Subjects: Foreign interference; Home Affairs portfolio; China; political donations; Senator Dastyari; returning foreign fighters; New Zealand resettlement offer; Labor undoing our successful border protection policies; leadership; same-sex marriage; religious protections; citizenship.
Good morning Peter.
Good morning Sam.
How serious do you regard the threat of foreign influence? We've seen these headlines over the weekend suggesting there are Manchurian candidates in our midst. You receive these briefings from the security agencies as part of your work on the National Security Committee. How big a problem is it?
Well Sam, Duncan Lewis himself – the head of ASIO – has spelt out some of his concerns and significant concerns in his annual report, but in statements that he's made otherwise. And you only need to look at recent events here domestically where companies have been hacked into, where you have Government organisations, their websites being targeted – the Bureau of Meteorology et cetera.
So there is a lot of activity and it's the same here as it is in the United Kingdom or the United States where you've seen heavy Russian influence and that's the reality for a Western democracy like ours.
China is an incredibly important trading partner to us. We have a very good relationship with the Chinese, but I think it's always important for sovereign nations like Australia, or like the United States or United Kingdom or Canada, New Zealand – our Five Eyes partners – it's important for all of us to stand up and for people to understand the boundaries, the areas of engagement that are acceptable and those which aren't.
And I think the Turnbull Government in the announcement this week has been very clear about where we think the boundaries are and we'll prosecute that as we should.
How do you see the new carve up of Home Affairs working? There will obviously be still oversight from the Attorney-General, as I understand it the Attorney-General will still sign the warrants. Given that ASIO for example is an independent agency, how do you see those new arrangements working in terms of your oversight of the intelligence agencies?
So Sam, it'll stand up in two phases. So we've allowed ourselves until 30 June next year, but we will have the first phase completed by the end of this calendar year. So, that means the Australian Federal Police, the ACIC, a number of other entities including AUSTRAC, Office of Transport Safety, Emergency Management et cetera, will come across into the new Home Affairs department.
We introduced legislation into the Parliament this week to enable the ASIO aspect. Now that Bill will be referred off to the intelligence committee and that committee will report back over the break and we anticipate that there will be bipartisan support for the legislation in February when Parliament returns and that's when the ASIO piece proper will come across.
But obviously I'm receiving briefings as part of the NSC now and as you point out, there's an important separation in relation to the warrant power which remains with the first law officer, but the operational aspect if you like comes across to Home Affairs.
So the briefings will continue in that way and we're going to – given what we've learnt out of the UK – implement a reporting system similar to that which happens in the UK. So, there'll be weekly formal briefings from the ASIO head, from all of the other agency heads, and that will inform both the Prime Minister and myself about where the agencies are headed.
They still retain obviously their independent statutory authority. They still undertake the investigations et cetera with the same autonomous capacity that they did before, but there will be a much more significant strategic approach to the Home Affairs portfolio and that reflects the risk that we have, not only in the counter-terrorism space, but also the espionage space and organised crime is a particular focus for us within the Home Affairs portfolio as well.
Now this week we saw from China a particularly strong response to this announcement by the Turnbull Government. We saw China criticising the Government, criticising officials, criticising the Australian media in very strong terms.
So I'd like to ask you Peter Dutton, how concerned are you about the nature of this response from China? And to what extent does this suggest that there is going to be now a different and more tense relationship between the two countries?
Well Paul, there doesn't need to be a different relationship at all. I think like any sovereign nation – as I pointed out before – Australia is expected to mark out where we believe the boundaries should be and that's what the Prime Minister has done, he's stood up for our national interest. That's absolutely appropriate and his responsibility and how others react is an issue for them.
But for the Chinese community here in Australia; I mean they're an integral part of our success as a country today. People have been coming here for many, many decades back to the gold rush days and the Chinese community here in Australia is absolutely essential to the fabric of Australian society.
People work hard, they value family, they respect the rule of law, they contribute enormously to our country, but where foreign interests – regardless of what country it is – where the governments and those foreign interests decide to interfere in Australian domestic policy, or interfere in relation to trade arrangements, or business deliberations on systems within companies that are trading or doing business with these other countries – well that is unacceptable.
And we're very clear, as so we should be, in relation to our response and this is a measured, appropriate response to the threat level that we have. And as I say, it reflects the advice of Duncan Lewis, the head of ASIO and the other security agencies.
So you're saying that we won't be intimidated, the Government won't be intimidated, but is there a risk that at some point China might take some form of retaliatory economic action against us?
No and I don't think that would be appropriate. I don't think that's what the Chinese will do. Ultimately, as I say, it's an issue for the sovereign nation for their response and we'll leave it to them.
But from our perspective – from the Australian Government perspective – we want to make sure that we have the right laws in place. We want to make sure that people understand the boundaries. We want to make sure that we continue an important relationship with our most significant trading partner. But, as I say, also the people-to-people links. We have significant inbound tourism from China, from other growth markets as well. People send their kids here to attend university and educational institutions otherwise because Australia is a safe place.
So we have a strong relationship with China and that will long be the case. But Australia stands up for its sovereignty. Regardless of what nation we're talking about, if we think there is international interference then we will respond and we've responded through these laws because we believe that reflects the threat that exists as the moment.
And for a lot of Australians I suppose it's hard to see the detail of the threat level – and there's only so much information that's available publicly – but all of the information that we've provided – both open source and the information that has been provided to us by the security agencies – has led us to the announcement that the Prime Minister made this week.
Do you regard the threat from foreign influence to be as serious as terrorism, as on a par with the threat of terrorism and if so why?
Well Sam, obviously the Director-General of ASIO has made comments in relation to where he sees threat levels and we respond to the threats that are before us.
So in the counter-terrorism space, the agencies have successfully disrupted 14 mass casualty events that were planned over the course of the last three years or so. We're seeing what's happening in other Western democracies and the threat of terrorism is incredibly real for us. And the CT effort, both at a federal and state level, is really first class so I want to pay tribute to all of those agencies. So it's not an either or.
The threat from the espionage piece is significant as well, but we've also got significant risks in relation to organised crime and syndicates that are involved in trafficking of people, syndicates who are involved in trafficking of drugs or other commodities – much of that money will flow back to terrorist organisations and the risk of it and that's why the counter-terrorism piece is incredibly important.
So I don't think it's one against the other I think they're both – in fact all three are incredibly important tasking's for the agencies within the new Home Affairs portfolio.
In relation to this issue of Chinese influence – political donations is part of the puzzle, it's not the be all and end all – but why does the Liberal Party continue to take donations from Huang Xiangmo, given that you're so aggressively pursuing Sam Dastyari's links with this donor?
Look I'll leave the donation aspect up to the organisation.
The Government obviously has got legislation before the Parliament now that will pass. We have people who are Australian citizens or people who are permanent residents. Obviously we need to distinguish between those people and donations offshore. People are legitimately doing business in Australia, but some obviously aren't and those judgements need to be made on a case-by-case basis.
The difference with Sam Dastyari of course, is that he received money personally which is without precedent. There's nobody on Labor's side or the Liberal Party side that's taking money directly from an individual and that's why I think Mr Shorten still has significant questions to answer about his own involvement in his discussions with Mr Dastyari. What discussions took place between Mr Dastyari and this individual after he was informed about the phone? And so I think that's the context in which people are most concerned about his personal donation to Dastyari.
But why not just say you're not going to take any donations from him? I mean it does look a big grubby, does it not, if you're suggesting that Sam Dastyari going to see this individual is somehow potentially improper, but the Liberal Party's prepared to continue to take money from him. If it's argued that he is trying to exercise influence, why take his money?
Well Sam, as I say, I mean the organisation involves itself in donations with business, with business leaders. We don't have the support of unions. I'm not aware of any donations in recent times from this individual, but again, it's a question for others. But I think when concerns are raised about individuals, when people are made aware of concerns about a particular individual, then donations aren't accepted. So I'm not aware of any donations.
Yeah okay. I think there was recently some updates to the AEC that regarded some New South Wales donations.
Yeah, well again, I just don't have that information. But I think when concerns are known, when people understand something different about a particular individual, then a decision would be made at that point not to accept donations from that individual.
But as I say, there's a difference between – leaving this case aside – a difference between from an offshore individual or entity, as opposed to a person that was born overseas but is now a permanent resident, or indeed an Australian citizen here in Australia. So that's the balance that the laws attempt to strike.
And also, as Paul pointed out in his earlier remarks, money flowing into organisations like GetUp! – which are essentially an extension of the Greens and the Labor Party – GetUp! now is just an organisation and campaigning tool for the left of politics in Australia, they're quite brazen and open about that and that's why I think people should frankly discount some of the lies that you hear from GetUp!.
Just on Sam Dastyari. The Government's made it clear that it believes that he's not fit to sit in the Senate, but how will you prosecute the case against him? How will you continue to try and achieve your objective in terms of getting him removed from the Parliament?
Well Paul, ultimately there's only so much that we can do. So I think there's been a referral to the Privileges Committee in the Senate – which is obviously a significant step for the Senate to take.
There is a real leadership question here for Bill Shorten. I mean let's cut to the chase, the fact is that Mr Shorten is the leader of the Labor Party. Yes he relies heavily on Dastyari's support given his factional involvement within New South Wales. So the friendship between Dastyari and Shorten shouldn't be underestimated and of course Dastyari was the person that was favoured by Kristina Keneally and Dastyari had a big influence in getting Kristina Keneally to become the candidate for Bennelong as well.
So ultimately this will be a call for Bill Shorten. He got it wrong last time. He should have booted Dastyari out of the Parliament when the first question mark came over Dastyari.
But my prediction is that there will be a lot more that comes out in relation to Mr Dastyari; he's a shady figure. If he's a double agent, he shouldn't be in the Australian Senate and Mr Shorten ultimately needs to show the leadership to sack Mr Dastyari and to send a very clear message to the rest of the Labor Party who's involved in this sort of behaviour that it's unacceptable.
You said you think there's a lot more to come out. What is that assessment based on? Is that assessment based on informal material you have from security and intelligence organisations?
No and I would never comment in relation to any of that information if it were available to me.
I make it simply on the history of Sam Dastyari. I mean he has been involved in taking money himself, he's been involved in cash for comment effectively and he's a mouthpiece for a foreign power.
He's an Australian Senator, his first allegiance is to the Australian people and he's breached that very fundamental trust that should exist between the Australian people and their elected representative. And he's shown himself to be a murky figure within the Labor Party in New South Wales as well and he's – as I say – one of the closest confidents of Bill Shorten.
And Mr Shorten will be reluctant to sack Sam Dastyari because he will be worried about the internal ramifications for that. But this is a time for Mr Shorten to try at least for once to dispense with the internal alliance that he has with Mr Dastyari and put the good of the nation, the good of the Labor Party ahead of Mr Dastyari's personal interests and Mr Shorten's personal interests because we still don't know from Mr Shorten what it is he told Sam Dastyari that caused Mr Dastyari to tell the individual involved that his phone may be compromised and that they should go outside and conduct business in the absence of the phone if it was being monitored.
So Mr Shorten himself has dead batted all of these questions and I think he still himself has a lot to answer.
Just on the issue of terrorism that we touched on earlier; there has been discussion among some Liberal backbenchers that we should essentially strip citizenship of Australian foreign fighters that are over there, that we should find some way to ensure that they cannot return Australia. What is your response to that? Do you think that that is something that Australia should consider?
Well Sam, Malcolm Turnbull introduced laws – a significant number of laws followed on from what we'd done under Prime Minister Abbott as well, significant changes to the national security settings. In contrast to Labor where no changes were made, we realised the threat environment that we operate in.
I don't want people coming back to Australia that have been involved in terrorist-type activities offshore. So, we need to make sure that the laws are appropriate and we aren't going to render people stateless – we've been clear about that – and we do have international obligations to meet in relation to that.
So we need to operate within the law, within the constitutional constraints, that's what we're doing. I think the response that we have at the moment is appropriate, but as the Prime Minister's pointed out many times, the Government will continue to reassess all of our laws.
To Malcolm Turnbull's great credit I think the laws around keeping people in detention if they still pose a risk – a regime which is presided over by the courts – allows people to stay in custody beyond their custodial period of incarceration. And if we can do that, along with the other changes that we've made, I think we'd give ourselves the best opportunity to keep Australians safe in what is a very difficult and fraught national security environment.
Okay, plenty more to talk about on that and other issues. We're going to take a short break. When we come back, we'll also be discussing New Zealand and Labor leader Bill Shorten's flirtation with the idea of sending asylum seekers there.
Welcome back to Sunday Agenda. Our guest is Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. We've been talking about terrorism and the threat of returning foreign fighters coming back to Australia, but a big issue that future governments are going to have to tackle is of course the children of these foreign fighters – some of whom who were of course taken in the case of Khaled Sharrouf's children to the war zone, some of which who have been born in the war zone. Now, these children can actually apply for Australian citizenship by descent.
Peter Dutton, is there anything that Australia needs to do in terms of consideration of this issue? In some ways we shouldn't punish the children for the sins of their parents, but these children presumably would be very traumatised and could potentially, do you believe, pose a terror risk at home?
Sam, there are a couple of points to make here. I mean one is if you're taking your children, as Khaled Sharrouf did, into a war zone, then the consequences – the tragic consequences that may follow, that is an issue for the parents. That is not the fault of the Australian people or the Australian Government. If you're minded to take your kids into a war zone then you can either see one of a couple of things happen: they are either killed in the battle of war, they're indoctrinated, they're watching these barbarians severe heads and carry on the way that they do within ISIL and obviously there are all sorts of consequences that flow from that.
So from the Australian Government perspective, our role of course is to keep Australians safe and to do whatever we can to make sure that we reduce or eliminate risk wherever possible. So, we're having a look at the moment at ways in which we could try and address this issue, because ultimately I don't want people returning to our country, I don't want people becoming Australian citizens; particularly because that status gives people protection under the laws, it protects them from being deported if they've committed an offence here as opposed to a visa holder. So we're looking at what options might be available to us.
You're right in terms of the sins not being born by the child, but where we're talking about the possibility of a threat emerging because of what somebody has learnt in the trade craft of terrorism overseas; bringing that back to Australia can result in the loss of many Australian lives. So again, it's one of those questions of balance. But ultimately, the responsibility here is with the parents or with the parent that makes a decision to destroy the life of their own child, which is tragic on every level.
Okay, but what are the options? I'm just intrigued, because obviously if these children can prove essentially a DNA link to Australian family, they can apply for citizenship by descent through the Department of Foreign Affairs. So what are the options that you could look at that would essentially, I'm assuming, pose a barrier to these children of these terrorists from ever coming to Australia?
Well the threshold test is in relation to statelessness. So, we don't strip dual citizens unless they can avail themselves of citizenship elsewhere. That's the essential test to put it simply so that same threshold would need to be applied.
Could there be – through descendancy for example, from another country – a citizenship that was available to that child or to that individual, would there be some temporary measure that you could put in place until the child turned 18? But again, you would need to look at all of the circumstances and make a judgement about the threat that that individual might pose.
Okay. But would they be new legal changes, or would they be just about – I mean the dual citizen, the laws to strip dual citizens potentially of Australian citizenship can already apply, I believe, to reasonably young people. Are you talking a further legal change to specifically address the children of these terrorists?
Well Sam, if there was to be change in that area, it would require new legislation.
So as I say, I'm having a look at that at the moment. As the Prime Minister's said: we're constantly reviewing our national security laws to make sure that we've got the best possible measures in place. So that's – I wouldn't sort of overstate it or suggest that it's anything beyond that. We're having a look at the prospect at the moment.
We're very pleased with the success in Iraq and we've seen an announcement over the course of the last 24 hours or so. We have been front and centre in the effort to destroy ISIL. We've worked with our coalition partners and we've worked very closely with the Iraqi security forces. We're working with the Philippines, with Indonesia, with other nations as well, because we don't want the threat within our region, let alone within our own country.
So we will do what it takes to keep Australians safe and that's the first order of business, if you like, within the Home Affairs portfolio.
Minister, can we assume that some of the people on Manus will eventually go to New Zealand?
Well Paul, I've been very clear about not ruling New Zealand out, but now is the wrong time to send people to New Zealand.
We've seen people already that had interviews with the United States, with the officials, potentially on a pathway to go to the United States to get off Manus and those people are saying, 'actually I'm reviewing my decision, I'd prefer to go to New Zealand.'
Now why do people prefer to go to New Zealand? Because New Zealand is unlike the United States or any other country in the world. That is, you can fly from New Zealand into Australia and receive a visa on arrival under a very special arrangement, given the special nature of the relationship with New Zealand.
If you're a British citizen, a Canadian citizen, whatever, you must have a visa before you arrive in Australia. So that's why we're conscious of sending people to New Zealand. We don't want to disrupt the arrangements that we've got with the United States. We don't want people hopping on boats, thinking that they can get to New Zealand, stay there for a couple of years, become a citizen and then come to Australia because we've already stopped four vessels coming across the Torres Strait or disrupted vessels otherwise that were on their way to New Zealand and we need to be very, very mindful of the fact that the risk has not gone away.
There's people smugglers this very day are trying to put people onto boats. And whilst we haven't seen a successful boar arrival, we've turned back 31. And if a boat gets through, or if people get to Australia or New Zealand, I can promise you there'll be hundreds of boats that follow.
We take all of the advice, the intelligence into consideration and that's why I think it's been incredibly irresponsible of Mr Shorten to come out with his announcement to send people to New Zealand, when Mr Shorten hasn't even had a security briefing in relation to these matters.
Well, given what you've just said, given that New Zealand is very much in the focus and the new New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has spoken very, very publicly about taking people from Manus. To what extent therefore are we aware that people smugglers now are really focused on sending boats to New Zealand?
Paul, that is the case and they have been for a very long period of time. New Zealand has a very generous welfare system like Australia. They have a very generous education system like Australia. They have a very generous system of support through settlement services otherwise. So New Zealand is marketed just like Australia.
New Zealand's lucky because they've got the landmass of Australia in between them and where this threat originates. So people coming out of Sri Lanka have got to take a pretty perilous voyage across the Torres Strait and down the east coast before they get to New Zealand and generally they've intercepted before.
So if New Zealand opens up as an option, then that is of great concern to us, as it is to New Zealand.
But, as I say, they have a buffer and the fact that Mr Shorten's been on this mercy mission up to Port Moresby in the last couple of days and the fact that he's then gone to New Zealand, obviously this is a sop to the Left of the Labor Party who I think are barely contained on the issue of border protection. We saw it under Mr Rudd and we're seeing it again now under Mr Shorten.
It's clear to me that Mr Shorten is working on a secret policy that will be announced, I presume, after an election if they win.
But the Labor Party in quick time undid the policies of the Howard Government and Mr Shorten, I think, runs the risk at the moment of making the same mistake if he was to be elected Prime Minister and that should cause all people concern because Australians don't want the people smugglers back in control of who comes to this country.
The Labor leader Bill Shorten, as you mentioned, did travel to Port Moresby over the weekend. He also touched down in New Zealand where he held a press conference talking about his discussions with Jacinda Ardern.
Let's have a listen to what he had to say...
BILL SHORTEN: Well I think that your new New Zealand Prime Minister has shown regional and global leadership and ultimately it's a matter for our government, but I think that we should look pretty carefully and positively at the leadership that the New Zealand Government's displaying on this matter.
So what do you think he is up to in PNG? I mean it's obviously our closest neighbour. You'd expect him to go there. And in terms of your own plans Mr Dutton, you've announced those plans to close down Manus. What do you think is the future in Nauru?
So Sam, whatever we do needs to be done in a way that doesn't restart boats because there's no sense in creating vacancies like we've done by sending people back to their country of origin or sending people back to the United States or to third countries otherwise if the boats restart.
Now the difficulty is that Mr Shorten hasn't got any of the intelligence advice. He hasn't had a briefing. He's off on this secret mercy mission to Moresby and elsewhere to try to come up with a plan in secret. Now this is exactly what Kevin Rudd did.
There were four people in detention, including no children, when John Howard left office in 2007 and Mr Rudd went to an election promising that there would be no difference – as Mr Shorten did at the last election.
But the trouble for the Labor Party is – and you can see it when I give a response to a question in Question Time from my own side – the people on the backbenchers of the Labor Party go crazy because they don't support turn backs. They've already announced that they'll abolish Temporary Protection Visas and they've said that they will bring people to Australia from Manus Island. Now that is a recipe for disaster even worse than what Kevin Rudd prevailed over.
So we need to get people off Nauru and Manus to the United States – which is what we're doing – and there have been some further positive hand-downs from the State Department out of the US in the last few days; that means that we can get people off as quickly as possible.
I didn't put people onto Manus Island, but I want to get them off. Labor put 8000 kids into detention; I've got those children out of detention. They opened 17 detention centres; we've closed 17. They had 1200 people drown at sea and not a single person has drowned on my watch and I'm not about to start presiding over that sort of mess now.
So I am worried that Mr Shorten – who I think is the most insincere politician since Kevin Rudd – this bloke is not about trying to find policy outcome for the good of our country, he's about trying to contain the Left of his party. Remember he only got the boats policy through the conference in the run up to the 2016 election with support from the CFMEU in some grubby deal behind the scenes.
Now I don't think Mr Shorten can hold the Left for much longer. They're obviously going crazy because they're expressing concern about people on Manus and that they should come here. I promise you that is a recipe for the boats to restart and the fact that Mr Shorten is going to go to an election now saying that is policy is not the same as Malcolm Turnbull's – that is he doesn't support Operation Sovereign Borders – I think is a very significant step for Mr Shorten and he should frankly be upfront, because in his interview there, there are all sorts of mealy mouthed words, but he didn't say what he was planning and he's got this secret deal that he's trying to conjure up. Come out with the details so that people in full time before the next election can understand the consequences of new boats arriving, new deaths at sea, more kids in detention. Where will the detentions centres open again in Australia? These are the questions that Mr Shorten needs to answer.
Okay. In terms of the New Year, there's a bit of speculation ending the year that the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has found a bit of a circuit breaker with same-sex marriage and Sam Dastyari, but in the lead up to that there's still been a lot of ongoing discussions about the leadership, talk of Scott Morrison returning to the leadership, of Julie Bishop. How do you think the public would regard the Liberal Government, the Coalition, if you were to change prime ministers again before the next election?
Well Sam, I've been very clear that I serve in Malcolm Turnbull's Cabinet because I am 100 per cent loyal him. It was the same approach that I took to accepting the ministry position in the Abbott Government.
I believe strongly that we can defeat Bill Shorten at the next election. He is a fake and a phony. If you know Bill Shorten, you know that he is a shonk and a phony; I mean that's the reality. He is, as I say, at least as insincere as Kevin Rudd was and people see that. I mean you see it in the numbers. You hear it when you speak to people on the street. People don't think Bill Shorten would be a worthy Prime Minister of our country.
And that's why we need to make sure that where we've got issues, policy issues, where we've got concerns, where the public believe that we're not performing strongly enough, we're going to step up. And we'll do that in 2018 because I think we've finished the year well. I think we have the ability to implement policies in the run up to the next year's Budget and announcements in next year's Budget which will, I think, see people come back to the Coalition – particularly those that might be parked temporarily with Cory Bernardi or One Nation.
And it's essential that we are the broad church that John Howard described us as and others. I think that's incredibly important for us to reach out across the political divide because there are people on both the right and the left at the moment that don't believe Shorten would be good for this country – quite the opposite – and I think we can win the next election with Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister and certainly that's what I'm dedicating myself to do.
But how great is the risk given where the polls have been, given a lot of internal tensions within the Liberal Party; how great is the risk that there will a mood emerging next year for a change of leader?
Paul, I think if we're all united and we all back the Prime Minister in, I think we can win the next election and win it well.
There is a lot of work to do between now and then. There's no sense in us sticking our heads in the sand and saying we're not hearing the concerns that people have, we are. We are listening to their concerns about where they think we've made mistakes over the course of this term of government or over the course of the last few years. We're listening to those concerns. We will react, if we haven't reacted already, to try and address some of those concerns.
And I believe that we can win the next election because people don't want to see loss of control of our borders again, people don't want to see women and children drowning at sea, they don't want to see kids back in detention. People don't want to see our country plunged into enormous debt under a Labor Government that was there to serve to serve the union bosses, not the union workers – that's the reality.
We will continue work hard and, as I say, if we work hard in a united way, I believe that we can win the election and win it well. But there is a lot of water under the bridge and a week's a long time in politics as they say and we've got a long time between now and June 2019, when the next election is scheduled to be held.
Now this week we saw in the same-sex marriage debate, a whole series of amendments designed to secure religious protections being defeated. These related to freedom of speech, protection of charities, protection of institutions and individuals – they were all defeated.
How important is it, do you think, that the Liberal Party and the Turnbull Government take a strong stand in terms of religious freedom off the back of the Ruddock Review which is due in the early part of next year?
Paul, I think it is important and that's obviously why I voted for each of the amendments. I think there are lots of people who voted yes – including some church leaders – who I think now that marriage has been settled that in the New Year, they will support adequate protections.
Nobody's talking about supporting discrimination, but people are talking about supporting parental choice. People are talking about making sure that those that want to attend a church on a Sunday or have a strong religious belief, have the ability to practice that belief.
Now, in other parts of the world there are enshrined protections around that religious protection that's deemed necessary in those countries and allows people that freedom of religious practice. I think we need to address it here which is why I support the Ruddock Review. I think it's important for us to have a look at this next year.
But next year otherwise will largely be about the economy, about issues relating to our support for families and this is an important issue, I think, for a number of families. And whether you're religious or not; whether you attend church once a year, never have been to church, you're a strong believer, attend every week – it doesn't matter – you support the right in a country like ours, for people to be able to express their own view.
If you send your kids to an Anglican school, or a Catholic, or a Jewish school – whatever it is – you expect that that school has the ability to teach in accordance with that religious practice.
And I think, as I say, once we're out of the shadow now of the marriage debate, the sorts of protections that we talked about in the last parliamentary sitting week, I think it is proper for those to be considered by the Ruddock Review. It will come up with recommendations.
Now Mr Shorten was out yesterday saying that he wanted to extend a hand of support or friendship to those people – particularly in Western Sydney in Islamic communities, in communities otherwise that meant their religious belief saw them vote no in the plebiscite, saw them vote no in the plebiscite – that he wanted to provide support for them. It's a complete con. I mean Bill Shorten is the biggest conman politics has seen, as I say, since Kevin Rudd. If he believed in supporting these measures, he would've allowed his members a free vote in Parliament on the mechanisms of support around religious practice and parental choice last week. He didn't. He bound them to voting against them and if they do that out of the recommendations next year, then again, you'll see the true picture of Bill Shorten promising one thing one day and doing the complete opposite the next. I think that's the reality.
Okay. We're almost out of time, but before we go the citizenship fiasco continues to drag on. The Government had the opportunity to refer more Labor MPs to the High Court to resolve this issue, but said no to that in the Parliament this week because it would also involve referring some of your own.
Isn't this a bit of a protection racket? If there's any question over Nola Marino and some of your other Liberal MPs including Alex Hawke and you are confident that they don't have a problem, why not refer them to the High Court so Australia can get on with it?
Sam, the Government has already referred people to the High Court. We were ahead of Bill Shorten, we were honest. The Prime Minister was honest about each of the people where we thought there was a concern and it became very clear about who had a concern and who didn't have a concern off the back of the judgement in the High Court.
Now, Mr Shorten was out there promising, again, to people that the Labor Party had no problem, no issue, none of his members had concerns about their citizenship, the process was more rigorous within the Labor Party screening people before they were pre-selected – again, it was all a lie.
So where it's clear now that people do have a problem within the Labor Party, they should have been referred by Bill Shorten. And far from this being a protection racket, it was an opportunity for Mr Shorten to step up, to show leadership and to refer those people who were clearly in breach of Section 44 and again he failed to do it.
And the fact that Mr Shorten was going around to the independent members in the lower house saying: four of ours are in question – four of the Labor Party members are in question and should be referred, but we won't refer those unless you support a motion which refers four of the Liberal Party people – presumably just picked at random – so that there were four from each side was a complete nonsense. I mean it was a juvenile approach to it.
And our people – where we had a concern, including Barnaby Joyce and Fiona Nash and others – have already been referred. They've been dealt with or they're in the process of being dealt with; such as John Alexander who I think is a great member for Bennelong and I hope will be returned on the 16th.
Mr Shorten should have stepped up and the failure of leadership again was by Mr Shorten and that's why I think people have a great doubt about the leadership qualities of Bill Shorten and he demonstrated and made people believe, I think, in that doubt again this week as a result of his actions.
Alright, Peter Dutton, we're going to have to leave it there. Thank you very much for your time. You've been very generous with it, we appreciate it.
Thanks Sam, thanks Paul.