Subjects: Australia Day; energy crisis; media reforms; Migration Amendment (Prohibiting Items in Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill 2017; SIEV 221.
Most Thursdays we speak to Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton. He's on the line now from our Canberra studio. Minister, good morning.
Good morning Ray.
Now, another council in Melbourne has announced it will stop celebrating Australia Day on 26 January. This is Moreland City Council. They've voted to dump all references to the national day joining Darebin and Yarra.
One of the things I say about this is the people in these municipalities get what they deserve. If you're going to elevate the Greens to a majority of councillors in your council area, this is the lunacy you get.
Well that's right and if you look at what happened in the Federal Parliament with Julia Gillard – and you're seeing it again now with Bill Shorten – that is people have voted for the Greens, you do get what you vote for. And when you get the Greens and the Labor Party forming an alliance then people can expect these sorts of outcomes.
So in the Parliament this week we saw Mr Shorten join with Adam Bandt and the other Greens, including in the Senate, to try and knock out the Bill that we've got in relation to strengthening citizenship Ray.
So these are the sorts of stunts that they pull and it shows what truly they believe in their hearts, but they don't always want to talk about it and they don't want to tell people about some of their true intent.
But these values questions and these discussions that are going on at moment Ray, frankly, I think it's a good thing because I think it's a case in our country we take way too much for granted and I think it's important for people to stand up and to be heard on whether it's statues, whether it's Safe Schools – any of these issues – and this is just the latest.
Look one of the things you and I, I think, are in agreement with is that the defining moment between your side of politics and the other side of politics is border protection. It's inescapable that under Rudd-Gillard-Rudd 50,000 people came here illegally and that under the stewardship of Operation Sovereign Borders by Mr Abbott, your processor Morrison and now yourself and Turnbull, that we have successfully stopped the boats. That's inarguable – you've stopped the boats.
However, I do think based on what we read today, is there's another opportunity for your Government to distance themselves from the Labor Party and this is in relation to power. It really is important that we understand – and Labor don't understand it; they're moving towards a 50 per cent renewable target – that unless we have base load power in this country through coal-fired power stations, we're just about buggered. We're sending our coal to India, to China, to Japan where they're building dozens of new-style coal-fired power stations and yet here we are trying to prop one up that's been there for forty or more years and we want it to go for an extra five.
There's a decision in a court in New South Wales that wants to close down a more recently built power station west of Lithgow. The Greens and those in that region have fought against it. We had a Land and Environment Court decision go for the mine and then the Court of Appeals reversed that decision.
I mean when is this madness going to stop? And when is your Government finally going to say 'look, yes renewables should be part of what we're looking for in the next 30, 40 or 50 years, but in the meantime we need some coal to make sure we don't freeze in the winter and boil in the summer'?
Well Ray I think we're saying that. I think that's exactly what we're saying. That is that there's no technology that exists for storage of energy created by solar panels or windmills if the sun's not shining and wind's not blowing. So during hours of darkness, if it's raining, whatever, the solar panels on the roof don't provide energy and that's the reality. And until you can find a battery that's big enough to store energy that you can use in those off times, then we are going to rely on the base load energies, as you say, which is coal and Malcolm's announcement around Snowy Hydro 2.0 which has the capacity to provide that energy when solar is not working and the wind's not blowing and what not.
I think we've got to get back to the basics. I think there is a lot of opinion our there around renewables, frankly, particularly with a lot of younger people who believe that the technology already exists with solar panels and with renewables otherwise that could allow you to switch off coal and close down coal mines.
But as we know, the reality is that the power stations need to continue. If they don't, we end up with the situation like South Australia where on a good day you can have 100 per cent renewables because the sun's shining, but the next day the lights go out and you've got blackouts and we're de-industrialising our country if we do that.
I think the Prime Minister's been very clear that we need that mix, we need coal, and until somebody else can come up with a magic solution, we aren't going to turn the lights off. Not only that, people are paying huge power bills. They doubled when Labor was in government because they adhered to a lot of this Green ideology here and they sacrificed families and small businesses who have had huge spikes in their electricity prices.
But if we have Clean Energy Target which is unachievable – and in the past the Prime Minister has supported one that's unachievable – we know better than in government, the Labor Party that wants a 50 per cent target.
Well we just need to get the balance right Ray and that's the point …
…well what's the balance? I mean it's not …
…well the balance is that we …
… 20 per cent, not 25 per cent – it's no per cent really. In the current crisis Minister, in the current crisis we can't afford to have a Clean Energy Target because we're supplying coal to countries who pretend they've got one, but they don't have one.
China's building almost 200 coal-fired power stations in the next 10 years. Japan's building in excess of 40. Indonesia's building them - our nearest northern neighbour. We're not building any. We're trying to cling on to ones that are getting old.
But Ray the reason that there needs to be a balance and a mix here is that let's say that we funded, the Australian taxpayer – bearing in mind that the Government's got $500 billion worth of debt – let's say that we funded a new coal-fired power station to the tune of, I don't know, $5 billion. It would take six to eight years to build and when that new HELE plant, as it's referred to, that is a new generation coal power station was opened, there would still be a 20 or 25 per cent premium on prices now.
So the question is how you can get reliability; that is you can keep the lights on which Labor and Bill Shorten seem to have no regard for. So not only do you want that security in making sure that we keep base load going, you also need to have energy at affordable rates because otherwise people won't turn the air conditioners on when they need to and they won't have the heating and cooling that they require, businesses won't set up here – they'll move offshore and take jobs with them. So you do have to get that balance right.
I think the bigger problem is in relation to, not so much the capital investment upfront to build a new coal-fired power station, the difficulty is around the purchase contracts down the track.
So they're worried that if Labor gets into power and doesn't source anything from one of these particular coal-fired power stations then they don't have any business model going forward.
So the financiers look at it now and say 'okay you can build it now and maybe you'll get a contract under this Government, but what happens in five or 10 years when you can't sell the energy out of that plant'? I think all of that makes it a complicated mess, but we need to fix it.
Like with the boats – as you point out – we've inherited a mess from Labor and we're in the process of cleaning it up.
Okay. Nick Xenophon has all, but agreed, to changing media ownership laws. One Nation want tougher restrictions on the ABC, will they get that as part of this deal?
Well I hope there's support for it in the Senate because I do believe that the taxpayers' money spent at the ABC – there needs to be an account for that money. If people are getting $600,000 and $700,000 to front some of the shows – you know Barrie Cassidy these people on Insiders – and then they've got the audacity to talk about government expenditure elsewhere, well I think they need to be held to account. So I hope it has support in the Senate.
Okay. A couple of things pertaining to your ministry and I don't quite understand the story that I reported yesterday.
We've got a bloke on Christmas Island allegedly with links to outlaw motorcycle gangs trying to organise contract killings, escapes, riots. Is this a person who came to Australia, somehow settled here and became a member of an outlaw motorcycle gang whilst being treated for something in Australia before he returned to Christmas Island? How does this work?
No, so just a little bit of background. About three years ago, or say four years ago, when we were still living with the aftermath of those 50,000 people on 800 boats, there are about 99 per cent of people in immigration detention were people who came off boats.
Now because the boats have stopped and because we've got kids out of detention and we've closed those 17 detention centres, there's only now about 25 per cent within immigration…
…oh right, okay….
….so within immigration detention centres. And those people, largely Ray, will be people that have been out in the community – they came on a boat, they've been out in the community – they've committed a crime and I've cancelled their visa, they've gone back into immigration detention.
But the big population now within immigration detention is made up of the 501 cancellations that we speak about. So the character test failures, the bikies….
…and so they're not all at Villawood and centres in Victoria…
… no, no, they're all over.
You spread them everywhere.
Correct. And many are up on Christmas Island because for us that was the most hardened facility. So you're dealing with people that have come out of maximum security jails and that's why we've put them up there and hopefully for some of them into the future we can deal with them before they get out of jail so they go straight from jail to the plane.
Okay. Now one of the things that's lacking in the judiciary is common sense and I declare an interest here. I've known Geoff Bellew in the Supreme Court in his former life as a lawyer. His father was a distinguished president of the New South Wales Rugby League, the late Tom Bellew, a man I have great affection for and I knew Geoff as a much younger man. I often find myself puzzled by some of his decisions, but I can only applaud a decision he took recently.
Family members of dozens of asylum seekers killed or injured when their boat smashed onto Christmas Island have had their legal case against the Federal Government overwhelmingly rejected by the New South Wales Supreme Court which found border authorities had handled the tragedy properly. The quote from Justice Bellew said, 'those on board could have protected themselves simply by not undertaking the voyage in the first place.'
I mean it's an application of common sense and as you say Ray you don't always get it from some of those sitting within the judiciary, but on this occasion he's right.
People came on boats, it was a tragic horrific circumstance to see those people floundering in that situation, but the Australian Government didn't ask people to hop on boats and come here. And to then turn around and sue the Government is pretty amazing.
We're talking about a bill that the taxpayers will have to foot of about $1.5 million and the issue of cost hasn't been resolved yet in that case. But this George Newhouse, you'd know well, brought this action – represents lots of people in these sorts of cases – to sue the Australian Government.
In the end the Government only has money that we collect from taxpayers and dishing it out to causes like this I think infuriates people. It certainly infuriates me.
Well apart from what Geoff Bellew has said and one of the things that sticks with me and has stuck with me forever, is the sight of fit, healthy young men putting aside the old, I guess, story of women and children first and in some cases using women and children as some sort of launching pad to get themselves out of the water to safety and those people have no right to exist in any civilised society those type of people.
Well they don't deserve to be Australian citizen's full stop.
I want to praise the officers of the Australian Border Force and the Royal Australian Navy, all of those officers that are involved in that incident, but Operation Sovereign Borders otherwise Ray. They're just first class people and they do us proud regularly.
As you said before, I mean we stopped the boats, but the problem hasn't gone away. We've turned back 31 boats.
So these men and women are still serving at sea and in the air now to protect us from this threat and I believe very, very strongly that given that Bill Shorten's walked away now from a couple of the key parts of Operation Sovereign Borders that there's no way in the world that Labor can go to the next election saying that they've got the same tough policy in relation to border protection that we've presided over and I think that should be a big factor in the next election.
It has to be. Thanks for your time as always.
Thanks Ray. Thanks mate.