Interview: Philip Ruddock
Electronic Media Monitoring Service
12-06-2015 10:30 PM
12-06-2015 10:30 PM
12-06-2015 11:20 PM
ABBOTT, Tony, MP
MARLES, Richard, MP
BRANDIS, Sen George
RUDDOCK, Philip, MP
STEVE CANNANE, PRESENTER: But first tonight has Australia done a deal with the devil?
Claims persisted today that Australian officials paid a crew of people smugglers thousands of dollars in cash to turn their boat around and take 65 asylum seekers back to Indonesia.
But when Prime Minister Tony Abbott had the chance to deny it ever happened, he didn't take it.
TONY ABBOTT, PRIME MINISTER: By hook or by crook, we are going to stop the trade. I am proud of the work that our border protection agencies have done.
They've been incredibly creative in coming up with a whole range of strategies to break this evil trade.
STEVE CANNANE: The Prime Minister's refusal to answer the question simply fuelled the Opposition's attack.
RICHARD MARLES, OPPOSITION IMMIGRATION SPOKESMAN: People smugglers- their place should be facing prosecution with the full force of the law.
Not be put in a situation that when they turn up beside a Australian Navy vessel they are in fact next to a floating ATM.
STEVE CANNANE: Meanwhile the Federal Attorney-General George Brandis today announced a second round of tougher anti-terror laws, clearing the way to extend control orders against terrorist suspects.
GEORGE BRANDIS, ATTORNEY-GENERAL: That legislation will take into account lessons learned from recent legislative amendments and counter-terrorism operations.
While respecting individual rights such as freedom of expression and the rule of law.
STEVE CANNANE: So how might those counter terror laws be extended and what might their impact be?
Earlier I spoke with Philip Ruddock, the Government's Special Envoy for Citizenship and Community Engagement.
Philip Ruddock thanks for joining us.
The Attorney-General announced today there would be further legislation in relation to national security.
Now, it's been reported that will include changes to control orders.
What can you tell us about these proposed changes?
PHILIP RUDDOCK, SPECIAL ENVOY FOR CITIZENSHIP AND COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT: Well I can't tell you a great deal because there'll be draft legislation that will be considered by the relevant party committees then introduced into the Parliament but control orders have been in place for something of the order of 10 years.
I was responsible for the initial legislation. And managing people of concern is the reason for having them. And there may well be matters, and I think is what the Attorney adverted to, that with practice, police, security agencies have said we really haven't been able to address all the matters of concern, there have been recent developments in the way in which people behave.
And sometimes there are new developments in technology that you have to take into account. And I think it's appropriate after a 10-year period that you look at those matters.
STEVE CANNANE: Now control orders usually restrict movement or sometimes they restrict communications. Is what you're saying suggest that they're going to focus on social media, the ability to use social media?
PHILIP RUDDOCK: Well, I simply make point that the Victorian Government has raised that as a matter that perhaps should be considered.
And I wouldn't want to comment on whether there are other shortcomings, but they've raised it, and I can't imagine the Attorney wouldn't have that amongst the range of issues that he will be looking at before him.
STEVE CANNANE: Ok, is there a chance, though, if these laws are around control orders change that control orders could then be used too often and that could potentially radicalise certain parts of the community if they feel like their family, their friends, their community is under siege?
PHILIP RUDDOCK: Look, the only point I would make about any of these matters is that we constantly keep them reviewed and where intelligence is involved there are independent agencies like the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security who look at these matters.
And most of these issues do rely very heavily on intelligence information.
But the point I make is that nobody should feel afraid in relation to any of these sorts of mechanisms particularly if they're from a particular group because we're not about targeting people of particular groups, particular faiths, particular nationalities in these matters this is about terrorism.
STEVE CANNANE: But what if they feel targeted? Can it then be counterproductive then?
PHILIP RUDDOCK: Well the point I would make is that there are organisations like the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security and the Ombudsman that are there to look at these issues and when you're in these positions and I've been in the position of having to issue warrants and when you know that somebody is going to be effectively second-guessing you, you look very hard before you allow yourself to make a decision, even though there are recommendations and so on, and you look for whether there are shortcomings in what is proposed because you know that if you're the decision maker, and an independent agency like the Inspector General comes in afterwards and says, "You made an error", you're going to be very, very critically reviewed.
STEVE CANNANE: Now, two of the international experts invited by the Government to attend this summit on combating extremism that you've attended over the last couple of days appeared on Lateline last night.
Abdul-Rehman Malik and Daisy Khan. Now they both believe that counter terror measures that restrict citizenship or freedom of speech are back firing in Muslim communities.
You made the point here today that this is a relatively new area for governments to be involved in.
Is there a chance the Government has overstepped the mark here?
PHILIP RUDDOCK: Well I'm one of those people who mischievously says: produce the evidence.
I heard the program last night. I heard both of them participating in the program. I understand that you can have an alternative view, but I suspect theirs was very much a minority view, with a range of experts that were before us.
But in all of these issues, I think we need to be very careful in the way in which we move forward. We need to be proceeding with evidence-based inquiries.
We need to look, one of the issues that was raised in your program last night by the lady was how you might be able to rely on female members of the family to be able to help de-radicalise and I say to myself: well, how many examples have we got of people able to effectively de-radicalise somebody through those sorts of interventions?
And if we're going to be supporting particular groups who are involved in this, it needs to be when you've got so many ideas clearly evidence based.
STEVE CANNANE: Now Abdul-Rehman Malik on Lateline said last night that the Prime Minister's constant reference to Islamic State as a death cult actually feeds IS propaganda.
He said the Government has bought into their narrative.
Should the PM take that advice on board and tone it down a little?
PHILIP RUDDOCK: No, I think the Prime Minister is very, very much aware that we are dealing with a group of people who are worse than those who go and fight with a foreign army against us.
STEVE CANNANE: If we move to some other comments the Prime Minister's made today in your old portfolio of immigration, can you do what the Prime Minister failed to do this morning and reassure voters that people smugglers are not being paid by Australian officials to turn back boats?
PHILIP RUDDOCK: Well, the point the Prime Minister was making was that we don't comment on matters relating to Operation Sovereign Borders and the reason we don't is you don't want the trafficking of people to grow and people's lives to be put at risk and every time you talk about those matters- disclose matters that relate to your operations you weaken their effectiveness.
So that's essentially what the Prime Minister was saying. I'm not going to confirm or deny but I do note that both the Immigration Minister and the Foreign Minister have said what is alleged did not occur.
But the point I would make is that what we have are allegations by people who are self-confessed people smugglers. Now-
STEVE CANNANE: Hang on, these allegations are from an Indonesian police chief and also 65 asylum seekers.
PHILIP RUDDOCK: No, these are allegations that are made by the people who were people smuggling about what may or may not have happened.
And point I'd make is that under Indonesian law, people smuggling is an offence.
And I would hope that these people who have been involved in trafficking would be properly dealt with in accordance with Indonesian law.
STEVE CANNANE: But can you understand that Australian voters want clarification on this?
We've been told by both sides of politics for a number of years now that these people are evil, they're scum, we know that they recklessly cram hundreds of men, women and children onto rickety boats and put their lives at risk.
Don't we have a right to know whether these same people smugglers are now being paid off by Australian officials?
PHILIP RUDDOCK: No, I think what we want to see is those people who have identified themselves as people smugglers dealt with in accordance with the law and prosecuted and pursued.
That's the point I would make. And in relation to Sovereign Borders, if it's not effective, we are exposing people to life-threatening situations and we're not prepared to comment on the operational issues that may weaken their effectiveness.
STEVE CANNANE: Alright let me put it this way if the Government was somehow facilitating payments to criminals who were making money out of people's desperation and misery and putting those people's lives at risk, in your mind, would that be an abhorrent act?
PHILIP RUDDOCK: I would make the point that if people commit offences under the law and the evidence is proffered appropriately, those matters can be investigated. But the point I would make-
STEVE CANNANE: But if the government was paying those people money, would be an abhorrent act?
PHILIP RUDDOCK: No. No, no, the point I'm making is that these are allegations they haven't tested. We don't know the reliability of them.
They are being made essentially by people who are people smugglers. And my view is they ought to be dealt with as people smugglers in accordance with Indonesian law.
STEVE CANNANE: Ok as a former minister for immigration who has railed against people smugglers for years, would you be ashamed of a government who was paying them money if that story was true?
PHILIP RUDDOCK: The point I'm making is these are allegations and my view is they ought to be dealt with appropriately if they're going to be pursued, but you ought to understand-
STEVE CANNANE: How is the way to deal with them appropriately? An investigation and we can see the answers?
PHILIP RUDDOCK: No, the way in which these issues are normally dealt with is those who are making the allegations have their probity tested.
STEVE CANNANE: But the way these allegations are are about dealt with is we're told they're on-water matters and we can't find out what happened.
PHILIP RUDDOCK: No, we're being told that Operation Sovereign Borders will continue to be conducted in a way which ensures its ongoing effectiveness and every time you undermine the effectiveness of it you are putting other people's lives at risk.
You are facilitating people smuggling, and I don't believe that that's something we ought to be involved in.
STEVE CANNANE: So does that mean voters will never find out whether these payments have been made?
PHILIP RUDDOCK: No, I think they know that in relation to these matters there is a determination to save people's lives.
STEVE CANNANE: Philip Ruddock thanks very much for coming on.
PHILIP RUDDOCK: Thank you.