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Transcript interview with Leigh Sales: ABC 7:30: 18 July 2017: establishment of a Home Affairs portfolio; national security reform



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The Hon Peter Dutton MP Minister for Immigration and Border Protection

TRANSCRIPT

Interview with Leigh Sales, ABC 7:30

18 July 2017

Subjects: Establishment of a Home Affairs portfolio; national security reform.

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

LEIGH SALES:

And to discuss his upcoming role as Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton joins me now from Parliament House. Congratulations on your new job.

PETER DUTTON:

Thanks Leigh.

LEIGH SALES:

Australia's security agencies have kept the nation largely safe from mass event terrorism since 9/11. What is the problem you're trying to fix here?

PETER DUTTON:

Well the problem is not only the terrorist threat that we face today, but the one we'll face for many, many years to come. It's certainly the case that it runs beyond the aspect of terrorism. We want a greater joined up effort in relation to transnational crime, drugs coming across our borders, paedophile rings - all sorts of evil criminals we want to deport from our country. There are many aspects to this and why I think it will give us a better response.

There's a lot of work that's gone into the announcement today, the Prime Minister has certainly been working on it for a long period of time. So I think there are many reasons why it makes sense…

LEIGH SALES:

…but nobody’s been saying the agencies currently aren't going a very good job.

PETER DUTTON:

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The agencies are doing an excellent job.

LEIGH SALES:

So what's the problem?

PETER DUTTON:

We need to recognise that particularly over the course of even the last three years; I mean we’ve had five attacks, three of them resulting in the loss of innocent life, we’ve had 12 terrorist, you know, threats that have been thwarted by authorities, we’ve had 70 people charged with terrorist offences and we think the problem is going to get worse…

LEIGH SALES:

…but let me put to you some remarks that the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop made in September 2014 which very clearly sum up the gist of what I’m getting to. She said, ‘if there were such a proposal to have a Home Affairs department, it would have to demonstrate any current failures in cooperation between the intelligence agencies, federal and state police and defence and I’m not aware of any such failures.’

PETER DUTTON:

Well we don’t believe there are failures. We believe though that we can enhance the arrangement, that we can join it up more successfully than it is now and I have nothing but praise for our law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

The question is why wouldn't you have an arrangement where they can be greater collaboration, greater sharing of information. The fact is that we’ve got threats going across our borders each day, we’ve got young people being indoctrinated online, we’ve got people who are preaching in our country, we’ve got all sorts of issues that we need to contend with and if we look to the United Kingdom, for example, where a Home Office operates there now…

LEIGH SALES:

…and they're much less safe from terrorism than we are here in Australia.

PETER DUTTON:

Well Leigh, they have a population three times the size of ours. They have a greater approximately to Europe of course and returning foreign fighters and they have particular domestic issues they need to grapple with.

We have looked at all the models around the world. The Prime Minister has spoken with prime ministers and ministers over a long period of time to look at what would be best in the Australian context and our judgement is that this gives us the best ability to keep Australians safe and that’s what we’re determined to do.

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LEIGH SALES:

Well let me ask you about the Australian context. Last year the Federal Government commissioned a comprehensive review into Australia's intelligence community and its report did not recommend a super national security ministry. On whose advice are you making this change?

PETER DUTTON:

It wasn't asked to look at that aspect Leigh, that’s the first important point to make…

LEIGH SALES:

…sorry if I can just interrupt you there, I have checked the terms of reference and they absolutely would have allowed for that recommendation if the people making the investigation had wanted to endorse a super ministry.

PETER DUTTON:

They weren’t asked to look at a Home Affairs portfolio...

LEIGH SALES:

…they were asked to look at whether the Australian intelligence community is structured appropriately including ensuring effective coordination and contestability. That clearly gives it scope if it needed to recommend some sort of ministry like the one proposed today.

PETER DUTTON:

And Leigh, as you say, the terms of reference are what they are. They don't have a specific reference to Home Affairs or to test that idea. Every piece of advice that we have received - in these reports, verbally speaking with authorities here and internationally - it is the advice that, wherever possible, agencies should be working as closely as they can….

LEIGH SALES:

…say for example did…

PETER DUTTON:

…I’ll just finish this point. So Man Monis, for example, in Sydney, we’ve seen failings of the system over a period of time…

LEIGH SALES:

…but would this have prevented that?

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PETER DUTTON:

Well our argument is that this gives us the best opportunity to prevent terrorist activity. Now…

LEIGH SALES:

…you mention before, sorry to interrupt, but I just want to get through everything I’m keen to get through, you mentioned before that you’d had advice that people thought that was a good way to go. Did the Australian Federal Police and ASIO recommend they wanted this to happen?

PETER DUTTON:

We have got agencies who are doing the best they can in the systems that operate at the moment. Now, I'm not...

LEIGH SALES:

It's a clear question Minister. Did they want it to happen or not?

PETER DUTTON:

I'm not going to go into specific discussions that we’ve had, but I can say to you that I believe the agencies support very strongly the announcement that the Prime Minister has made today.

The intent of the Government is to do whatever we can to make Australians safe, to deal with the threats. And the architecture and what goes on in the background, we'll work through all of that with the agencies. We'll make it's an efficient process.

It is about making sure that information is shared, that we have the strategic direction at the head of the organisation and that has been at the heart of every recommendation in any review and that is that the agencies work closer together and that's what we achieved today.

LEIGH SALES:

What do you say to the suggestion we heard Bill Shorten make in Andrew Probyn’s story a second ago that this move is about the Prime Minister shoring up your support for his leadership?

PETER DUTTON:

Well what would you expect Bill Shorten to say? I mean he's the spiv from central casting…

LEIGH SALES:

…well let’s not worry about who he is or isn’t, just address his point.

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PETER DUTTON:

Why wouldn’t he make such a juvenile statement.

LEIGH SALES:

Well is it about shoring up your support?

PETER DUTTON:

No it’s not and I think this is an occasion frankly where Mr Shorten should rise above that sort of political juvenile interjection. The Labor Party, as you saw in the intro package, as far back as Kim Beazley has consistently supported a Home Affairs portfolio.

There are checks and balances in place in the proposal that the Prime Minister has put forward today. It gives us the best possible chance to keep Australians safe and that’s the commitment we give today.

And my sole purpose, as the Home Affairs Minister, will be to do everything in my power to keep Australians safe in a very uncertain environment and that's exactly what I intend to do to do. I'm not going to be distracted by cheap political interjections and I hope that Mr Shorten can put that aside and support the legislation through the Parliament.

LEIGH SALES:

Speaking of distractions, I understand that Tony Abbott is away on holidays currently, which is giving the Government clean air for your announcements today. How constructive have you found his recent public commentary on the Government's performance?

PETER DUTTON:

Well I know from my discussions with Tony when he was Prime Minister he supported the concept of a Home Affairs office...

LEIGH SALES:

…that's not what I asked, I asked how constructive you have found his recent commentary?

PETER DUTTON:

Well I don’t have any comment to make. I’ll let all the commentators comment on the machinations of politics.

LEIGH SALES:

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Actually some of the recent comments are not by a commentator; they are by the new Federal Liberal President Nick Griener, who says the Coalition will lose the next election if it doesn't start presenting a united front. Is he right?

PETER DUTTON:

Leigh we’ve got a situation, as I say, in the last three years where 70 people have been charged with terrorist offences, we have young people who are being indoctrinated online….

LEIGH SALES:

…and we’ve spent plenty of time talking about that and I’m giving one quick question to finish about this.

PETER DUTTON:

In terms of the priorities, this is just such a significant priority for the Government that it frankly puts aside any of the political machinations going on in Canberra.

LEIGH SALES:

But you won't get to pursue if you don't win the next election and is disunity going to cost you the next election?

PETER DUTTON:

Well we intend to win the next election and there are many reasons why we need to. We don't want the CFMEU in charge of the Treasury, we don't want Bill Shorten as Prime Minister of this country because it would be a disaster for families and small businesses.

In the end, what the Coalition can deliver at the next election is a security of our borders, which we have demonstrated over the course of the last several years and we’ve cleaned up Labor's mess.

And in our announcement today, we bring the same resolve to this new portfolio, to make sure as Minister, Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister, that we can do everything in our national interest to keep Australians safe and frankly that what's Australians are more interested in than any of the other goings on in Canberra or elsewhere and that’s what we’re concentrating on.

LEIGH SALES:

Peter Dutton, thanks for your time.

PETER DUTTON:

Thanks Leigh.