Subjects: Administrative Appeals Tribunal; Labor's failed border protection policies; Foreign Minister's visit to the United Nations.
Let's talk with the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. Peter, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal were aware of this, yet let them stay. How can that be?
Well Leon, it's good to be on the programme. Firstly, obviously these people, as I'm advised, came during the period when Labor had lost control of our borders – so the 50,000 people came on 800 boats – and at that time the government of the day decided to issue Permanent Protection visas. Now, we argued against that and since we've been in Government we've implemented a Temporary Protection Visa arrangement. So there's a different system that operates today.
But you're right, we've got a big legacy case load to deal with. There is close to 30,000 people who are still being processed or going through the courts, having their claims verified and these six are amongst that number.
What I need to do, as a decision maker in relation to some of these matters, is make my decision – I made a decision in relation to a number of cases, without commenting specifically on these because I may be a future decision maker in relation to some of these matters as well – the Administrative Appeals Tribunal can then review my decision and review the decision of delegates in my Department on individual cases. There is the ability for the Minister to then overturn or substitute that decision and it can then end up in the Federal Court or go all the way to the High Court in some cases.
So there is a lot of money that's expended by the Commonwealth each year defending these actions and at every turn, in some of these cases, there is just no case being made at all that these people are refugees, so it becomes incredibly frustrating for me and for taxpayers who are funding all of this – and I don't want under any circumstance see taxpayers being ripped off.
So we do the best job that we can, but we've got a legal system to work in and the Government obviously is making appointments all the time to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and in some cases deciding not to renew appointments in the AAT that were made during Mr Rudd and Ms Gillard's time in government.
Are you saying that you've got a ministerial discretion to overturn what the Tribunal have said, but despite the fact that these six from Iran are not refugees, are you saying that they could go to court and possibly get a determination that keeps them here?
Well that's the way that the law operates and…
…how can that happen though because they're not refugees?
Well, depending on the individual circumstances there are reasons why the court might decide, as we've seen with the AAT in terms of their decision, it's contrary to a decision that I might make and they have the ability to do that, to overturn on the facts presented to them and as I say from there it can then go to the Federal Court or onto the High Court.
My judgement Leon, is that people deserve to have their fair day in court. They can have all of their matters investigated by the authorities. They can then go from there and accept that decision.
At the moment we go through this endless cycle of decision review and I believe it's too generous, that's my judgement, but the constitution…
…do you want to change it?
I would like to change it. I think people should have their fair day in court. I think there should be the ability for a judge or for a judicial officer to properly hear a matter, to determine it and then I think both parties should be bound by that decision. At the moment, as I say, it just goes on and on and on. There are plenty of legal people and firms who have deep pockets, who make decisions that they'll provide pro bono support and they cost the taxpayer in defence of these matters, millions of dollars each year.
As I say, if people have got a case to make, it should be heard. A judge should make a decision, the party should abide by that decision, but at the moment we're spending a lot of tax payer's money.
In some cases people are being detained for a long period of time because there's an ASIO assessment that means I'm not going to release that person into society because I believe that they could pose a threat to the public and then we get criticised for holding people in detention for too long.
So I want matters properly finalised as quickly as possible and at the moment we're stuck in this legal roundabout which is frustrating for taxpayers, as frustrating for them as it is for me.
Well, couple of things here. Given that they're not refugees…by the way I had Bill Shorten in the studio not 10, 15 minutes ago and I asked him about this and he said presuming the facts as presented in the media are correct, then he supports the fact that we should be able to deport them.
No he doesn't because he blocks the legislation that we put before the Parliament. There's a Bill that we've tried to get through which reinforces our approach to stopping boats because the last thing you want is the new arrival of people, you don't want people arriving on boats – we've stop boats now and not have a successful boat arriving for a 1,000 days – but we've been very clear in the message that if you arrive by boat you'll never settle in our country. We had a Bill only a few months ago that Labor refused to support.
So Mr Shorten is very cute in this space and he's got the left of his party that would want open borders tomorrow, but the reality is they won't support legislation, they block it in the Senate with the Greens, and they're part of the problem frankly that we're negotiating at the moment – I mean if 50,000 people arrived on 800 boats and came into detention – when John Howard left power in 2007 there were only four people in detention, including no children and Labor put 8,000 children into detention.
Now we've closed 17 detention centres and got all those kids out of detention, but there's no sense Mr Shorten pretending that he supports legislation or supports measures to tidy this up because they don't. They voted against it in the Senate and that's all for people to see.
Minister, the one thing that I think the public find excruciatingly unfair – and I mentioned this in my forward comments before we spoke this morning – there are many examples where people are denied entry into Australia even though they've got health insurance, even if a bond is offered up, because they might cost the taxpayer. Yet over here on the other corner, we've got people who pretended to be something they're not, but they can be let in. How can we stop this?
Well Leon there are a lot of people that we help. We're a compassionate society, there are plenty of Ministerial Interventions files that I look at on a weekly basis where we would grant a reprieve, a citizenship or permanent residency or a visa for people to stay that might have children with terminal illnesses or have difficulties otherwise, maybe a grandparent has been ripped off by siblings and is left without means, has a stroke here and can't return home. There are those cases that I intervene on every day and we do act in a compassionate way, but we do need to be very serious.
We can't have people arriving in this day and age by boat that have destroyed documents that may pose a health risk. We need to have a programme where people can have their identities verified, come to our country at a time of our choosing and we've been very definite about that. We aren't going to change those policy settings. The Left can whinge all they like, the Greens can scream, The Guardian can carry on, we are not going to allow boats to restart and people to drown at sea again – but we need to deal with the aftermath of the 50,000 coming on boats and we're doing that at the moment.
We've got one hand tied behind our back in some of these legal proceedings. I would like to see it tightened up because I believe at the moment it allows a more liberal arrangement, frankly, than some Australian citizens get when they approach the courts and have matters dealt with. People should have their fair day in court. There should be an appeal process and the final outcome should be abided by in the circumstances, but at the moment, it just goes on and on and we need to tighten it up. We can only do that with the support of the ALP.
I think it's a debate that's going to continue on, because there are many of these cases where I've cancelled a visa, for example, of somebody who's committed a sexual offence against an Australian citizen, it's overturned by the AAT in some circumstances on a technicality and I don't believe that the Australian people support that. People are welcoming of visitors to our country, but if you're here on a visa, you're a non-citizen, you need to abide by our laws and if you don't, you face the prospect of having your visa cancelled and being deported and our visa cancellations are up by some 1,400 per cent over the course of the last couple of years because we are going through meticulously looking at these matters and denying or cancelling visas where people have breached the law.
So on the matter of the six Iranians, what's your next step?
Well I don't want to comment specifically on those six cases because as I say, it may be that I have to make a decision and I want to do that on all of the facts before me. But on other cases that I've looked at, my view is if you're claiming that you've gone on a boat and come to our country to flee persecution from country x, and then you're heading back there to get married or heading back there for a family vacation, then really there is no validity to your claim.
Australians are generous people and we want to offer places in the refugee and humanitarian programme to those who are genuinely being persecuted. So I don't want us being taken for a ride. That's the approach that I take to assessing these individual cases. We cannot tolerate a situation where people are coming here on false pretences, they're seeking an economic outcome – there are 65 million people in the world Leon who would want to come here tomorrow, who aren't refugees, but want a better outcome for their family. You can understand that, but we aren't going to allow our migration programme to be dictated by those people.
Just quickly. Foreign Minister Bishop is headed to New York to launch Australia's inaugural candidacy for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. Ms Bishop is going to meet with Ambassadors and as well announce a four year, $44 million partnership agreement with the UN Central Emergency Response Fund for global humanitarian assistance. Then while in New York, she'll be meeting with the US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, to discuss cooperation between us and them. What do you make of this?
Well I think it's an important relationship and we have to make sure that we've got good relationships with NGOs as well as other countries. If we want to send people to the US, the deal that we arrived at between Prime Minister Turnbull and Prime Minister Obama and that's now been honoured by Prime Minister…by President Trump, sorry, then we have to have good relations and the UN has been a part of that negotiating process with the US.
So that's obviously part of the way that any developed country approaches any of these matters and Julie's got important work to do in New York and I'm sure she'll do it well on behalf of our country.
Minister, thanks for joining us today. Good to talk to you. That's the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton with what is quite an amazing story.