Subjects: 457 Visas, 501 deportations, Tara Nettleton/Khaled Sharrouf; Warren Truss; Andrew Robb.
Journalist: Minister good morning.
Peter Dutton: Good morning Ray.
Journalist: Now you've just heard me refer to this chaos in Sydney – stopped short of the airport tunnel. It's a foreign driver with a Queensland driver's licence. Now our investigations would indicate that many of the foreign drivers are getting their B-double licence out of the cornflakes packet because this bloke and many others that I have been told about can't back their trucks into bays or out of tunnels.
The use of 457 visas for things like truck driving, is it prevalent?
Peter Dutton: No it's not. I have had a look into this case and I've just got a bit of advice. So the first point, as I'm advised, is that the driver wasn't the holder of a 457 visa and there are less than 10 truck drivers right across the country that are here on 457 visas. So that would only be in specialised areas where they can't find a truck driver. It may be in a remote area where they can't find an Australian that wants to work, but less than 10 people in total and this guy, as I'm advised, wasn't the holder of a 457 visa.
Journalist: Ok the next step then. If we have got – and I can guarantee I have seen more than 10 international truck drivers behind the wheel of a B-double – if they are not the holders of a 457 it appears they are coming here with their licence from wherever they get it in India or Pakistan and when they arrive here they then get a MC-licence to drive a B-double.
It appears to me that there must be rorting within the system because if there are so many truck drivers with these licences who can't back a truck into a bay or out of a tunnel, we do have a significant problem.
Peter Dutton: Well Ray we do and the Queensland Minister obviously can answer the questions about the licence arrangements and what testing they do and what people have to do to pass to actually get the licence. If it's just a rubber stamp process then the Queensland Government has a lot to answer for here, but the suggestion somehow that this person is here on a 457 visa is incorrect.
In actual fact I was interested to note the number of 457 holders in Australia increased from about 68,000 to 110,000 people when Labor was in Government. That number has actually dropped now under this Government to 104,000. So the number of people here on 457's, that is people that come here on a temporary visa to work in a job that can't be filled by an Australian.
Journalist: Are you telling me out of 104,000, only 10 people are driving trucks on 457's?
Peter Dutton: Yeah so the vast majority of people come here for medical purposes for example. So doctors in areas where we can't get Australian doctors and lots of people in rural areas know the frustration there. There would be some nurses, aged care and other areas as well.
Look the unions had nothing to say about this issue when numbers increased on the 457 programme under Labor, but they are banging the table at the moment because they want to make some sort of political ground and I just don't think it adds up.
Journalist: What about the story that's been presented to me that his partner's a 457 visa holder? If someone comes to the county as a 457 visa holder, do they bring their spouse with them as part of the deal?
Peter Dutton: Yes they can, but as I'm advised in relation to this fellow, that's not the case. So his spouse is here on another temporary visa, but it's not a work visa. So that's the advice I have got.
Journalist: So what's he on?
Peter Dutton: Well his girlfriend, for example, could be on a student visa, it could be another class of visa…
Journalist: …then how does he get a visa on the basis his girlfriend is here on a student visa?
Peter Dutton: Well it may just mean, Ray that they meet here, they came over as backpackers together, they have known each other before they came over – I just don't know the individual's circumstance. As I'm advised, neither he nor his girlfriend are on 457's.
Journalist: Does he have a visa that allows him to work?
Peter Dutton: Yes.
Journalist: Ok. Well the next thing he should do is get his licence so he can back a truck out I suppose.
Peter Dutton: Well it's not a Queensland thing either Ray. There are bad drivers in New South Wales.
Journalist: I beg your pardon?
Peter Dutton: I just want to make the point mate that Queenslanders are pretty good drivers and this would be the exception.
Journalist: Well I would say to you, with all due respect Minister, I can tell you not anecdotally via fact that there are a lot of drivers in Queensland and New South Wales who came here either on a visa of some description who get their B-double licence out of the packet of the cornflakes pack and can't back their semi and it happens in Western Sydney. I am getting emails from 4BC about warehouses in Brisbane telling me the same thing.
We have a whole stack of people not restricted to Queensland who get a licence to drive a B-double who can't back it into a loading bay to either load it up or offload it and it's a really serious problem.
Peter Dutton: No I don't doubt that, but I don't want this to be an issue with Queensland drivers. I know the southerners think they are better drivers…
Journalist: …no, no, no…
Peter Dutton: …I'm happy to have a show down with you at some point.
Journalist: …I have two imbeciles in the Galston Gorge at the moment blocking things and I can almost assure you they won't be from Queensland.
Peter Dutton: No, no, well we can hit the race track any day you want. I am happy to go and have a spin against you.
Journalist: No I'm not a petrol head. I'm too old to go fast. As my children tell me if you go any slower you will be stopped dad.
To much more serious issues. The Courier Mail double murderer Francis James Carter once described as the former Chief Justice of the state of Queensland as a man that should spend the rest of his life in jail. He was released from jail last year and that caused some consternation for your then LNP Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie, but you have now sent him packing. When is he going?
Peter Dutton: Well he is obviously got a pretty serious criminal history back 35 years for firearms offences, stealing motor vehicles, assaults and all sorts of violence against people. He has had his visa cancelled now and he will be deported and that process is underway at the moment, but also convicted, as you say, of a horrific murder and escape custody.
We've increased the number of visa cancellations dramatically over the last 12 months and my view is that most Australia's support us doing this – I mean non-citizens are committing offences, particularly serious offences and child sex offences against children – well I think they should be deported.
Journalist: Just in relation – and this is not a question you could answer as a Minister but I think as a Queenslander you could – we've had a debate in New South Wales over the past couple of weeks about the most heinous and notorious murders and rapists in our jails, spending the rest of their life in jail. Now even the killer, Cowan, of poor little Daniel Morcombe; you know a lot is made about the fact that oh he's given the longest sentence possible and it appears to me in Queensland that you can't do what we do in New South Wales, where the judiciary can say, well I'm sorry, you will never see the light of day ever again because it appears to me the standard sentence for a murder in Queensland, even the worst type of murder, is somewhere between 15 and 20 years – life up there means between 15 and 20 years – and that's a strange anomaly. I don't quite understand it.
Peter Dutton: It would be great to get Anna Palaszczuk on your programme Ray to explain it.
Journalist: it was the same when Campbell Newman was there. I'm just saying that it appears to me that somewhere down the track in Queensland judicial history, someone decided that no one should spend the rest of their life in jail, that's what it appears to me?
Peter Dutton: That will be the law that they're operating under….
Journalist:…Oh I know that but what I'm saying is at some stage, perhaps well before Campbell Newman under a previous Labor government – and I'll investigate over the next week where it all came from – that there's not the same leeway for judges in Queensland as there is for New South Wales, who say listen; you're not getting out so forget about it. We had a person sentenced over the deaths of four people in nursing homes where he lit a fire. He'll never see the light of day but that can't happen in Queensland and it's strange.
Peter Dutton: Well it should happen because these families live with a life sentence when they've lost somebody, and that's the case in the Baden-Clay murder, it was the case for Faye Kennedy with the loss of her daughter Deidre and many others. These people should pay a price and that should be life in jail.
Journalist: Ok. Very quickly, a couple of others, now Tara Nettleton – and I've got people emailing me as I'm speaking to you about this – has died in Syria. Now, it's being reported in
The Australian it is a kidney disease, it's appendicitis in another publication. It says that Khaled Sharrouf and Mohamed Elomar are both dead and Elomar had married the 14 year old daughter of Sharrouf Nettleton and she's given birth to a baby eight weeks ago. Let's deal with Tara Nettleton first, is she dead?
Peter Dutton: Ray, I don't have any information to that effect and obviously it's difficult to get accurate advice out of these sort of war zones as to whether or not somebody has died or been killed in the theatre of war. But obviously the media reports and the family's indication is that she has died and the children therefore left behind – and obviously that creates a dilemma as to what in that sort of circumstance, if the mother has died, will happen to the children.
Journalist: Well let's take the case – and people are suggesting she hasn't died, that it is some sort of ruse to get the children back here into the care of their grandmother and she stays over there – but just to say for the case she has died in this hospital in Syria, and we've got a 14 year old child who has now become a mother, fathered by a terrorist who we think might be dead, we don't know that he is dead, but they think he was killed last year. What obligation is there on Australia to these five children? One of whom is a little boy who was pictured in 2014 with a severed head in his right hand.
Peter Dutton: Well Ray, again it's hard to know whether or not these media reports are accurate but just to sort of play the hypothetical. If there is an Australian citizen of any age, including and most definitely children, regardless of the circumstance, we would provide consular assistance to the grandmother or to the children but we'd have to have a look at the individual circumstances and then the conditions under which people were brought back into our country would have to be considered very carefully, because obviously, any parent who is dangerous enough, crazy enough to take young impressionable children into that sort of an area, obviously scars those children for life.
So ultimately the Government's clear objective is to keep the Australian public safe and we'd have to look at the individual circumstances to see what kids may have been through, what they've been exposed to, whether or not later in life they pose a threat, it's a very complicated….
Journalist: Well I mean a little boy who was good by his father and he goes by his father who is now deceased, to hold a severed head of one of their victims of these lunatics, I mean how does a kid recover from that in any way shape or form? How does he separate himself from those actions?
Peter Dutton: Well I don't think you ever can Ray, I mean that's the reality, it's a barbaric act and you can only imagine what else these children have been exposed to and it just shows how evil and pervasive this death cult is and we need to make sure that we stare it down and obviously the Government's doing all it can through the security agencies, but also through the amazing work of the Australian Defence Force over there at the moment, trying to defeat ISIL in Syria and Iraq.
Journalist: All the news today revolves around the Prime Minister having a reshuffle with the Trade Minister Andrew Robb announcing his retirement from politics after the next election and Mr Truss will make his announcement today. Do you think you'll keep immigration in a reshuffle?
Peter Dutton: That's my sense. Obviously I've been working very closely with the Prime Minister. We're determined to make sure these boats don't start up again and we are determined to get kids out of detention. So I think continuity in this portfolio is important and that's been the Prime Minister's advice to me as well. So I think the fact that Andrew Robb and Warren Truss retire as two giants of the Liberal and National Parties is a pretty special moment to mark because they've contributed significantly over decades to public life and in Andrew Robb's case he's been able to master this Trade portfolio which will result in billions of dollars of trade and thousands of Australian jobs and Warren Truss similarly for what he's done in regional Australia. So I think we've been very well served, our country has, by these two individuals and I think it's right that we honour them now and in the coming weeks as well.
Journalist: Thanks for your time as always, talk next Thursday.
Peter Dutton: Thanks Ray. Take care.