Subjects: Kevin Rudd; withdrawal of Australian troops from Afghanistan; Afghan Locally
Engaged Employees visa grants.
Peter Dutton is the Defence Minister. There's a lot to talk about after troops have now left
Afghanistan; about what we're going to do to take care of the people who helped our troops
while there in Afghanistan, but also a little bit of fun at Kevin Rudd's expense. That's how we
begin our chat, which happened moments ago.
We should demand an investigation Paul. I mean who on earth would have released this
letter, who leaked this letter between the head of Pfizer and Kevin Rudd. It's self serving,
and I just think Laura Tingle – who would have been biting at the bit to write a story praising
Kevin Rudd and bagging the Coalition – needs to demand this investigation herself.
I think you're right. It's a joke. I think it's sad, actually. I think Kevin Rudd, as a former Prime
Minister, should conduct himself with the same dignity, frankly, that Julia Gillard or Tony
Abbott is. They don't weigh into these debates on a daily basis, that don't seek gratification
and public adulation. It's sad when people move from the public spotlight that they crave it
day and night, why he feels a need to contribute to public debate when, you know,
Australians have moved on from it.
I just think, as I say, it's a poor reflection on him and his desire for inserting himself into
public debate…I just think it talks more about his own character and probably reinforces
what we all knew, and most of us had largely forgotten, but now reminded of. So, there you
Also, I think, that if nothing else, that yet again, underlines the fact that plenty of people on
the Labor side of politics, well clearly don't think Albo's up to the job, so they want to do
their bid. You know Palaszczuk wants to be the federal Opposition Leader, McGowan wants
to be the federal Opposition Leader, Kevin Rudd wants to be the federal Opposition Leader
because none of this stuff's going back through his office.
I think you're spot on there mate. I think most of these people in conversations, you know
with Tanya Plibersek and Paul Keating and the rest would be saying, you know this guy is
hopeless. I mean why isn't he making these points? I'll have to go out and do it myself. You
can hear Kevin Rudd saying that.
There's a lot of disquiet in the Labor Party about Anthony Albanese, as you point out and
there are people who believe that they should be ahead in the polls, that Albanese's
problem is, you know, not just in Queensland and WA, but in NSW, particularly in the
Central Coast, in those seats that Labor has to retain or win to win the next election.
So I think at the moment because there's so much talk around COVID, that that is masking
some of that internal disquiet within Labor, but clearly it's there. It's there when you speak
to Labor people in private and no doubt it's a conversation they're having between
themselves and Kevin Rudd and Tanya Plibersek and others would feel a need to go out to
cover up for his obvious deficiencies.
All right, more important stuff. So Australia is out of Afghanistan. Last troops have left. Two
points here. Let's deal with the one that we've talked about a lot on this show, lots of other
shows people have seen on Sky News, which is the people who are the Afghanis who helped
us, they either helped us as the interpreters, or they helped us providing security to the
Embassy. What is the status of those people returning and presumably, with no more troops
there and an Embassy disappearing, the chances of being able to save those people, it
dwindles by the day. Can you give us an update on where that effort is?
Sure Paul. So a couple of points. I mean one is that we've been working day and night to
make sure that we can bring those people to Australia that have provided support to us, in
some cases saved Australian lives, but we also need to be mindful of it and my first priority
is and always will be the safety and security of Australians.
So I'm not going to fast track an application and bring somebody here that we might have
question marks over. I'm going to make sure that we can look at the background detail and
also, you know, somebody who helped us out in 2012, if you've got a Digger on your show
saying, well, look, we had an interpreter who helped us during an operation in 2012, absolutely
and on the face of that we would help that person without hesitation – but if that person, as the
intelligence might indicate, he has been working for the Taliban or has questionable, you know,
work history since that time, there's a lot of time and a lot of circumstance that's elapsed in Afghanistan
between 2012 and 2021; we might decide that that person is not of good character anymore, and there
is a doubt about whether we should bring them to Australia.
So over the course of the last eight years, we've issued about 1,480 visas. Just over the
course of the last few months, since April of this year, the numbers more like 300. So not
just the principal or the primary applicant under the Locally Engaged Employee program,
but their family members as well. In some cases they want to bring extended family
members, so grandparents or cousins etc – well the program doesn't extend to include
those, so they might withdraw their application on that basis. Some have decided to take up
an opportunity to go to Europe or to the United States under their similar programs, but we
are absolutely mindful of the obligation that we've got to provide support to those who
have supported us, but we aren't going to compromise the security arrangements and
checks that we've got in place. That's first and foremost because if somebody came here
who committed an atrocity, committed a terrorist attack, then Australians rightly, would be
asking, who approved that? And why did that person come to our country?
So I've got to look at all of the circumstances around each individual applicant, and we do
that with all of those objectives in mind, but the principal one has to be, must be, and
always will be, to make sure that we're keeping our country safe.
Now, I'm proud of the work that our men and women did in Afghanistan. I certainly know
that you are too, but how do we make sure that the people who went and serve there don't
end up being defined by what happens next? That we make sure that we honour them, that
we recognise the sacrifices of the 41 lives that were lost over there, the good work that was
done in trying to hold that country together for as long as they did? Because my fear is that
all the usual elements of academia, the media and the left of politics will try to make this
Vietnam 2.0, and they probably already started that process.
I think you're right Paul; and we made a terrible mistake as a country in the way in which we
received back our veterans from Vietnam and many people have paid a cost for decades
because of that neglect and because of the shameful way that many of them were treated
on their return.
Our country will never make that mistake again and for those people who have served in
Iraq, in Afghanistan, in campaigns otherwise in the Middle East, that there are many
Australians, 39,000 of them who have been involved in these campaigns over the course of
the last couple of decades plus, up to this very day; they deserve our honour. They went to
serve in our country's name. Forty one of them died in the service of their country, and all of
them contributed to keeping us safe and secure over that period.
He's a good man. The Defence Minister Peter Dutton. I am so glad that he is there on the
front lines for the defence of this country.