Subjects: Migration intake; Operation Sovereign Borders; Labor's border protection failures.
We might find out a bit about that from our next guest is one of the most senior members of the Turnbull Government, Peter Dutton, who is the Minister for Home Affairs. He's on the line now. Minister, good morning.
Now look, Peter Dutton, we'll kick it off if we can. There's been a big, I reckon, toughening over the last month in the tone of the discussion around population policy here in Australia particularly coming out of our crowded cities to the east. There seems to be a view now that Sydney, Melbourne, even Brisbane are pretty close to full. Is it the Government's view too, that Australia is close to full? And if Australia is close to full to the east, does it follow that cities like Adelaide could and indeed should expect to get a greater share of our migration intake?
Well from the Government's perspective we want to make sure that we're running a migration program that's in the national interest. So in – sometimes say a mining boom in WA, we will bring more people in through the skilled workers program. When the economy contracts, we don't have those jobs and we don't bring people in. So that's how the migration program should work. 2 www.minister.homeaffairs.gov.au
But you're right, there's a lot of concern particularly in Sydney and Melbourne around congestion, around housing affordability and people equate that back to numbers that are coming in through the migration program.
It's a different debate perhaps in South Australia where there seems to be a lot of people interested in getting more migration into the state and to try and drive the economy through that population growth.
So it's a different picture across the country, but in the end we want – if we're bringing people in, if we can't find an Australian to fill that job – we want somebody coming in who is as young as possible with the most skills so that they can pay taxes for as long a period of time as possible and contribute to the economy.
Our Premier Steven Marshall is on the record as saying that a higher population is not something that South Australians should fear. Have you had any discussions with him particularly in light of the growing concerns to the east about overcrowding, about whether somehow a tweak could be made to where these new settlers are sent?
Well we are looking at ways in which we can provide incentive for people to come to regional areas, to remote areas, to cities like Adelaide and it's a bit of a chicken and egg story though because we want to make sure that the jobs are there, that the industry is created. There's no sense in bringing people en masse into a community and people aren't working. There's all sorts of social disharmony and reasons why you wouldn't do that. So we need to get the sequencing right.
And I think Steven Marshall has done a great job out of the blocks and I think there's an air of confidence – as we're seeing in Tasmania with Will Hodgman down there – where business is starting to reinvest, there's job creation and people have the sense of confidence and I think the migration numbers flow after that because people will chase opportunity and they will chase jobs.
So get the business settings right first and then the people will come after that you'd hope?
I think that's exactly right.
WILL GOODINGS: 3 www.minister.homeaffairs.gov.au
So the permanent migration cap is 190,000 and cap being important as it's no longer a target. Just 162,000 permanent arrivals in the last 12 months. Is that more around the number you'd like to see continue, or you'd like to see it drop even further than that?
Well we've had some integrity measures in the Parliament around citizenship, around visas and one of the things we've really stressed over the last 12 months is that we don't want people coming in that are making fraudulent claims about their qualifications that are in dodgy relationships that have fraudulent documentation as part of their application. And we really have scrutinised many more applications over the course of the last year and that has brought the number down.
Labor had a target of 190,000 and we changed that to a cap. It was 183,000 the year before and down to 162,400 in the last 12 months. So that number has come back because of the additional scrutiny and I think we end up with a better migration program as a result of it.
But it's been a bit frustrating in the Parliament because we've had a number of Bills where we can't get Labor or Rebekha Sharkie to vote for those Bills and it makes it harder to run the migration program when you can't get those Bills through the Parliament.
Mr Dutton, we were talking last week about the speech that your colleague Alan Tudge gave in London where he talked about the incorporation of some kind of values test into the pledge, for want of a better word, that new citizens are expected to take with values going to things like equality of opportunity for both the sexes, you know, the right of women to get an education and so forth, respect for all religions, you know, scotching this idea that there is only one God that people should ever worship.
What's the status of that, because that obviously overlaps with your portfolio and it's an idea that certainly a lot of our listeners were very interested in?
Well Alan Tudge is doing that work at the moment. This is part of the look at ways in which we could potentially see more people moving out of the cities into regions. So it's pretty basic stuff. I mean, we want people to abide by the law, to integrate into our community. We don't want people to abandon their cultural beliefs, their practices, but if you're in Australia you abide by Australian law and you adhere to our way of life, to our cultures and that's the basic rule.
And the people who came over a long period of time – say post-the Second World War – came with nothing, worked hard, have amassed wealth, have educated their kids. There was no welfare in that period of post-Second World War. 4 www.minister.homeaffairs.gov.au
There is a very generous – one of the world's most generous welfare systems that operates in the country at the moment. So a basic ask is that if you're of working age and you have a capacity to work, we want you to work and not to come here for the welfare program and that sends a clearer message to kids and to families, if the role models in the family have a capacity to work and they are working.
So they're some of the fundamental elements that need to be reinforced and in some communities around the country, people seem to have abandoned those principles and to us as a Government that's not acceptable and as you say I think the vast majority of people would support that.
Minister, can I ask you about a story that's around today regarding Operation Sovereign Borders and the work that's been done with other governments in the region to quash the people-smuggling trade.
According to the information; 77 people-smuggling ventures have been disrupted, 2005 illegal maritime arrivals have been affected, 612 people have been arrested. Sounds like it's a massive operation.
How much of that was set to come to Australia? How much are we still a target of people-smuggling?
Oh, we're absolutely a target. There's no question. In Indonesia at the moment, there are about 14,000 people who are willing to get onto boats. We've turned back 33 boats. We've disrupted over 70, as you say and 600 people have been arrested in countries around our region so we've been working under Operation Sovereign Borders with many partners and this problem hasn't gone away.
I mean, we know in the first half of this year on the Mediterranean there have been 1400 people that have drowned or are missing, 50,000 people have come by boat so far and because we're not seeing boat arrivals get through at the moment because of Operation Sovereign Borders, people think the problem's gone away and the reality is that it hasn't.
And again, I mean we try to introduce legislation to make sure that we keep people-smugglers out of business, but you've got Labor, the Greens, Rebekha Sharkie who have voted against every Bill that we've put forward to try and make sure that we keep Operation Sovereign Borders relevant and strong and to defeat the people smugglers who are still willing to take cash today.
WILL GOODINGS: 5 www.minister.homeaffairs.gov.au
So has it reached though, the policy, it's sort of maximum level of effectiveness with regard to what it can do to dissuade the trade? If it's still ongoing, it's been in place for a period of time now.
Yes, but you've got, you know, people smugglers at the moment who are marketing New Zealand. Now, they may or may not plan to get New Zealand. They might be – their intent might be to run the boat up on to Christmas Island and not get to New Zealand, but New Zealand is being marketed. So we end up with that problem and you've got the reality of that situation.
When people talk about New Zealand being a destination that is a backdoor way into Australia. They've got a comparable welfare system – housing, education, all the rest of it – and it's a very attractive destination. And it's a backdoor entry into Australia because New Zealand is the only country in the world where you can come to Australia and get a visa on arrival. Every other country – the United States, United Kingdom, Canada – you need a visa before you hop on the plane to get here.
And that's why a lot of this talk about 'oh well let's just send people to New Zealand' is quite dangerous because the people-smugglers are marketing that as a reason to hop on boats again and people believe that they can get to New Zealand and that's still a big problem for us.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, thanks for your time.
Pleasure, thanks guys.