Subjects: People smuggling venture from Sri Lanka.
The Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton is ready to join us live from Brisbane. Thanks for joining us Peter Dutton.
I want to firstly confirm the details about this asylum seeker vessel that was intercepted and 20 asylum seekers returned to Sri Lanka.
That's the case Chris and obviously it's a worrying development because we know, as we said before the election, that the people smugglers just haven't gone away and they are trying desperately to put men, women and children onto boats and I think this was a first test for a Labor government and we need to make sure that the message is heard loud and clear that nothing has changed under the Morrison Government; that we will return people back to their country of origin, we will make sure that people don't arrive by boat and 20 people on this vessel have been returned to Sri Lanka.
There's some reporting around at the moment that's not accurate that people landed on Christmas Island or were held on Christmas Island for two or three days; that's not the case.
So what is the case? The vessel was intercepted and they were taken to Christmas Island by the Australian Navy before being repatriated?
Well Chris we just don't go into the finer detail, but obviously if it's safe to return people on the vessel that they're on, we do that. In certain circumstances people can be flown back to their country of origin and again, it depends on the country of origin, the arrangements that we have in place to issue those travel documents and to return people.
I do want to thank the Sri Lankan authorities very much for the way in which they've cooperated with us. There's a lot of activity up in that part of the region at the moment and we'll continue to work very closely with our Sri Lankan colleagues, both in the intelligence space – try to disrupt vessels, try to stop people getting on those vessels to start with – but where they do and get away, then we can work very closely with authorities right through the region to interdict to make sure we can return those people back to their country of origin.
Now, did this vessel set sail during the election campaign and do you believe that it was a deliberate attempt to take advantage or at least test the will of what might have been a new government?
Chris, the advice that I have is that it left early in May and I think very much it was a test of what people thought was going to be a Labor administration. That was always the prediction: that a Labor government, given that Mr Shorten had walked away from Operation Sovereign Borders during the election campaign, that they were always going to be tested.
So I want people smugglers and those that might be organising syndicates here in Australia to hear the message from me very clearly, that is that we do have a return arrangement with Sri Lanka and with other countries and people will be returned as quickly as possible. People are not coming here by boat and regardless of what people smugglers tell you, the Morrison Government, under the Prime Minister and myself, will not allow those people to arrive by boat.
So, that's the big difference between us and Labor and clearly Labor would've failed the test because they'd walked away from Operation Sovereign Borders. I think the test now is for Mr Albanese to answer the question as to whether he walks away from Bill Shorten's softening and abandonment of Operation Sovereign Borders and backs the Government's strong border protection policies, and whether or not he's going to allow the support of the Labor Party to see the abolition of the terrible Bill which was the Medevac Bill introduced by Labor and Kerryn Phelps. That is a very bad sign for people smugglers and we want to make sure that we can continue to keep the pressure on those people smugglers. We don’t want people drowning at sea and we don't want kids back in detention.
Peter Dutton, can you tell us when you were first advised that this vessel was on the way, and was that before the election?
Again Chris, I'm just not going into the operational detail, but obviously I work very closely with the Department and with the Secretary of my Department, the General in charge of Operation Sovereign Borders, but during an election campaign the normal rules apply in terms of the caretaker provisions, so that's been the case obviously in the most recent election as well.
Anthony Albanese says he wants a briefing on this; that would be standard practice, you'd be happy to give him a briefing?
Well, I'd be happy to give him a briefing, but frankly we've given briefings to every Labor shadow minister and Leader of the Opposition for many years; they just don't listen to the advice, that's the problem and when you've got our intelligence and our defence and our law enforcement agencies telling us not to change the settings around Operation Sovereign Borders, why the Labor Party capitulates to the left every time and proposes to weaken Sovereign Borders is beyond me.
And clearly the people smugglers have heard the message loud and clear that under a Labor Government, Operation Sovereign Borders was going to be trashed as we know it and I think it's a green light and the people smugglers need to know that under our Government, the red light's back on, they're not coming and we aren't going to have the soft approach that Labor promised to our borders.
But Mr Albanese needs to stand up today to say whether he will abandon Bill Shorten's failed policy on border protection and back in our policy.
Peter Dutton thank you. Sorry, that is all the time we've got today. Thanks so much for joining us, really appreciate that.
Thanks, Chris. All the best, mate.