Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News – 31 July 2013


31 July 2013

Sky AM Agenda

Topics: ICAC, asylum seekers, Western Sydney shootings

KIERAN GILBERT: First though, the Minister for Home Affairs, Jason Clare, joins me from the Sydney studio. Minister, thanks for your time, much to discuss in your portfolio area. First though, can I touch with our lead story this morning on this ICAC report. You hail from New South Wales yourself, it’s not the best way, is it, to kick into election season for the Labor Party?

JASON CLARE: This is pretty simple in my mind, Kieran, I’ll wait and see what the report says, but if what has been alleged has been proven to be true, then the book should be thrown at these people and they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. And above and beyond that, we need to take measures to ensure that this sort of behaviour that’s been alleged is never allowed to happen again.

KIERAN GILBERT: What does intervention in the New South Wales party mean though? That’s what the Prime Minister announced. What does it actually mean? No one’s been sacked, no one’s been moved on. Isn’t it – is it just for a front, or is something actually going to be done?

JASON CLARE: There are two parts to this. First there’s reform to the party, and the second will be the recommendations in this report. The report that I, like you, am waiting to see will have recommendations designed to make sure that what’s been alleged here, behaviour – fraudulent behaviour has been alleged by ministers of the Crown, can’t be allowed to happen again.

So I think you need to look at this in two parts, reform to the party to make it more democratic, and the changes that have been made to electing the leader of the federal party are an important part of that. But other reforms, ideas like primaries, so that we’ve got Labor supporters selecting Labor candidates, I think, will make the party stronger in the long term. But there are also reforms that are going to be needed at a state level to make sure that the sort of behaviour that’s been alleged here is never allowed to happen again.

KIERAN GILBERT: So anyone with any involvement in this, corruption, gone?

JASON CLARE: Throw the book at them. There’s no excuse for any of the sort of behaviour that’s been alleged here. If it’s been proven to have occurred, throw the book at them, prosecute to the full extent of the law. The party has made the decision to expel these individuals already. But if this report comes out and says corrupt behaviour has occurred, that potentially criminal acts have occurred, that’ll be a matter for the DPP then to decide what further action is taken.

KIERAN GILBERT: Let’s look at the issue of asylum seekers now. I was told by someone within the Government that the first plane load to be sent to Manus, that was delayed, they were due to leave last night but due to weather conditions on Christmas Island that plane was unable to land to pick up that group. Now, what sort of delay are we looking at, when will that first group now be sent?

JASON CLARE: Kieran, as soon as the wheels land at Manus Island you’ll be the first to know. The Government will make a public statement as soon as the first plane lands at Manus Island. We’ve said on a number of occasions that it’ll be in the order of about two weeks from the announcement made by the Prime Minister before the health and security checks are done, and then people will be transferred to Manus Island.

The point I’d make is this, let there be no doubt that ever single person that’s arrived by boat in the last two weeks since the Prime Minister made that announcement will be transferred to Manus Island and Papua New Guinea, where they’ll be processed and then they’ll be settled in Papua New Guinea.

KIERAN GILBERT: In terms of the boat flows, obviously you’re the Minister responsible for Border Protection Command, what’s the status of the boat arrivals? We saw 17 arrive immediately after the announcement, there was a surge. Since then there’ve been no notifications of boat arrivals. How many days since we’ve seen a boat?

JASON CLARE: There has been a couple of days Kieran, but we shouldn’t expect boats to stop overnight, the Prime Minister has said that. People smugglers will continue to test this, they make a lot of money out of putting people on a boat. The reports I’m getting indicate that they’re continuing to tell people lies.

You’ve got thousands of people in Indonesia that have paid either half the money to get onto a boat, or all of the money, and they’re being told continue to get onto a boat, it’s going to be okay, they haven’t flown anyone to Papua New Guinea yet. There’s the chance that the Parliament may not support this, or the High Court may not support it so get on a boat.

So people are being told whatever it takes to encourage them to get onto a boat. My message is this, if you want to seek asylum in Australia, go to the UN office in Jakarta. That’s how to seek asylum in Australia. If you get on a boat, you’ll come to Christmas Island, and then you’ll be transferred, processed, and settled in Papua New Guinea. It’s important that we remove that incentive, and that’s what this plan’s about.

KIERAN GILBERT: The intelligence – the Government obviously suggested there will be more boats given what you said this morning?

JASON CLARE: We’re not going to see boats stop straight away. There are too many people in Indonesia that have paid so much money, and too many people smugglers telling lies, to just assume that this will stop straight away. You’ve got to remove the incentive for people to get on a boat, and that’s why we’ve got to get the message up the pipeline, back up Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere, and tell people don’t get on a plane to Indonesia, or Malaysia, thinking that you’ll end up in Australia because you won’t. You’ll end up in PNG, and that’s a key difference between the Labor Party’s policy and the Liberal Party’s policy.

KIERAN GILBERT: You said the people smugglers were telling lies, including that the High Court might scuttle the deal, but that’s not necessarily a lie is it? That’s true. They did with Malaysia – the High Court ruled out Malaysia, they could do the same thing here?

JASON CLARE: We’ve got very good reason to believe that this complies with domestic law as well as international law, we’ve taken into account all of the things that the High Court said in that previous case, Kieran. Key amongst those is the fact that unlike Malaysia, PNG is a signatory to the UN Convention, and that’s a very important part of this package. They’ve agreed to withdraw their reservations to the Convention as well. That’s why we believe we’re on good, strong, legal ground. But don’t expect people smugglers to tell people that, they’ll tell them whatever it takes to take their money and get them on a boat, even if that means that people end up drowning in the middle of the ocean.

KIERAN GILBERT: Scott Morrison’s copped a bit of flak for not having much detail with his Nauru expansion, that it’s a handshake not an agreement. Well, he’s in Opposition, they can’t strike treaties with foreign governments, but our Government can. And the PNG deal, well really that amounts to just a handshake at this stage too, it’s not legally binding?

JASON CLARE: The agreement, if you read it, states quite clearly that people will be settled in Papua New Guinea, and the ultimate cost of this will depend on how successful it is. It’ll depend upon how many people test our resolve, how many people decide to get onto a boat and then be transferred to Papua New Guinea. But we do make estimates and the Treasurer will include that in his budget statement.

KIERAN GILBERT: It’s only based on goodwill, though, isn’t it Minister? And we know politics in PNG can be pretty volatile. It’s basically the same as what the Coalition’s promising. It’s a handshake deal.

JASON CLARE: Let there be no doubt, Kieran, and it’s important that there is no doubt. Everybody that arrives by boat will be transferred, processed and then settled in Papua New Guinea. We’ve got to remove the incentive for people to get onto a boat. I know the Opposition announced yesterday that people would be transferred to Nauru and then potentially they would be processed there and then settled in Australia. People smugglers know this and they tell people don’t worry, we’ll go to Nauru for a couple of years, but then you’ll get to live and work in Australia.

If we’re going to stop people drowning, stop people getting onto a boat, we’ve got to remove the incentive for people to get onto a boat in the first place. If they want to come and live in Australia, this policy’s very clear: you’ll be settled and you’ll live in Papua New Guinea.

KIERAN GILBERT: Mr Clare, the front page of the Daily Telegraph has time to act. It’s quite a disturbing front page, in fact, 21 bullets, 21 gun deaths since Barry O’Farrell took office. John Robertson, the Labor leader in New South Wales, says the Government have lost control of the crisis. You’re the Minister responsible federally. Do you agree with Mr Robertson?

JASON CLARE: I worry about this all the time. This is happening in Western Sydney, it’s the place where I grew up, where I live and the place that I represent. I worry that an innocent person’s going to get caught in the crossfire that an innocent person’s going to get shot. We saw that many years ago with the Milperra bikie massacre, where an innocent person got caught in the cross-fire. You’ve got a war that’s going on on the streets of Western Sydney between rival bikie gangs and they’re fighting over turf, fighting over the right to sell drugs, and that’s why you see houses being shot at and now bikie members being shot at as well.

I think that the New South Wales Police do a good job, but it’s obvious that more needs to be done. I work closely with Minister Gallacher in New South Wales on this, with setting up a National Anti-Gang Taskforce to supplement and support the work that the New South Wales Police do. We’re hoping that that’ll be based in Parramatta as part of the State Crime Command that the New South Wales Police has there, but there’s more that we can do on top of that. The feedback I get from police on the ground in places like Guildford and Bankstown is if we can do more to seize the criminals’ cash and their assets, as well as seize their guns, we can have a big impact on the street.

KIERAN GILBERT: When it comes to this, the wave of crime that we’re seeing, the shootings, they obviously appear to be all of them pretty targeted. Your only concern – well, your concern when it comes to innocent victims if they could be caught up in the crossfire, but by and large it’s bikie gangs, isn’t it, and drug turf wars, as you’ve said?

JASON CLARE: The advice to me is that most of this is bikie gang on bikie gang, criminals targeting each other over a war about drugs. You make a lot of money selling drugs. I mentioned at a conference yesterday that the price of cocaine, for example, on the streets of Mexico is about $2500 or – sorry, about $12,500 a kilo. In LA, it’s about $30,000 a kilo. In Australia it’s over $200,000 a kilo, so the mark-ups are huge, the profits are huge. That’s why you’ve got criminals that are prepared to shoot at each other in order to have the right to sell drugs on the streets of Sydney. That’s what’s driving all of this violence: criminals targeting other criminals, all over drugs.

KIERAN GILBERT: And obviously the Customs corruption issues as well, that’s been a problem in terms of illegal gun importation. Are those holes being closed? I know that you’ve released a – your task force into this, but will you win this battle or is this just something which we have to get used to, this gang crime in Sydney?

JASON CLARE: Let’s be clear about the facts here. There are about quarter of a million illegal guns on the streets of Australia, and most of those guns are guns that weren’t handed in after the Port Arthur massacre or are guns that are stolen from legitimate owners. Here in New South Wales we’ve seen a 265 per cent increase in the number of hand guns stolen in the last year, so there’s plenty of guns around for criminals to get their hands on.

While ever there’s guns, while ever there’s drugs, you’re going to see crime and you’re going to see violence. And if we’re going to tackle this, it’s going to require State police and Federal Police, as well as our Crime Commissions, working closely together, but there’s other things that we can and need to do.

Federal departments like the Department of Immigration as well as the Tax Office and Centrelink can help. That’s why we’re getting them involved in this task force as well. And ask any police officer and they’ll tell you that these big-time crooks are more afraid of losing their money than they are of going to jail, so more power to seize their cars, seize their homes, seize their assets will help to put the fear of God into them. We need national unexplained wealth laws and I’m working with Attorneys-General across the country to implement them.

And there’s one more thing that we can and should do with so many guns out on the streets. We need random search powers, the power to randomly search serious criminals for guns. It’s a power that exists in South Australia. They’re called Firearm Prohibition Orders and they’re being used surgically against outlaw motorcycle gangs to target them and get guns off the street, to target those criminals. They’re the same sort of power that we need right across the country, from coast to coast, and I’m working with Police Ministers to implement those laws.

KIERAN GILBERT: Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare. Appreciate your time, thanks.

JASON CLARE: Good on you, thanks Kieran.