25 July 2019

SUBJECTS: Temporary Exclusion Orders legislation, Peter Dutton fracturing the bipartisan PJCIS, Biloela family.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Let's return to Federal politics now and laws to prevent foreign fighters from returning to Australia for up to two years look set to pass Parliament today. Now that is despite Opposition concerns the final say will rest with the Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, who insists the crackdown includes appropriate checks and balances.
VIRGINIA TRIOLI:: Shadow Home Affairs Minister, Kristina Keneally joins us now from Parliament House in Canberra. Kristina Keneally good morning, thanks for making time.


TRIOLI: So why are you persuaded that this is good law?
KENEALLY: Well the Labor Party – through the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security – does believe there is the necessity for a Temporary Exclusion Order regime, which includes return permits. That is, this law is about not just keeping people out for a period of time but, indeed, managing their return and managing the return of people who have a right to come back to their country. But nonetheless, we need to manage that in a safe way, and while some people go through appropriate deradicalisation and some people go through appropriate court processes and ultimately I would imagine incarceration at the end of that. So we support the intent of this legislation. What we are concerned about and remain concern about are two things. One, the Government cannot and will not demonstrate to Australians that this Bill will withstand constitutional challenge. And that is a significant concern that not only the Labor Party, but crossbenchers in the Senate hold, and it’s important that we have a law that is constitutional and that works and keeps Australians safe. Secondly, the Government is fracturing the bipartisan approach to national security. The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, chaired by Liberal MP Andrew Hastie, dominated by the Liberals, worked with the Labor Party, came up with 18 substantive recommendations to improve this legislation – as it has done with previous national security legislation – and the Government has rejected, in whole or in part, a significant number of those recommendations. And this is the first time the Government has, since 2013, rejected in whole recommendations from that Joint Committee. So it is a fracturing, Virginia, a fracturing of our approach in this Parliament on national security. It’s an approach that’s worked well for national security agencies, for Australians. It’s something the Government and the Parliament can be proud of and the Government seems intent on saying now, on national security, it is their way or the highway.
TRIOLI: Ok, there’s a number of things to go back through that rather long answer; if we can keep them shorter, we can get through more questions. But common sense would suggest that you gather these people in, you take responsibility for them and either charge them and keep them under strict surveillance or just keep them under strict surveillance without the charges rather than being out in the world. How does this plan keep any of us, indeed anyone in the world safe?
KENEALLY: In fact Virginia I talked about this last night in the Parliament. Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, says the Americans are expecting their allies to bring people home and put them on trial. We know that people, if they are allowed to wander the globe can pose a significant security threat to Australians.
TRIOLI: Then why are you supporting the legislation?
KENEALLY: Because the legislation Virginia is not as the Government has been portraying; it not just about excluding people. What it is saying is, you will come home at a time and a place of our choosing and in a manner that allows us to manage your safe return to put you on trial.
TRIOLI: Ok, I want to jump in there…
KENEALLY: So there is a return permit part of this scheme that Peter Dutton does not talk about.
TRIOLI: Kristina Keneally, we need to clarify that point because there will be people at home going, “So hang on, you mean you identify them from overseas and then you have them what?” You have them under care and instruction? Or in re-education camps or you have control of them during this unspecified period that they’re offshore?
KENEALLY: Well Virginia, this is an excellent point, this is an excellent point that the Government needs to be more clear about with the Australian people. What we know from the information the Government is putting out publicly is there are about 80 Australians who are currently overseas to whom these orders could apply. There is about a dozen of them, men, who are currently in Kurdish prisons or Turkish prisons. There is a group of about 20 women who are currently in camps…
TRIOLI: The refugee camps…
KENEALLY: Kurdish-controlled camps, and then there is a significant portion of children. Now there may be some Australians, and the Government hasn't been entirely clear about this, that they can't currently locate. Perhaps they are dead, perhaps they have no intention of returning to Australia, they have gone to third countries. But the majority of people to whom these exclusion orders apply are currently in places which mean they can't come back to Australia freely, right now. But we need to plan for a point at either the Kurdish authorities demand that we take these prisoners back or indeed perhaps the camps may breakdown or perhaps we want to be able to bring some of these women home. Some of these women are genuine victims. Some of them are people that will need to face criminal prosecution and what this scheme does is allows us to identify them and to plan for each of these people, their return, so they don't just turn up at an airport, but rather we are able to bring their return, place restrictions around them and for some people there will be arrest warrants and court prosecutions.
TRIOLI: But given you just said in answer to my other question about what’s unclear and what’s yet to be explained by this legislation, I'm just left confused as to why the Opposition would then step in and support it given there is clearly glaring gaps in what we know about the application of this law. That is a risky thing you are potentially engaging in.
KENEALLY: Well, Virginia, I would argue the greater risk here is the fact that we are facing a problem that Western countries around the world are facing and a problem we haven't particularly faced before. That is a significant group of people who have gone overseas to join a so-called caliphate, many of whom have become more radicalised since they have been over there and they do pose a threat to Australia. They pose a threat to Australia, yes, while they’re overseas but they also pose a significant threat were they to simply to come back to Australia. And some of these people, it may be that it is very difficult to prove that they've committed a crime so we need other ways in order to manage deprogramming, deradicalisation, their safe reintegration back into Australia. For some people that will include though, and I emphasise, criminal prosecution and incarceration.
TRIOLI: I just want to ask you on another subject before I let you go. The well-known Sri Lanka family from the Biloela community there – that was very reluctant to let these once refugees go – and they have gone back into detention, the young daughter of that family very unwell. You’ve got a shock jock on your side now in the argument of getting them out of detention, do you believe the Government will relent?
KENEALLY: I hope that they do. This is why we have ministerial discretion built into our immigration system. With this family, there are simply matters that the Court couldn't consider and, yet, we have a community that wants this family back. We have two little girls who have spent a large chunk, almost all of their lives, in detention here in Australia. One of whom is suffering because of that detention. This is a case where common sense and compassion is called for and do I hope that Minister Coleman, who I think is a community-minded and reasonable individual, will see sense and grant them the ability to stay in Australia and go back to Biloela.
TRIOLI: Thanks for joining us today Kristina Keneally.
KENEALLY: Thank you.