ABC News Capital Hill 24 July 2019

SUBJECTS: Temporary Exclusion Orders; Peter Dutton’s personal abuse.


SUBJECTS: Temporary Exclusion Orders; Peter Dutton’s personal abuse.

MATT DORAN: New powers allowing the Home Affairs Minister to block Australians returning from overseas for two years if it is believed they will pose a threat to national security will pass Parliament this week, but not before Labor launches a last-ditch effort to tighten the legislation in the Senate.
The Federal Government argues the bill already has the necessary checks and balances in place to ensure the regime works effectively. The Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton had some choice words about the Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus and his tactics on the ABC's AM program this morning.
Labor has used the PJCIS as a management tool for Mark Dreyfus. He is a prickly individual for every Labor leader. He believes he is the smartest guy in the room, and he has watered down pieces of legislation to a point where they can become ineffective, and we're not going to tolerate that any longer. We will accept the recommendations from the committee where they are in the national interest to do so but it has been convenient for Labor to park Mark Dreyfus in PJCIS, as opposed to in the Caucus. The Labor members recognise that in the Caucus as well, and we are not going to allow Mr Dreyfus to make our legislation ineffective.
            Peter Dutton, ABC AM, 24 July 2019
That was the Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton on the ABC's AM program. The man he was talking about, Mark Dreyfus, joins me now live in our Parliament House studio. Mark Dreyfus, thank you for your time.
DORAN: A free character assessment there from Peter Dutton. Right of reply, are you trying to water down the legislation?
DREYFUS: I think those words you just heard there from Peter Dutton say a great deal more about him than they do about me.
Labor is concerned to protect the safety and security of all Australians and every member of this Parliament is concerned to protect the safety and security of all Australians, and suggestions to the contrary from Mr Dutton or Mr Morrison or any other Liberal Party or Government members are just nonsense and they should stop it. We cannot conduct a national security debate with this kind of personal abuse. Nor should we be conducting a national security debate in the way that Mr Dutton and Mr Morrison wish to be, by saying that this is a test for Labor.
National security legislation should be measured against the national interest. It should be measured against effectiveness and should be measured by reference to the rights of Australians, the need to protect our safety, how we balance that with safeguards, all of these things. That is what a national security debate should be about, not this kind of pathetic, infantile personal abuse that Mr Dutton is engaging in. He seems to have some kind of weird obsession with me, I would have to say, not just from the comments today, and yesterday, but from previous comments.
DORAN: Picking up on that issue of safeguards that you have mentioned there and the fact that they need to be built into national security legislation. With the proposals, the amendments that you tried to move yesterday in the House, and that your colleagues were trying to move in the Senate to tighten up this legislation, what specifically are you seeking to do there?
DREYFUS: What we are seeking to do is to make the legislation more effective and more practical. Every single one of their amendments that I moved in the House of Representatives yesterday gave effect to bipartisan recommendations of the Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. This is a committee with six Liberal members and five Labor members that reported on this very legislation in April of this year. Not last year, not years ago, but just a few months ago.
The Government has chosen to bring into the new Parliament a bill which ignores some 10 of the recommendations that the Liberal majority committee recommended. So I thought it appropriate to have amendments prepared which we moved in the House yesterday that gave effect - they did nothing more than give effect - to the joint recommendations of the committee.
Mr Dutton was not prepared to argue about that. He was not prepared to engage in any explanation, he did not offer any reasons why they were ignoring the recommendations of their own Liberal majority committee.
DORAN: So those recommendations seek to, I guess, curtail some of the power that is vested in the Minister in this case?
DREYFUS: They seek to put conditions around the exercise of that power. They seek to do things like require the Minister to consider the personal circumstances and present physical safety of someone against whom he is proposing to make a Temporary Exclusion Order.
Given the extraordinary nature of this power - which is an order made by a Minister, not by a court - that would keep an Australian from returning to their country - in some cases it may be their only country, in most cases, people are sole citizens, it is their only country - Australians have a right to come back to this country.
Some of the people concerned are potentially very dangerous, which is why Labor supports the creation of a temporary exclusion order power so that can be managed.
There is no reason at all for Mr Dutton and the Government to have rejected, as a simple example, a recommendation of the committee that the Minister be required to consider the physical safety, the current physical safety, of the people against whom the order is being made.
There is a whole lot of other quite technical changes that we recommended, which Mr Dutton has rejected without explanation. That is the concern. There is actually a principal problem here and that is about the way in which the Government is choosing to treat the recommendations of a committee, which it has a majority on, that were unanimous. For 19 years successive governments, Labor and Liberal, have accepted legislative recommendations of the Joint Intelligence Committee. Mr Dutton is now ripping that up because his interest, it seems, is in picking a fight with Labor not with Australia's national security.
DORAN: If there are these technical flaws with this legislation, if this is a battle that you want to pick on principle and picking up on that bipartisan nature there, what is the point of voicing your opposition to the legislation as it currently stands, but then saying that when it reaches the Senate, if you don't get your way, you will waive the legislation through altogether? Is that another example of what some have described as Labor rolling over?
DREYFUS: Not at all. We have said - because we as a party signed up to the Joint Intelligence Committee report back in April - we have said that legislation should be passed. We have accepted that there is a role for this power in the armoury of powers that Australian agencies and Australian governments have got to deal with the very particular problem in respect of a very small number of people that are presently in Syria who have participated in various ways. Some of them as innocent bystanders, some of them are children under five years old, but others were fighters. We have accepted that there is a need for the Australian Government to have power to manage those people and that is why we support this legislation. But we did our level best to get the Government to listen to the recommendations of the committee which it dominates, by putting amendments into the House and we will do it again in the Senate.
I hope the Government listens there, but there is no sign that they are wishing to. Instead there is every sign that Mr Dutton and Mr Morrison will just continue to hurl personal abuse and continue to pick fights with Labor which is not the way in which national security should be approached.
DORAN: Just very briefly you mentioned there it is a small cohort that would be affected here. How many people do you believe these exclusion orders could apply to that are currently in Syria and Iraq?
DREYFUS: We have been told by agencies, or at least this is the figure the Government has been using publicly, it is up to some 80 Australians that are in either displaced persons camps or in a detention centre.
There is a number of men among them who fought with ISIL, who are in this detention centre - perhaps 13 or 15 are the numbers that have been used - and the rest are women and children, some 60 or 65 of them, the numbers remain a bit unclear. But some 30 of those are children under five. I don't think that they present some real threat to Australia, and they are Australian citizens and I would be expecting them to return to Australia.
So, the number is quite a small group. Obviously, each will present their own assessment that will have to be made of the individuals concerned. Labor's position is that there should be a power for a short time to exclude those Australians from returning in order to assist in managing their return. But, beyond that, we think that most of these people are going to be coming back to Australia, particularly the women and children, and particularly those women who, some will have participated in terrorist activity, but some will not.
DORAN: Mark Dreyfus, Shadow Attorney General, thank you for joining us on Capital Hill.
DREYFUS: Thanks for having me Matt.