08 October 2019


SUBJECTS: Syria; encryption legislation and CLOUD Act; record numbers of people arriving by airplane and claiming asylum on Peter Dutton’s watch.
HAMISH MACDONALD: Turkey’s planned operation in Northern Syria has raised concerns over the safety of people currently held in the Al-Hawl refugee camp in the country’s North-East. Among them are a dozens of Australian members of ISIS fighters. Today, The New Daily is reporting an Australian woman will never be allowed to return home after the Australian Government reportedly cancelled her citizenship. Zehra Duman moved to Syria in 2014, married an ISIS fighter, and became an effective recruiter for the militant group. But earlier this year, she talked about her desire to return here to Australia.
ZEHRA DUMAN (AUDIO RECORDING): I want to get back to my country. Obviously, I think everybody's asking for that because you know, I'm an Australian citizen, and I think I have—you know, not just me, my kids—have a right to at least, at least be, you know, treated like normal kids. You know: hospital, medicine, food.
MACDONALD: That's Zehra Duman speaking earlier this year. We've asked Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton for a comment. We have not heard back at this point. I'm joined this morning by the Shadow Home Affairs Minister Kristina Keneally, from our Melbourne studios.
MACDONALD: Good morning to you. You will no doubt be aware of these reports. Have you had confirmation from the government about this citizenship matter?
KENEALLY: Hamish, we are aware of these reports, we have not had such confirmation. And that will be for the government to confirm. However, I have met in recent weeks with family members of people who have children or grandchildren in this Al-Hawl refugee internally displaced persons camp. Some of these people, yes, are genuine victims, others are people who took a decision to go over and fight with ISIS. Nonetheless, the innocent children—and the Prime Minister himself has reflected upon this—the innocent children are victims here of their parents’ decisions. And what I would encourage is that the government continues to work with the families and with our national security agencies to consider what, if anything, can be done to extract these children to safety. And bearing in mind some of the people there—yes, the adults—would and should face criminal charges should they return to Australia. The government does have a scheme in place, the Temporary Exclusion Order scheme, which Labor supported, which actually aids and helps the government to manage the return and the prosecution where appropriate of people who've gone over to fight with ISIS to become foreign fighters.
MACDONALD: So in your view, these children that have been rendered effectively stateless: are they Australian?
KENEALLY: That is a matter that only the government can determine. That is, in the circumstances, where children to be extracted, the government would have to determine DNA testing and other things to come to that conclusion. But what we do have in the Al-Hawl camp are some 20 women, some 40 children, who are have a claim or who assert to claim to Australian citizenship. The American government has, for some months now been encouraging and demanding that Western countries take back their foreign fighters and these children and to deal with him in their own legal systems and within their own frameworks. As I said, Australia recently passed legislation that would enable the government to do that. The risk here, Hamish, as we are advised by government, is whether or not it is safe to extract these children and their mothers. It is really a decision now that the Government, being advised by security agencies, needs to take and to determine whether it is safe in these changing circumstances given the White House's announcement last night to extract these children.
MACDONALD: On the question of Zehra Duman’s citizenship, though, does the government need to clarify the situation today?
KENEALLY: This is a matter that only the Government can speak to. We are in a circumstance, Hamish, as the opposition that we don't have the information that is available to the government. The government has made some information publicly available to the small number of Australians who have lost their citizenship—for dual citizens. And this is a matter that is, in, fact currently before the Parliament in terms of proposed changes to those laws. But it is only a matter that the government can speak to.
MACDONALD: As you say, it is before Parliament's powerful Intelligence and Security Committee. Last month, that Committee received a submission from ASIO raising concerns about revoking citizenship. What is your position on this? Are changes needed to the legislation?
KENEALLY: Well, this is very much the question that is before the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security and I am a member of that Committee. We do take very seriously ASIO’s submission. It was a rather extraordinary submission making an observation that others have made but quite significant that it comes from ASIO, that the act of stripping citizenship from dual citizens could potentially make Australia and the world less safe, not more-so. And the concerns that have been raised in the last 24 hours go to this very question of whether or not the American withdrawal could make it less safe for the world. Considering that we now have a circumstance where some tens of thousands of people in the Al-Hawl camp, as well as people who are currently incarcerated, whether or not they would become stateless or indeed able to freely roam through various regimes in the Middle East. These are serious questions that need to be considered, and I think it's part of the reason you may be seeing pushback in the United States, from some of President Trump's own party allies, in relation to this announcement, what we would do ---
MACDONALD: Sorry, just on that, Senator, the Republican Senate Leader, Lindsey Graham says this is a disaster in the making in terms of the withdrawal from Syria, is it in your view?
KENEALLY: This is a matter that, first and foremost, the Australian government needs to speak to. We have been advised by government that they are in conversations now with our American counterparts. We would, as the Labor Party, encourage a de-escalation of tensions, obviously. And we do remain concerned, not just about the children and those people who are victims who are in Al-Hawl camp, but indeed regional and global security as a result of this decision.
MACDONALD: Given the broader uncertainty, though, does that increase the need, in your view, for the Australian Government to act quickly in terms of the fate of these Australians with questionable citizenship, if we can put it that way?
KENEALLY: There have been concerns raised by the families and I believe they are justifiable concerns that the opportunity, the window, if you will, to safely extract the children and indeed those people who are adults is coming to a close. The decision by the Americans to withdraw could certainly be hastening that time frame. You heard earlier in your news report from Kamalle Dabboussy who made the observation - and he was recently there - that in his view, it is still safe. Now that is only a determination that our national security agencies and the government can make, as to whether or not it is safe to extract this number of children and their parents. But I think what Australians would expect is that our government acts in the best interest of our country and in terms of national security, and where there are innocent children who lives are at risk, that we do what we can to ensure their safety.
MACDONALD: In other matters this morning, Australia, the US and the UK have signed an open letter to Facebook demanding the social media giant hole plans to roll out further end to end encryption services until it guarantees law enforcement access to people's messages if deemed necessary. Is that fair?
KENEALLY: There's a lot going on here. And certainly we the Labor Party would agree with the government that we want tech companies to work with law enforcement to stop the vile crimes of child sexual exploitation in particular, but other forms of criminal activity that takes place behind encrypted walls, if you will. I think the real questions will lie into whether or not the Australian law which was passed by the Parliament in a significant rush less than 12 months ago, without amendments that many people including the government at the time said were necessary, whether those laws now can conform to the CLOUD Act in the United States and allow this type of ability to access encrypted material to become possible. There are currently two reviews going on into these laws passed by Australian Parliament just less than 12 months ago. Two independent reviews happening. And there's I've spoken to American-based tech companies who are quite concerned that the Australian lies do not conform to the CLOUD Act. The Law Council of Australia is of the view that it does not. I think that is the very much the real question, now is Mr. Dutton is in the United States, as to whether or not the laws his government passed would allow him to do what he wants to do what he and what we would say is important to do.
MACDONALD: So are you saying our laws need to mirror the CLOUD Act? Is that what you’re saying?
KENEALLY: Well, what we what we know from when the laws were passed last year, is that there's significant concern that our laws would not conform to the CLOUD Act. That we would not be allowed access to the CLOUD Act under the laws passed by the Parliament no less than 12 months ago. The Independent National Security Legislation Monitor is reviewing those laws now. So is the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security and there continue to be concerns raised by American tech companies, by Australian tech companies and by signal many experts in the field, no less than the Australian Law Council, saying that our laws would not meet the requirements of the CLOUD Act.
MACDONALD: The Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, is being pretty blunt about the whole matter. He says you're either on the side of vulnerable children or you're not. It is time for Facebook to pick a side. Is that a reasonable way to put it? I mean, the assertion is that paedophiles will get away with their actions if Facebook doesn't allow law enforcement access to messages, even if they go ahead with these end to end encryption facilities.
KENEALLY: Look, the language is understandable when confronted with the horror of some of this criminal activity about the violence commodification and abuse of children. But this is this is a matter that goes beyond just trying to get a headline with a sharp grab. If we want to do what Mr. Dutton says he wants to do, we need to ensure that we laws that allow us to do it. And the very real question that was posed before the Parliament before Christmas last year was whether or not our laws were going to take us out of participation in the CLOUD Act. There still remain open and serious questions about whether or not our laws will allow us to participate in the CLOUD act. And when Mr. Dutton comes back from the United States, I would encourage him to put his focus on whether or not the laws passed by his government are sufficient and fit for purpose to do what he says he wants to do.
MACDONALD: Okay. In other matters this morning, government figures show they've been 95,000 people that have arrived by plane since July 2014 seeking permanent protection visas in Australia. You're raising concerns about this, but it is fair to say that the plane arrivals are quite different to boat arrivals?
KENEALLY: Well, they are, Hamish, and yet they are not. Because what we are talking about here, and this is an observation made by Jason Wood last year in a Joint Migration Committee Report, is that there is enough serious evidence to show that people smugglers have shifted their business model from boats to planes. We have criminal syndicates and illegal labour hire companies, bringing people here through our airports on valid visas, getting them to apply for asylum when they arrive here, knowing that it will take the government some four years to assess that claim. And, what happens in that four year period? Well, people are trafficked through these labour hire companies and other—let's call them scam operations—to work in agriculture, to work in hospitality, to work in nail salons, to work in brothels. And they are often paid as little as four dollars an hour, they will have their passports removed from them, they will experience, some of them, sexual and physical abuse. This is an exploitation of people on a mass scale.
MACDONALD: But the position the government would put his that people are not dying coming by plane whereas they were coming by boat.
KENEALLY: Well, the government can’t actually say that nobody has died who has come by plane because we are talking about now tens of thousands of people who've been moved through our airports, put in exploited conditions, abusive conditions, conditions that are often akin to slavery.
MACDONALD: You wouldn't compare the safety issues involved with coming by boat with coming by plane, would you?
KENEALLY: They’re different questions, but it doesn't mean that what just because one is bad, the other isn't bad. Hamish, what we have here are tens of thousands of people who are, one, working in jobs that aren't being filled by Australians, two, working for extremely low wages; that drives down wages and conditions for all the all were Australians, three, I don't think the mums and dads of Australia would be happy to know that fruit in their kids lunch box has been picked by some nineteen year old woman trafficked here from China, Malaysia or somewhere else who's been paid four dollars an hour who's been held hostage, who has been subject to sexual abuse. And then, is that really the model for our Australian workforce that we want to support?
MACDONALD: So what proportion are these ninety-five thousand are what you've just described?
KENEALLY: Well, these are the very questions that we're trying to get answers to that the government seems completely uninterested ---
MACDONALD: So you don’t know the answer ---
KENEALLY: Tomorrow I’m holding the second of a roundtable and I have been working with unions with National Farmers Federation, with AusVEG, with horticulture and growers to determine the scale of this problem. But as I said, Hamish, the Assistant Minister, Jason Wood, in this Liberal National government made this observation last year himself in a report to the Parliament, that there is sufficient evidence that there are criminal syndicates and illegal labour hire companies who are exploiting this four year blowout, this loophole in our system, to traffic workers here to work in exploitive, low-paid conditions. Now, our borders, yes, are important to be managed by boat. Fundamentally so. But we also have borders at airports. And in the past when the number of airplane arrivals have, you know, gone up by 10s, or dozens, the Department of Immigration has stepped in, worked out what was going on and clamp down on it. What we have here is this financial year we are on track to have the highest number of asylum claims in Australian history law lodged through airport arrivals. That is, as I've already outlined, has a detrimental effect on our Australian labour market and as well as on the people who are being trafficked here and exploited. It also has a significant cost impact to the taxpayer. We have seen massive blowouts and citizenship application, parent visas spouse visas. We have a Department that is overwhelmed and overloaded because the government has failed to manage the flow of people and manage the department's workload.
MACDONALD: Senator Keneally, we’ll have to leave it there. We appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.
KENEALLY: Thank you.
MACDONALD: Shadow Home Affairs Minister Kristina Keneally.