Subjects: Taskforce Storm, Citizenship ceremonies, exploitation of visa holders, Victoria's involvement in China's Belt and Road Initiative.
The Home Affairs Minister, we talk to him most Thursdays, Peter Dutton. He's in Thailand. He's on line right now. Minister, good morning.
Good morning Ray.
What are you doing over there this week?
We've had a couple of things. Firstly, we had a counter terrorism financing conference. So a lot of concern obviously on foreign fighters. We've spoken about that on the show before, so a lot of exchange of intelligence and tracing money which in a couple of cases resulted in terrorist attacks being thwarted.
So we did that and we've now travelled up to Chiang Rai near the Golden Triangle, so we're doing a lot of work with the local agencies here. There's tonnes of product, of heroin, amphetamine, precursors and what-not coming out of this part of the world and this is the biggest source of heroin for Australia as well.
We've signed an agreement to continue an operation and we're doing work with the Australian Federal Police, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Border Force on the ground here. So it's a good and necessary collaboration and hopefully we can stop drugs being imported as best we can out of this part of the world into Australia.
Okay, that's reported today by Renee Viellaris in the Courier Mail your hometown newspaper. 'Defiant Dutton vows to keep Thai Storm-front raging' in relation to the Golden Triangle so that's good news. These drugs that are sent to Australia, do they come in large quantities or rather small parcels through the post?
Well both. There's a lot that comes through the post, but the big quantities are often on ships, on a mother ship that will meet up with smaller ships, imported through air cargo as well. So any way that they can cross the border and just given the price that Australians are prepared to pay for drugs, tragically one of the highest prices in the world, it makes us a really desired destination and the drug dealers and traffickers will go to great lengths and they're factor in that some drugs will be seized and that's just part of the cost of doing business. So a terrible thing.
Okay. The Prime Minister's in North Queensland. He had a people's forum in Townsville last night. But I'm trying to catch him for just a few minutes this morning and I might have some luck, but I just want to canvas this with you.
We had Byron Bay Council trying to change the Australia Day celebrations, move them altogether. Now I'm finding some councils are trying to do it in a rather sneaky way. What they're doing, they're bringing the citizenship ceremonies away from the Australia Day to the 25th of January. The three I'm targeting today are Bellingen on the north coast, Kempsey on the north coast and closer to Sydney the Hawkesbury City Council. Now I got a statement from the Prime Minister's office saying: the Government is aware of the council's decision and the Department of Home Affairs is engaging with the councils to seek further information.
Now, they've come up with this brainstorm Minister, I got a note this morning from Hawkesbury that said: 'oh look, it gets really hot out here in summer' – thanks scoop – 'so what we're doing we're going to have them on Friday afternoon.' What escaped them is there's also a Saturday afternoon which happens to be Australia Day. Now, you take people at their word and say we're doing it for a good reason, but it appears to me, and I've spoken to a councillor who comes from the Liberal side of politics out there in the Hawkesbury who said: 'Ray, its all nonsense. They just want to try and move the citizenship away from Australia Day to make a statement to those who they represent being the Greens and Labor.'
What can we do about it?
Well Ray the Government's written already to, I think it was 538 councils, warning them, providing advice around what needed to happen and we've stripped the ability for some councils to hold Australia Day ceremonies.
So it's not about politics and if they want to make it about politics they can do it on their own time, but we'll find somebody else to do the citizenship ceremony and the councils that you mentioned need to be warned. So I don't care whether people are seeking to move it in an obvious way, playing games, the intent is very clear and Australians don't want councils playing politics with these issues. And this might be the agenda of the Greens and the Labor Party, but it's not the agenda of ratepayers and people that expect Australia Day to be a respectful day, ceremonies to be conducted for young kids and parents who have taken Australian citizenship, probably for a lot of them the proudest day in their life. They don't want to be disrupted by this nonsense.
So, as I say, if they want to use taxpayers money and ratepayers money to run political causes, well hopefully they're voted out the next council election, but for us the rules are pretty clear, they've signed up to that and if they're not going to abide by it then they'll find themselves without the ability to conduct a ceremony.
Well simply because it falls on a weekend they're sort of relying on the fact; 'oh we're going to have this wonderful celebration over the course of the weekend,' but the three of them are combining to make citizenship a feature of the 25th, not the 26th and I see it – as other councillors on the council – as a statement of snubbing their nose at you and the Government saying: 'ah, we'll get around what you've ordered us to do by having it, because we'll have it on a night, not on the day time, the day before Australia Day.' It's just a dead set dud of what you've instructed them.
Well the rules are clear. They abide by them or they're out.
Okay. Look you've been away, I don't expect you're across this one, but there was a terrible crash into a Maccas restaurant and other facilities at a place called Fairy Meadow on the way down the hill from Mount Ousley at Wollongong.
Since then all ten of the trucks owned by the transport company called Hari Om which is owned by a gentleman of Indian origins have been found to be defective by the RMS in New South Wales.
Now I got a tip yesterday that what this company does, they employ Indian student visa holders, they then get them to work well in excess of the 20 hours they're allowed. They pay them 12 bucks an hour and I've checked the name of the young man responsible for this crash and I mean, he's a young bloke, 23, I'm told that he and other truck drivers don't want to top off the company for fear of them losing their student visa – although I don't think they're going to university, by the way.
What do we do about these sort of things? Because it seems to be an increasing industry – bringing students out here to work in the transport industry, or other industries, illegally. What do we do?
Well Ray, there's an enforcement section within the Australian Border Force and they conduct these investigations. There's an operation, Cadena, which is set up not only with Border Force, but also with the AFP, with the ATO, the Fair Work Ombudsman and they investigate these matters. So if students are being exploited, workers are being exploited, people are doing the wrong thing, then that's right within their area of responsibility.
So I've asked the Australian Border Force to commence inquiries and they've done that. So that investigation is underway, as it should, given the nature of the serious allegations and they'll look as to whether or not there's evidence of the allegations that have been made.
It's a tragic, tragic circumstance – we have students who come here to study. They have the ability to work 40 hours a fortnight during the course of the semester and many of them will be involved in 7-Elevens or convenience stores, all sorts of retail, tourism etc. So that's what they're supposed to be doing and if people aren't abiding by the law then there's a consequence. In some cases, people will have their visas cancelled and they'll leave the country. In other cases, employers will be charged with exploiting those workers or acting outside the law.
So there are a number of angles and obviously the New South Wales Police have got an investigation underway given the terrible circumstances.
Look, I know you sometimes get an ulcer worrying about what happens in Victoria, but you should be getting another ulcer today.
This Chinese Belt and Road Initiative and we explained it to our listeners yesterday – it's about infrastructure spends across the globe. It's about Chinese influence. It's been knocked on the head by all states, all territories and the Federal Government.
On the eve of election on November 24, somehow Daniel Andrews decides it's a good idea. Now, even his Labor federal colleagues are criticising him. Some, or one publicly, the rest privately, saying: 'they can't believe that a Victorian Labor Premier would get involved with such a matter.' Where's your view?
Well Ray, I mean, it's very clear. Australia makes its own decisions. We don't rely on other countries. We don't accept foreign influence in our society.
This is a very strange decision by Daniel Andrews and as you say, it's rightly being criticised by all and sundry. Now, we need to know the rest of the detail. Obviously allegations – I've noted in the press today about staff…
….his Chief of Staff is a bloke called Marty Mei and Marty Mei has connections to a whole range of Chinese Communist Party fronts.
Well, I just think there is more here that people aren't yet aware of and I think Mr Andrews needs to provide that information, particularly on the eve of an election.
Don't forget that his is the worst government in Australia on law and order. We've discussed it up hill and down dale. He's a disaster and people are becoming victims of crime in Victoria because of Daniel Andrews and it's unacceptable.
And now, for this quite bizarre eleventh hour announcement, it really smacks of something quite strange to me and I think Mr Andrews should explain the full detail, what's behind it and why he's made this decision.
It's quite at odds with Australian Government policy, with Liberal Party policy, Labor Party policy and we need to understand the influences and the reasons for his decision here.
Okay. Travel safely. Thanks for your time.
Thanks Ray. See you mate.