Subjects: National security and security of our community; the Government's commitment to resettling an additional 12,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees.
The Immigration Minister Peter Dutton joins us now fresh from a Cabinet meeting. Thank you very much for joining us Minister. Lovely to see you. How have you been?
Thanks Paul. Good mate, very good thank you.
Excellent. Now I've got to ask you, after the lone wolf attacks that we saw, say in London, we know about plenty that have happened around the world. We know there's this conversation about homeland security and something else happening here. As a man who cares deeply about national security, would something like a department of homeland security help when trying to identify lone wolf attackers like the one who killed in Westminster last week?
Well Paul if you have a look at the way in which the UK operates their system over there, they have a Home Affairs Department and they have a joined up process where they share intelligence and I think the Brits do a great job, but they've got huge problems in parts of the north and foreign fighters returning from overseas. So the sharing of information is absolutely essential.
The Homeland Security Department in the US was constructed by George W. Bush, as you know, off the back of 9/11 because they had many silos of organisations, intelligence organisations that weren't talking to each other.
Look, we've got a good process here where people talk to each other across agencies. I think the Prime Minister has made it clear that if there are to be machinery of government changes he would only do that on the basis of it being in the best interests, in terms of national security – so they're issues and decisions for him – but in the end we only make changes if we believe it's going to improve the system and that's an issue for the Prime Minister.
We hear about most of the 12,000 Syrian refugees have come to Australia. We know there has been concerns in the past about what the mix was. What can you tell us about the mix of people who are, you know, the Assyrians, Christians, those that are the persecuted minority; is that the majority of the 12,000?
It will be the vast majority and we were very clear when we set up this programme, when we committed to the 12,000, that we wanted to concentrate on persecuted minorities.
You would have seen Simon Benson's piece in The Australian on the weekend talking about the Yazidi women who had watched family members slaughtered, their sisters and daughters abducted, murdered, raped, enslaved; these are genuine refugees and people that I think we should be very pleased, very proud as a nation that we've been able to help. There are some cases you look at where people are marginal in their cases that they're making to us, claiming to be refugees when they're really economic refugees and yet these people are genuine refugees.
We were criticised by Chris Bowen and others about being too slow in the process. We were very clear that we wanted to give our country the best shot at making sure that we scrutinised every single applicant and if there was any threat whatsoever we were not going to accept that person.
So, from my perspective we have taken a long period of time to look at the biometrics, to look at the individual cases. We have excluded a large number of cases and I think we've ended up with people who are deserving of support, who were targeted by Islamic State, by the extremists in the Middle East in particular, in Syria and Iraq and I think we've chosen people that will make a big contribution, will want to educate their kids, will want to integrate into Australian society and I think that's a really good outcome.
Well it's funny you mention that story that Simon Benson had in The Australian. Here's in fact part of his conversations that he had with two of those Yazidi women – that is the family that is worth paying attention to, that's the story that Peter Dutton was just talking about.
But Minister, I've got to ask you though, when we talk about…so those Syrian refugees, in the city of Fairfield in Sydney, right, in the Western Suburbs, there's one suburb, one local government area that's taken like 5,000 of the 12,000 people. Why do they end up being the ones that cop it all the time? And we were promised by previous Premiers and all the rest of it; oh they're going to regional areas, they're going somewhere else, why do they end up in Western Sydney?
Well a big part of the programme Paul is to have sponsored arrivals. So you can take two routes here. One is that we accept the United Nations referrals in toto or we can look at the sponsored programme, which is the other side of the refugee and humanitarian programme that we run. So what you end up with is a number of people here in Australia who have supported people from their church or people from their community to be sponsored and to come out from Syria or Iraq.
Naturally people will rotate around those communities that have offered support or a pledge of support and there is a criticism that people don't go out to regional communities. We try and encourage people out into regional communities because there's a lot that they have to offer, there's a lot that the community has to offer in return and generally people who go out to regional areas; it's a very positive experience, kids get to experience the different side of Australian life.
So if we can disperse people across regions, then that's a good thing, but the reality is for a lot of people, they will rotate to a particular community because they know people there, there are community services there, there's a church group or a community that has offered to provide them support in getting a job or learning English, whatever it might be. So they're generally the factors that come in to play.
Alright Minister, if we had a bit longer we would have plenty more to get to, but we'll have a chat to you again in the coming days. All the best in Cabinet mate, thank you.
Look forward to it. Thanks Paul.