Subjects: Migration Amendment (Validation of Decisions) Bill 2017.
Thanks for your time this morning Peter.
Pleasure mate. Thank you.
Can you talk us through your decision to change the legislation and why you've come to that in the last 24 hours?
Yeah well Luke, the law's been around since 1998 and what it allows for is the Immigration Minister to receive information from agencies like the Australian Federal Police and ASIO, but to do it on the basis that we don't release that information.
So obviously the intelligence that they gather; it might be through informants, it might be through methods that they don't want to publicly disclose – so that's not unusual within the law enforcement or intelligence space – but they provide that information and based on that information, the Immigration Minister can decide to cancel a visa on character grounds. So it's been around a long time and if the relationship was breached – that is if the Minister disclosed that information – then I think the agencies would take a decision that they didn't want to provide information in the next case.
So there was a case that was brought before the High Court and it was resolved that…there were legal technicalities around it, but resolved that decisions in relation to those visa cancellations shouldn't stand.
So what we did was passed a Bill through the Parliament which gave effect to the original decision; that is that it reinforced the decision that I had made in relation to people, including Mr Martin, people that had been involved in outlaw motorcycle gangs, been involved in organised crime, some pretty nasty characters amongst them. So it means that they won't have the decisions overturned and that their visas remain cancelled, so there's no change for them.
Peter you were knocked off six-one by the High Court yesterday – basically their thesis was that you were hiding behind the, or you were using the legislation to not put forward the reasons why these people had been extradited.
Shane Martin's last recorded transgression we believe was January 2004. He was convicted and fined for possession of drug of dependence, possessing ecstasy and cannabis. He has got previous raps including unlawful assault, burglary, armed with intent, criminal damage, resisting police, where he get 250 hours of community service and a few other things.
Peter, when would you be in a position to let us know, if at all, what these people have allegedly done which would obviously add more strength to your argument that they shouldn't come back?
Well Ed, I don't want to concentrate on the Martin case in particular but…
…so make it others, we'll open it right up…
…talking in general, particularly around people that have been members of outlaw motorcycle gangs; now there are lots of families across Victoria, across the country, who are living with kids who are on ice – people are seeing it particularly in rural areas, people that have died of overdoses – the outlaw motorcycle gang members are the biggest distributers of amphetamines in this country. They are involved in extortion, they're involved in robberies, all sorts of activities.
There's a lot of information that we receive on the confidential basis because the way that it's been gathered, either through informants or other methods and the police or ASIO don't want us to release that information. So as I say, that is standard police practice and I think people can understand that.
So all I can say is that behind each of these cases there is a different picture that the Minister of the day is made aware of and then we need to make a decision within the laws – and there are lots of protections within the laws – but we need to make the decision within the law because I have to take into consideration the impact on other families that some of this activity that these people have been involved in has resulted in – families that have had their lives destroyed, kids that have taken overdoses; their father or mother will never see that child again. So I understand the impact on individual families and I feel for the Martin family in the circumstances, but I've got to take into consideration not only those people that have been victims of crimes that have been committed by outlaw motorcycle gang members and those associated with them, but also the future impact; that is we want to try and reduce crime.
I don't want to see the availability of ice and amphetamine. I don't want to see outlaw motorcycle gang members involved in extortion and standover tactics and these aren't people who are involved in legitimate businesses. Outlaw motorcycle gang members are involved in organised criminal activity and it's the case here, it's the case in the United States, in New Zealand and elsewhere that that's the way that they run.
Now if they do that they make decisions that sadly impact negatively, not only on other people's families, but ultimately on their own families as well and so I need to take all of that into consideration and as I say do it within the law.
Peter, yesterday six-one against; isn't the chain of events though traditionally that the law enforcement agencies and your Department find these people, prosecute them, but they go to the courts who make that decision, that that's the way we go, that we have people who actually catch the alleged criminals, put them before the courts, find their guilt or otherwise and then a decision is made from there.
How does that differ from what was said at the High Court yesterday?
Well Ed it's a good point and you're right, but the visa or immigration law if you like sits completely outside of the criminal law. So we're not punishing somebody for a crime that they committed. I mean if you've committed unlawful assault, burglary, armed with intent, criminal damage, resisting police, drug related offences, you're a member of an outlaw motorcycle gang; we're proposing…
…apart from that...
…well apart from that you're of good character, right..? But if you've committed those offences, the courts deal with you and they impose the fines. They give you a fine or they give you a sentence. That's a criminal law matter.
I'm not involved in that space. My responsibility is for people who are here on visas. They're granted visas on condition that they abide by, or within the law, that they don't commit offences against Australians.
So when the magistrate or the judge imposes his or her sentence, he's not saying in lieu of a $500 fine or a five year sentence I'm going to cancel your visa. They're two separate matters. One is a criminal law matter – and that's rightly dealt with by the magistrates and by the judges – this is an administrative law matter which is dealt with by either the Minister or a delegate within the Immigration Department. You look at the course of conduct in what people have been involved in and you decide whether or not they have abided within the conditions of their visa. If not, then the visas are cancelled.
As people are seeing in Melbourne in particular, the involvement of people in the Apex gangs, in gang violence; I want to stamp all of that out. There are tough cases and tough decisions that we have to deal with on a regular basis – and I'm conscious of the impact on families and particularly the Martin family in this circumstance – but as I say, I also need to take into consideration what has happened in relation to the individuals – it's their conduct, not mine, that is impacting upon their family and the victims of crime and as I say, potentially the future victims as well.
Hey Peter, quick final question from me and Rosie's got one as well, lots of people getting involved in Twitter and want to get involved in this discussion. Your former background is as a police officer. You were out on the streets at the coalface of this.
Are you sensing that by taking this tough stance and getting criminals and people that are associated with criminals out of the country, is this sending a message, is it having a real effect on your ability to try and stop the things you were just talking about?
I think it is Luke. I think it is having a big impact and I think when there's reporting of these sorts of stories and people see the emotion involved, the advice that I get back from the police agencies around the country, as well as the intelligence agencies, is that this is having an impact. People are thinking twice before they're getting involved in gang violence, they understand the consequences at a family level that, you know, their uncle or their father or brother, whatever it might be, has been involved in serious crime and has basically been snubbing their nose at the law for a long period of time. In some cases people have had warnings about if their conduct continues they will have their visa cancelled – and maybe they've had three or four warnings in some cases – and I think people now realise that actually we're getting serious about this.
We're talking about people that have committed sexual offences against kids. Those numbers are up to a record level, the cancellations of those visas, because again, 99 per cent of people conduct themselves within the law, do the right thing. We've got millions of visitors coming to our country each year, all of those people, bar a few, abide by the law, but the few need to understand that there's a consequence.
So I think there is a ripple effect in the community now. I think people that are involved in the outlaw motorcycle gangs understand that there is a consequence to pay now for their actions. And if they're going to harm Australians then I don't understand how they can expect to stay here on their visas and I think there's broad support in the community for that action.
And there's broad support on our Twitter this morning Peter, also for you to go hard on people, gangs, particularly those invading homes, Apex-type gangs, etc, etc, that's getting a lot of support here at Triple M.
Peter, one word answer if I could from you. Dustin Martin's father Shane; he will not be coming back?
He's not coming back, no.
Thanks very much for talking to us this morning. We appreciate it.
Thanks guys. Take care.