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Transcript of press conference: Melbourne: 8 March 2016: citizenship; Nauru disturbance; Budget; Labor's Royal Commission

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The Hon Peter Dutton MP Minister for Immigration and Border Protection


Press Conference

8 March 2016

Subjects: Citizenship, Nauru disturbance, Budget, Labor’s Royal Commission.


PETER DUTTON: I wanted to give you an update in relation to a very important national security measure that the Government announced last year in which we’re in the process of working up right now.

Australia like all western countries faces a significant threat from terrorist attacks. We’re seeing evidence being given in relation to the Man Monis issue now and we know from strikes in Belgium and in Paris that ISIS is absolutely resolved to try to destroy our way of life.

The Australian Government has certainly invested a significant amount of money at our international airports in particular in this portfolio around funding counter-terrorism officers at nine international airports and we have announced that for dual citizens who are involved in certain terrorist activities or if they're a member of a prescribed organisation that's involved in terrorist-related activities or indeed if they've been convicted of terrorism offences, that in those circumstances people will surrender their citizenship.

This is a very important message. To those people that are thinking, in particular y oung people, who are thinking about going to Syria or to another part of the world to

conduct activities in the name of terrorism, in the name of ISIS, there is a very severe consequence to be paid if somebody surrenders or hands in their Australian citizenship because of their conduct.

This is a very significant piece of legislation that the Government negotiated through the Parliament and over the coming months we will see individual cases considered and if people are dual nationals - they've been involved in terrorist activities - then they have the potential to lose their Australian citizenship.

We aren't going to render people stateless, but we are going to look at individual cases so that we can realistically deal with a threat that we face in this country.


ASIO's indicated that they have over 400 high priority investigations and well over 100 people have now left our shores to go and fight in the name of terrorist organisations in Syria, in Iraq and elsewhere and we have to be very mindful of the threat that's faced by our country.

All Australians expect their Government to do whatever we can to keep our borders secure and our communities safe and that has been an absolute priority of this Government and I'm very proud of the fact that we've been able to put additional resources into our intelligence agencies, our law enforcement agencies and our border agencies as well. I'm happy to take any questions.

JOURNALIST: So you're talking in addition to the 100 that are currently overseas, 400 that have been identified locally?

PETER DUTTON: No there are 400 high priority investigations that ASIO has under way, so the numbers I'm advised is about 190 people domestically that may be involved in supporting terrorist-type activities that is through funding or through facilitation otherwise.

This is a very significant threat because young people are being indoctrinated online and by people of influence within our own Australian community and parents are horrified at the thought that their 17 or 18-year-old son or daughter could be radicalised online within a matter of weeks and then go to fight in the name of this terrible organisation.

But there is a very significant penalty to pay if people are involved in terrorist activities and they're a dual national. They have the potential to lose their Australian citizenship.

JOURNALIST: Has the process already started…….?

PETER DUTTON: Well the Citizenship Loss Board started its work and it first met in February of this year and they will consider individual cases that have been worked up through ASIO, ASIS, the Department of Defence, my Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Justice, obviously the Attorney-General, Prime Minister and Cabinet, they're all involved in the process here.

So it is a very significant process and it can result in people losing their Australian citizenship.

JOURNALIST: In the case of, if somebody you identify has family, what happens there?

PETER DUTTON: The Government's been clear in relation to children. That is that the law doesn't apply to children under the age of 14, unless they've been convicted of an offence. The criminal law obviously operates that there's criminal responsibility from the age of 10.


The actions of a parent, a father, say, who has been involved in terrorist activities, that sin is not delivered onto the children, so the children aren't impacted by the parent’s or the father's loss of citizenship.

The revocation or, depending on the circumstances, the actions of that individual resulting in them losing their citizenship won't be delivered then on the children.

JOURNALIST: When you mentioned that they would be rendered stateless, where would they go?

PETER DUTTON: If people have dual citizenship, then they can go back to their country of birth or their country of first citizenship, but Australia's been very clear, as has been the UK and other countries.

We don't want to tolerate this sort of radicalisation and the Government's been very clear. Our first priority to all Australians is to keep our borders secure, to keep our communities safe and we face an unprecedented threat from terrorism and we need to stare that threat down and we have in place some very tough laws.

If people are involved in terrorist activities then they can expect serious consequences.

JOURNALIST: …..(inaudible)….incident at Nauru…..what’s the latest condition of these two boys and will there be an investigation into the guards behaviour?

PETER DUTTON: Well, I think it's abhorrent that people are involved in behaviour where they are assaulting guards on Nauru, and I've made that very clear.

There is a lot of misinformation that's been peddled by some of the advocates here in Australia and I condemn those activities as well because essentially they're saying to people on Nauru, that if they hold out, if they don't accept the Government's offer to return them to their country of origin, they should expect that the Government will change their policy at some stage and those people will be coming to Australia, they won't be.

I've been clear about this. People who seek to come to our country by boat will never be settled in our country.

We have one of the most generous refugee settlement programmes in the world, 13,750 people this year going to 18,750 by 2018-19. In addition to that, 12,000 people out of Syria, they're the people that we seek to help through the Humanitarian and Refugee programme.

Now for those people who are on Nauru or Manus, we don't want them there, we want them to return to their countries of origin and we've been very clear that they are not coming to settle in Australia and it's been part of the reason that we haven't seen a boat now successfully arrive into Australia, run by the people smugglers, in over 600 days.


This is a very significant achievement because under Labor, 1 ,200 people drowned at sea, 50,000 people arrived on 800 boats and they completely lost control of our borders.

This Government has restored control to our borders, we are building a safer community, we have got the number of children in detention under Labor from 8,500 down to zero and we don't want people arriving freshly on boats because in addition to that, we've been able to close 13 of 17 detention centres.

These are significant achievements and we are not going to allow the people smugglers to get back into business.

JOURNALIST: Mr Dutton just one more question about the jihadis. Has the number the 100 or so who are overseas has that been growing, is that consistent, where is that at?

PETER DUTTON: We should always be mindful of the fact that there will be additions to it.

I think people who can access the internet have the ability to be indoctrinated, particularly if their parents don't know what they're looking at online and if people see any change of behaviour in people in the workplace, within their family units, within their community, people going to their places of worship; if you see any changes or signs that might concern you in relation to these individuals, please contact the Australian Federal Police or ASIO.

It's incredibly important that we make sure that we apply resources to help these people get back on track because ultimately they destroy their own lives, even if they're not killed on the battlefield they return more radicalised which is a greater threat to the Australian community, but they destroy their families. There are many parents who are absolutely devastated by the fact that their young son or daughter has gone overseas.

So the number continues and it's now, as I say, in excess of 100 and the countries like the UK, US, Canada and elsewhere, this remains a very significant concern for us.

JOURNALIST: Do you expect any savings from your Department out of the May Budget?

PETER DUTTON: I was pleased by stopping the boats we were able to stop Labor's $11 billion blowout in border protection.

So not only did 1,200 people drown at sea when Labor lost control of our borders, tragically we saw 50,000 arrive on 800 boats and our detention centres filled, but that meant an $11 billion blowout. So there wasn't only human devastation from Labor's loss of control of our borders, but there was economic devastation.

This was a significant blowout and the fact that we're able to close detention centres and make sure that we can reduce the expense within that portfolio obviously that


dividend has been realised in recent years, no doubt in years to come as well because if Labor gets back into power and they abolish Temporary Protection Visas and they give way again to people smugglers, then we will see a blowout in the budget and I don't think anyone wants that.

JOURNALIST: Just to the Royal Commission in the financial sector, is that something your party would go ahead with?


ETER DUTTON: The Government's been very clear on that, and the PM was very clear about this in recent days. We want the banks to do the right thing. We want all institutions and corporate citizens to do the right thing by the public of Australia.

But I think what you can expect from Bill Shorten now is a stunt a day between now and whenever the election might be.

The spending that he announced last night really would say to people that he is on track to being as fiscally reckless as Gough Whitlam and that was devastating for our country in the '70s.

If we get another Shorten Government made in the mould of the Whitlam Government or the Rudd or Gillard Governments that would be devastating for families around the country because spending money that you don't have is just a recipe for disaster and that's what Bill Shorten stands for.

JOURNALIST: So you don't think a Royal Commission has merit?

PETER DUTTON: I think you could expect a stunt a day from Bill Shorten and that's what Mr Shorten now will become, a stunt a day until the election because when they're spending money, at some point they will run out of money and we know that at least Kevin Rudd in the run up to the 2007 election said that the reckless spending must stop and then, of course, the reckless spending started when he was elected as Prime Minister.

Bill Shorten's not even got that pretence about him. He's actually saying that the reckless spending must continue under a Labor Opposition and you can only imagine what it would be like if they got into government and frankly, that would mean an increase in interest rates, it would mean an increase in the cost of living because inflation would increase and that would deliver significant cost to families and businesses around the country and my view is that this country can't afford a Shorten-led, CFMEU-controlled Labor Government. Thanks very much.