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It is a 'betrayal' when someone leaves a political party: Peter Dutton -

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SABRA LANE: So, how will the defection affect the Government? Joining me now to discuss this and other issues is the Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton.

Minister, thanks for joining us on AM.

PETER DUTTON: Morning, Sabra.

SABRA LANE: Will it be disloyal for Senator Bernardi to quit the Liberal Party, and effectively the Coalition?

PETER DUTTON: Well, let's wait and see what Senator Bernardi has to say today.

But all Liberals, all people who voted for Senator Bernardi or for any of us at the last election do so because they believe in the values that the Liberal Party represents, and for people to desert that cause, people will be angry and they will be disappointed.

But the principle that we have to adhere to here is that the enemy of the Liberal Party and the enemy of good government in this country is the Labor Party, and we can most effectively defeat the Labor Party at the next election if we're united and if we stick together as a party.

If we do that, we've got a good story to tell and we can defeat the Labor Party at the next election.

And for the good of small business and for families around the country, that is something we must do.

SABRA LANE: You just mentioned that, how Liberal Party supporters might be feeling towards him in South Australia.

People who handed out how to vote cards for him, you know, eight months ago - it's a betrayal of them isn't it?

And the Telegraph here's portrayed him as a rat.

PETER DUTTON: Well, as I say, Sabra, let's wait to see what Senator Bernardi has to say.

But it is a betrayal when somebody leaves a political party because, as you say, the grassroots members, people in many cases that have handed out for election after election because they believe in good government, because they believe in the cause of the Liberal Party, because they believe that we will keep our borders secure, that we'll keep the economy strong and that we will deliver a better outcome for all Australians.

And that's certainly a sense of betrayal that they would feel when somebody leaves our ranks, and in the end it dilutes our efforts to defeat the Labor Party.

And Bill Shorten would be a tragedy for this country - being run by the CFMEU and others that he's wholly owned by.

That would be a bad economic and social outcome for this country, and I don't think we should underestimate the threat of what a Shorten-led government would mean for this country.

SABRA LANE: There will be some in the Coalition who'll be quite happy with this, given that he can do more damage within the party, and now he can be dismissed as an outsider.

PETER DUTTON: Well, my view is that people are better and more effective at their job if they stay within the party.

They can argue the cause in the party room; people on the backbench in particular get to argue their point of view. They can agree or disagree with the executive. They can put forward ideas and they can argue those ideas.

And if we're united, if we're able to present with a united front to the public, then we can defeat and we will defeat the Labor Party at the next election.

And the consequences of allowing people to drown at sea again, or for boat, the boat trade to get back into business is inconceivable, but that is exactly what will happen if Bill Shorten was to be elected Prime Minister, and that's not something we should allow to happen.

SABRA LANE: Senator Bernardi, though, probably, if he does do what he, what we suspect he will, he'll still vote with the Government on most issues, and on key personal issues he'll do what he's always done.

PETER DUTTON: Well, again, that's an issue for independents.

But my very strong view is that people are much more effective inside the tent than they are outside.

And independents - whether it's Pauline Hanson, whether it's other independents, Nick Xenophon and others - in the end, these people can't govern our country.

They can make populist statements, they can put out views that people might be attracted to, but in the end they can't make the decisions that are required to govern in the best interests of our country.


PETER DUTTON: And the Liberal Party has demonstrated time and time again that we can manage the economy, that we can manage the crucial issue in the modern age of national security, and people are most effective inside the Liberal Party than they are outside.

SABRA LANE: What's the risk that others might follow?

George Christensen this morning says he's loyal to the Nationals, but he's also warned that a new vote on gay marriage, for example, is against the Coalition agreement.

PETER DUTTON: Well, George has also said that he's loyal to Barnaby Joyce, and that he's loyal to the LNP and to the Coalition, and we take people at their word and I take George Christensen at his word.

So, to answer your question, I think there is no chance of others following, and I think people, as we said before, will be angry about any defection; angry about a betrayal of the Liberal Party values.

And people, if they want to defeat Bill Shorten at the next election, will be united as a Liberal Party to make sure that we can stare down that threat.

SABRA LANE: Is he right on that core issue though, on same-sex marriage, because there is talk that some people within the party want a new vote on that. Is he right that a new vote on this would be against the Coalition agreement?

PETER DUTTON: Well, the Prime Minister stated the position in relation to same-sex marriage, and that position has been put by the Prime Minister as recently as Sunday, and that's the position of the Government.

SABRA LANE: To your portfolio now. There's been a lot of focus on the US-Australia refugee resettlement deal.

It's been reported this morning that Mr Trump wanted to tear up the agreement in that now infamous call with Mr Turnbull. Is that right?

PETER DUTTON: Well, I wouldn't have anything (inaudible) at all on the content of the conversation between the Prime Minister and the President.

The only thing I would say is that the Prime Minister stood up for our country, as is his obligation and his wont and desire to do, and I think, in the end, we've got the best possible outcome for our country.

We respect very much our allies in the United States, starting with President Trump down.

And we have many, many aspects of the relationship we continue to work on, including foreign fighters and people crossing borders where we share intelligence with our Five Eyes partners, including the United States.

And that relationship is as strong as it's ever been, and it will continue to strengthen even further.

And we will work with our partners to identify those people that will be eligible on Nauru and Manus, because in the end, again, it's a great frustration that we are left with a Labor mess to clean up.

People on Manus and Nauru are only there because Labor failed our country and let our borders soften and allowed people smugglers to get in control of the trade.

We have tidied up that mess. We've closed 17 detention centres, and we've got children, every child out of detention.

And I want to make sure we don't revert back to a Labor government that allows our borders to reopen and people to drown at sea again, and so this…

SABRA LANE: How far…? Just…

PETER DUTTON: ..this is important for us to get people off Manus and Nauru as quickly as possible, and that's exactly what we're doing.

SABRA LANE: How quickly? Will it take weeks or months?

PETER DUTTON: It'll take months, and we'll need to work through each individual case.

That was always the case under the Obama agreement that's been adopted now by President Trump.

And it will take time to work through individual cases. In some cases there are identity issues; in other cases there will be separated family members that we will try and repatriate.

And we'll do it in a compassionate way, but we're going to do it in a way that won't restart boats.

This is a one-off deal, and people who think that if the boats restart again that somehow a deal like this is easy to come by are kidding themselves.

And people are in a difficult position, because Labor didn't have the resolve - they said at the election that they would continue John Howard's policies. They dismantled them and we saw the disruption and death that followed from that, and this government is not going to allow that to reoccur.

SABRA LANE: Not all the people who are on Manus and Nauru will be allowed to travel to the United States, given the extreme vetting procedures that are taking place.

How well progressed are you in trying to find other nations who will settle this group?

PETER DUTTON: Well, we have other nations available, and we also have the option for people to return back to their country of origin when they've been found not to be refugees.

There are 65 million people in the world who would seek to come to a country like Australia's tomorrow, to Australia tomorrow, and the reality is, for those people, we cannot accommodate all of them - no country can.

We need to have an orderly migration program, and on a per capita basis we take a significant number of people.

But we are not going to allow people who are seeking a better economic outcome for their family to displace people from the queue that are facing death or persecution.

The refugee convention that we and other countries have signed up to is designed to help those who are most in need.

And if you allow people smugglers to take the option away from a government, from a sovereign nation to run its own migration program, then it's a rapid spiral and you harm those people that you seek, we should be seeking to help most - those people that are coming from conflict zones or civil war zones around the world.

That's what we've done with the Syrian intake.

We've got a responsible, balanced, measured policy, and we continue to preside over that, and that's the option for people to go to their country of origin.

We can help them re-establish their lives in that country, but we have been very clear, and we remain absolutely resolute that those people will not be settling in Australia.

SABRA LANE: Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, thanks for talking to AM.

PETER DUTTON: Thanks, Sabra. Thank you.