Subjects: Administrative Appeals Tribunal; deadline for IMAs to lodge protection claims.
On the line, the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton joins us from Canberra. Minister, good afternoon.
Good afternoon, Ben.
Before I get to the deadline, I've got to tell you I was going through this in detail last week, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, and it struck me – and I know that this might be boring – but you think about the fact that on election day we go off to the school, we cast our vote, we elect a local member, the local member picks the…well the local members collectively decide who the Leader of the Party is. The Leader, say Malcolm Turnbull says, Peter Dutton's going to be in charge of immigration. You're sworn in by the Governor-General, but despite that democratic process, we get overruled by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, which is unelected.
Well Ben, the point we've been making is that we want to make Australia a safer place and we can do that by cancelling the visas of criminals, people that have been convicted of serious sexual offences, outlaw motorcycle gang members who have been in involved in the distribution of drugs, as you say people that have murdered Australian citizens.
I hold a very old fashioned view I think that if you come to our country, then you abide by our laws and if you're a non-citizen here on a visa and you break the law of our country, then you can expect to have that visa cancelled and to be deported from our country.
It's our sovereign right to decide when people come and how long they stay for and if they don't abide by the conditions of their visa, then it is to be cancelled. I've ramped those numbers up quite considerably over the course of the last 18 months or so and it's right that people have their fair day in court, but I think most Australians, particularly hardworking Australians or people that have worked all their lives, paid taxes, believe that frankly if we're spending a lot of money where we shouldn't be on defending legal actions that are without merit – people should have their fair day in court – but at the moment we're spending tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer's money each year on matters which frankly should have been resolved with my decision to cancel the visa, but anyway…
…you've had 4,000 decisions, visa decisions overruled; 4,000 of them by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal? Let me ask you about one of them and I know that you won't go into too much detail, but I want to know how you feel when you find out these kind of results. There's a bloke by the name of Carl Stafford. You tried to punt him. That was overruled by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. After that decision by them to let him stay in Australia, he went on to rape someone.
Well, as you point out Ben, I can't comment on individual cases because I may be a future decision maker in relation to some of those matters, but I'll make a general comment; that is that I believe very strongly if people come here and they commit a crime against an Australian citizen, they don't deserve to stay. Within the law I look at these cases, I scrutinise every detail and we cancel the visas of people that have committed those crimes. There are lots of delegates within my Department who would have decided many of the cases that you're referring to, but certainly cases that I've presided over myself.
Now as I say, it's right that people have their day in court. They can have the matters heard by a judge, they can have the matter decided by the court, people should abide by that decision regardless of whether it's me or the other party to the court matter, but I believe very strongly that particularly where we're cancelling the visas of those people, which we've had a big push on recently, those people that have committed sexual offences against children, that we're speaking for those victims, that we're speaking for those kids that have been violated and we're also, frankly, speaking for future victims as well.
I think it's a no-brainer that we welcome people into this country that want to do the right thing, we do that with people who travel here as tourists, people who come here to work, people who come here to stay with relatives, the vast majority of those people do the right thing, but those that don't; those that don't can expect to have their visas cancelled and I'm just not going to flinch. I'm not going to back down from that stance because I do believe that the vast majority of Australians support the work that the Government's doing here and Mr Shorten's got all these mealy-mouthed words and won't support legislation we're putting through the Parliament to tighten this up, but there is I think further legislation that is going to be required and we're taking legal advice at the moment on how we can tighten the system up because I think frankly people go into this legal process to delay their departures and it does cost the taxpayers of Australia a lot of money.
So they've got four months to lodge their claims, these 7,500 people who've arrived to Australia by boat, but have not yet claimed asylum. They've got four months to do so otherwise they're out.
Okay well this is a separate issue, so this goes back to the 50,000 people who came on 800 boats when Labor was in government. There are 30,000 people who are still here. This is costing us $1.9 billion a year. So far, since 2007-08, when Mr Rudd at the time undid John Howard's policies and the 50,000 people arrived, it's cost us almost $14 billion – so it's costing us a fortune – and we are saying to people; the 7,500 people who haven't lodged a claim or are refusing to cooperate – provide details when they're asked questions about their claim for protection – we're saying to those people look; we've asked you now, in some cases for a number of years, we've sent you letters, we've asked you to come in, we've interviewed you, you're refusing to provide information or answer the questions in relation to your protection claim and frankly we've had enough. If by the 1st of October you don't provide the information, then we are going to cancel that visa and move them on to a new visa, which will allow us to deport people if they haven't made out their claim.
Alright, would it make sense to have some kind of time limit in future? To say to people look, if you…I mean I know that we don't have people arriving by boat anymore, so it may not be as big an issue, but is there an argument to have a limit in place where people have to fill out these forms and have to either make a claim or not by a certain time?
I don't think its unreasonable Ben. I mean people are claiming benefits and we're saying to these people if you don't lodge the applications by the 1st of October – they don't need to be decided by then – but if you don't lodge your application by then, we are going to stop welfare payments and that will save something in the order of $250 million a year and as I say this is a huge mess.
We haven't had a successful people smuggling venture, a boat hasn't arrived successfully in 1030 days, but we have turned back 30 boats and had those 30 boats got through, we would be dealing with the mess that Labor created when they were in government.
So we aren't going to unpick the deal or the success that we've had in Operation Sovereign Borders, but at the same time, on behalf of Australian taxpayers, I'm not going to waste money on people where they can't make their protection claims.
We support refugees, we support legitimate people that are fleeing persecution, we do it as generously as any other nation in the world, but we aren't going to be taken for a ride. If people have got a claim to make, if they believe that they are facing persecution or they've got a legitimate claim to make, give us the detail; allow the adjudicators to look at individual cases. If, as it turns out, people are not refugees, if they are economic migrants looking for a better outcome, well look, there are 65 million people in the world at the moment that are in that category. We're a country of 24 million. No country could afford to take all of those people in.
So all we're saying is abide by the laws of our country, do the right thing, if you've got a claim to make, make it, but we aren't going to have people here for years and years and years taking money off Australian taxpayers when it turns out in the end that they aren't refugees anyway.
Alright well the clock's ticking. They've got until October one and we'll speak to you many times between now and then. Good to talk to you.
Look forward to it, thanks Ben.
Thanks for your time. Peter Dutton the Minister for Immigration.