Subjects: Labor trashing border protection policies; Newspoll.
Let's go to Peter Dutton now, the Home Affairs Minister joins me. Thank you for your time. I'll ask you about the Newspoll in a moment Minister. But first, in terms of Labor's proposal last week with the support of the Greens and the crossbench to have those medical transfers off Nauru, they say that the minister would still have the capacity to reject any such transfer under the federal legislation, you reject that notion.
Good morning Kieran. Yes I do. I mean, it doesn't take much of a read of what Labor's putting forward to realise that really this is all about trashing offshore processing. And that's been one of the main reasons that we've been able to stop boats, get kids out of detention and stop the drownings at sea.
The legal advice is very clear and I don't know whether Labor have any legal advice or whether they seek to release that legal advice, but the advice to me is clear that the Minister doesn't have the ultimate say and that in many circumstances you could have people with questionable backgrounds, people that have been charged, even people that have been investigated for serious sexual assault matters for example, who could come if they had a medical reason, under Labor's new proposal and I think that's completely unacceptable.
But trashing offshore processing is, I think, within the scope of what Bill Shorten has wanted for a long time, he's got his way, they voted for it in Parliament. And the Australian public should now realise that if Labor believes that they can manage the flow of people on water in a way that they couldn't do under Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, they need to explain that before the election because people will drown at sea and we will see kids back in detention.
Labor's pointing to the ASIO Act which defines when the Minister can turn over or basically reject or overturn a decision. And there's this one section where they say – this is the ASIO Act – which says: the protection of Australia's territorial and border integrity from serious threat. So that sounds quite broad in terms of that particular condition on when a Minister can reject a transfer, is it not?
Kieran it's unworkable and it's all designed to trash offshore processing. That's what they're trying to do here. Now they've wanted to do it for a long period of time and that's what they achieve out of their policy that they've got on the table at the moment. But the outcome will be boats restarting.
Now at the moment somebody coming out of Sri Lanka, for example, that has been convicted of a sexual assault or murder, for example, would not get a visa to come to our country. If that person came by a boat and they had a medical condition that was diagnosed as needing to be treated in Australia by a doctor operating out of Hobart, via Skype – this is the proposal, this is how crazy Labor's suggestion is – that person would have the ability to come to our country.
Now that may be an unintended consequence, I don't know, but that's the reality of what Labor is proposing. It would be easier for somebody charged with a sexual offence to come via boat into our country than it would if they were to try and come here on a spousal visa or a tourist visa and the Minister would not have a say – an ultimate say – in that circumstance. And that is a complete and utter disgrace.
And I think it demonstrates that Mr Shorten either doesn't understand what he's proposing or is not up to the very heavy duty of keeping our borders secure and our country safe.
This is a very, very dramatic change of events in relation to the border security policies of the Labor Party and people need to realise that this is a trashing of offshore processing.
There are three legs that have helped us stop boats and they've already announced that they're going to trash the Temporary Protection Visa element, so that leaves turning back boats where it's safe to do so.
Now Tanya Plibersek sits around the National Security Cabinet in a Labor government, do you think that she has the ability to turn back boats where it's safe to do so, would she make that call? I doubt it very much.
So people smugglers would be rubbing their hands together and Mr Shorten has put forward a proposal which is completely unworkable and would see people with questionable backgrounds automatically coming into our country.
The notion though that this would be a resettlement – this is not a resettlement is it, under Labor's idea? It's a medical transfer. If someone was needing emergency surgery on Nauru, but had a serious security question over them, you would still authorise their transfer, would you not, for that emergency procedure? Like the prison population, it happens basically everyday where prisoners are transferred, but it doesn't mean they're free.
But Kieran, we've spent tens of millions of dollars on a new hospital, on a new medical centre. People on Nauru have, I think, the highest concentration of medical practitioners anywhere that I can think of. The medical facilities I saw when I was last on Nauru were far superior to that which I saw our troops able to access in the Middle East. And you've got a situation where beyond that we have the ability to send people to a third country, to Taiwan and in PNG people can go to the international hospital in Port Moresby where Australians regularly access the services of that hospital.
So there are ways in which we can already provide treatment. If somebody refuses to have treatment for a broken leg for example, in Nauru or PNG, under the Labor model that person will come to Australia.
And you subvert the benefit of offshore processing if you allow people smugglers to get back in control and that's exactly what Labor do in their proposal here to abolish offshore processing. This is a recipe to restart boats. Now, as I say, maybe Labor don't understand that, but that's the consequence.
You've got a policy now which has seen us stop the boats for a considerable period of time, to get all of the kids out of detention in Australia, close 17 detention centres. In Nauru we're down to 10 children, four of whom are on their way to the United States and six of whom are part of families where there are complex matters.
Now if Labor want to bring people here including people that have criminal histories and the rest, well they need to explain that, but that's the policy outcome that they're proposing. I think it's quite dangerous, I don't think Bill Shorten properly understands what it is that he's proposing. But this is a worse model than even Kevin Rudd proposed which saw 50,000 people come on 800 boats.
Now John Howard had the policy that resulted in four people in detention, he'd stopped the boats, it included no children in detention.
Fifty-thousand people came on 800 boats under Kevin Rudd, we have put in place Operation Sovereign Borders, with those three key elements that have made it a success and now Bill Shorten is proposing to abolish two of those elements. It is a recipe for disaster and it means that boats will restart under Labor and that you'll see people coming here that have medical authorisation that overrides the ability of the Minister if they have a criminal conviction or if they have an allegation even of sexual assault. And that is, I think, not what the Australian people would want.
Over the weekend though we've seen Labor's spokespeople – former immigration ministers among them – reiterate that they back offshore detention, that they will maintain support for turn backs. They've been explicit on that. So fundamentally…
….but Kieran, it's a lie. I mean this is what Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard said…
…but they've said that in the face of suggestions from the Left that they need to change their policy.
Look they voted for it in the Parliament. Forget about this being related to the conference, they'll get a policy through the conference which supports offshore processing and turning back boats where it's safe to do so because the CFMEU will back it. That's what they did at the last conference. Now I don't know what Bill Shorten promises the CFMEU in the background, but they hold the biggest block of votes and they will force through a policy – even with protests from people that want to abolish offshore processing etc – they're just doing it the backdoor way.
That is what Bill Shorten is doing. This is how cute he's been all along in relation to border protection. But at least Kevin Rudd was able to hold the dodgy story and keep the lie going up until he was elected. Bill Shorten has voted in the Parliament, in the Senate to trash offshore processing, that's the effect here.
It doesn't matter what people like Jim Chalmers say or Tony Burke says, I mean, these are people who presided over people drowning at sea, they put 8000 children into detention, of course they're going to tell you that there's no difference between us and the Labor Party, but that's what they say at every election. When they get into government they trash the policy. And by announcing this backdoor way of abolishing offshore processing, it really is an absolute recipe, it's a guarantee that boats will restart and Bill Shorten needs to be honest with the Australian people about that.
Are you worried that the ASIO advice was leaked? It's in The Tele today, great story, but it's come out of the peak intelligence agency.
No, it's legal advice and it's very clear. I mean, the legal advice to the Government in relation to Labor's proposal is that people with criminal histories, criminal backgrounds, allegations of criminal offences would be able to come here if they had a medical condition.
But should ASIO advice be leaked?
Well ASIO advice forms part of the Home Affairs advice available to government. And the fact is that people should know the difference, the big difference now between the Liberal Party and the Labor Party. The fact is that the Labor Party is proposing something which is unworkable, which will see people come here by boat if they've got a criminal background.
Now it might sound reasonable to put in place the ASIO definition, but we're not talking about spies coming from China or Russia through Nauru or Manus, we're talking about making sure that people who are not refugees for example, but might have criminal histories that they don't come here by boat. I don't think that's unreasonable. But what Labor's proposing is a process that in some circumstances could see a Minister's decision end up in the AAT or the Federal Court or the High Court.
And look Kieran, in the end at the moment there are 14,000 people up in Indonesia who would hop on a boat tomorrow if they thought they could get here. But they're telling the people smugglers they're not going to pay the money because they don't think they'll get here under this Government, they're telling the people smugglers that if they thought they could get here, then they would pay the money.
Now if offshore processing is trashed, as Bill Shorten's proposing, they will pay the money, the boats will start again. And if you get 14,000 here, you'll get many more than 50,000 beyond that.
But don't you risk creating a pull factor yourself by talking about Labor's softness on this issue – you know, you and your colleagues – by focusing on that, in a sense creating greater pull factors for those people smugglers to try and sell that message?
No. I've heard the Labor Party say that and it's a complete falsehood. I mean, the people smugglers will base their advice to people that are willing to pay money on the experience of Labor in government. Labor in government delivered 50,000 people on 800 boats. And as I said, when the Liberal Party was voted out in 2007, there were four people in detention. And the fact that Labor had to open 17 detention centres – which I might note, we've now closed, we've got those 8000 children out of detention, we've got almost all of the children off Nauru, we've sent 449 people to the United States and there are 1250 places in total available under that transfer arrangement.
But the US has been very clear that if a boat arrives today and there are children on that boat, who under both the Liberal Party and at least the stated Labor Party policy, would go to Nauru, those people are not eligible to go the United States. So therefore you're left with people coming to Australia and look, the people smugglers will be rubbing their hands together at the prospect of a Shorten government, as they were when Mr Rudd came into power. They're smart enough to make their own judgements based on Labor's history and on what they're doing at the moment. And the people smugglers are very sophisticated, they watch every word that I say, that the Prime Minister says, that Mr Shorten says, that Mr Neumann says, and they use social media to market that as an opportunity to come to Australia.
Just a quick one before you go, the Newspoll, you obviously have a hotly contested seat, it has been for a long time, the seat of Dickson in Brisbane. What's your sense, is there any chance you can drag this back at 55/45?
Yes there is. Look I've been in Parliament for 17 years, I've seen John Howard in a much worse position than what we are at the moment and he came back. And I believe that Scott Morrison has many of the attributes of John Howard. I think he has the ability to communicate very effectively, I think he will campaign in a way far more superior than we saw at the last election in 2016.
People have a real hesitation about Bill Shorten, they think there is something dodgy in his background and that is the case. They know that he's not a person of his word, he can't be trusted. There are reasons – I think tangible reasons – that we can turn this around.
The other point to make Kieran is that over that 17 years, I've always seen Parliament as a disadvantage frankly for sitting governments. Whatever happens, however messy it looks, the tough decisions that need to be made are always sheeted home to the government of the day. And it doesn't matter whether it's a Labor government or a Liberal government, it's always difficult during a sitting week and particularly when that feeds into a polling result.
So we've got a lot of hard work ahead of us, people will switch off now as they go to their summer break, but by the time people come back around Australia Day, the beginning of February, I think people will start to switch back on.
And when you've got a proposal from Labor to trash negative gearing, to bring in taxes around electricity, around retirees, people will start to focus and realise that their families, their small businesses and their retirement will be worse off under Labor, as well as these big questions around national security and border security. I think people will start to second guess whether or not they want Bill Shorten as Prime Minister of this country and I do believe that we can come back in the 2019 election in May.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, as always I appreciate your time. Thanks so much.