Friday, 21 April 2017

Interview with David Penberthy and Will Goodings, Radio FIVEaa

Subjects: Strengthening the integrity of Australian citizenship; putting Australian workers first – abolition of 457 Visas.



Minister good morning.


Good morning.


Peter Dutton, thanks so much for your time this morning. Now, these draft questions that you've devised for the citizenship test, they go to things like education for girls, child marriage, genital mutilation for women.

You said yesterday that the questions aren't specifically aimed at people of the Islamic faith, but you'd have to concede, wouldn't you, that the type of people who are likely to fail the test are those who do adhere to the sort of radical brand of Islam that we don't particularly want to see in this country?


David, I made the point yesterday that 99 per cent of any population, any ethnic background, any religion does the right thing and those people who do the wrong thing, regardless of their religious belief, their belief structure otherwise, they need to abide by the law. We've been very clear about that.

The law applies equally to everyone, but as we said yesterday, there are a number of values that we believe are important; the equal treatment of women and men within a relationship is paramount. It's not part of our culture to physically assault your partner and there are many aspects that we need to be mindful of and really, they have no particular applicability to any person.

If somebody's perpetrating domestic violence, for example, my strong view is that that is not a value that's shared by the Australian community and somebody shouldn't get citizenship if they've been involved in that sort of behaviour.


So how would it actually work though because I've been to quite a few citizenship ceremonies over the years, and there's that statement that's read out at the moment that's sort of feel-good, but quite bland. Are these like sort of specific trip wire questions? And I reckon frankly a lot of our listeners would hope that they are.

Like, if you're one of the targeted 12,500 intake from Syria and Iraq at the moment, would someone from Immigration sit you down, put these questions to you, and then if you get one or more of them wrong, you're not allowed to become a citizen?


So there are two steps to the process, if you like. One is that we have extended the time of permanent residency from 12 months to four years. So that allows a longer period of time for people to demonstrate, firstly, that for example they're abiding by Australian laws – pretty basic.

Secondly, it might be that part of the consideration is whether or not that person's been working; if they're of working age and have the ability to work; have they been working or have they been on welfare for four years? Have they been involved in activities within their communities or not? If they've got kids of school age; are the kids enrolled and are going to school? All of that's assessed in addition to the test that people take.

So the multi-choice test that's there at the moment, essentially is the civics test and so some of these questions that you outlined before could be part of that civics test or that multi-choice test, but there's a broader piece of work that goes behind the assessment of each application and the officers within my Department will look at information around a particular individual –  both the information that the individual supplies as part of their application, but also other inquiries that they might make to police authorities or there might be information that comes from the community, kids are involved in gang violence, or the father's a member of an outlaw motorcycle gang – all of that can be properly taken into consideration before somebody gets the final tick for their citizenship.

So it's a two-way, two-track process, both the test that they have to complete but also the information that they have to provide and the assessment of that information.


Minister, when I've travelled to Indonesia previously, you get off the plane and you head into the country, there's a big red sign that says 'you take drugs into the country and we execute you.'

What I'm confused about, with regard to this questionnaire, is why it will be more effective in preventing behaviour incompatible with Australian values than just the law that currently exists, which for example you would hope sends you to jail for hitting a woman, for being involved in genital mutilation, for marrying someone under the age of 14.

I mean, isn't simply the fact that you do that here and you spend a bit of time behind bars, isn't that the message? What's the questionnaire going to do compared to that?


Well, it's going to make sure that people who are becoming Australian citizens are the best people that we can choose from. We are unapologetic about that. We want to make sure that people, who frankly, those people who are genuinely most passionate about civic values and the rule of law, those people that are fleeing violence from another part of the world come here, want to get their kids away from violence, want to get a start in life, want to work hard, educate their children; they're the people who make the greatest citizens.

People who want to come to Australia to live a life on welfare or think it's very generous and once somebody becomes an Australian citizen, if we're not aware or the proper checks haven't been done on the backgrounds of those people, then it's obviously very difficult then to deal with.

We need to make sure – and again we shouldn't apologise for this – that we want people that are going to integrate into society. We've said that we want to increase the English language requirement as well, because it makes it easier for people to find work, makes it easier for them to speak to their neighbours, to turn up to the local footy club or be involved in their church or mosque or whatever it is. So there's a lot of value to that.


Speaking of work Minister, you made changes to 457 visas this last week as well. The Daily Telegraph this morning is quoting modelling from Treasury, saying that a by-product of those changes will be a reduction in overall immigration to Australia to potentially as low as 160,000 people, somewhere between 160 and 190. Was that part of the desire behind reforming 457s, controlling immigration levels in this country?


No. There'll be lots of speculation around about what's in the Budget or what's not, but the target for this year is 190,000. So we have a number of programmes. Most of them are skewed toward people with skills, so people coming in to start businesses or to work in jobs that can't be filled by Australians, but what we've tried to do on the 457 programme is make sure that the default position for employers is that they're employing an Australian for that job, and if they can't find an Australian after they've reasonably advertised and looked for an Australian or tried to train up Australians for that job, then fair enough, they can employ on a temporary basis the worker from overseas.

But the default position must be to put the Australian into that job and in areas, including in and around Adelaide or South Australia and right across the country, we've got youth unemployment at very high levels and people of mature age that have been made redundant or have decided to cut back a couple days a week and maybe change careers, we want to make sure that we can get those people into work first.

Now as I say, if it's not possible to fill that position because the skills don't exist here in Australia, then there is the ability to bring somebody in on a temporary basis, but we really want to work hard to put more money into training. We've said that as part of these changes, we'll make some announcements in the Budget, which will require sponsors or employers of 457 visa holders to put money into training and hopefully we can train up young people in particular, but as I say, mature age workers as well, find the jobs for them, which is much better than a life on welfare.


Absolutely. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, thanks very much for joining us this morning.


Thanks guys, cheers.