Loading

Monday, 03 September 2018
Transcript

Press Conference, Brisbane

Subjects: Ministerial intervention powers; de-register of the CFMEU; business investments.

EO&E....

QUESTION:

Minister Dutton do you now concede that you knew the man from the police force, who you assisted with the visa for the au pair?

PETER DUTTON:

I’ve never denied that, the question was do I have some personal link. I worked with Mr Keag, I left the Queensland Police in July 1999, I worked with him before that. I can’t recall that I’ve ever had a conversation with him or socialised since then with him. I’m advised by my office that when he made the contact to the particular visa issue he made it through either the publicly available email address or Facebook. He didn’t have my mobile number, he didn’t have my private email address so let’s be realistic here; there are a lot of people who are playing games at the moment.

The Labor Party can throw all the mud that they like but the reality is we have done the right thing in securing our borders. I've cancelled 58 visas of people involved in child exploitation, we've cancelled visas otherwise, including of bikies et cetera. The ministerial power has always been there, under both Liberal and Labor Ministers. It's been used sensibly I think, to my knowledge, by my predecessors. And it necessarily is enlivened when you're not going to take the departmental advice.

So, I assisted recently in a case where there was a sick child who required medical assistance. Now technically, the advice from the department was that I shouldn't issue that visa. And this is the point. Ministers before me, during my time as Immigration Minister as well; you act on cases based on the merits of the case, but to say that I had some personal link or that I was acting on behalf of somebody that I was personally associated with, is a complete nonsense.

QUESTION:

Do you concede that you misled the Parliament?

PETER DUTTON:

No, not at all. No, quite the opposite. Now, I've got a series of cases that have been put to me by Labor members and I've kept a very good list actually of MPs who have come to me with quirky cases and I'd be happy for example for – there are some people who have been very quiet in this debate –  Chris Bowen for example or Brendan O'Connor or Tony Burke who were Immigration Ministers in the Rudd and Gillard years; I would like you to ask them questions about the sorts of visas that they've issued or where they've intervened to use their ministerial power.

I suspect it's completely above board and not too different from many of the facts in the cases where I've been able to act. But to say that in either case, I mean, Mr Maclachlan, I'm not aware that I've ever met Callum Maclachlan, I know Gill McLachlan obviously, but I don't know that I've ever met – I’ve got no record of ever having met with Callum Maclachlan – so to say that I've got some situation where I've helped out a friend – its complete garbage and it should be called out for that.

I'll be happy to defend these matters in the House of Representatives. Labor can ask me 10 questions every day when we go back, if that's what they want to do, but they'll get a whack back because the Labor Party – as I say, a few key players – have been very silent over the course of the last couple of weeks.

I am a person of integrity and I'm very proud of that fact. I have a distinguished background as a police officer in Queensland; I've done my best in every portfolio that I've held. I'm proud of the investment that we're making today in relation to child exploitation, which is an area – countering that child exploitation – that I feel very passionately about. I'm happy to talk about the matters because I have nothing at all to hide.

QUESTION:

On a bit of a different note. Do you agree with Prime Minister Morrison's comments this morning, to de-register the CFMEU?

PETER DUTTON:

Well, in relation to the CFMEU, you've got dozens and dozens of people who are personally known to Bill Shorten. If you want to talk about character, have a talk to Bill Shorten about some of the associates, now – not just within the CFMEU, but some of the other unions as well – Bob Hawke had the decency to de-register the BLF because they were involved in underworld-type activities. The CFMEU has at the highest level within its organisation, people that have their character under question, including some that have been charged criminally. Have a look at the comments that have been made in some of the transcripts, by some of the Justices that have examined these matters in the Federal Court and elsewhere.

These are people that are involved in criminal activities. So, should Bill Shorten disassociate himself from the CFMEU? Absolutely. Did they give millions of dollars to the union movement? Of course they did, they gave over $1 million to GetUp! So, they're influential within the Left of politics in this country. But let's be realistic, if you've got character questions to ask, ask them of Bill Shorten. And so, I would support any action the Prime Minister took to look at de-registering the CFMEU.

QUESTION:

Labor…[inaudible]…asking you to intervene in a number of immigration cases, are they now being hypocritical with their attacks on you?

PETER DUTTON:

Of course they are. Look, there would have been Liberal and National Party members who went to Labor ministers saying, I've got this quirky circumstance where – I’ll tell you other cases that I've dealt with – where a grandmother is here visiting her children and grandchildren, has a stroke while she's here, she can't travel. The advice from the Department to me, is that the visa is coming to an expiry date and the woman should be deported back to her country of origin. I've intervened in those cases where Labor members have come to see me, I don't know whether they've got a personal friendship with that family or known to those people. I take at face value the undertakings that have been given to me by Labor Members of Parliament. And I look at those cases, act – as I say – on the merit of each and if I can intervene, I do. If I deem it's inappropriate, I don't. But I deal with literally hundreds of these cases each year and that's the facts.

So, you know, the Labor Party and the Greens, I mean, why do the Greens hate me? It's got nothing to do with this issue. This issue is just a proxy for their problems on border protection. They don't like the Manus and Nauru scenario that, frankly, they helped create when they were in coalition with the Labor Party when they were last in government. So let's be realistic. If they want to point to facts where there is some wrongdoing, then let's examine them. But frankly, there is nothing here and it's just a bit of mud throwing, I think.

QUESTION:

Can you clarify whether any of those Labor and Greens and these approaches were for any personal matters at all to your knowledge or were they all on behalf of constituents?

PETER DUTTON:

Well again, I will be happy to go into some matters in Question Time, potentially. So I'm gathering some of that information at the moment because I've been quite gobsmacked by the hypocrisy from some of those within the Greens and Labor and as I say, there are approaches I get after Question Time almost every day from members of the Labor Party and elsewhere.

Chris Bowen has written to me hundreds of times asking me to intervene in matters. Now has he got a personal connection with any of those people? You would need to ask him that. Is it of benefit to him and his electorate if he helps somebody out? You would need to ask him that. I take it at face value that the representations that are made to me; I look at the individual cases, the merit of the cases and in many of those cases I'm able to act. And as I say, if it's not an appropriate case to intervene, then I don't.

QUESTION:

Minister, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he is open to a Royal Commission into the energy companies. Is that the sort of thing that you're happy with having…[inaudible]… is that an issue that you've raised with Cabinet or your fellow ministers before you raised it during the leadership spill?

PETER DUTTON:

Well, I'm fortunately back on the frontbench so I think I made some comment when I was a freelancing backbencher. I'm on the frontbench and I'll leave comments about energy policy to the Minister and to the Prime Minister.

QUESTION:

Back on to immigration. Do you concede perhaps the personal connection line, while it may not have been misleading in Parliament was a little bit lazy with the facts, to say you didn’t have a personal connection?

PETER DUTTON:

No. Just let me make this point as well. Remember when the allegation first came up, the suggestion was that my family had benefited from this arrangement, right? So the allegation was that my family was going to employ somebody as an au pair. Look, my wife works, but I can tell you she is a great wife and a great mother. We've never had an au pair. She's never asked for one. We've never been in a situation where we've wanted to employ an au pair. We've made an active decision not to over the years. That was the original mud that was thrown and I denied all of that, said that there was no personal gain or involvement. Not for me, not for my wife, not for my children. So again, go back and have a look dispassionately at the history of this. Labor has tried to, or the Greens have tried to, or somebody frankly who's disaffected within Australian Border Force, has gone through and tried to find a way to throw some mud. I'm big enough, ugly enough to take care of myself and as I say, I'm a person of high integrity. I pride myself in that. If there are cases where people can point to that I've done something illegal or immoral, point to them, but I've looked at cases where I think there's been an anomaly or I think there's been some injustice and I've acted on that. And I've often said that these are cases that rarely get aired publicly, where you can help that sick child or a mother that's been ripped off by siblings overseas and has no money to go, to fly back to their country of origin, that's actually the side the public doesn't see of making the tough decisions and the visa cancellations of the bikies and closing down offshore detention centres and dealing with boats, all of that. The satisfying part in relation to this job, at least in part, is where you can help in these cases and to suggest there's something improper is really, I think, only said for political purposes.

QUESTION:

If the shoe were on the other foot and Labor was in power and the Immigration or Home Affairs Minister intervened for someone who turned out to be a former colleague, do you think the Coalition would raise the issue?

PETER DUTTON:

But again what’s the allegation here. Somebody that I knew in a workplace 20 years ago that I’ve not socialised with in 20 years, doesn’t have my mobile phone number, doesn’t have my private email address. I never spoke to this person. Either individual in relation to these matters. Now it’s salacious because Labor’s thrown in the word ‘au pair’ or French or Italian in there. These were two women who were here on tourist visas. They undertook, as I am advised, not to conduct volunteer work, but to be here as a tourist. They abided, as I am advised, by the conditions of that visa. They didn’t overstay their visas. I’ve got countless examples where Labor were issuing visas to bikies, to people who were involved in serious criminal crimes. Now I don’t know whether those people have links to the CMFEU, but I’m digging up some of that detail at the moment and I can assure you not one of those on my watch because I have taken a very tough stance in relation to visa cancellations and I have acted appropriately where I’ve decided to reinstate a visa, but again some of the – what was the great revelation from the ABC the other day – that I’d acted against Departmental advice – every Ministerial intervention acts against Departmental advice for the reasons I’ve pointed out and that’s been the case for every Minister past, that’s the nature of it.

QUESTION:

Care to elaborate on the bikies that were let in?

PETER DUTTON:

I might just save that for Question Time.

QUESTION:

Minister will you change your ownership interests in those two Brisbane child care centres before the next election?

PETER DUTTON:

Well again, I’m quite angry about this. People can throw all the mud they want at me right, I’m in an elected office, I know what I’ve done is perfectly in accord with the rules whether it’s in the visa space or what I need to declare in relation to my business interests. What I’m angry about though is that my wife has received death threats as a result of this scrutiny. Now my wife’s business interests have nothing to do with me. I’ve not taken one dollar by way of distribution through that arrangement. I wouldn’t have been inside the businesses since – I couldn’t tell you when. I’ve listened dutifully when my wife might come home with stories about her workplace as I’m sure she does with me. I had the advice in relation to this structure when it was originally set up that there was no breach of Section 44, I’ve had it confirmed by another two QCs since then that there is no possible breach of Section 44 and I’ll take advice from my legal advisers if there’s a perceived issue. But the two barristers who have provided advice to me have both been successful in recent Section 44 cases in the High Court.

The cobbled together advice by the Labor Party, by Mr Walker SC, didn’t have any information, or any facts, or any instructions from me and I note that Mr Walker represented a case in the High Court recently on Section 44 that was unsuccessful.

Now the Solicitor-General has made his advice clear, the Prime Minister’s been very clear about his view on these matters, I have always structured my affairs in accordance with ministerial standards or what needs to be declared publicly and I will always do that. As I say, happy to take advice in relation to it. I don’t come from a rich background, I started work in a butcher shop after Year 7 until I finished university. I bought my first house through that savings at 19 and I’m proud of the fact that I have worked hard, as my wife has, and I’m not going to apologise to anyone for that.

QUESTION:

And just quickly for Perth. Can you give us an update on the Yongah Hill Detention Centre?

PETER DUTTON:

I’ll let the ABF make further comment during the course of the day as issues develop.

The point I would make is that as we’ve not had the thousand people a week arriving off boats like we saw under Labor, we’ve got a reduction obviously in number of people in detention who’ve come off boats as you would expect. A lot of the people who would be off boats in detention centres now would be people who have gone into the community committed offences and have gone back into immigration detention.

The vast majority now of people going into our immigration detention networks are those people who have committed offences that have had their visas cancelled on character grounds. So you are seeing a much hardened element of person going into the detention centres and I would just bear that in mind in relation to some of the actions of some of the individuals.

QUESTION:

Senator Fierravanti-Wells has said that Scott Morrison’s backers were plotting for some time to get him into the Prime Minister’s office, do you agree with her?

PETER DUTTON:

Well as I say a week is a long time in politics and I’m firmly focussed forward.

QUESTION:

The timing of the au pair leaks, do you think it’s possible it came from within the Liberal Party or within your own Department?

PETER DUTTON:

With these things it’s impossible to know, the only think I’m focussed on is working very closely with the Prime Minister. I believe, as I’ve said, both publicly and privately, Scott Morrison is a person of integrity, he’s a person that has a great back story that people will relate to. I think Queenslanders in particular, but I think people across the country will contrast his strong character and what he can do for this country as Prime Minister to somebody like Bill Shorten who is consorting and benefitting from the relationship with criminals and thugs in the CMFEU.

The CFMEU donates millions of dollars to the Labor Party. They are the biggest vote within the Labor Party conference. Bob Hawke had the decency and the strength of character to disassociate the Labor Party with the BLF – the predecessor to the CFMEU – and Mr Shorten clearly doesn’t have that character.

Thank you