National Security

Transcript | Doorstop Canberra | 12 February 2024

February 12, 2024

Monday 12 February 2024

Doorstop at Australian Parliament House

Subjects: Released documents reveal Albanese government has failed to use preventative detention laws against released criminals  


JAMES PATERSON: Well, thank you for coming everyone. This is the document that the government didn't want the public to see. It details how many people have committed which offences, where they are in the community, and the fact that the government has failed to apply for a single preventative detention order to protect the community. We now know among the at least 149 people that the government released into the community following the High Court's decision includes seven alleged murderers. It includes 72 people guilty of assault, burglary or armed robbery. It includes 37 people accused of serious sex offenses, including child sex offenders. And we know that among those, 24 of them have now re-offend since they've been released into the community. That includes six who breached their visa conditions at the federal level, and a further 18 who have been charged by state and federal police for offences that they have committed against the Australian people. And yet, over a long summer break, the government did not apply under the laws that the parliament passed before Christmas for preventive detention schemes to protect the community. What was the point of rushing that legislation through before Christmas, if the government planned to wait two months before even using it? And still to this day have not made a single application to a court to have any of these high risk offenders re-detained and taken off the streets. This is a shocking failure on community safety and national security from the Albanese government. It continues their slow and weak response when it comes to national security, and it's time for the Prime Minister to front up in question time today and explain exactly why his government and his ministers, Clare O'Neil and Andrew Giles, have done nothing to protect the community from this serious danger.

JOURNALIST: Preventative detention laws have been challenged in court and have fallen up short because of the assessment tools that underpin it. Are you confident that any of these applications could actually withstand a court challenge? Is perhaps the legal ramifications, something that would need to be worked through over many months?

PATERSON: Well, the only way we'll know whether they'll withstand a challenge is if the government gets off its backside and makes an application to the court. An application to the court which detains someone is far better than not making one at all. And if we subsequently identify that they are legal issues that can be remedied by the Parliament, it is no excuse for inaction for this government.

JOURNALIST: Mr Paterson, people with these kinds of crime profiles are released into the community every day. What's the difference when they're from immigration detention?

PATERSON: The difference is these people are not citizens and they don't have a valid visa to be in Australia, except for a High Court decision which is found that they can't be deported. And the reason why they can't be deported is one of two things: either they have a well founded a fear of persecution and they can't be sent back to their home country. Or they're stateless and they can be sent back to their home country because they don't have one. But the reason why they can't be resettled in a third country is because of the seriousness of the offences that they have committed or alleged to have committed. And so they are different from an Australian citizen who, of course, we can't detain for that reason. These are people who don't have a legal right to be here and should not be on the streets if they pose a danger to our community. The Parliament has accepted this. The High Court has provided a solution. It's suggested preventative detention after the opposition called for it, and there's no reason why it couldn't be used now.

JOURNALIST: What's your response to a committee report that human rights have been possibly infringed by this legislation? That that it could go too far. Do you take any of those on board?

PATERSON: I note that's a committee that's chaired by the government, by a Labor MP, Josh Burns. He's obviously not comfortable with the legislation he himself voted for. And it does indicate that the government is deeply divided internally when it comes to protecting the community. That's no surprise. And perhaps that explains why the government has failed to use these laws to protect the community. But they should not allow concerns from Labor backbenchers about human rights to get in the way of protecting the community from serious offenders who are roaming out on the streets right now committing crimes against Australians.

JOURNALIST: Sorry isn't that a glib statement, that we shouldn't allow human rights to get in the way of locking up alleged offenders?

PATERSON: Well, I invite you to make that explanation to people who've been the victims of these offenses. The Parliament passed these laws. These are valid laws on the books. They are allowed to be used. If the government wants to allow international human rights law to stand in the way of protecting Australians, then they can justify that to the victims of these crimes.

JOURNALIST: There's been reports this morning that home affairs contracts have previously been given to companies with links to drugs, crime and bribery, should there have been greater oversight from the minister at the time?

PATERSON: I know that the government has selectively dropped that report to a journalist ahead of Senate estimates. The Minister herself did doorstop before Senate estimates. Obviously, in an attempt to distract the public from this very real and present danger to the community, which they are trying to obscure from. I haven't had a lot of time to read the report because it was only tabled this morning. But Mr. Richardson did find that there was no ministerial involvement or implication in these decisions, and he wasn't briefed on these decisions that procurement and contracting was a matter for the departments. That's not surprising because that is always the case. Ministers are not involved. That should not be involved directly in contracting. And the responsibility for this as Mr. Richardson found falls with the department.

JOURNALIST: Nevertheless, department officials clearly dropped the ball on multiple fronts. Don't you think someone should be held accountable for these failures?

PATERSON: Well, we've been canvasing this a little bit in Senate estimates this morning. And in the words of the current Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs, Ms Stephanie Foster, it would require the wisdom of two Solomons to identify someone who was directly responsible for this. That's up to the government to decide whether they want to take any action against people who were found to be responsible.

JOURNALIST: Does that raise your concerns about the department that it will take the wisdom of two Solomons to find out who dropped the ball on the contract?

PATERSON: No, I think it just reflects the complexity of this issue. It is not easy to find contractors who are willing to operate and able to operate in these environments. It's a challenging thing to maintain offshore processing, but it's a very important part of our successful strategy, Operation Sovereign Borders, to prevent significant deaths at sea and significant arrivals on our shores, which occurred under the previous government.

JOURNALIST: Just to go back to NZYQ, the government talks a big game on transparency, but we only knew a handful of people that were arrested following their release into the community and we see now there is about eight to ten people that have been charge. What does that say?

PATERSON: Well it's a shocking failure of transparency and honesty and integrity by the Albanese government. It emerged in January that they were going to cease publishing this information, cease making it available to the Australian public. There is no good reason why they needed to do that. They should have continued to provide these updates as they became available, and it shouldn't have to be dragged out by the skin of our teeth from the officials from the Department of Home Affairs. We now have this information. But if any more offenses are committed after this, should we really have to wait for the next round of Senate estimates before we drag this information out? Or should the government just return to being transparent, being open, and publish this information as soon as it becomes available? Thanks everyone.


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