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Transcript of interview with Neil Mitchell: Radio 3AW, Melbourne: 2 September 2019: Sri Lankan IMA family deportation; people smuggling venture



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THE HON PETER DUTTON MP MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS

TRANSCRIPT

INTERVIEW WITH NEIL MITCHELL, RADIO 3AW, MELBOURNE

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www.minister.homeaffairs.gov.au

2 September 2019

Subjects: Sri Lankan IMA family deportation; people smuggling venture.

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

NEIL MITCHELL:

On the line, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton. Good morning.

PETER DUTTON:

Good morning Neil.

NEIL MITCHELL:

On a personal level, do you feel sorry for these people?

PETER DUTTON:

Yes, of course I do and there are many cases that we deal with each year where the circumstances are just beyond description. Whether it's a child with a terminal illness, an aged parent who has had a stroke and can't return back to their country of origin. There are hundreds of those cases where we intervene each year. As we know from the UN, there are about 68 million people in the world who are displaced now, all of them with terrible circumstances, all of them would want to come to a country like ours and you can understand why they would. Anybody as a parent would want a better life for their kid, for their family…

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NEIL MITCHELL:

…but there is a different element here, isn't there? They've settled in the community, they're accepted and welcomed in the community, the children are born here. They are good citizens aren't they?

PETER DUTTON:

They are and there's no question about that, but the problem we've got Neil is that we had 50,000 people arriving on 800 boats. We've got a civil war which is now long over in Sri Lanka - so Tamils from around the world are returning back to Sri Lanka - and this family, long before they had children, were told that they had no claim to refugee status; that they didn't have a case to make and their case has been listened to intently by the decision makers in the Department, by every court through the Magistrate's Court, the Federal Court, full Federal Court, the High Court. At no stage since they arrived in 2012-13 was any indication given that they could stay in Australia. In fact, quite the opposite.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Well do you accept, as some of the academic analysts are saying, that it's likely they'll be taken into custody when they return?

PETER DUTTON:

That's an issue for the Sri Lankan authorities, but likely not.

NEIL MITCHELL:

We wouldn't want to send them back to go into custody, into jail?

PETER DUTTON:

Again, there's a lot of emotion Neil, which I respect, I understand the passion from many of the advocates. There's also a lot of misinformation that's out there in relation to this.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Is that right or wrong? Will they be locked up when they go back?

PETER DUTTON:

No. If somebody was deported from Sri Lanka to Australia we would take that person into immigration detention when they arrived, to make sure they are who they say they are, make sure the documentation is in place and then they would be released and the situation

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will be no different in Sri Lanka. They've not committed an offence, they're not going into jail, but like, as I say, a New Zealander who's deported from here back to New Zealand meets authorities on arrival and then is released in to the community.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay. I mean we're agreeing that you feel sympathy for them. It does even look cruel. Is there no way around it? Is there no way of making an exception here without undermining the main thrust of the policy?

PETER DUTTON:

Well Neil, there are 1,500 people from Sri Lanka who came on boats who have exactly the same family units, exactly the same compelling cases to make, but they're not refugees. They've already gone back to Sri Lanka.

So we've said to those people; you have told your case, you've detailed the circumstances you believe gives rise to you being considered to be a refugee, and you've been found not to be a refugee and therefore we ask that you go back.

Fifteen hundred people have done that and there are people behind this family as well who will be expected to return.

Now, the point I'd make …

NEIL MITCHELL:

…sorry, what do you mean by that?

PETER DUTTON:

There are other families from Sri Lanka…

NEIL MITHCELL:

…oh I see…

PETER DUTTON:

…from India, wherever they might be that have been found not to be refugees. Now, many of these cases are protracted and go on for years because even after the initial rejections, people appeal it through the courts, which is their right to do, but you can't appeal it through the courts, delay for seven years your departure and then use that as an excuse for staying. That's not how our legal system should be used.

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NEIL MITCHELL:

What has this cost us, do you know?

PETER DUTTON:

Millions of dollars. There's no question about that and this is one of the most litigated areas of commonwealth public policy. There are many cases where people will seek to delay their removal, might be because they're earning money in the community and they're remitting that back to family in Malaysia for example. So it's a very expensive area.

NEIL MITCHELL:

When these people go - let's assume they do go back depending on the court obviously - but they do go back to Sri Lanka and they settle in Sri Lanka. Are they then able to reapply to come to Australia legally?

PETER DUTTON:

Yes they can.

NEIL MITCHELL:

And could that be expedited at least? Given their background.

PETER DUTTON:

Well it can be considered. Again, there are 68 million people in the world Neil, but we'll look at circumstances, including ties to the community here, including their work history, including their activities whilst they're here, all of that will be taken into consideration and the decision makers will look at all that - as they will no doubt for others who are madly applying from Sri Lanka, from Malaysia, from Indonesia, Vietnam, the Middle East etc - and you just have to be realistic about the fact that we have a great country. People want to settle here. You can understand that, as I say, as a parent.

The year before last we brought more refugees in to our country through the refugee and humanitarian program in any year in the last 30, but we've done it in an orderly way.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So do you believe people smugglers are actually watching this case?

PETER DUTTON:

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Yes, there's no question about that and they market; they watch what I say, they watch what the Prime Minister says and that's been the case for a number of years. They are very savvy with the use of their social media, they have networks and groups that they message out to. They send out video clips of part sentences that one of us might say about offering hope to come here and they market the change of a Minister as an opportunity to come. They market an election outcome or change of Prime Minister. All of that is bread and butter for these people smugglers, they're a very sophisticated operation.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Did your officers or you release the details, the latest details on the boats intercepted?

PETER DUTTON:

Yes, yes we did and we've done that again…

NEIL MITCHELL:

…to make a point? Are you making a point about this family?

PETER DUTTON:

No. We were ready to release this. You'll be criticised if you don't release it and criticised if you do, but I think it's important for people to understand that Sri Lanka for us now is the major threat on the matrix. We've got a history of people coming out of Indonesia and we're working very closely with the Indonesian authorities, and we've been able to stop some ventures before people have got on boats - and similarly in recent times we've had ventures from Vietnam, people trying to trek from the Middle East to come in to some of the embarkation points - but Sri Lanka for us at the moment is the biggest problem we've got.

NEIL MITCHELL:

What? Bigger than Afghanistan?

PETER DUTTON:

It is at the moment for us because you've obviously had the attacks on the churches up there which is an excuse for people. People were on boats anticipating that there would be a change of government at the election in May. It was the first country I went to after we won the election in May because the intelligence was just overwhelming and our General in charge of Operation Sovereign Borders has done a lot of work with his counterparts up there because that's the reality.

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NEIL MITCHELL:

Once again you're being seen as the ogre. Does that worry you?

PETER DUTTON:

Oh look, the personal attacks are what they are Neil, there's nothing I can do about that; on me, on my wife, on my children; that continues. If people think that somehow…

NEIL MITCHELL:

What? They've targeted your wife and children?

PETER DUTTON:

Of course. Of course they have.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Who has?

PETER DUTTON:

Advocates, people who are sending threats, but that's just…

NEIL MITCHELL:

Are they threatening your wife and kids?

PETER DUTTON:

Yes they are.

NEIL MITCHELL:

With physical harm? That's outrageous.

PETER DUTTON:

It is, and that's continued on for a while, but my wife's stoic and probably tougher than I am, so we just need to stare all that down and the Federal Police do a great job, but the reality is that you've got to look at each of these cases, and as I say there are hundreds each year where we intervene compassionately to help kids out, to help families out. The public never sees any of that.

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But Richard Di Natale and Tanya Plibersek and Kristina Keneally love the personal attacks. They can continue that. It incites in some people a very bad side and I don't think it's helpful to anybody, but that's what they do and I've just got to make decisions as I think they are in the best interests of our country and I will not be deviating from that. I've not had a death at sea on my watch and I'm not about to start now.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Thank you for your time. Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.

[ends]