. We promised that we would do that and we did. We delivered on it. Malcolm Turnbull made other changes in relation to allowing strikes against Australians who were involved in terrorist activity in the Middle East, for those people to be killed. Now, that's a harsh decision for a leader to make, but it's the right decision.

Now, he's made a tough decision in relation to the creation of this portfolio. The usual critics are out there; Bill Shorten's making all of his cheap political lines, but the reality is that it is done in our national interest and if people are interested in which side of politics is best able to secure our borders and best able to secure our national security, then the Coalition has to tick that box for them.

I think Bill Shorten made a mistake on opposing us on Operation Sovereign Borders. I think it would be a tragedy for him to repeat the mistake in opposing what is an absolutely essential change to our national security infrastructure, and I hope that he can see that over the coming days and support the legislation that's required in the Senate to pass this change and to create this portfolio.

RAY HADLEY:        

Okay, a couple of quick ones. I've already said this morning I have a bit of compassion – I know you'll find that hard to believe – for Larissa Waters given the circumstances. I mean I know she should've checked. She's born in 77, a week later they changed the rules, when she's one week old. She comes back here of Australian parents, born while studying in that part of the world – Canada – and she thinks she's got to opt in as opposed to opt out. She doesn't do it at the age of 21; suddenly she starts to check when Ludlam falls on his sword and she has to go as well.

I mean at the end of the day it's a fairly defined process; you're either a citizen of Australia and no other nation or you aren't – one of the two. The only concern I have is that this has gone on for a long, long time for both of them – a long, long time – and it was only because of an academic or a lawyer in Perth who said to Ludlam you'd better check this. But then I find out on social media that someone three years ago said to Ludlam, hey hang on a sec, aren't you still a citizen of New Zealand and he didn't act on it.

PETER DUTTON: 

Well as you say, I mean it's hard to feel sympathy for the Greens because I just don't agree with anything they believe in, but at a personal level you're right. I mean it's a big price to pay. She's not resigning because of some corruption scandal or whatever it might be. It's a mistake that she's made. It's a pretty fundamental one that should've been checked by both Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters, they didn't and there's a heavy price to pay for that and others that are in the same category will have to make sure that their bona fides are established. I'm sure they're all rapidly checking…

RAY HADLEY:        

…I'll bet they're all checking right now…

PETER DUTTON: 

… digging through the bottom draw to find the certificate. But look mate, it is hard and the worst thing out of Queensland is that it seems Andrew Bartlett, who is rolled-gold crackers is going to…

RAY HADLEY:        

…just say that again, he's rolled-gold crackers?

PETER DUTTON: 

Crackers. That's a…

RAY HADLEY:        

…I know, he's as mad as a cut snake, I'd say. You say rolled-gold crackers.

PETER DUTTON: 

Okay, that's alright. You're a bit older than me, different…

RAY HADLEY:        

...you slipped the boot in on the way through, yeah, good on you.

PETER DUTTON: 

While I could. So maybe we'd be better-off with Larissa Waters even though she's a fair way down the path herself. So anyway, I guess they'll pay a price for it and that's the way…

RAY HADLEY:        

…okay. Very quickly; Christmas Island. This is one bloke, but I've been dealing with this in New South Wales all week and in Queensland they're dealing with it as well when you privatise prisons. You know you don't always get the best result. Well we know people can be crook whether they're employed by the Government or by a private contractor, but this doesn't look good. A Serco guard who's been sacked with contraband, supplying drugs allegedly to detainees on Christmas Island. Will he now be charged criminally?

PETER DUTTON: 

Well there's an active investigation by the Law Integrity Commissioner having a look at that at the moment. So ACLEI's got that under investigation, I'll leave it to them, but he has been sacked.

 In a previous life a long, long time ago I worked in an area where we investigated corruption and criminal offenses within jails and look Ray, it's not the privatisation of it, there are old guards from Corrective Services that were charged over the years as well. It's that environment where you've got people who are mixing with criminals and contraband and money being paid for drugs, etc.

My message to anyone in this Department – and I've had this discussion again with the Secretary and the senior staff in my Department this morning, as late as this morning – I have a zero tolerance for any of this corrupt behaviour and if people believe that they're going to conduct themselves in a way which makes them no better than the people they're guarding, then they can expect us to come down with the full force of the law.

Look, we're talking about the one per cent of people doing the wrong thing; 99 per cent of staff are good, hard-working, decent, honourable, law-abiding citizens and they shouldn't be tarnished with these others – but if they're involved in corrupt practices, they'll be charged and they'll go to jail – that's the reality.

RAY HADLEY:        

I've got some bad news for you: I might be older than you, but I'm around for a few more years. I'll see you later.

PETER DUTTON: 

Take care mate.

RAY HADLEY:        

Thanks very much.

[ends]