Subjects: Section 44; Ministerial intervention powers; illegal boat arrival.
I'll get to that weather across the network very, very shortly, but I wanted to chat to the Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton. He's on the line. Minister, good morning.
Good morning Ray.
Tomorrow is three weeks since the former Prime Minister lost his job, took off to New York on holidays, complained about the media following him, but still can't resist having a crack. I've just said on air – whether you heard it or not – he's confirmed what most people tell me of him. He's self-centred, he's egotistical and he won't let go. He's now the Kevin Rudd of your party.
What comment do you have that he's confirmed overnight that he's been lobbying your colleagues to get you to go to the High Court?
Well Ray, just a couple of points. I mean, obviously mine is one of respect for former Prime Ministers regardless of the circumstance. So I think John Howard's got the gold standard here. I think he conducts himself with dignity and I hope that all former Prime Ministers can do that.
All of us want to see Scott Morrison elected because we don't want Bill Shorten to be the leader of this country.
And on the Section 44 stuff – look, a couple of points. One – the Labor Party raised this in October of last year in Senate Estimates and then they never mentioned it again. My wife's business interests are well known. I've never taken a dollar in distribution out of that enterprise. That's the reality. It's my wife's business and the former Prime Minister knew all of that detail. Mr Turnbull never raised once with me any issue around Section 44. His staff never raised it with my office. He never asked me for the legal advice that I had that showed I had no problem at all and the first that was ever mentioned by Malcolm Turnbull was during the leadership week. And the other point to make of course is that Mr Turnbull, when the Labor Party sought to refer the matter to the High Court, voted for it not to be referred. So people can draw their own conclusions and judgments.
I hope that Mr Turnbull is able to enjoy his retirement and contribute to the Liberal Party, as I say, in a way that John Howard has. That would be the ideal circumstance.
Well I know you won't confirm it, but it seems incredible that he'd be doing this from his apartment overlooking Central Park, being the same person who offered you the position of Deputy Liberal Leader in the last ditch effort to get you to drop off.
Well, as I say Ray, people can make their own conclusions. I served the Turnbull administration loyally for a long period of time and I made every effort to make the government of Mr Turnbull's work and that's a matter of history.
Now we look forward. I think Scott Morrison has started very well. I think he's talking about issues that are important to people – getting electricity prices down, making sure we keep our country secure, all of that – which is actually what matters to people, not the beltway issues in Canberra.
Now it appears today there's been a softening by Fairfax Media, who have been chasing you about Mr Quaedvlieg for quite some time, because they now admit that one of the claims made by Mr Quaedvlieg, among many which have been unsubstantiated, is actually they say factually unsubstantiated. It's a second claim by this bloke that's been undermined.
There's been criticism of you for using parliamentary privilege to go after him. Not from me, I think you're fully entitled to do it in light of what he's tried to do to you.
But I read this piece yesterday that was published on Friday night in the Courier Mail by Renee Viellaris in relation to exactly what transpired with this bloke and social media accounts, where he received an inquiry from a young woman, 22 at the time, to perhaps to be part of Border Force. He deemed it important as Commissioner that he talked to her personally about it. Some people may say that what you said in Parliament was true, but the story that I read and shared with my listeners yesterday would leave me in no doubt that this young woman was targeted by a very powerful man at the time in an effort to get her into Border Force. Now she's facing a court appearance sometime in the foreseeable future.
But it's not in dispute that he sent 28,000 texts or exchanged 28,000 texts with her between March and August 2016. It's not in dispute that he exchanged 1500 images including a naked selfie - he's denied it, by the way, but we'll rely upon the fact that Freedom of Information would see us obtain those if we need to.
When's this going to end with Quaedvlieg? When does he run out of oxygen in relation to the accusations he makes against you?
Well Ray, that's really an issue for Mr Quaedvlieg. I think – again, a couple of points to make here. He has given evidence that can't be relied on. He's a discredited witness and it's a sad story really because he had a long and successful policing career, but was under investigation, as you say. He's still – and it's on the public record that he's still under criminal investigation. He's obviously bitter at the fact that he lost his job and, as I say, those matters have all been well documented. I think even the latest version of his evidence now has been discredited as well. I think people need to look at the motivations.
I've conducted myself with integrity at all times. The Labor Party and the Greens and The Guardian, The Sydney Morning Herald and others have run hard on the comments of course and when comments are proven to be wrong they don't appear on the front page anymore.
But that doesn't matter too much because look, the Greens and Labor hate me because of Operation Sovereign Borders, the tough decisions. But I have cancelled now over 3000 visas of people that have committed criminal offences. I think I've had a common sense approach to visas where we've had to overrule the Department.
I think this matter's now put at rest. Labor went hard for a few couple of weeks during the media, through the media, and then getting into Question Time asked me a couple of questions and then they drop off it. Yesterday I didn't get a question on it all.
So I think it – look it demonstrates that Mr Quaedvlieg has issues and, as I say, I hope that he can deal with those. But it's not an issue that should continue on because I think now people realise that fabricating evidence and providing that false information is just in no one's interest.
One of the things that I corrected yesterday, thanks to Renee's article in The Courier Mail, he took leave in May 17 from his job while the investigation was launched after questions were raised about him – Quaedvlieg and Sarah Rogers and how she got the job with Border Force. It was then referred to the organisation known as the ACLEI who continue their investigations. It was reviewed by the Prime Minister – the then Prime Minister and Cabinet – but you've been blamed through this and they say it's a square up because you sacked him. The Attorney-General Christian Porter, with the support of the then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, in March recommended he immediately be sacked. The statement of grounds of termination released said that Mr Quaedvlieg was terminated for engaging in conduct inconsistent with his position and the failure to disclose details of any material or personal interest that had been related to the affairs of the Australian Border Force. It accused Mr Quaedvlieg of having engaged in acts and made omissions which materially advantaged that candidate over other comparable candidates for ABF employment and on that basis, his conduct also amounted to misbehaviour inconsistent with his affirmation.
Further, Mr Quaedvlieg engaged in misbehaviour and conduct inconsistent with his affirmation by failing to disclose to the Australian Government Security Vetting Agency within a reasonable time a significant change in his personal life. It also said he was terminated because he failed to reveal that he was in a relationship with the person who was seeking to get a job within the ABF.
So all of this of course was put in place by the Attorney-General with the express permission of the then Prime Minister. I know you're part of Cabinet, but you didn't sack the bloke at the end of the day, the Attorney-General did.
No in fact I recused myself from the discussion or the consideration of the matter because I was his boss if you like as Minister. I thought it appropriate, and the Attorney-General thought it appropriate that he deal with it. And obviously there was a lot of input from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet as well so all that process was independent.
The other point of course Ray is that Mr Quaedvlieg's former executive officer, or his chief of staff, now works as a senior adviser to Bill Shorten. And Mr Shorten has still not answered any questions about whether he has offered a job to Mr Quaedvlieg or whether Mr Neumann, the Shadow Immigration Minister, has offered a job to Mr Quaedvlieg or whether they've had any discussions about information being out in the public domain.
So look, there are many elements to this, but what have they sought to do? They've sought to try and tarnish my reputation.
As I say, I conduct myself, I think, in an appropriate way and there's nothing that they've been able to point to that demonstrates that I've acted inappropriately and I stand by all of the decisions that I've made and I'm not going to allow my reputation to be tarnished by people of this calibre.
There was plenty of discussion about these 17 individuals who landed in North Queensland. I believe that Operation Sovereign Borders has reinforced its position and I believe all 17 individuals have returned to Vietnam, is that correct?
That's correct. So they've gone back.
We've increased the surveillance both on the water and in the air and through our intelligence gathering otherwise. So this is a continuing threat Ray. We know the people smugglers are still out there.
The important point to make here though is that the 17 people from Vietnam who arrived on the boat have all gone back under us. The likely outcome under Labor would be that those people would have stayed here because they offer permanent protection visas and this is a big issue because had the 17 stayed, it would have sent a very clear message that the gates are open again, you're ready to go, pay your money, hop onto the boats and we'll restart it.
And that shows you how difficult a balancing act it is, but it shows I think the determination of this Government why we've had success and what would happen under a Shorten government. If those 17 stayed, boats would have followed, no doubt at all.
Am I right in confirming that at least two people who appear to be the organisers remain here facing charges?
Well again Ray, there are operational matters in relation to people that are both onshore here in Australia and offshore who have been responsible or involved in organising these syndicates, putting people on boats etc. and there are a number of matters that are still under investigation at the moment.
Just back to that fella you mentioned and I think his name is Paul Iozzi. He was also – apart from being Mr Quaedvlieg's chief of staff – he was also the Chief of Staff of the former Labor MP at the time when he was a former Labor MP and then came back into Parliament Mike Kelly from Eden Monaro I believe. Is that also right?
He's certainly got deep Labor links and, as I say, you know, Mr Shorten employs this fellow, has this fellow had direct conversations with Mr Quaedvlieg about these matters? None of those questions have yet been answered.
But it's interesting, when you get all the facts, it paints a very different picture than what Fairfax and others have been trying to paint over the last couple of weeks.
We'll talk next week. Thanks for your time.
Thanks Ray. See you mate.