Home Affairs Minister defends Iran travel ban on ABC Insiders | Insiders


DAVID SPEERS, PRESENTER: Peter Dutton, good
morning. Welcome to the program. PETER DUTTON, HOME AFFAIRS MINISTER: Thanks,
David. SPEERS: We’ve just had news through that
New South Wales has confirmed another case of coronavirus in that state again, someone
who had been in Iran. That brings us to the travel ban now applying to Iran. There have
been some 388 cases there. The real number may well be much higher than that. But, look,
this travel ban is not applying to South Korea where there are more than 2,300 cases. Why
is that? DUTTON :Well, there are a few reasons. Firstly
– of the 106 deaths that are reported outside of China – 43 of those have been in Iran so
that’s the highest number of deaths. Obviously the Chief Medical Officers will look at that
fact. But also whether or not the countries have preparedness within their hospital systems,
whether or not Iran really has a full handle on how many cases they have and I think that’s
been the jolt out of Iran – just the sudden surge given that there had been no reporting
or little reporting of cases before that. So all of those factors feed into it. SPEERS: I appreciate the death rate might
be higher in Iran but it’s the same virus strain we’re talking about here, isn’t it,
in all of these countries? We’re not talking about a different virus, still transmits the
same way, still does the same thing to your body. DUTTON: Yes, it does. SPEERS: So why not extend this travel ban
to places like South Korea and Italy where there are almost 20 times as many reported
cases? DUTTON Well, as the Chief Medical Officer
has pointed out, it’s not possible to extend the ban to every country and we’ll see what
phase we move into next, but there’s particular concern about the lack of reporting out of
Iran. The high – the very high death rate and I don’t think… SPEERS: That’s my point. I take the point
about the death rate being higher but the sheer number of cases, the scale of this in
South Korea where we have a lot more traffic back and forth, why isn’t the travel ban applying
there? DUTTON: David, again if you look at the underreporting
or the lack of reporting coming out of Iran to start with I think indicated that there
was a real concern as to whether they had a handle on the numbers, I think everyone
the numbers we’re talking about, relative to South Korea or elsewhere at the moment,
are potentially well underestimated. So it’s also confidence in the numbers that have been
reported out of different jurisdictions and obviously South Korea has a more advanced
health system and they have been reporting numbers for a period of time. So I think there
are key differences between those different markets. SPEERS: Can I ask what powers the Border Force
Commissioner has here – the PM indicated the other day that he’d be looking at restrictions
at airports and so on. If a flight were to arrive today at Sydney Airport, Melbourne
Airport from South Korea and a number of people were presenting as unwell, what would happen? DUTTON: Well, those people would be put into
isolation. So the first thing here for us deal with is the health of Australians, obviously
our front-line officers, we want to make sure they’re safe. So that’s the first priority
for the Commissioner, but these people then will be put into isolation. There are arrangements
in place with each of the territory… SPEERS: But everyone else on that plane can
come on in? DUTTON: Well, there would be a call made about
the extent of the illness. People within the immediate proximity of this person or who had
come into contact with that person would be identified. SPEERS: That’s what I want to ask – can the
Commissioner make a call and block a planeload of people coming in? DUTTON: Yes, he can, if he believes there’s
grounds to do so, but that would be highly unlikely. The more likely nature would be
that those who are seated around the person that’s sick would be identified, would be
tested and – but the health is the most important aspect to start with. So as I say, there are
well-established arrangements with the state health departments and we would test that
person very quickly just to identify whether or not it was coronavirus or something else. SPEERS: Will this be approach going forward.
If we don’t extend the travel ban to more countries like we have China and Iran,
will it be a case-by-case, plane-by-plane situation? DUTTON: We’ve got airport liaison officers
at most of the major hubs as well. There’s a lot of work done before people get on the
plane. We also message out, I think, very effectively through the airlines, through
other stakeholders to make sure that people aren’t going to travel if they realise that
they’re going to be turned around when they arrive in Australia and there are many ways
in which we can identify either on flights or before people board and to try to reduce
the risk. But we need to recognise know that this has spread to 61 countries outside of
China. So it’s a very serious development and you start to get a compounding effect
from there which is… SPEERS: Which is what we’re seeing. DUTTON: That’s right. SPEERS: Let’s turn to some other issues. President
Donald Trump has this morning announced the US has signed a peace deal with the Taliban.
There are still some difficult negotiations to come, but it does mean American and NATO
troops, he says, could be out of Afghanistan within 14 months. What does this mean for the
400 Australian personnel there? DUTTON: Well, firstly, David, we would welcome
any peace agreement. There’s been a lot of effort put in by coalition partners. Australians
have fought alongside our allies for many years in an effort to provide a brighter future
for Afghanistan. It’s been an incredibly important effort and if there are troop withdrawals
then we’ll work that out with the United States. Obviously the Taliban need to abide with any conditions
on such agreement, but well done on the United States to be able to broker such a deal. SPEERS: But it means the Australians – the
Australians will come out in the next year? DUTTON: If there’s a withdrawal of coalition
troops, we’ll do that in line with consultations with the United States, the UK and our 5-Eyes
partners. SPEERS: It’s a point at which to reflect on
the fact we have been there for nearly two decades now. We lost some 40 Australian soldiers
in this war. When you look back at all of this, the Taliban now going back into power
under this deal, has it been worthwhile? DUTTON: Well, for us, David, we always mark
the loss of any Australian soldier in any conflict, their families still live with that
pain today, but for us there are important equities in the Middle East. We have done
an enormous amount in terms of intelligence-collection in Afghanistan, in Iraq, elsewhere across
Syria, for example, and the collection of that intelligence has stopped terrorist attacks
taking place in the West including in Australia, in Indonesia and elsewhere. So there are many
facets to our involvement in the conflict. SPEERS: Sure, but if it means the Taliban
is back in power, are you comfortable with that? DUTTON: Well, I’m comfortable if people aren’t
being slaughtered and attacked and that young girls can go to school. There’s a brighter
future for the country. SPEERS: If they can go to school? DUTTON: And this will be part of the discussion
and as you say we want to make sure that the Taliban and others abide by the conditions
and the intent of the agreement. But we’ll wait for the detail. SPEERS: The ASIO boss, Mike Burgess, gave
an interesting speech this week. He said, “The number of terrorism leads has doubled
since this time last year. It’s plateaued an unacceptably high level.” He spoke about
the extreme right-wing terror threat being real and growing. Can I ask you, Minister
– do you have any idea why right-wing extremism is growing? DUTTON: Well, David, I think if you look at
the proliferation now of material on websites, the availability on the dark web for people
to communicate in networks that were never imaginable even ten years ago, of course,
you’re going to get this extremist view spread very rapidly around the world. The advice
from ASIO and from other agencies, CIA and others, indicate that young people can be
radicalised in whatever way online within a couple of weeks. I think that’s a part of
the cause and as Duncan Lewis, the predecessor to Mike Burgess, but now Mike Burgess, has
pointed out, as I said before, the fight of ASIO against right-wing extremism has been
going on for decades and… SPEERS: Why is the problem growing now? I
take your point about the ability to access information, but why are people attracted
to this more now? DUTTON: Well, I think people receive the information
and they accept the propaganda. I can’t tell you the psychological make-up that would incline
somebody to do… SPEERS: It’s important to understand why this
is happening surely if you’re going to combat it. DUTTON: Well, people will be attracted to
all sorts of causes, cults, and movements. If you have got that information, if you are
reading it, if you’re believing it, if you’re watching it on YouTube, you’re listening to
these sermons, then people will fall for that. And we need to make sure that people are educated,
there’s a lot of effort that goes on by ASIO to talk to community leaders, to leaders of
those organisations, obviously deradicalisation programs. SPEERS: When it comes to the right-wing stuff,
Minister, Australia has not proscribed any right-wing terror organisation unlike other
countries. I know you said you haven’t been called on to do so by ASIO. Do we need to
change the way the listing process works? DUTTON: I don’t think we do. I think the listing
process has served us well for a long period of time. It’s obviously an arduous process
in that it needs to go for consultation to the states and territories to their first
officers and it’s signed off by the Prime Minister as well. But I have not rejected
advice from ASIO. If ASIO has recommended a listing, then a list – I have been criticised
for not listing Hezbollah over the course of the last 12 months or so, but the agencies
look at all of this and we don’t have a presence in our country of some of these right-wing
groups as well. SPEERS: The problem is growing according to
ASIO. DUTTON: If the ASIO boss believes that there’s
a case for listing, I promise you that organisation will be listed. We’re completely blind to
where people are… SPEERS: Speaking to – you seem to suggest
this week that Islamist terrorism is left-wing terrorism. Can you clarify that? Is that what
you’re suggesting? DUTTON: The point I was making – I was completely
blind to somebody’s religious beliefs. SPEERS: Sure, but is Islamist terrorism left-wing? DUTTON: You can put it wherever you like on
the spectrum. SPEERS: I’m asking where you put it. DUTTON: My – I put it in the same lunacy basket
as I do those on the right-wing. SPEERS: It’s not left-wing, is it? DUTTON: I don’t believe we should tolerate
people acting outside of the law wherever they are on the spectrum. SPEERS: It’s not left-wing, is it? Islamist terrorism? DUTTON: It’s an organisation that’s on the
spectrum, David, and doesn’t matter where they are. SPEERS: Doesn’t ASIO say it doesn’t fit
on the left-right continuum? DUTTON: You can get into the semantics on
it. SPEERS: You are, Minister, that’s the point
I’m saying. You suggested it’s left-wing, it’s not, is it? DUTTON: The point I would make, wherever people
are on the spectrum, if they are terrorists, if they pose a threat to Australians – I think
I demonstrated this in my time in this portfolio… SPEERS: Sure, but it’s important to be accurate
in what you’re trying to fight here. DUTTON: Except on the basis they pose a threat to our country. That’s the approach I have taken. SPEERS: The ASIO boss also pointed out there
are more foreign spies in Australia today than there were during the height of the Cold
War. Are they mostly from China? DUTTON: Well, they’re not just from China,
but they’re from Iran, from… SPEERS: Mostly from China? DUTTON: And from elsewhere. I’ll let the ASIO
boss provide more detail if he wants. SPEERS: Why can’t you? You know the answer
to this. DUTTON: Well, if he wants to go into the detail
of this, he will. SPEERS: You’re here now, Minister. I’m just
asking you as the Minister – are most of these foreign spies from China? DUTTON: Well, David, I’m giving you this answer
– that is I don’t care where people come from. Again, if they pose a threat to our national
interest, to our sovereignty, if they’re engaging in interference in our political system or… SPEERS: Sure, but it matters where is they
come from? DUTTON: Well, of course it does. And for us
if they’re posing… SPEERS: Where are they coming from? DUTTON: Well, I have just listed some of the
countries, but others, and if we find somebody who is acting against our national interest
outside of the law then we act against them. SPEERS: It seems to suggest the number he’s
talking about, the current foreign transparency scheme isn’t adequate or isn’t working. Do
you need to change the register for foreign spies, foreign agents? Do you need stronger
powers in particular the suggestion of detaining foreign spies? DUTTON: If ASIO suggests that there is a case
to be made, we’d be happy to look at that. We have introduced and passed 19 tranches
of national security laws which have directly resulted in terrorist attacks being thwarted
in criminal syndicates being disrupted. So if the ASIO boss, or ASIS … SPEERS: What about the Parliamentary committee
– the joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security. Two years ago it recommended
a change here to allow foreign spies to be detained along with terror suspects for 24
hours of questioning. Two years ago they did that. Is the Government going to move on that
front? DUTTON: David, the process you’re referring
to – there was a sunset clause built into the legislation. So that comes up in September
of this year. SPEERS: And a recommendation to replace it
with this new detention power. DUTTON: Look, we’re going through that process
with the committee at the moment. SPEERS: It’s a Long process. DUTTON: Well, it should be because you’re
talking about significant powers. There needs to be proper oversight, needs to be judicial
oversight in some of the processes as well. There’s a lot to get right and we’ll work through that and we got up until
September to do it. SPEERS: There’s a damning story in the News
Corp papers this morning about AUSTRAC which is in your portfolio as well – the financial
crimes watchdog. Did AUSTRAC sit on evidence of potential child sex crimes for more than
a year? DUTTON: No, it didn’t. And this hatchet job
on Nicole Rose should be seen for what it is. Nicole has taken AUSTRAC at an unprecedented
level of success not only with the banks, but many of the criminal syndicates that they’re
now working on with the ACIC and the Australian Federal Police and their state counterparts
as well. SPEERS: So there’s no delay here? No delay… DUTTON: No, there’s not. The personal attacks
on Nicole Rose at a time when she’s going after some pretty big fish, I think is pretty
outrageous. I can tell you my experience with Nicole Rose is she’s one of the most exceptional
public servants that we have in the Commonwealth. I deal with her on a regular basis. I have
the utmost confidence in her and I found her frankly to be one of the most impressive people
in public life that I have met and I think people should be proud of the work she does. SPEERS: More specifically on paedophiles using
the dark web for child exploitation to watch streaming of abuse often in the Philippines.
There has been a lot of talk about what the Government might be doing here. Can you clear
it up for us – what are you going to do about this? DUTTON: Well as the Police Commissioner the
other day along with the CEO of the ACIC and AUSTRAC made this case at the Press Club that
you would have seen. We have got groups, syndicates who are operating on the dark web at the moment
that we just can’t stop. And we wouldn’t allow any suburb or town within our country to be
lawless. We wouldn’t allow children to be raped and sexually assaulted within a suburb
and the police not able to go in. SPEERS: What are you going to do? DUTTON: That’s what we got on the dark web.
So I think there’s a case that is building for us to look at the way in which the police
operate on the dark web, that they can use frankly the same expectation that the community
has in real life online. That is the same laws should apply in real life online. SPEERS: Would you give police the powers,
the capability, the resources, that the Australian Signals Directorate has overseas, give the
AFP those powers at home? DUTTON: Well, I think already, David, you’re
seeing elsewhere the United States, the UK, where something like that works and I think
there is a case for the police, if they can’t get into a syndicate – there was a syndicate
operating out of the US called Play Pen which was deliberately targeting prepubescent children.
That’s the sort of syndicates we’re talking about at the moment – they’re operating with
complete impunity on the dark web and if they’re operating these syndicates, the police should
be able to stop it. It’s an inconvenient topic to talk about because nobody wants to talk
about children being sexually abused but that’s what we’re dealing with and I think properly
oversighted powers that the police can exercise judiciously, if it’s going to save children
from being sexually abused here or in the Philippines, or elsewhere in the world, I think it’s something that should be given proper consideration. SPEERS: Can I ask you about domestic viol ence.
There was some moving speeches in the Parliament this week for Hannah Clarke and her children
killed there in Queensland. But let me read you the comments of Pauline Hanson. She says,
“Don’t bastardise all men out there or all women for that matter because these things
happen. A lot of people are driven to do these acts for one reason or another.” Driven to
do these acts? Is Senator Hanson an appropriate person to be chairing the Senate family law
inquiry. DUTTON: I don’t agree Senator Hanson’s comments
and it’s been a long time since I was a police officer, 20 years, but I can tell you some
of the images of domestic violence, women being assaulted, women screaming at the door
as you approached a residence, stay with me today. I want to make sure we do all we can
to keep women and children safe. Senator Hanson has her views. We live in a democracy. SPEERS: Why is she chairing this inquiry then,
why did the Government put her in that position? DUTTON: Well, she’s again just to make this
point – she’s entitled to her views. She can be condemned or praised for her views depending
on your perspective. I don’t agree with them but we’re in a Parliamentary democracy process
and if she wants to make comments she can justify them and… SPEERS: I’m asking you to justify why the
Government would put her in charge of an inquiry in this very area? DUTTON: Because she has a perspective in this
area and we’re happy to listen to all perspectives. The Government… SPEERS: It’s one that’s out of step with
your views, though, with many community views? DUTTON: In relation to the statement that
you have just made, I have put very clearly my position. There would be other statements
that she would make because she’s had constituents that she feels very strongly about. She obviously
believes that some people have been wronged and in the circumstance where you talk about
all people, all males, all females, all children, you know, I mean, let’s be realistic. She
has a perspective to put. We listen to that, but in the end, the Government will put in
place recommendations that we believe will strengthen the family law system or make a
better, safer environment for women and children and that will be the priority of the Prime
Minister and the Government. SPEERS: Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton,
thanks for joining us. DUTTON: Thanks, David.

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