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Transcript of doorstop interview: Parliament House, Canberra: 2 March 2017: fifty illegal workers netted in Cadena Operation; Coalition ends Labor's bad deal for workers; Australia's migration programme; Liberal Party colleagues; parliamentary business



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The Hon Peter Dutton MP Minister for Immigration and Border Protection

TRANSCRIPT

Doorstop Interview, Parliament House

02 March 2017

Subjects: Fifty illegal workers netted in Cadena Operation; Coalition ends Labor’s bad deal for workers; Australia’s migration programme; Liberal Party colleagues; parliamentary business.

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

PETER DUTTON:

I want to start by saying thank you very much to the Australian Border Force officers, the officers of the Australian Federal Police and West Australian Police for the work that they’ve done in Operation Cadena raids in Western Australia where 50 illegal workers have been detected. This is the latest raid in Operation Cadena which is a Government operation to make sure that we can stop workers being exploited.

I’ve been very clear about the fact that I want Australians first for Australian jobs and I want to make sure that where we have foreign workers doing jobs that Australians won’t do in this country, that they are not exploited. That is a very important principle that we adhere to.

So thank you to the officers of Operation Cadena. I think the people of Western Australia would be very grateful for the fact that these raids have taken place and it is a good collaboration between the agencies that were involved in Operation Cadena.

I also wanted to just make a couple of comments about a 457 issue. Labor made a complete mess of boat policy and immigration policy when they were in government. One of the aspects of that of course is the 457 programme.

Labor increased the number of people who were on 457 visa programmes dramatically, in particular when Bill Shorten was the Employment Minister in the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years and we have sought to clean up Labor’s mess in the 457 programme. That work is going to continue because I do want Australian workers going into Australian jobs and this Government is going to make sure that we don’t see the sorts of exploitation of these programmes that occurred during Labor’s time in government.

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Are there any questions?

JOURNALIST:

How many jobs do you think will be created for locals by stopping foreign workers from working at fast food outlets?

PETER DUTTON:

Well for example, we know that there is an application before the Government at the moment for about 68 positions and my view is, particularly in areas where we’ve got high youth unemployment, those kids should be getting the jobs ahead of foreign workers and it is beyond me why Labor would have put in place a system that provided preference to foreign workers over Aussie kids. So Bill Shorten needs to explain why when he was Employment Minister and why Chris Bowen when he was the Immigration Minister, did he have a system in place which provided preference over foreign workers as opposed to Australian kids who were looking for work.

So look, we’re cleaning Labor’s mess up and we’ll continue to do that in this portfolio and we’ll have more announcements to make in relation to the 457 visa programme, but it is clear that the numbers raced away when Bill Shorten was in the portfolio in the Gillard years.

JOURNALIST:

President Trump singled out Australia’s immigration policies yesterday. Has it given you any additional confidence for the Manus and Nauru refugee deal? Is there any sort of update in the timing for that to be delivered?

PETER DUTTON:

I was very grateful for the comments from President Trump yesterday and I watched part of the speech and I think he’s been rightly recognised as having delivered a good message to the American people. America is like a sibling with Australia and we work very closely on a number of fronts and have done for a long period of time.

The arrangement continues to be worked on and I don’t have any comment to make in relation to that. I’ve already commented. We do work very closely with the United States and I’m pleased that President Trump recognised that Australia has done a lot of work to clean up our migration system, to make sure that we act in our country’s best interests - as he will act in the United States best interests - and rightly so.

We will work together on this and many other issues through our Five Eyes partnership with the US and other countries. So I thank him very much for his comments yesterday.

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JOURNALIST:

Just back on the fast food workers, is this a way to appease key conservatives within the Government who have concerns about immigration levels?

PETER DUTTON:

I’m more concerned about mums and dads who want their teenage kids to get a job. I started out work in a butcher shop working after school and worked there all the way up to uni and I think, for my kids, I want them when they are old enough to be able to get a job - because I think it teaches them the value of money, I think it teaches them respect for people who are coming into the shop, I think it teaches them a work ethic that they may not have got otherwise - there are many reasons as to why you would want your kids to work part time to save a bit of money, to buy a car or to go on an overseas holiday afterschool, whatever the case might be.

So the fact that Labor preferred foreign workers over Australian workers is something for them to explain and for Mr Shorten to explain. Bill Shorten is the great chameleon of Australian politics because he says one thing but does the other when he’s in that position and I think it’s very clear that Mr Shorten needs to be called out on some of these issues - he’s saying one thing to the Australian public but when he’s the Employment Minister he’s doing the complete opposite.

JOURNALIST:

Minister, can you confirm whether this cancellation of the fast food agreement covered semi-skilled workers and in what other agreements are semi-skilled workers allowed to come and work in Australia?

PETER DUTTON:

Well the arrangement that was put in place by Mr Bowen allowed people to come in - several hundred as I understand - to come and work in fast food chains across a number of brands.

Now I have no criticism of those companies, they needed to demonstrate what the law required in terms of the skill level at the time and they took advantage of the system that was put in place by Labor. My job is to clean that system up and to make sure that where I can, I want to get Aussie kids into jobs. Where we can’t fill those jobs with Australian workers, then it is appropriate to look at filling those jobs with foreign workers. For example it is hard to get many Australian workers out to pick fruit and the thought of fruit rotting on the vine or falling from trees without being picked, is not acceptable. So there needs to be a balance. My judgement is that Labor got the balance terribly wrong.

JOURNALIST:

Minister, do you have leadership aspirations?

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PETER DUTTON:

Look, I’ve already dealt with that. My loyalty was to Tony Abbott when I served in his Cabinet. My loyalty is to Malcolm Turnbull, I serve in his Cabinet because I believe in him as our Leader. I want to do everything that I can and I want all of my colleagues to do everything that they can within their power to make sure that this Government succeeds, that the Prime Minister succeeds. That’s what I pledge myself to and I want to make sure overall that we do not get Bill Shorten at the next election because the CFMEU own and operate the Labor Party, the modern Labor Party and Bill Shorten in particular is owned and operated by the other union bosses and it would be a disaster for families and small businesses if Mr Shorten was to be elected prime minister of this country and I think most people share that same view.

JOURNALIST:

Why then were you seen going for a walk this morning with WA powerbroker Mathias Cormann?

PETER DUTTON:

Well Mathias and I…I mean I’ve been in the Parliament for 15 years and Mathias 10 I think. Mathias is a close friend of mine, has been for a long period of time and he was my Shadow Health Parl Sec, so I’ve had a long friendship, a long association with Mathias Cormann. We do walk on many mornings, I go to the gym - I mean I’m sorry that it doesn’t show, but I do exercise a fair bit - and Mathias, like me, wants to lose a bit of weight. So I’m not sure if that accords with your conspiracy theory, but you know two middle aged blokes trying to lose weight, I’m not sure you can you know speculate much beyond that.

JOURNALIST:

Just on fast food again, and sorry if you have already answered this, the jobs that are covered by this burger flippers and people that are selling fries, are they at Maccas or is it higher level stuff?

PETER DUTTON:

So it’s people who would be involved in the running of the business - so it might be mangers, so they might be performing other tasks within the organisations - it’s not just restricted to one company or one brand and there are many other companies who would be involved as well.

As I say there is an appropriate level of engagement of overseas workers, but not at the expense particularly in high youth unemployment areas of Australian workers. So the question is how you get that balance right and my judgement is that Labor didn’t get that balance right and I suspect part of the reason is that when Chris Bowen was the Immigration Minister, boats were flooding in and I think he took his eye off the ball.

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JOURNALIST:

I mean these are managerial jobs, these are skilled workers, I mean Aussie kids, 14 year olds aren’t going to be doing those?

PETER DUTTON:

It depends on the individual arrangement and again there is some concern about the actual role that people were fulfilling as opposed to the role that they had signed up to. So there are a number of aspects to our consideration, but I’ve made that judgement in relation to the prospective arrangement and that’s as it should be.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Dutton US President Donald Trump yesterday held out the Australian and Canadian immigration systems as a model, that America should follow, have we had any approaches from the new Administration to help advise him on restructuring their migration policy, at either a departmental or higher level?

PETER DUTTON:

Well Phil I’ve certainly had engagement with my counterpart and I hope to travel to the United States in the not too distant future to meet with the Secretary and at a departmental level, our officers, our officials are talking all the time. They are a Five Eyes partner, there is a lot of information that we exchange on a daily basis of people crossing borders.

The Americans have a very deep understanding of the way in which our system operates, the way in which we push the threat as far from our border as we can - so people can’t hop on planes without a valid visa - we have Airport Liaison Officers, there are many aspects to our migration programme - some of which we share with the United States on a regular basis.

JOURNALIST:

You’ve been meeting with Mathias Cormann most mornings this week, have you discussed the leadership with him at all during those times?

PETER DUTTON:

Look, I meet with Mathias Cormann over the last 10 years on a regular basis. So I just refer you back to what I said earlier.

JOURNALIST:

Minister, are you proceeding with the lifetime visa ban for the offshore processing cohort and what has happened to that legislation?

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PETER DUTTON:

Well there are a number of bills and there are issues that we’re working on at the moment that we’ll make further announcements on in due course. In the end though we need the support of the Labor Party to get legislation through the Senate and on national security bills, on bills that we believe will strengthen our borders and make sure that we have the best possible system in place, we need the Labor Party support - some of these questions frankly need to be directed at the Labor Party as to why they abandoned a bipartisan principle on national security bills which are in our best interests.

JOURNALIST:

Minister last year a Senate Committee recommended that labour agreements be made public, there was some sort of online register, that was backed by Coalition Senators, why are you still keeping labour agreements a secret?

PETER DUTTON:

Well as I say we are working through Labor’s mess around the 457 programme. I will have other announcements to make in relation to the 457 visa programme, but we are sorting through the litany of messes that Labor left behind in the immigration portfolio.

JOURNALIST:

Minister in relation to the illegal workers in WA, can you tell us where they came from, what they were doing and who employed them?

PETER DUTTON:

I haven’t got the detail of where they’ve from, but they are predominately employed in the agriculture sector but Operation Cadena is looking across a number of sectors and they are working with the ATO and others for example - so it is a multi-disciplinary approach - and they are looking at companies that frankly have had a pretty tardy history and looking at intelligence that they’re receiving.

So my plea would be to workers or to people within the industry that have information, to contact the Australian Border Force to provide detail because Operation Cadena has a lot of work ahead of it and it will continue to conduct these raids because I don’t want Australians being displaced from work by foreign workers and if we have foreign workers here I don’t want them being exploited by labour hire companies or other employers.

JOURNALIST:

Are any of them going to be deported?

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PETER DUTTON:

Well many of them will face deportation depending on their own circumstances. If they’ve been working outside the conditions of their visa - so if they have a no work condition on their visa for example or if they’ve overstayed or their status is irregular otherwise - then it would depend on the individual circumstance, but they may well face deportation.

Thanks very much.

[ends]