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Thursday, 30 August 2018
Transcript

Interview with Ray Hadley, Radio 2GB-4BC

Subjects: Home Affairs portfolio; Ministerial intervention powers; section 44 legal advice; Five Country Ministerial meeting; Illegal boat arrival.

EO&E.........................................

RAY HADLEY:

Minister, good morning.

PETER DUTTON:

Good morning Ray.

RAY HADLEY:

Been a big week.

PETER DUTTON:

Nice to be home is all I can say.

RAY HADLEY:

[Laughs]

PETER DUTTON:

Back in Strathpine today for our Dickson Seniors Expo. The 15th year and there'll be lots of wonderful people there, so looking forward to it.

RAY HADLEY:

Okay. Scott Morrison defeated you in that ballot. Named you in the Cabinet. He made you the Home Affairs Minister. Now, you wouldn't believe it, I got a lot of emails from people saying what exactly does that mean? The Home Affairs Minister, particularly as David Coleman, your colleague, is now Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs. So where does Home Affairs fit?

PETER DUTTON:

Well just quickly Ray, it's modelled on the United Kingdom model of the Home Office, which has been around for many decades. So it brings together all of the law and intelligence agencies in Australia.

So we have the AFP, we have ASIO, which is our domestic intelligence agency, we have the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, the Office of Transport Security – so security at our airports – it brings all of that together under one umbrella. I had two junior Ministers before; Angus Taylor was the second one, he had cyber and also critical infrastructure – so I take all of that back into my portfolio now – and the second position, which has now been created into Immigration and Multicultural Affairs is filled by David Coleman, who's a fantastic fellow out of New South Wales. Many people would know him and he takes the immigration element, which I'm happy with because I've got plenty to concentrate on in my space.

So I'm the Cabinet Minister still in the portfolio and so David's the Minister that works with me and then I have a Parliamentary Secretary.

RAY HADLEY:

So Home Affairs still oversees in Cabinet immigration and the rest?

PETER DUTTON:

Yes it does. Yeah sure.

RAY HADLEY:

Okay. Alright. So there's not much change there.

Now, I've got to address this issue and I think I know the answers, about the French au pair, and an approach by Gill McLachlan to your office, either to you or your Chief of Staff. Apparently the woman planning to work for the Adelaide-based former Callum MacLachlan, different spelling, second cousin of Gillon apparently and then there's another Maclachlan who works for you, no relation whatsoever as I understand it.

PETER DUTTON:

No, no. Different spelling.

RAY HADLEY:

Yeah.

PETER DUTTON:

I mean, for some of these smart journalists at The Guardian, the ABC, Fairfax – no friends of mine – but to assert that somehow there was, that they were related, they had separate spelling of their surnames. No relation whatsoever.

RAY HADLEY:

Okay. So the bloke in your office, no relation to the other McLachlan’s. Okay, so that's fine.

You are the Minister responsible and sometimes you get applications from constituents, whether it's Gillon or someone else, about dealing with things directly. How many times would you do that in a course of a month do you think?

PETER DUTTON:

I would deal with hundreds of them a year literally.

RAY HADLEY:

Hundreds a year.

PETER DUTTON:

Yes.

RAY HADLEY:

Where you actually do make a decision on someone on merit as opposed to someone in your Department making a decision.

PETER DUTTON:

So there are delegates within my Department that deal with matters and then, generally speaking, the most urgent matters or controversial matters – visa cancellations or denial of visas around people that are coming here on speaking tours or somebody that's been caught up by bureaucratic anomaly – they’re the sorts of matters that come to me.

RAY HADLEY:

So what was the nature of the call from Gill about this young lady from France working as allegedly an au pair for his cousin? What was the nature of the call?

PETER DUTTON:

Well Ray, I don't want to talk about the individual circumstances, but I didn't speak to Gillon McLachlan about this…

RAY HADLEY:

…so you did not speak to him personally about it?

PETER DUTTON:

No, no I didn't and as I say, I get hundreds of these matters brought to my attention. Labor members come to me after Question Time every day about matters where there might be kids involved, there might be an illness involved. The decision maker within the Department has made a tough call and I can look at those matters – and that power of intervention has been granted to Liberal, Labor members, Ministers of Immigration for a long period of time – so you look at the particular circumstances.

In relation to these cases, you know, the au pair is the flowery language that's used. It's complete nonsense. So where you've got a young girl who's here on a Tourist visa staying with a family, in the interview, you know there are questions that are put about what you're doing here and the rest of it, all of that then leads to a young girl being detained as I recall the facts now, and it's a long time ago, but being detained in one of the immigration areas or the cell there and was to be turned around on a plane.

I had a look at the case and I made a judgement based on the merit of the case. Not my knowledge of the person that had referred it. I looked at it and thought look, it's a bit rough, there's no criminal history, she's agreed that she wouldn't work while she was here. As I understand it, she never overstayed the visa, hasn't committed any criminal offences and I thought it was an application of common sense.

Now, I've got lots of enemies in the media running around at the moment trying to get square for recent events and the rest of it. They can run all of this nonsense. The Greens have set up some dodgy Senate inquiry. Let them play their games.

For me, there are lots of important issues to concentrate on. I am a person of integrity. I have never been compromised. I never will. People can say lots of things about me, but they won't say that I act inappropriately. I make decisions on the merits of these cases. That's exactly what I’ve done and I stand by the decision.

RAY HADLEY:

Now, that that's taken care of, the Greens and the Labor Party, but you've had to contend with a fair bit in the last 10 days, including this section 44 nonsense which came out of the blue, completely out of the blue.

You had to produce evidence to the then Prime Minister that you were, in fact, in possession of legal advice and then I think there was a second piece of legal advice and maybe a third piece of legal advice before the Solicitor-General got involved in it; and that may well have come from within your own Party given the tensions of last week, but you are a large target as you do understand.

PETER DUTTON:

Well Ray, I don't resolve from any decision I've made. I believe very strongly that I've acted in our country's best interests, in our Party's best interests. I believe very strongly that Scott Morrison can get our Party back on course and put us in a position to win the next election – not going to be easy – there's no question about that. I understand the hurt of some colleagues, but I'm more determined than ever to make sure that we do well and that we achieve success at the next election.

I believe that we can because there is a big contrast now between Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten. We have the ability to win the election and that's what I'm going to apply myself to.

I've come under attack as Immigration Minister, Border Protection Minister over a long period of time and if these people think they're going to beat me down or somehow defeat me, they are completely and utterly wrong. It just makes me more determined to make sure that we fight for the things that are important.

I want electricity bills to come down and I believe Scott Morrison is going to deliver that. I want investment into dams and getting water out to our drought-affected areas. I want to make sure that we can do more in aged care and for older Australians and I think Scott Morrison will do that and much more. I think people see Bill Shorten for what he is and that will be the focus between the two men in the run up to the election.

RAY HADLEY:

You spent the week in Queensland, that's why you were sworn in early, hosting a major meeting of what they call the Five Eyes security partners; USA, Canada, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia. How did that all play out?

PETER DUTTON:

It was good. These are our best friends in the world in terms of exchange of information and intelligence. We've thwarted 14 attempted terrorist attacks here in Australia. We've done that in large part because we do rely on information and intelligence coming out of the Middle East through the United States or the United Kingdom in particular.

There was a big focus on child exploitation, which is a big area of focus for me. I want to make sure that we can do all we can to either cancel visas of paedophiles, stop kids uploading some of these images online. I want to make sure that it's a focus for Five Eyes and we really got that resolution out of the meeting.

So it was good to catch up with the Home Affairs Secretary from the UK and Homeland Security Secretary from the US and there's just a deepening of that friendship.

RAY HADLEY:

I do a segment on the Today Show regularly and I was almost astounded on Tuesday when I was asked by the host whether you took your eye off the ball in relation to the arrival of the boat people because of the machinations in Canberra last week.

I nearly had to shake my head in disbelief. We've got one boatload of 17 people arriving in a vessel north of Port Douglas and somehow you're personally responsible for that, that you didn't see it coming. Have you been able to ascertain how, given that we haven't had one come for 1400 days, how this one seemed to sneak through?

PETER DUTTON:

Well Ray, I've obviously had a lot of discussion with Steve Osborne, who's in charge at Operation Sovereign Borders. Obviously, our main threat comes from Indonesia and down the west coast or onto those islands. There is a lot of traffic that comes across the north. We have surveillance flights through there. All of that is monitored. If we need to increase the hours of surveillance flights that we have, then that will happen, but the events of last week, again, it's an opportunity for critics to take a cheap shot, but I don't conduct the surveillance. The Air Force and our contractors, the Border Protection staff do all of that. There was no disruption to that last week.

But we need to be realistic – as I've said all along. Bill Shorten talking about time limits of people on Nauru and then you'll come to Australia or people can come to New Zealand once they've been to Australia. The people smugglers hear all of this and I've sent a very clear message again this week that this Government is not going to tolerate people coming by boat. These people won't be staying in Australia. We settle people the right way, but we are not going to allow the boats to restart. As I've said before, there are 14,000 people in Indonesia waiting to get on boats now and this is an ever present threat for us.

We'll reassess the threat across the north. We've had a problem there with illegal fishermen before and we detain vessels on a regular basis – so Border Force will step up their efforts – but this vessel has got through, unfortunately, and we'll learn the lessons and the Vice Marshal's looking at ways in which we can improve that effort around surveillance and much of that will already have been implemented.

PETER DUTTON:

Okay, 15 went straight to Christmas Island. There were suggestions yesterday they'd be flown back within 24 hours to Vietnam after some agreement was reached with the Vietnamese Government. Where does that stand at the moment?

PETER DUTTON:

Well Ray, it's an operational matter at the moment obviously, so I just let it play out, but obviously we have a process to go through and as I've repeated again this morning, people who seek to come by boat will never settle here permanently and we're going through the processes now and we will make sure that that's the outcome.

RAY HADLEY:

And that two in custody with Federal Police in light of allegations that they may have been the organiser through a Sydney-based syndicate.

PETER DUTTON:

Well again, we know that we have onshore efforts to organise these vessels. We know that they're in contact with people smugglers offshore. We know that there's money to be made and that they will take the money off these people to put them on the boat; so we're conscious of that all the time. We have a number of AFP investigations and ASIO investigations underway on a regular basis around what involvement these people have had in trying to put together these ventures.

RAY HADLEY:

Okay, appreciate your time. We'll talk next week. Thanks very much.

PETER DUTTON:

I'll see you mate.