Subjects: Global Compact for Migration; Encryption legislation; Renae Lawrence.
Joining us now is the Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton. Mr Dutton, thanks so much for your time. I want to start first of all what are your concerns about this UN migration pact and why won't the Government be signing up?
Good morning Kieran, Laura. Obviously the Government has done a lot over recent years to restore integrity to our borders. Now that's a very different situation of what's happening in Europe at the moment, as we know people are still drowning on the Mediterranean. So I think this compact was largely directly toward that problem, not toward our part of the world.
We have made significant advances in getting all the kids out of detention here in Australia that Labor put in to detention. We've stopped drownings at sea, we've stopped boat arrivals and we're not going to surrender that. We want our sovereignty to remain intact and the Government doesn't make any apology for that. We want to make sure that our successful border protection policies continue and we think there would have been a weakening if we had of signed up to this compact.
So was that the deal breaker, there perceived weakening of our border protection laws, the indistinction between how migrants arrive?
Exactly right Laura. So we're concerned about the way in which that might be interpreted by the courts here. We've seen a lot of activity within the courts in relation to migration law in our country. We're concerned about whether or not it starves us as a sovereign nation of the ability to decide the way in which we can return people under the compact certain obligations could be imposed where we needed to support people once they'd been returned back to a country of origin.
So it really undermines the tenets of Operation Sovereign Borders and it would starve the Government of the opportunity that we have to say we've stopped boats and people won't come to Australia by boats and if they do then they'll be returned back to their country of origin.
So there are many reasons why it was important for us to opt out of this compact and I think it's in the best interest of our country that we've done so.
Wasn't there a similar deal, a refugee pact agreed to earlier this month that Australia did back? Why did we support that and not this?
It was a very different context Kieran. So when you look at the text and the import for us here in Australia the refugee compact was quite different to the migration compact. So it was benign in its language in our judgment and didn't confer the sorts of obligations that would have been conferred on us if we'd signed up to this compact on migration.
In making this decision Minister, did you take into consideration how this might impact any future third country deals? For example, if you're trying to do a deal with Canada, they are signed up to this pact, but we are not.
Look, I think our main concern Laura was about us being able to preserve our sovereignty. I want to make sure that if people arrive by boat, people understand that that is not an acceptable means to come to Australia. You need to have a regular flow.
We took more people through the Refugee and Humanitarian Program last year than we've done in 30 years, but we've done it the right way. We've been able to get kids out of detention and we aren't going to surrender those hard fought gains.
I know Labor's undoing every element of Operation Sovereign Borders because internally they're torn apart by migration policy, but this Government has made tough decisions – both when Scott was the Minister for Immigration and similarly during my time now in this portfolio – we're just not going to see that undone and we're not going to allow the UN or a court to take control of what's been a very important process to gain control of.
You've been critical of Labor in relation to their position on the encryption laws basically in response to the terror threat and obviously it's been front and centre in recent weeks with the Bourke Street attack and those arrests yesterday.
Labor says it's simply waiting for the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security to report back on those laws and has made no indication that it's going to oppose them. In fact, a further statement from the Shadow Attorney-General has had a go at you for suggesting as much. What do you say to that?
Kieran, I've seen angry tweets from Mark Dreyfus. I've seen his actions over a long period of time when he was the Attorney-General introduced no new laws to help deal with the scourge of terrorism.
We've seen over the last two recent incidents – so the one in Bourke Street, the arrest of three people yesterday who are planning for, we allege, a mass casualty event – we've seen heavy use of encryption and this is a significant problem now.
Mark Dreyfus uses the Committee to delay and to obfuscate and I think Bill Shorten uses that frankly as some sort of mechanism to control Mark Dreyfus and the Left of Labor Party.
Bill Shorten has to stand up and say whether he supports these laws or not. These laws are now urgent. We have other matters obviously that are under investigation and Labor opposing these laws is unacceptable and Mr Shorten should come out and say that he will support these laws through the Parliament next week because at the moment we don't know Labor's position and we need to get this resolved sooner than later.
Labor says it's not opposed to these encryption laws that legislation is tied up in that Committee that Andrew Hastie is chairing. So are you saying you'll scrap the rest of the hearings that are due to go until December 4 and are you going to expedite the process and bring this legislation on anyway?
I would like the Committee to deal with it as quickly as possible. I don't want Mark Dreyfus delaying proceedings. I don't want him making excuses. I don't want him massaging Bills down to the lowest common denominator. I want bills that are going to protect Australians and we….
….so have you asked Andrew Hastie to expedite this?
I've spoken to Andrew Hastie about ways in which the Committee could deal with this in an expeditious way so that the Parliament can deal with it as soon as possible.
And I would like Labor to indicate that they're going to support the Bill. There's been a significant amount of consultation with industry. We put privacy protections in place. Encryption is a very important part of our lives through internet banking and the rest, but at the moment Laura, not only in the counter-terrorism space do we have terrorists and potential terrorists only communicating through encrypted messaging apps because they know that the police can't view them, we've also got paedophile syndicates who are using encrypted messaging to direct pay-per-view footage sex scenes with children in far off places and their messaging through encrypted apps.
Now that is not the purpose of an encrypted messaging app and we are asking the companies to provide assistance so that where a warrant is available – as police would be able to get a warrant to seize evidence of a handwritten note providing the same detail. This is just an issue of dealing with technology so it's fairly straightforward for Labor to have a position. They don't, haven't indicated their support, they have opposed significant changes in the past and Mr Shorten needs to come out and indicate that he will support this Bill and to date they've refused to do that.
A couple of issues that we need to get you on before we let you go Home Affairs Minister.
China's hacking – when was the Government notified of that breach by China Telecom of Australian email servers? And also this surge in attacks led by the Chinese security agency. Are our companies doing enough to protect their information?
Well a couple of points Kieran. Obviously the Director-General of ASIO, Duncan Lewis, has pointed out the very significant and increased threat level in relation to foreign interference. It's a concern for us. There is a lot of money that's been spent at a government level on hardening our systems. We're worried about cyber-attacks, both from state and non-state actors, and we believe very strongly that our sovereignty should not be compromised.
Companies do need to be very mindful of the systems that they have in place, particularly if they're trading with foreign partners. They need to be very cognisant of the fact that there is a lot of activity, cyber intrusions etc. So yes, I would encourage all businesses to ramp up the cyber security measures that they have in place because we have seen an elevated risk and ASIO has been very clear about the threat level in relation to that activity and we're doing everything we can to protect our sovereignty as a nation, our systems and I'd encourage businesses to do the same.
Our top story today relates to Renae Lawrence, one of the members of the Bali Nine. She's being released from prison. You know, the New South Wales Police have an outstanding warrant for her in relation to a car chase in 2005. Would you hope that after 14 years behind bars in Bali that they might show some leniency towards her?
No, I don't. I think Renae Lawrence and others committed a serious crime and if you're in another country people know the laws of the countries they're travelling to, particularly Indonesia. Over a long period of time Australians have been very aware of the very harsh penalties and appropriately so. They're worried about kids and Minister Wiranto has spoken to me on a number of occasions about the number of deaths in Indonesia each year from drug overdoses etc. So the Indonesian Government, like the Australian Government takes the issue very seriously.
Now if there are outstanding matters in Australia then that is quite separate and an issue in this case for the New South Wales Police to make a decision about what they will do.
But if people are travelling they need to understand that there are serious penalties –particularly in Southeast Asia – including the death penalty in some countries as we know, and if you commit that offence there is a heavy penalty to pay and it doesn't give you credit when you get back to Australia. If you've committed offences in our country you need to face the justice system here.
Minister Peter Dutton, thank you for your time.
Thanks Laura, thanks Kieran.