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Thursday, 01 September 2016
Transcript

Interview with Tom Tilley, triplej HACK

Subjects: New Zealand-Australia visa programme; Section 501 of the Migration Act; Australia's humanitarian programme; offshore processing.

 E&EO…………………………………………………………………………………………..

TOM TILLEY:

Peter Dutton thanks for joining us on triplej's HACK programme.

PETER DUTTON:

My pleasure, good to be with you.

TOM TILLEY:

Now, let's talk about Kiwis in Australia. The Australian today survey found that 28 per cent of Kiwis said they'd faced racism and discrimination here, does that disappoint you?

PETER DUTTON:

I remember going to New Zealand for the Cricket World Cup and had my Australian shirt on in the audience. I got a fair bit of stick for being an Aussie over there – there's always been good banter between Aussies and Kiwis – and I think it's in good humour. Some of my best mates are Kiwis that I went to school with and we still give each other a hard time when we're playing golf or mucking around, so I think it's part of that special relationship we've got with New Zealand – so hopefully they don't take it too seriously.

TOM TILLEY:

So you don't think it is real racism, you don't think that exists towards Kiwis in Australia?

PETER DUTTON:

I don't think so and if it does I suspect it is at the margins. I mean we've got 660,000 Kiwis currently living in Australia and you know they are good people and the vast majority of people do the right thing.

Most Australians would have a Kiwi within their family or their friend network somewhere, so I think there's always general banter and you know give each other a bit of a stir from time-to-time, but I think that's part of the Kiwi nature and I think it's part of the Australian nature as well – and it's also part of a rivalry between the All Blacks or between the cricket teams, netball or whatever it might be – so I think there's always that friendly rivalry between the two countries but in the end we've got a very close working relationship and I think that's a really good thing.

TOM TILLEY:

Let's talk of social security and citizenship. We get a way better deal when we move to New Zealand. Is it fair that Kiwis get a less welcoming deal when they move here?

PETER DUTTON:

Well we need to look at the history of it and obviously this goes back decades in terms of the treatment of people with social security benefits and all of the benefits that you are talking about.

There obviously is a huge number of Kiwis who come to Australia and a very few Australians that head to New Zealand. So that's the first reality. New Zealand has got a big problem with brain drain around young people in particular – although in recent years John Key has done a really good job with the economy there and they have attracted a lot of young people back – but the reality is that Australia is a destination for many Kiwis and as I say, the fact that we've got over half a million Kiwis living in Australia and the number of Australians living in New Zealand would be dwarf by comparison.

TOM TILLEY:

So does that mean we make it less appealing on purpose?

PETER DUTTON:

Well it means that we provide the Kiwis actually with a better deal than anyone else gets who comes to our country. There's a special purpose visa called the 444 visa that is available only to New Zealanders – no other country in the world gets that special treatment. So we do have a special treatment and we provide more support to Kiwis than we do to people of other nationalities – and that's deliberate because of the arrangement that we've had. Now some people would want that more generous and would want greater benefits. I understand that. But in the end we want Kiwis to come here to work hard, to educate their kids and be a really positive contribution to the Australian society.

TOM TILLEY:

Have you thought about making it easier for them to get citizenship here or do you think it will stay as it is for now?

PETER DUTTON:

No, we've made an announcement, Prime Minister Turnbull made an announcement when he caught up with John Key only a few months ago and that is that we do have an easier arrangement now for New Zealanders to become Australian citizens and that was...

TOM TILLEY:

….is that as far as it will go or will it go further at some point in the future?

PETER DUTTON:

Well look, I mean it's always hard to know what the future holds but I think the announcement that we made was generous, it provided support to people again on an exclusive basis to New Zealanders and I'm not offering that arrangement to anybody else – New Zealand is the only country that has that citizenship relaxation applied to them.

TOM TILLEY:

Now Peter Dutton, let's go back to you again, is it fair that Kiwis who have lived here most of their lives, sometimes even have children here and nothing to go back to in New Zealand, are sent home?

PETER DUTTON:

Well there are a couple of points here Tom, that's the way in which the law applies to Australians really anywhere in the world. If people are in the UK and they commit an offence, even if they have been there for a long period of time, if they're an Australian citizen by birth, they are eligible to be deported back to Australia. So that's the way in which migration law has worked for a long period of time around the world. I think that's a really important principle to understand.

Now, there's the ability for the Minister of the day to apply ministerial discretion, to look at a case, as you say, where there might be young kids involved who are Australian citizens, there might be medical conditions in relation to a spouse, there might be some other compelling reason and in that case you can look at the circumstance and say, okay, well this person has been convicted to a sentence of more than 12 months but it is not for a serious sexual offence, it's not for rape, it's not for burglary or it is not for, you know, a string of armed robberies, for example and then you can make a special arrangement and dispensation in that case. I do revoke on a regular basis those special cases that we look at.

But nobody is going offshore, nobody is being deported because of an offence related to shop lifting or minor traffic offences. People who are being deported, which includes for example 24 for murder, 11 for manslaughter, 63 people for rape, these are serious criminals that we're sending back and we have to consider all of those details on a daily basis.

TOM TILLEY:

So how many times have you stepped in during your time as Immigration Minister to [inaudible] Kiwis being deported?

PETER DUTTON:

Tom, I don't have the number in front of me but there would be many dozens, if not hundreds of cases where, not just Kiwis, but other cases where we look at where there might be a child with autism, there might be a grandmother that has been ripped-off by siblings and wants to come and live in our country because you know the surviving child here can take care of that person. I mean there are many special circumstances that I look at each day. They don't get publicity and we don't seek publicity for them but the fact is that we do provide, you know, that common sense approach, that humane approach and that's the way in which the migration system should work.

In the end we want a safer community but we want people to come, whether it is from New Zealand or anywhere, to come to our country and enjoy a peaceful environment. We don't want people here committing crimes against Australians and it is just a matter of working through those cases.

TOM TILLEY:

Peter Dutton two weeks ago you announced that the Manus Island Detention Centre would be closed down. Now New Zealand have said they'll take some of those asylum seekers, why not accept their offer?

PETER DUTTON:

Well we stopped a venture, a people smuggling venture only a matter of maybe six or eight months ago that was on its way across the top of Australia heading down to New Zealand. So New Zealand is a destination country like Australia and we've stopped the drownings at sea – there were 1,200 people that drowned at sea, 50,000 people came on 800 boats and Labor had 2,000 children in detention – so I've got children out of detention, we've closed 17 detention centres here in Australia and we've stopped boats; we haven't had a successful people smuggling venture for over two and a half years.

So we need to make sure that we don't provide an incentive for people to come to Australia and these people smugglers couldn't care less.

We still bring a record number of people into our country. We are one of the leading countries in the world and I think we should be really proud of that.

TOM TILLEY:

Peter Dutton a lot of people would take your point about wanting to stop the people smugglers but they are also very concerned about the hundreds of people still locked up at Manus Island and also the hundreds of people at Nauru, particularly in the case of more than 800 men in detention at Manus Island. What are you going to do with these guys?

PETER DUTTON:

The arrangement that Mr Rudd entered into with the PNG Government was that if somebody was found to be owed protection, that is if they were refugees, then they could be settled in PNG and the important thing to remember Tom is that under the refugee convention that we all adhere to – and this is the situation for countries across the world that have signed both the 51 Convention and the 1967 Protocol – the arrangement is that if people are seeking protection, they seek it in that first country and you can't go to a country and then decide, well I want to go to New Zealand or I want to go to the US or Canada or wherever it might be. People are fleeing persecution and to provide that safety is a good thing.

TOM TILLEY:

But they have been there for years some of these guys, so what do we do with them?

PETER DUTTON:

Well Tom, that's a fair point mate and there are many who have gone back to their country of origin and we provide assistance for them to go back; we pay for airfares, we help them re-establish themselves in their country or origin but if they've been found to be refugees the agreement is that they will live in PNG and for those that have been found not to be refugees – you can understand why they've hopped on a boat, they've paid money to a people smuggler, they want to settle in Australia and we will work with them to send them back to their country of origin because, as I say, if we allow the trade to restart, if people smugglers can say, well look, you spend a couple of years on Manus and then you end up living in Sydney or Brisbane, people will pay money again and then we will have drownings at sea and I just don't want to see that.

I've had lots of discussions with our sailors and our Border Force staff over the years who have said to me; you know please don't allow it to start again because they were the people who were pulling half eaten bodies out of the water, including bodies and torsos of children and they don't want to return to those days. I don't want to return to those days.

We want to treat people humanely, and we do, and we'll help people return back to their countries of origin.

TOM TILLEY:

Peter Dutton great to have you on the show, thanks so much for joining us, hopefully speak to you again soon.

PETER DUTTON:

Thanks Tom, I'll look forward to it mate, all the best.

[ends]