National Security

Transcript | ABC Afternoon Briefing | 10 May 2024

May 10, 2024

Friday 10 May 2024
Interview on ABC Afternoon Briefing
Subjects: High Court decision on ASF17, Muslim community leader calls for ASIO DG to resign, PLAAF-ADF incident in the Yellow Sea

MATTHEW DORAN: For more reaction on the judgement. We were joined a short time ago from Melbourne by the Shadow Home Affairs Minister, James Paterson. James Paterson, welcome back to Afternoon Briefing. In a statement this afternoon you have described the High Court's decision as a common sense one. A fairly uncontroversial one. Is that because you think that the Commonwealth argued the case quite strongly, or that any departure from the established set of practices and procedures here by the High Court would have been so extreme.

JAMES PATERSON: Well it is a very sensible decision, and we welcome it, because the alternative decision would have been catastrophic for Australia's system of immigration detention. Effectively, it would have sent a message to would be asylum seekers, including people who are found not to be owed protection, that all you have to do if you want to stay in Australia is just not cooperate with your removal and eventually you'd have to be released. Now that would be an obviously perverse and absurd situation to have. And the High Court has made the logical decision here, which is if you choose not to cooperate with your own removal, after you've been found not to be owed protection, then you can continue to be detained until you change your mind and cooperate.

DORAN: So when it comes to the steps forward from here, there is clearly an expectation that the legislation the Government rushed into Parliament before Easter, which was tied to this case, the ASF17 case, trying to make it a criminal offence for people to not cooperate with deportations. Do you believe that that legislation is now necessary to go ahead?

PATERSON: Well, we were never convinced by the urgency of ramming this bill through in 72 hours without so much as a Senate inquiry, because the government wasn't able to explain why it was so urgent. But to the extent there was any urgency, it did relate to this case. And that has now blown that out of the water. There is no reason to rush this bill through, and so the government should take the time to get it right. In good faith, we engaged in a Senate inquiry process. Coalition senators have put forward 17 recommendations to improve the bill that would still address the legitimate public policy issues, but in a way that's much more consistent with an orthodox approach to these things. And the ball really is in the government's court now. Will they accept these genuine amendments, and will they work with the Coalition to pass the bill, or are they going to continue to insist there is some urgency that doesn't exist?

DORAN: You've spent a bit of time on the other side of the chamber. You've been in government. You know how these sort of negotiations work. Oppositions rarely get everything that they demand. Is there some sort of common ground or some sort of compromise that you would be prepared to accept in exchange for the Coalition's support on this bill, even if you don't get all 17 of your recommendations through?

PATERSON: Well, look, we're trying to be constructive and we're happy to have discussions with the government and negotiate a sensible outcome here. But the reality is that they do not have a pathway to pass this bill without the Coalition, because the Greens, some of the independent crossbenchers, have indicated they will not be voting for this bill. So if the government wants this bill to pass, then it has to come to the party. It must sit down, it must negotiate, it must agree to amendments. Otherwise, it's not going anywhere.

DORAN: For some of our viewers who may have missed what some of those recommendations were when that report was released earlier this week. Can you explain what in particular you want to see tightened up in this bill?

PATERSON: This bill gives extraordinary, unfettered powers to the Minister for Immigration. For example, he can declare an entire nation of people to be a designated country of concern, and that means no one can apply for any visa unless they fit in a very narrow category of exemptions. So that means no tourist visas, no business visas, no skill visas, no family reunion visas if you're not in that exemption category. Now we think there should be some guardrails put around that power, that's a power that should be limited in time. It should be a power to be reviewed by the Parliament. The decisions of the Minister should have to meet criteria. It shouldn't be just to kind of unfettered power. Otherwise we think it could be abused.

DORAN: Do you have some sympathy for people who may find themselves in a situation where they are caught up in this sort of situation, such as the one that ASF17 raised in the High Court, where he says that if he is sent back to Iran and that is the only option for him as far as the Commonwealth is concerned, if he is sent back to Iran, he faces persecution there. Do you have any sympathy for that set of circumstances?

PATERSON: Well, I think we should have sympathy and compassion for people in these circumstances. But we also have an independent rule of law that allows us to assess people's claims. We don't just accept on face value that someone says they fear persecution. They have to prove it to a reasonable standard before their claim is accepted. And this is a person who has had that opportunity at every step of the way, not just in the High Court this week, but prior to that in Federal Court, prior to that with the department, prior to that in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. So he's had many opportunities to prove his case. No one has agreed that he is owed protection under the law. And ultimately, in a rule of law system, we have to abide by the decisions of the courts.

DORAN: I know that today in responding to this judgement, you've welcomed it, but you've said it doesn't, paper over the handling of the broader cohort of former immigration detainees who have been released into the community in light of the last major High Court decision in immigration, the NZYQ case. We have seen this afternoon in the timing could well be a curio that the first Community Protection Board report has been released, showing just how many people have been released and how many of them are subject to ankle bracelets, 153 now in the community, but fewer than half are subject to ankle bracelets and curfews. Do you have concerns about those figures?

PATERSON: Major concerns. It's an extraordinary admission from the government that of the 153 people who committed a crime so dire that their visa had to be cancelled, fewer than half of them are now being electronically monitored. We've already seen the consequences of just one of these people being out in the community without electronic monitoring, and that is the alleged assault of a 73 year old grandmother in Perth. That person wasn't wearing an ankle bracelet, was released from that condition. What about the other dozens and dozens of people who committed serious crimes who are also now in the community without monitoring? The government said they've put electronic monitoring in place to protect the community. It has failed, and one of the reasons why it has failed is because they have let so many people off the hook who don't require being electronically monitored.

DORAN: The case over in WA clearly has captured a lot of attention, and rightly so, given the alleged offences that are involved there. But do you think there should be some discretion afforded to the Minister and his delegates, in this case, senior ABF personnel, to take advice from a board like the Community Protection Board as to whether or not ankle bracelets are indeed appropriate? Shouldn't they have that sort of discretion built into the system to manage these people based on expert advice?

PATERSON: What the Prime Minister and the Immigration Minister have said is that the system that they have put in place has failed. Because they said this person should not have been released into the community without an ankle bracelet. So ultimately they're responsible. They designed this system, they accept the recommendations, and their delegate makes those decisions. We think there should be a presumption that everybody should be on electronic monitoring, unless there's a very good reason why they shouldn't be. And clearly, in this case, this is the person who violated the conditions of their curfew, multiple times, we only know that because he was being electronically monitored. It's a bizarre decision to release him from that obligation after he's already breached the terms of his visa.

DORAN: Just one final topic before we let you go. Senator Paterson, we have seen some reporting this morning that the Grand Mufti of Australia is calling for the dismissal of the ASIO director general, Mike Burgess, over some comments he's made about the threat of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism or terrorism that is fuelled by Islamic fundamental beliefs. What's your response to that sort of concerns being raised by Australia's Muslim community?

PATERSON: Well, Mike Burgess is a first class public servant, and he serves nothing else other than Australia's national security interests. And it's frankly outrageous to call for his sacking over him doing his job. We do need to calmly but clearly and plainly assign motive when it is clear, when there is a terrorist suspect. Now, it may be that they are motivated by religious fundamentalism, as it has been in some recent cases, or it might be other things. Whatever their motivation is, we have to clearly identify it, because that helps us understand why they did what they did and how we can prevent it in the future. And for this kind of political interference to be taking place is outrageous. It's really important that the government reaffirm their support for Mike Burgess.

DORAN: Do you understand why there would be a feeling within Australia's Muslim community that they are being singled out here again and again for the actions of a very small, perhaps very, very small minority within their community?

PATERSON: I do understand why that would be an uncomfortable thing, but it's the reality. The people who've allegedly committed these terrorism offences were Sunni violent extremists. That is the brand of Islam which they themselves say they are inspired by and are seeking to live out in the world. Now, we might think, rightly, that that it's a perversion of the teachings of Islam, but that doesn't mean that's not what they were motivated by. And we have to be able to clearly and plainly talk about that.

DORAN: I did say that was going to be the final topic, but I lied to you and I apologise for that. One last, quick question. We saw obviously earlier this week the situation where a Chinese fighter jet released flares in the direction or in front of an Australian helicopter over the Yellow Sea. There are differing accounts as to what actually occurred in that situation. China, saying that Australia was, was indeed spying on it. Putting that to one side, we know that the UK's Royal Air Force Chief has said that Australia should actually release vision of this incident to ensure that people can see what's actually happening there and what actually occurred. Is that something that you would support?

PATERSON: Unless there's a very good operational reason not to release the footage, we do think that the footage should be released because it would help illustrate Australia's case here. The Chinese side has provided no evidence whatsoever to back up their case, and I think we can dismiss it. But let's put it out there for the world to see.

DORAN: James Paterson, that was my final question. Thank you so much for joining us on Afternoon Briefing.

PATERSON: Thank you.


Recent News

All Posts