Subjects: UN Meetings in New York, Operation Sovereign Borders.
Joining me now at the United Nations is Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. Mr Dutton thanks for your time on a big day in the focus of migration and refugees here. What was your message during your statement to the conference earlier?
Well Kieran good to be with you.
Look it's obvious to all of us listening to the speeches here that the issue of irregular people movements of migration is going to be with us for a long time to come.
This is not a problem that's going away and in fact speaking just then to the EU Commissioner who has responsibility for home affairs, which includes migration matters, this is an issue which will be around for a long period of time, whilst ever there's difficulty on the ground, whilst ever people are seeking a better economic outcome, there will be irregular people movements and part of our message, part of the Prime Minister's message was that we have a good story to tell in Australia.
We've been able to secure our borders and as Australians know at the same time we have been able to bring a record number of refugees in through the right way – that is by plane and provide them with the settlement services so that they can start a new life and that's been part of our key message here.
Do you think that the message has been well received? As you say, you've met with the relevant person from the European Union and also the head of the International Organization for Migration and the High Commissioner for Refugees.
Do they think there's a relevance there in terms of the Australian story on this issue for their own circumstances which involve obviously a lot more people?
The short answer is yes. I mean there is a lot of interest particularly from European nations about the Australian experience.
People recognise that there were 1200 people who drowned trying to get to Australia by boat and they face the same threats in Europe. We have seen the scenes of people drowning on the Mediterranean, but of course the other thing that we have in common is that this is organised by people smugglers and criminal syndicates and the same as we have problems within our own region, the people smugglers have a presence across Europe and across Africa.
They're taking money so there is that organised criminal syndicate aspect to it as well, so there are many aspects to the discussion, but people yes are very interested in the success that we have had in securing our borders and yet still being able to bring in a record number of refugees.
What about this argument though that you need to bring the people with you in terms of the Humanitarian Programme? Is that something that's resonating with European leaders particularly who are facing now political problems of more and more people going to parties on the far-right because they don't like well one the loss of the control of the borders? That's a pretty important fundamental element for them though, isn't it?
Well and it has been in Australia. I mean that's been the Australian experience for a long period of time.
For decades in fact people have wanted governments to exert sovereignty to make sure that we know who's coming to our country and it resonates even more now because as we are seeing in Germany in the last week or so, people smugglers have tried to bring in only a handful of people which is all you need to cause a terrorist incident. They are trying to pass themselves off as legitimate refugees and they come seeking to cause trouble…
…that undermines the good will doesn't it more broadly in terms of the refugee intake? That's the argument isn't it?
Well of course it does. I mean people want to provide the support, they want to provide the places, but they want to know that people who are coming aren't going to pose a threat and secondly they want to know that places aren't being taken by those who are less worthy than people who might be waiting in camps in many cases for years and years.
So people do want to extend a helping hand, but they want to help the right people and they want to make sure that the good people who deserve help aren't being displaced by those who are passing themselves off as something else.
What do you say to the criticism though that's been levelled at well you and the Prime Minister here for making this argument that Australia has got it right and Europe should follow suit? There has been criticism that they are not comparable.
Well I haven't heard that criticism. I mean that hasn't been put to me.
Australia has a different situation because we are not landlocked. We're an island nation so we have the benefit of not having borders which are porous, and that's the problem in Europe, and trying to enforce those land crossings and regularise those crossings is difficult and nobody would doubt that.
So the Australian experience is different in that sense, but none the less people seek to make the voyage across water in Australia as they do across the Mediterranean to Europe; so there are lots of lessons that can be learnt and I look I think people are very interested in the success that we have had in securing our borders in Australia.
One of the ongoing difficulties though remains Manus and Nauru. More than 800 genuine refugees yet to be resettled. How much does that weigh on you – the fact that there are these people essentially still in limbo?
Well Kieran one of the things that I wanted desperately to do when I took up this job almost two years ago was to get children out of detention.
There were 2000 children at the peak of Labor's dysfunction and loss of control of our borders in detention centres in Australia; in fact they had to open up 17 new detention centres. Now, we have got those children out of detention, we've closed 17 detention centres.
My task now is to make sure that not only do we keep the boats stopped, but that we can get people out and we are working with third countries to see what settlement options might be available…
…any progress here on that?
Well we have had discussions over a long period of time with partners and I have not commented, not ruled countries in or out, but I think we can be assured that the Government wants to get, particularly women and children out, as a first priority from Nauru.
We are working on that, but we have to do it in such a way that we don't have new arrivals filling the vacancies that we create. So there is a lot of work behind the scenes. Operation Sovereign Borders didn't achieve its success overnight and we have got people smuggling syndicates who are trying to put ventures together now.
And just finally to return to something that you were alluding to earlier and that is that the reaction politically, internationally, to the loss of control of borders – not so much that being the issue here, but Trump regardless, Donald Trump that is, seeking to put a ban on migration, Muslim migration in this country and it seems to be resonating with a big chunk of people here.
What are your thoughts on that, your reflections on that?
Well I think from an Australian perspective we've always had, certainly in modern times, a non-discriminatory policy. We look at people regardless of their religion or their background who may pose a threat and we don't allow those people in, we exclude those people.
But the vast majority of people, regardless of where they come from, they come to make a contribution, they come to make a new life and we support that.
So from a domestic perspective that will continue to be our approach and despite calls to the contrary we want to make sure that we can weed out the small element within any religion, within any population or within any group of people coming from a particular region or country – we want to deal with those people consistently and we have a ban on all of those people who seek to do us harm.
But for the vast majority of people that come across our borders, they come with good intention and they come with the desire to start a new life and as the High Commissioner for Refugees within the UN pointed out to me last year, Australia along with Canada is one of the most successful countries in the world in providing those settlement services and I think Australians should be very proud of that.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, appreciate your time. Thank you.
Thanks Kieran, thank you.