Subjects: Melbourne African crime gangs; visa cancellations; federal politics.
Thanks so much for your time tonight Minister. The Victorian Premier accused you of deliberately being inflammatory with your comments last week about Melbournians being too afraid to go out to restaurants at night. The Premier today questioned just how much time you've actually spent here in Melbourne, offered to take you out to dinner with the family. Will you accept that offer?
Well Ahron I want Premier Andrews to go out to dinner with one of the families that has suffered at the hands of these violent criminals. He can pull all the stunts he likes, put all the distractions in place that he wants, it doesn't detract from the fact that this is a very serious problem in Victoria. He can make light of peoples' concerns; I'm very concerned about the people that have been the victims of these criminal gangs and I am very concerned that there will be further people who will suffer at the hands of these gangs unless Mr Andrews does something. He's created the problem and he needs to fix it up.
Minister, you've just referred to them as gangs and we know that there's been a huge issue with the language surrounding this topic. Both Daniel Andrews and the Victorian Police Commissioner deny there's an African gang crisis, the Deputy Commissioner says we shouldn't call them a gang because that only plays to these young peoples' egos; the Sudanese community leader Kot Monoah said these crimes are not gang related and in fact he accused you on this program last week of scaremongering, by the way. So what makes you refer to them as gangs and is there a gang crisis?
Well Caroline I just think we waste so much time on all of this political correctness. I mean Daniel Andrews has tied himself in knots, he's tied the Victorian Police Force in knots and he's tied the court system in knots as well with all this political correctness.
The fact is that Mr Andrews, as the Premier of Victoria, as his first responsibility, he has to keep the people of Victoria safe and by any definition he has failed that first task. Now he's created a problem because he's appointed magistrates and judges, in some cases, that are allowing bail and these people to get back out to commit crimes again a couple of hours after they've first been arrested.
As Matthew Guy rightly pointed out, there are very soft sentences being imposed and not much deterrence at all being imposed by some of these magistrates and judges and that hasn't just happened overnight, it's happened over a long period of time and for Mr Andrews to be responsible for the problem, means that he has to fix the problem up.
At the moment all we're hearing from Mr Andrews is a dismissal of legitimate concerns, concerns of Victorians and as we saw in the ReachTEL poll published in Fairfax, of all papers, only in the last few days, that over 60 per cent of people are concerned about these gangs and going out of a night time and he can get into definitions and problems all he likes. The Victorian public know, and the frontline police officers know, that Daniel Andrews has created a big problem because ideologically he won't deal with the problem and he's created a huge mess that's impacting on Victorians and I want to see it cleaned up before more Victorians fall victim to these gangs.
You talk about the polls and the fact that Victorians are concerned, but the same polls also suggest that the Victorians rather the idea of Daniel Andrews, rather than the Opposition Leader Matthew Guy being the ones who lead Victoria out of the problem. It also is only 11 months until the state election, which has obviously raised the point that the Federal Government is trying to help the Victorian Opposition here in ramping up the belief that there is a crisis.
Yesterday we heard from the Chief Commissioner, who's back from leave; he said it was laughable to suggest – he didn't name you personally, but your comments last week – he said it was laughable to suggest that this was an issue here in Victoria, where people didn't want to go out for dinner.
While so much of your focus and the Prime Minister's focus has been on playing Daniel Andrews, what about the police in all of this and how they're responding to the Federal Government as well?
Well Ahron I've had nothing but praise for the police, for the Victorian Police and every comment that I've made publicly has been supportive and I'll continue to be supportive because Daniel Andrews has put the police in a difficult position. It's frustrating for the frontline police officers, and they've contacted me to that effect, to say that they are frustrated by the fact that they can arrest somebody, put them before the courts, they receive bail, they're back out on the streets committing similar crimes within a matter of hours. That is unacceptable.
People want to go out, they want to enjoy their lifestyles in a great state like Victoria and I want to make sure that we don't have any further victims. Again, Mr Andrews can give all the direction to his agencies that he wants, he can cover himself in this political correctness, he can offer to shout me dinner all he likes, but all it is is a distraction away from the main problem and he is dismissing the legitimate concerns of people who have been victims.
I mean there's no sense in saying there's nothing to see here or no evidence. There are crimes being committed on a regular basis by these gangs in Victoria and I think the Victorian public is shaking its head at the Andrews Government and I think people realise that Daniel Andrews has lost control of law and order.
As I say, for the Premier of a state – a great state like Victoria – the first charge is to make sure that you keep your people safe and he has failed that by any standard.
Minister, Victorian Police and community leaders say the focus on these gangs is now fuelling racial attacks and death threats being made to good, law-abiding members of the African community in Victoria. Now, obviously no one wants to see people threatened like this – I'm sure you don't either – is there a way of addressing this issue directly and calling a spade a spade without it leading to these kinds of inflamed racial tensions?
Well Caroline, I would condemn any of those sorts of attacks or verbal or physical attacks, of course, and nobody would want to see that, but Daniel Andrews creates these situations and other ideologues like Daniel Andrews, create these situations where they refuse to accept the facts.
If you're honest with the public in Victoria, you're honest with the public in Australia about this situation, people realise that this is a small element within the community in Victoria. They don't want it. They want to stamp it out and the good leaders within the African community want it stamped out as well, and for the Premier of Victoria to deny that there's a problem or to not say that he's got answers to a problem of his own making, makes people frustrated and if Mr Andrews would just show the leadership, come out and say, look, you know, as a Victorian Premier I've made mistakes, I'm going to rectify the mistakes, I'm going to address these long-standing issues that haven't been just created in the last week or two, but over the last couple of years because of a series of missteps that the Andrews Government has made, then I think the public would look at the situation in a different light, because they would know that there was some end to this game, that they would know that there was some light at the end of the tunnel and that this problem was going to be rectified.
At the moment, Victorians are hearing a Premier say that he doesn't think there's a problem and that he's spending all of this time with these red herrings of come down for dinner and all this garbage. He needs to get out and speak to some of the victims of the crime, he needs to admit that he's made a problem, he needs to apologise to the Victorian public and if he can't rectify the problem, he needs to consider his own position.
Minister as far as I'm aware though, when it comes to immigration, that is a federal issue, what about deporting some of these criminals?
Well, Ahron I've cancelled the visas of a number of people involved in gang violence, including in Victoria. The number of visa cancellations is up by 1,200 per cent. I've certainly, more than any other Immigration Minister since federation, has taken the task very seriously of cancelling the visas of non-citizens who are committing crimes.
Ninety nine per cent of people who come to our country come here and do the right thing, but if you invite people into your home and they start trashing the place, they start abusing your wife and children, you kick them out. You don't tolerate that sort of behaviour and if people have committed offences, including some of these gang members in Victoria, then I won't hesitate – acting of course within the law – to cancel their visas and to deport them from this country. I've done that in seven cases.
There are other cases that we're looking at at the moment, but don't forget that we were criticised at the time that we brought in the Syrian and Iraqi intake – the extra 12,000 people – criticised by Bill Shorten and Labor who said that we should dispense with some of the security checks, not conduct the extent of the security checks that we undertook at the time. I thought it was foolish then, I think it's even more foolish now and if you allow people to go on to take citizenship, it means that of course they've moved off visas. They can't be deported as Australian citizens – rightly and appropriately – but if we can look at people whilst they're on visas, make sure that they've integrated into Australian society, that they are abiding by the law, that they're adhering to our Australian values, then of course we want them to become Australian citizens, but in circumstances where they don't – as we put to the Parliament last year, but Labor voted us down – we don't want them to go on to become Australian citizens.
So there's a whole big debate to have here and I can assure you that the Federal Government, where we come across people who are committing offences that put them in breach of the Migration Act and open up their visa cancellation and we're able to deport them, we're doing that. We're doing it in record numbers. I believe we're making our country a safer place. But the law and order issue in Victoria at the moment is completely of Daniel Andrews' own making.
Is there an issue though with some of these ethnic groups, the high concentration of groups being settled in certain places because according to the census more than half of Sudanese migrants, refugees to Australia are settled in greater Melbourne, in particular in the south-eastern and western suburbs. Is that what we should be looking at as well on a federal issue?
Caroline, there are plenty of examples around the country, whether it's in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland – there's a Sudanese community in Toowoomba, west of Brisbane – and people behave themselves, they conduct themselves within the law. They want their kids to go to school, the kids are involved in employment or school, they're contributing positively to Australia, to their local community – as most migrants do – and we're a richer country for those people over a long period of time having come to take part in our community. There's an opportunity afforded them that couldn't have been imagined by their parents or grandparents and most people, 99 per cent of them, take advantage of that, but for Daniel Andrews to deny that there's a problem in Victoria – this is a law and order problem – there's no deterrence in the sentences that are being handed down, there is a real problem with the bail laws and the Victorian Government has tied the agencies up in knots over whether somebody is part of a gang or not.
This is a problem concentrated in Victoria. It needs to be sorted out by Daniel Andrews and he needs to apologise for the mistakes that he's made and he needs to demonstrate that he has a plan to correct the issue. If he doesn't, as I say, then he needs to consider his position.
I'm sure you'll agree there are a lot of people, a lot of Australians, who are concerned that this story over the past couple of weeks has become almost a racial story focusing on one group of people. For example we saw an incident, I'm not sure if you're aware of, on the Surf Coast in Torquay here in Victoria last week; a hundred youths set upon police in what turned out to be a wild brawl, left an officer injured. Witnesses described this group of youths as a gang of youths, as Caucasian. A lot of people questioning why so much emphasis is being put on African gangs when there are so many incidents that occur that are barely spoken about by our political leaders.
Well Ahron you know the dynamic in Victoria. The Apex gang, by the Victorian Police's own evidence to Jason Woods' inquiry, some 60 people were involved in that gang and that was a very serious attack on Victorian values and the law and order system and people suffered at the hands of that Apex gang. T
There are people now that are involved in gang violence and again, I've said repeatedly, I believe very strongly, as all Australians do, that the law applies equally to anybody regardless of their ethnicity, regardless of their background, their education, whatever. The law applies equally to people and whether people are from Sudanese background, an English background, whatever it is; if they're involved in crime they should be dealt with according to the law and there should be a deterrence put in place. We're seeing that in other states and in other jurisdictions where we haven't got the same problems that we're seeing in Victoria. Mr Andrews has taken this left-wing approach to the law and order system and it's resulted in gang violence that, on a regular basis now in Victoria, continues to be a problem. I don't care, as I say, the background of people, the ethnicity of people. If they're committing crimes, then they need to be dealt with according to law.
Just one final question for you Minister. Of course, as we turn our mind to politics, those 30 Newspoll losses in a row – a precedent that Malcolm Turnbull set himself – rolling around, not sure what the future will have. Your name quite often brought up in speculation about who could take over if Malcolm Turnbull didn't make it. While we've been talking, so many tweets in support for you. One from Anthony Parker says: prime minister Dutton, that would shake the place up for the better. Is the top job something you'd want and do you think that Malcolm Turnbull can turn around these Newspolls?
Well, what about you guys? I mean you're about to knock off Kieran Gilbert and, you know, Speersy. I mean you guys are making a show of it over the summer. I presume people are tweeting and texting to you about that as well. So look…
…no one's suggesting we want to replace Kieran and Speersy, but there's plenty of people suggesting that you might replace…
…is that right, I'm just putting it out there guys. You're out there over summer doing a good job, so we'll see.
Look, I've said repeatedly and I'm happy to say it again now: I was 100 per cent loyal to Tony Abbott as Prime Minister. I've done the same to Malcolm Turnbull. I believe very strongly that if you serve in somebody's Cabinet, you owe them loyalty, you owe the Government loyalty and I don't want to see Bill Shorten become prime minister of this country because I think it would be a disaster: a disaster for families, for small businesses. You see what's happening in South Australia with the electricity system, people are paying enormous prices for their electricity and energy there; you're seeing what's happening under Mr Andrews in Victoria, where they've lost control of law and order. We saw that when the Labor Party were last in power federally…
…on the Prime Minister, on Malcolm Turnbull, do you think he can turn this around?
Well this is a long preamble Ahron, I'm coming to your question. So we've secured borders, we're running the economy well and I believe very strongly that we can turn that situation around and win the next election, which is not due until June of next year.
So there's a long time to go, and as you know, a week is a long time in politics. I think we can demonstrate the fact that we have secured our borders, we do have a very strong national security message, particularly with the stand-up of the Home Affairs portfolio. There is a lot of good that we're doing in protecting small businesses, cutting taxes and providing jobs.
We've got a big agenda to rollout in 2018 and I believe very strongly that Malcolm Turnbull can deliver that and defeat Bill Shorten at the next election, as we must for the sake of our country. So, you know, with your support, once you guys get into the top job, I'm happy to talk to you again about the achievements of the Government over 2018.
Yeah, I think David Speers and his Walkleys beat us any day of the week. Prime minister, maybe one day, Peter Dutton, right now the Home Affairs Minister, thank you so much for talking to us tonight on Summer Edition.
Thanks guys, have a great 2018.