Subjects: Funding for Crime Stoppers Dob in a Dealer campaign; Migration Program; Critical Infrastructure; ACCC energy report; Longman by-election; support for Pacific Island Nations; medical transfers.
Good morning folks. Welcome to Longman, welcome to Caboolture, welcome to Morayfield – skate park in the background. This thing pumps in the afternoon. The kids are down here all over the place.
We've got a real issue in this area with crime and I'm on record now quite frequently talking about this and we've already committed substantive funds to start to deal with some of the primary drivers. But it's very exciting this morning to have Minister Dutton with us and also to have a mate of mine, Trev, who we've known for some time, who leads Crime Stoppers here in Queensland.
Trevor thank you very much. Trevor, thank you very much for the work that you do at Crime Stoppers. It's an amazing organisation. I'm really proud to be here with Trevor Ruthenberg today. As Trev says, not only in this electorate, but right across the country, families feel the impact of drugs on their teenage kids. Some of us who have been in the police force over a period of time have dealt with the scourge of drugs in our community, delivered messages to parents where kids have overdosed. It's a terrible, terrible scourge on our society, particularly the influx of ice into regional areas.
I'm very pleased today to announce that the Federal Government will provide $1 million worth of funding to Crime Stoppers Australia to help with the Dob in a Dealer program and we know that in the last 12 months where we supported that program, there was an almost 100 per cent increase in the number of drug information-related reports that were provided to Crime Stoppers.
In this electorate alone, in Longman, we saw about 650 referrals come from this electorate and that resulted in a couple of hundred people being charged with drug-related offences.
So this makes a big impact and it will create awareness around people calling Crime Stoppers if they have information in relation to a local drug dealer. That information obviously can be passed on to the police. It's actioned from there and if we can provide whatever resources we can to Crime Stoppers and to other organisations, we will see a reduction in drug-related crime in our areas.
We know that there is a correlation, a direct causal impact of drug dealing and people that are hooked on drugs, committing property crimes, offences against individuals to try and fuel their habits and to pay for their addiction.
So, it's a big investment and it's going to result in more people being arrested, millions of dollars' worth of drugs taken off our streets and that will be a positive impact here in Longman, but right around the country.
Trevor Ruthenberg and I this morning were talking about the impact of our visa cancellation program on our communities. So we want to make our communities a safer place for those of us who are parents, for those people who are running small businesses; we want to see a reduction in crime, we want to see a community where it's safer for our kids to walk or ride their bikes to school, to go down to a local park, to go to the movies or to a shopping centre on the weekend with their mates.
If we can cancel the visas of people that are here as non-citizens – as we've done over the last 12 months – I've cancelled more visas of criminals in our country than Labor did in six years and Trevor Ruthenberg strongly supports that's program and it's an issue that I think is of tangible benefit to the people here in Longman.
So if people want a safer community, a stronger community, then I'd urge them to support Trevor Ruthenberg on the 28th of July at the by-election because he is a person that will stand up for his local community.
Minister, has that been a particular problem here in this area, visa cancellations, is that something that you're aware of?
Well visa cancellations right across the country, but obviously in Queensland we've seen a number of outlaw motorcycle gang members – 182 OMCG members – who have had their visas cancelled over the last couple of years. Bearing in mind that outlaw motorcycle gang members are the biggest importers and distributors of drugs in our country and we've cancelled their visas at a record number and I think we've had a disruptive impact on those distribution networks.
At the same time we've had the Australian Federal Police, Australian Border Force and other agencies working very closely together to disrupt a number of importations. So there's a lot that we're doing to make sure that we keep our communities safe.
But Trevor Ruthenberg wants to make sure that services are delivered to provide for people that might be suffering from an addiction to an illicit substance. He's very supportive of the work that we're doing in relation to arresting those people that are involved in peddling drugs, particularly to kids, and he's particularly supportive of the million dollar announcement today for the Dob In A Dealer program and I'd encourage people to contact Crime Stoppers if they have any information in relation to those particular issues.
I might ask Trevor to say a few words then I'm happy to take some more questions.
Thank you Minister and Trevor. Crime Stoppers Australia is a trusted and independent organisation that works with the community, the media, governments and many partners to help keep Australia safe.
Crime Stoppers Australia in 2017 actually took over 330,000 pieces of information from the community and from that 7,000 offenders were arrested.
We're here today, thankfully, the Australian Government is announcing a further $1 million to Crime Stoppers to continue our Dob in a Dealer campaign that last ran in 2016 and as the Minister's already said, over 140 per cent increase in reports about ice-related activity in our community came through from that campaign.
Now, Crime Stoppers, as I said, is a trusted and independent organisation. We provide the 1800 333 000 hotline across Australia. Our website at CrimeStoppers.com.au. People get online and trust Crime Stoppers because we provide an anonymity guarantee. We allow them to share information without fear of reprisal. They tell us about dealers, importantly, the Dob in a Dealer campaign did not focus on users of drugs, it focused on disrupting the supply chain.
We asked for information from the community about those who were providing drugs to the users, not the users themselves, which gave confidence to mums and dads and friends and relatives of people who they know are being affected by the scourge of ice, to actually get on the phone or get online and tell us about that because they want to stop their loved one from using those drugs and the way to do that is to tell us how they're obtaining those drugs.
So Dob in a Dealer is a terrific campaign in that we're not targeting the users who need help. There are many ways the Government is also helping to provide help to those people. But we want to disrupt the supply. And so hundreds of people were arrested and thousands of reports were received across Australia in 2016.
So, Crime Stoppers Australia is a terrific agency who is looking at engaging the community and we do that directly. We aren't just about corporate marketing campaigns. We get on the ground with local communities and engage them face-to-face and directly. We empower them to have the courage to pick up the phone or get online and share information. Information in our role is the power. Information provides avenues for enforcement agencies to follow up, to investigate crime. Without information, there would be a lot of crime that just goes unsolved in Australia every day.
Because of Crime Stoppers Australia, every 20 minutes approximately, an offender is arrested in the country because someone gets on the phone or gets online and shares a piece of information. They mightn't have all of the details, but they have pieces of information that enforcement agencies can use to help solve and prevent crime.
So, we're very pleased to be here today and we're very thankful to the Australian Government and Minister Dutton for his announcement of a further $1 million, which will enable Crime Stoppers to again get on the ground, engage with local communities, minority groups in our communities who need additional information and support about how to help stop the scourge of ice and help protect our loved ones and to keep Australia safe.
Minister, just a question about immigration. So I think I believe there's a 46 per cent rise in visa refusals, 17 per cent increase in application withdrawals. Is this where it stabilises now or is there still more work to be done?
Well we've done a lot of work, particularly over the course of the last couple of years, in making sure that not only can we secure our borders, but we have integrity within our migration program. I want people to come to our great country who want to work, who want to integrate, who are productive, who pay their taxes, don't come here to be on welfare.
Australia's a migrant nation. We're very proud of the fact that millions of people have come to our country and made our country great. There are many values that we want to protect and those migrants want to protect. There are many people who want to come to our country, 65 million people around the world who are displaced at the moment, who would come to a country like ours tomorrow.
So we need to make sure that we have integrity within our program and we've seen a reduction in the number over the course of the last 12 months and there was a reduction in the 12 months preceding that as well.
The number peaked at 190,000 under Labor during Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard's period in The Lodge and we've seen the number now reduce to the lowest it's been since John Howard was Prime Minister. It's also a function of the Prime Minister and I listening very carefully to the concerns of Australians. We have a welcoming migration program, as I say, but we're not going to allow people in where there's a fraudulent application, where there's dodgy information that's being provided. We want to make sure that people come into our country the right way, that they work and that they integrate when they come to our country.
Labor was ticking and flicking applications to get to the 190,000. We've turned that around to make sure that the people who are coming to our country are coming in the right circumstances and that their cases are bona fide – and that's the basis on which we issues visas.
So is it a good thing to bring migration down to this level?
Well, it's a good thing to have integrity within the migration program. We want to make sure we employ Australians first and we abolished Labor's discredited 457 visa program and we accept that where Australians can't fill a job – which is the default position that we want, we want Australians to fill jobs – but where that Australian can't be found to fill that job, we accept of course that we need to bring people in from overseas to perform that work – but again, we want that done in the right way.
Australia has a proud migration history, we want to make sure that that continues, but we aren't going to have the tick and flick approach that Labor had. We're going through each application meticulously and we're making sure that people who do become part of our Australian family are coming here to work, not to lead a life on welfare, are coming here to abide by our laws and to integrate into Australian society. That's what's important.
The migration cap's at 190,000 at the moment. Are you looking at reducing that?
Well the cap's there for planning purposes.
It was a target under Labor, which is why they ticked and flicked many applications and waived through some applications, frankly where there was either fraud involved or that person didn't meet the criteria.
We've turned that around and said that the 190,000 is not a target, but it's a ceiling and last year it came down to 183,000; this year it's down to 162,000. We're also looking at ways in which we can encourage people who newly arrive to move into regional areas because we're conscious of the pressures on infrastructure, on housing, particularly within the capital markets of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane and we want to have a migration program that works most effectively for our country and what serves our interests, as well as the migrants' interests and we should make no apology for that.
Your cabinet colleagues agree that migration plays a key role in this nation's economy and economic success. What's going to be the impact, economic impact, of reducing migration by these amounts?
Well under the Howard Government the mix was always about two-thirds, one-third, skilled to family intake. We've maintained that. In fact, I think over the course of the last 12 months it's snuck up closer to 70 per cent, which is a good thing because we get economic benefit, particularly if we're bringing younger people in who work in the workforce for a longer period of time. We have an ageing population like most Western nations and we want people to be productive, we want them to be paying taxes and contributing to our society. So that's a crucial part of the program. So we'll see a significant economic benefit out of the program.
The way in which Labor conducted their tick and flick program, the way in which Mr Shorten when he was Employment Minister presided over the 457 program – bringing people in to work in McDonald's and KFC and Hungry Jack's and whatnot – that's not the way in which the migration program is optimised. We've made deliberate policy decisions around restoring integrity to our borders and restoring integrity to our migration program.
Do we risk falling behind on our international obligations?
No, we don't. We'll always meet our international obligations.
One of the problems that we saw under Labor was when people came on boats, they were put into the Humanitarian and Refugee Program and provided with a placement. Now that displaced somebody who was a refugee and was more in need of refuge in our country.
Last year we had the biggest offshore intake into our country that we've seen in decades. We did that because we've secured our borders.
Susan Lamb, the ALP candidate for Longman, is supporting Bill Shorten's policy that will see boats restart and if boats restart you'll have kids back in detention, you lose control of our borders, you're giving up our sovereignty to people smugglers and people again will drown at sea and Trevor Ruthenberg, like me, wants to make sure that we have, as a Government, control of our borders and control of our migration program and that's exactly what we're doing.
Scott Morrison, your cabinet colleague, earlier this year when debating Tony Abbott on migration numbers, said that for every 80,000 migrants cut it costs the Australian economy $4 to $5 billion over four years. So is this cut going to hit the Australian economy?
If you're bringing people in like Labor did that don't have the proper qualifications, that don't have the documentation that satisfies the examiners within my Department, if they're worried about fraudulent documentation, those outcomes are not going to be productive for the economy.
If you have a robust migration program, like we have, and you're assured of the entrants coming in through the program – that they are going to be productive, that they are going to work hard, they aren't going to lead a life on welfare if they're of working age and have the capacity to work – you will see increased economic benefit and that's one of the deliverables out of the announcement that we've made today. We want to bring the right people into our country. This Government makes no apology for that.
We aren't going to have the tick and flick approach that Labor takes to migration intake in this country. We are bringing people in the right way. We're bringing in the right people and we have millions of migrants over a long period of time that we can point to who have worked hard, who have integrated into our society, who have educated their children, who have made Australia the great country that it is today. I want that tradition to continue.
I don't want the Labor approach, which is to allow people in that aren't properly scrutinised because you don't get economic benefit, you get social disharmony out of it and that's exactly what Susan Lamb has supported. Susan Lamb would be one of the weakest people in the Federal Parliament in relation to border protection policies. She's followed Bill Shorten's method of trying to give back control to people smugglers. That's no way to run the migration program in this country.
If we could just go to critical infrastructure, put that hat on please Minister. Are you comfortable with much of Australia's gas pipeline network being sold to CKI?
Well there are a couple of elements to that – and I'm not going to comment specifically on the CKI proposal at the moment – but there are competition issues that are looked at by the Treasurer. There's also aspects of national security that the Home Affairs Department is responsible for and in relation to any of these proposed transactions, then we provide that advice to the Treasurer as well. So that's the two criteria by which we operate.
The broader point that I'd make in relation to critical infrastructure is that we do see potential attacks and actual attacks by state actors, by non-state actors, particularly in the cyber space. I am worried about whether or not some…even quasi-government organisations have the proper protections in place when we're talking about an environment in years to come where we'll have autonomous vehicles, where people will be remotely monitored through devices in relation to their health conditions and management of their health, we need to make sure that we have infrastructure, a telecommunications network which is able to withstand the hacks and attacks that people know exist in their own businesses and their own homes.
People know that they're attacked online. Sometimes that is successful and when we're talking about assets like energy or water assets, we need to make sure that we have the right protections around that critical infrastructure.
This Government's put in place those protections and we're very keen to work with businesses to make sure that they've got the right protections against cyber-attack and against intrusions into their system otherwise that could put Australians at risk. That's why we're taking this issue very seriously and I think this is actually a wake-up call to Australian businesses to make sure that they've got the right protections in place to protect their businesses and to keep Australians protected as a result.
Minister, just on the ACCC report and the recommendation which talks about underwriting new projects. Do you see this as a green light for new coal-fired power stations?
Well again, I'll leave discussions around energy policy to Josh Frydenberg. But look, my electorate is to the south of Longman. I can tell you in Dickson, in Longman, as Trevor Ruthenberg would be able to tell you, people want to see a reduction in the cost of their energy bill. Doesn't matter whether you're running a local butcher shop, a local takeaway shop, if you're a pensioner, if you're a family with young kids who won't turn the lights off of a night-time, we need to make sure that we can do everything possible to reduce people's power bills.
At the upcoming by-election in Longman, Malcolm Turnbull is promising a policy which will see downward pressure on electricity prices and we've already seen some prices start to come off.
Under Labor when they were last in government, prices went up by over 100 per cent and Bill Shorten is promising the people of Longman that electricity prices will be more expensive under a Labor government. That's the difference and approaches that you're seeing in the Longman by-election and that you'll see in the general election next year.
Do you see the battle for Longman as purely a contest between Bill Shorten and Malcolm Turnbull?
This is a contest on the ground at many levels. Trevor can speak more about this, but you're talking about electing somebody in Longman of Trevor Ruthenberg's quality who has a demonstrated ability in the past to deliver for his local constituents. He's already delivered funding for matters that are important to his local constituents.
If you vote for Susan Lamb, you'll end up with Bill Shorten, and that's a disaster. We know across the country that people don't trust Bill Shorten. Have a look at this issue in relation to preferences in Longman at the moment. I mean Bill Shorten's own office tweeted out saying what a disaster it was that One Nation was putting Labor behind a white supremacist candidate here in Longman and yet we see the unions are out here suggesting to people, telling people in the pre-polling that's being conducted right now, to put Trevor Ruthenberg below the white supremacist candidate.
Now this is a true test of Bill Shorten's leadership and Bill Shorten either stands up with Australians or he's standing up with the union leaders…
...it hasn't been endorsed by Labor…
…he's either on the side of the unions or he's on the side the people of Longman and at the moment Bill Shorten is on the side of the union bosses.
Now Bill Shorten is the number one ticket holder of unions in this country and at the moment, he is supporting through his lack of leadership – and frankly Bill Shorten has been completely gutless when it comes to this issue, I suspect Anthony Albanese would have a stronger position in relation to this matter than Bill Shorten – but Bill Shorten at the moment is being completely gutless when it comes to this issue here in Longman.
He has the ability to stand up to the unions and to tell them today that they should put Trevor Ruthenberg ahead of the white supremacist candidate. This completely blows Bill Shorten's credibility out of the water because he can't have his office out there tweeting how bad it is that One Nation is doing exactly what the unions are proposing to do today, and he needs to stand up and show the leadership that Australians believe Bill Shorten lacks at the moment and he's demonstrating it at the moment, that he is a weak and feeble leader. If he's got the guts to stand up, he should do it today and stand up to the union bosses who at the moment own and operate Bill Shorten. He needs to fight back and stand up with the Australian people instead of siding with the union bosses.
They have made the dead wrong decision in relation to this matter and Mr Shorten needs to come out today to slam the union decision and to take the right decision to put the white supremacist behind Trevor Ruthenberg. His decision is unconscionable and he needs to address it today.
Back to critical infrastructure. The new powers you have to force operators to critical infrastructure to boost their defences against sabotage, what circumstances would this be used in and why?
Well if we had a circumstance for example where we saw internet banking disrupted by a state actor that brought down our banking system for a week or two weeks, if we saw or had intelligence about an attack on dam infrastructure or the electricity grid, if we saw an electricity grid that was likely under attack, then we would want to make sure that we could either disrupt that action and make sure it didn't take place, but preferably work closely with the companies – which is exactly what we're doing now – to make sure that they've got the protections in place to not see that outcome. Because the more and more we rely, particularly on telecommunications – all of us carry smart devices, our families rely on them, our kids rely on them increasingly – as I say delivery of health services will rely on 5G network on 6G, 7G network, autonomous cars, all the rest of it. So we need to make sure that we work with the companies so that they've got the right protections in place and I think that's really important.
The list of companies is undisclosed at the moment. How does the company go about doing business if it has this sort of status? Are there any penalties if they reveal their status to someone else?
We'll work, and we're already frankly, this work's been under way for a period of time, but this is one of the beauties of the Home Affairs Department. We've brought together a whole-of-government effort to work with those companies. We're working very closely with them. The companies, of course themselves want to have the proper protections in place, and we have the ability to work closely with them, to talk about if it's appropriate the intelligence that we've gathered or that we have in relation to a likely attack or a vulnerability within somebody's network. We'll work very closely with those companies to keep Australians safe.
Just on those threats, where do you think they're likely to come from? Against our ports, against our power plants?
Well you've seen in the United Kingdom an attack by Russia. You've seen an attack by Russia in the United States in relation to the election that took place there. We've seen action by state actors and non-state actors. As I say, there are many Australians who can tell you about their experience of an attack online, an e-mail that they've got somewhere that they've clicked through to a site that's disclosed their information. Many businesses have been held to ransom by companies that have blocked passwords or entry into their own system.
So look, there are many levels of this problem and we need to work closely with those companies and as I say, that's exactly what we're doing.
Is this thinking part of the rationale behind Australia funding the PNG Solomon Islands telecommunications cable which is locking out Chinese operator Huawei?
Well again, I don't have any specific comment to make in relation to that issue, but Australia has important equities in our region. We're a good friend of many of our Pacific Island nations. We're going to make sure that that continues and equally with China, I mean China is a very important trading partner with us. We have a very good working relationship with China.
For example, in my space where we've seen a number of disruptions of drugs, importations, networks within Australia – and we work very closely with our Chinese counterparts and we want to make sure that we have a mutually respectful relationship and that'll continue – but we have, as you would expect from a nation like Australia, a special responsibility within our region. We'll continue to work closely with those neighbours.
Mr Dutton, is migration a vote winner in Longman?
I think the issue of migration is important in Longman because you've got two candidates; Trevor Ruthenberg who strongly supports the Government's strong policy on border protection; you've got Susan Lamb who believes that the people smugglers should be back in business. So I think it is an issue in Longman and it should be because Susan Lamb has been one of the weakest feeblest voices in relation to border protection.
If you allow the boats to restart, if you allow kids back in detention, if you allow the drownings at sea, then that is a shocking outcome and that's exactly what Bill Shorten is proposing by weakening the Government's laws.
If you're a voter at the by-election in a couple of weeks' time here in Longman or in Braddon or in Mayo and you believe in strong border protection policy, don't vote for your Labor candidate because that is an endorsement of Bill Shorten's weak approach in relation to border protection and that's clear, it's evidenced every day. There's now a majority of people within the Labor caucus who support an unwinding of the pillars of Operation Sovereign Borders.
The Opposition's spokesperson in the Federal Parliament has never asked me a question in relation to our strong border protection policy. It's now been over 700 days where Labor hasn't asked a question on border protection in the Federal Parliament and that demonstrates that they don't want to talk about the issue.
It also demonstrates why Anthony Albanese has this newfound interest in border protection matters. You might ask yourself why Anthony Albanese, who is the Shadow Infrastructure Minister, is commenting on migration matters; it's because he sees Bill Shorten as weak as the Australian public see Bill Shorten when it comes to border protection matters. Anthony Albanese who knows Bill Shorten best doesn't believe he should be leader of the Labor Party and I think and I hope that that's what the people of Longman believe as well.
Mr Dutton, the Federal Court has ordered an Iranian refugee and her 17-year-old son to be brought back to Australia for treatment for mental health issues. Will the Federal Government comply?
I'm not going to comment in relation to individual issues. Obviously we have arrangements where people can receive medical attention. The Australian public has provided tens of millions of dollars of medical support through the Nauruan Government, through the PNG Government to people on Manus Island.
Don't forget Labor put people on Manus Island. They put people on Nauru. I'm doing my best to get people off and I'm making sure that boats don't restart so that as we create vacancies by shifting people to the United States and elsewhere, that those vacancies aren't refilled by new arrivals.
So we're working very hard to make sure that we keep our borders secure and as I say we're providing significant financial support, and in some circumstances people will have to come to Australia for medical attention, and as we've said before, once that medical attention has been provided then the expectation is that they'll return back to either Nauru or Manus.
Alright, thank you.