Subjects: Australian Citizenship Act – Citizenship Loss Board; Islamic State in Mosul; Crown Executives in China.
Minister, can you confirm if your Department is preparing to strip a dual national of their citizenship?
I’ve seen the media speculation in relation to cases. I don’t have any comment to make in relation to individual cases.
Obviously the Government introduced this legislation. It will be applicable in a limited number of circumstances because rightly we took a decision that we didn’t want to render people stateless. So, if people have been involved in particular terrorist activities, if they are deemed to pose a threat, then obviously the Government wants to keep the Australian public as safe as possible.
So we will consider any cases coming forward, but I don’t have any comments to make in relation to particular cases.
How concerned are you that if you do try and strip the Australian citizenship off a dual national that it could end up in the High Court?
I would expect any of these matters to end up in the High Court or to be tested in the courts and that’s been the case for previous iterations of legislation in the national security space.
Obviously it is a very serious decision to take in relation to any of these matters, but if somebody’s actions deem that they are unworthy to be an Australian citizen, if they’re seeking to harm or to kill Australians, then there is a penalty to pay for that. And if you’re in Syria or Iraq fighting in the name of a terrorist organisation and you’re seeking to kill Australian troops or our allies then I don’t think you can expect to retain your Australian citizenship.
Now we have to go through a series of steps. The legislation provides for all of that and if there are decisions to be made or if we need to consider the actions of individuals then that process obviously continues.
Can you tell us how many of the…I think there’s 110 Australians that came out in the committee this morning who are believed to be fighting in the Middle East at the moment, do you know how many of those are dual nationals?
I don’t have those numbers publicly available and obviously, as ASIO has pointed out, there are a number of Australians who have gone into Syria and Iraq who are fighting overseas. Many of those people have been killed and that’s what they would expect if they go into a theatre of war fighting for a terrorist evil organisation like ISIL.
Now we have been very clear that if Australian citizens who are dual nationals engage in that sort of terrorist activity then they can expect, through their own actions, to have a price to pay if they are dual nationals.
I think the Australian public would demand of the Government that we act in whatever way is possible to keep the Australian public safe and that is exactly what this Government has done. We have said if you are engaging in terrorist activities, if you are making a decision that you want to cause harm or death to Australians, then there are various pieces of legislation that can deal with you.
Particularly when you look at what is happening in Germany only in the last week, what has happened in Belgium and in France over the last few months, this terrorist problem is going to be with us, with all western democracies for a long period of time to come and we have to make sure that we have every tool available to us to deal with these threats because I don’t want to see Australians harmed, either in our country or overseas.
Minister, are you expecting another wave of asylum seekers following the events in Mosul now?
Well what we know from the United Nations is that there are 65 million people who are displaced or who would seek effectively to come to a country like ours tomorrow.
We’ve had over 800 days since we’ve seen a successful people smuggling venture in Australia. The 1,200 people who drowned at sea under Labor’s watch – we’ve not seen a repeat of that at all since Operation Sovereign Borders – and I’m very proud of the fact that we’ve had no one drown at sea since the commencement of Operation Sovereign Borders.
Whilst ever we are without world peace, whilst ever people will seek to take their family to a better economy, we can expect to see people smugglers in business. And people smugglers right now are talking to thousands of people in Indonesia, in Sri Lanka, in Vietnam, in India, elsewhere, trying to encourage them to get on boats to come to Australia and that’s why it is absolutely essential that we have turning boats back where it is safe to do so, regional processing, as well as Temporary Protection Visas.
And what is absolutely amazing in all of this is that whilst the threat from people smugglers is still with us and is not going away, Bill Shorten is presiding over an Opposition that is still completely and utterly divided when it comes to border protection policies.
Minister can I just ask given the successes that we have seen in Syrian and Mosul against ISIL, the reports that we’re seeing from there at the moment, are you also expecting people, Australian citizens, dual nationals who have been fighting with ISIL, to try and come back into the country?
Well it is hard to know what is in the minds of some of these crazy people. I mean these people that decide, particularly young people tragically that decide to wreck their lives by going into Syria and Iraq to fight on behalf of terrorist organisations, some of them will desire to come back to Australia, others will seek to go elsewhere in the world and we need to work with the agencies, both our intelligence and law enforcement agencies here as well as those of our partners. So we’ll look at individual cases and make judgements about what their next move might be or try and respond to the next move before they would seek to do any further harm.
So, we’ll look at all of those cases individually and as you would expect with the best intelligence and law enforcement agencies in the world, they are looking at individual cases and necessarily they will always act in the best interests of our country.
Senator Hanson has criticised the terror laws saying that they are not harsh enough. She wants them to include family members as well and the wait from four years up at least seven. What’s your response to that?
Well my response is to do whatever is within the law and whatever is within the constitution to keep Australians safe and we need to operate within the law, we need to operate within the constitutional constraints and that’s what the Government is doing. The Government is doing everything available to us to keep Australians safe.
There is no sense pretending that we can do something that is against the constitution or that would be knocked out by the High Court because that’s not the way that a western democracy operates.
So we have to do and we have demonstrated that we will do whatever it takes within the law and within the constitutional requirements to keep Australians safe. I’ve demonstrated that as Minister, the Prime Minister has demonstrated that in the decisions he’s made and we’ll continue down that track.
Mr Dutton can I get your response to the Australian Crown Executives detained in China? Are you concerned about their welfare and are you concerned about behaviour of Chinese authorities in this case?
I’ll leave any comment up to Minister Bishop, but obviously DFAT would provide whatever consular assistance we can to anybody in trouble anywhere around the world which is what they do on a regular basis and no doubt those discussions, which are necessarily sensitive, obviously sensitive, are best conducted by DFAT, not in public and I’ll leave any comment to Minister Bishop.