Topics: Coalition cleaning up Labor’s mess on immigration detainees;

09:10AM ACDT
Wednesday, 6 December 2023


Matthew Pantelis:  Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham joining me now. Senator good morning.


Simon Birmingham: Good morning, Matthew.


Matthew Pantelis: A busy week in Canberra. Legislation has gone through now that potentially could see these people re-detained.


Simon Birmingham: Well, it could, Matthew. This is legislation that the Coalition has been calling for, for some time, that Peter Dutton urged the government to put in place what is known as a preventative detention regime. And it really is a failure that the government had not thought of this and had not prepared for it prior to the High Court’s decision that caused some of this chaos. So really, the government should have had the contingency plans done, the work on this done, rather than having to wait for a suggestion from Peter Dutton. This has been really a case where the opposition has led, the government has followed, but we are eventually getting the types of reforms put in place that the country needs.


Matthew Pantelis: Do states have a role to play here because it falls to police forces around the states to monitor the release of detainees. And as we know, in South Australia, there are six, of which two remain out in the community as sex offenders, at least as at today. Should states be undertaking surveillance? Police resources are fairly finite as we know it. Should it at least be discussed at National Cabinet?


Simon Birmingham: We certainly should be discussed at National Cabinet. Anthony Albanese doesn’t seem willing to front up and discuss this anywhere, but hopefully he will, even if he won’t do media interviews or press conferences on it. At least discuss it with the state and territory premiers about how it is that the Commonwealth laws that have been put in place work the types of things that we have pressed the government to do in terms of ankle bracelets and monitoring, as well as these preventative detention orders that enable individuals to potentially be put back in detention and to keep the community safe in that way. And clearly, having created much of the mess that has unfolded, Anthony Albanese has an obligation to talk to state premiers about how that is going to work and how they are going to ensure that Commonwealth resources work effectively alongside state police resources to help keep Australians safe. And remember, we have a strong track record in terms of returning people that as home affairs minister previously, Peter Dutton instituted a regime where we were very strong as a country in making sure that we returned people to their countries where they were not Australian citizens but did present as a basis of crimes they had committed a threat to the Australian community. So, it’s been really critical to keep Australians safe, that we have deported many, many people over the last few years, particularly under the Coalition government. We will be keeping close tabs to see whether the Albanese Government maintains that strength and protection of safety in the Australian community. I think most people are pretty clear that if you’re not an Australian citizen, you commit a violent crime in Australia, you don’t really have any reason to be able to stay in Australia. You should be deported. Now, sometimes there are circumstances in their country of origin that means it is difficult or impossible to get them back to that country. That’s what has necessitated these types of detention regimes in the past, and why it’s critical that we have the preventative detention regime that we called for the government to put in place, and that they have been dragged kicking and screaming to belatedly put in place.


Matthew Pantelis: But so, in other words, for people who are stateless or there’s issues with returning them home because they could face the death penalty, as is certainly the case with one of these people, we’re stuck with them, essentially. That’s what you’re saying?


Simon Birmingham: Well, that is, right now, every effort should be made to try to return people to their country of citizenship or if possible, to another country, which obviously when you’re dealing with potentially violent criminals. And in this case, we’re talking about people who’ve been released into the Australian community who are murderers, contract killers, rapists, paedophiles. It’s a range of very serious offences that individuals have been convicted of or accused of, and that’s why it really is such a big failure of the government not to have done the contingency work and planning work to be able to put protection measures in place for the Australian community. Tragically, in South Australia, we’ve seen writ large as to the problem that can cause with an allegation of indecent assault having occurred.


Matthew Pantelis: All right. Senator Simon Birmingham, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, thank you for your time today.


Simon Birmingham: Thank you. Matthew. My pleasure.