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The Hon Peter Dutton MP
Minister for Defence
Defence Media: firstname.lastname@example.org
9 June 2021
Well praise has been heaped on the Australian Federal Police's crucial involvement in Operation Ironside which brought hundreds of criminals undone. Peter Dutton was Australia's first Home Affairs Minister and served in the role for around four years. During his time in the portfolio he cancelled more than 6,300 visas of non-citizen criminals and was subjected to numerous death threats because of that. The Minister for Defence Peter Dutton joins me live now.
Minister, this must be particularly satisfying for you.
Good morning Laura. Look, I'm incredibly proud of the work that the Australian Federal Police have done. They've really put themselves up in lights as one of the most, I think, successful law enforcement agencies in the world.
They're very closely working with their international counterparts, and they've demonstrated domestically that they punch well above their weight, and that was evidenced yesterday in the closure of Operation Ironside.
There'd been a lot of work put in by some very dedicated officers over a long period of time. So full kudos to the Australian Federal Police. I'm incredibly proud of the work that they've done and very proud of the leadership that Reece Kershaw is providing to the organisation.
As I mentioned, you received a number of death threats from these criminals that you deported. When we look at what's happened today with the AFP, are some of these people that threatened you now undone by this app?
The AFP deal with all of those matters Laura, obviously, and they do a great job. I'm very grateful for the protection they provide to me and to my family, but I think Australia's a safer place for the number of people that we deported. In particular we had a focus, as you know, on people who had committed offences against children and against women, in particular sexual offences and by having them off our books and back to their country of birth it means that future women and children won't fall prey to those predators.
There's a lot of good work that's been done. I think what Australians have seen splashed over the newspapers and on programs like yours over the course of the last couple of days has just given a flavour for the types of characters that we're talking about. Outlaw motorcycle gangs are the biggest distributors of drugs in the country. They import, they manufacture, they distribute, they destroy lives, in particular of young people, including in regional towns. So the work that Karen Andrews now, and all of the Agency heads are doing within Home Affairs is quite remarkable and it's a really, I think, significant feather in the cap for Australia because we should be proud of the Australian Federal Police is punching well above their weight.
Is this in many ways a product of the establishment of the Home Affairs Department? Was there a synergy, particularly with the United States, that did allow I guess clearer lines of cooperation?
Yes, I think so. We opened up doors to the FBI and to other agencies in the United States because of the Home Affairs portfolio. They saw it as a natural construct and I think we've demonstrated through this Operation, but through a number otherwise, the numbers of thwarted terrorist attacks, the tonnes of amphetamines and other illicit substances that have been seized I think has demonstrated the worth of the Home Affairs portfolio.
The Agency heads work incredibly well together. There is a synergy there and many agencies within the Home Affairs portfolio contributed to the success of the AFP outcome on Operation Ironside. And there are operations obviously that would be under way today that will continue the success and continue to build the reputation of the Home Affairs Department.
The Prime Minister yesterday talked about this social use of drugs. It really hasn't been reported in many quarters today. Is it worse than we think? Are you concerned about the fact that drugs fuel criminal organisations or are you worried about the level of social drug use in Australia?
I certainly am. As a police officer many years ago I delivered very, you know, terrible news to parents that had a child who had overdosed or in one case had suicided and had a very heavy history of drug use. That's the reality. I think unfortunately in some parts of society drug use has been normalised and we know, particularly as parents of teenage kids, that even cannabis can be a gateway drug to harder drugs.
The evidence is absolutely irrefutable in terms of prolonged use of cannabis, which is a mind-altering drug, leading to mental health disease.
And there are many reasons why you wouldn't want your kids to be using ice. When you look at the tragic outcomes, the way in which those lives are destroyed, their relationships disrupted, kids who are left homeless because of overdoses of parents, etc, it's just a tale of tragedy from start to finish and I think in our country the fact that the Federal Police and the other police and law enforcement and intelligence agencies are doing so much to stop the distribution of drugs and the importation of drugs, shows how seriously the Government takes that threat toward families and toward young people and why we need never to keep our foot off the throat of these syndicates.
These outlaw motorcycle gang members are thugs. They don't have normal jobs. They go to extortion programs each day in small businesses where they just have a list of businesses where they work their way through, threatening small business owners, they involve themselves in other illegal activity as well and I just don't think we should underestimate the threat that they pose to our children.
On to your current portfolio. One of the first things you did when you became Defence Minister was give back these meritorious citations to those that did serve in Afghanistan. There are reports today that you were warned against doing that because it could harm the reputation of the Defence Force. Is that true?
Well Laura I received a brief obviously on this matter from the Department. The job of a Minister is to look at the options presented, to look at the information that's provided to me and my job as Minister is to make the decision.
I took the decision that I thought was in the best interests of our country and in the best interests of the men and women of the Australian Defence Force. There are thousands of men and women who served with great honour and distinction in the Afghanistan campaign and in Iraq as well, over the course of the last two decades, and I'm not going to dishonour their service. I am going to say to the one per cent of people who do the wrong thing, that if you are found to be guilty in a court of law then there will be consequences that you face. But for the vast majority of our men and women of the Australian Defence Force, they've done incredible work in our name. They've stopped terrorist attacks in our country and in other parts of the West and we should be eternally grateful for their service.
Just finally, we're going to hear from the Prime Minister today giving a speech before he heads to the G7. He wants nations to cooperate against economic coercion and he's looking at the WTO. At the same time we have Talisman Sabre in full swing in Queensland which brings together 1800 foreign soldiers to North Queensland. Are these two provocative actions, or might China see this as provocative?
Laura, I think it just reflects the times in which we live. I think Australians are becoming more and more aware of what is happening within our own region. We've got now European nations who are talking about joining efforts within the Indo Pacific to try and provide a deterrence. All of us want peace within our own region and that's what we're working day and night toward, but we need to be realistic about the threats, not just for today, but over the course of the next decade and beyond.
We need to make sure that Australia is in the best possible position to contribute to efforts of keeping peace within our own region. The quad which has been championed by the Prime Minister brings together India, Japan and Australia. It's a very important compact. The Five Eyes relationship is more important than ever, and we need to make sure that the Europeans and others collaborate to help us keep the Rule of Law and make sure that our values are respected within our region. We can't have that trampled on by anyone, including China, and we need to make sure that we're very honest and open with the Australian public about the reality of what we face.
Indeed. Well you're a hard Minister to catch so we thank you for your time. Live from Canberra Airport this morning I might say Minister, thanks.
Thanks Laura, take care.
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