Television Interview with Natalie Barr – Sunrise – Friday 17 November 2023


SUBJECTS: Immigration detention High Court ruling.

NATALIE BARR: Well, it’s been revealed taxpayers will need to cover the $180,000 bill every month to track the criminals who have been released from immigration detention. 84 detainees, including people convicted of murder and rape were this week released from detention following a ruling by the High Court. Labor rushed through new laws overnight which include strict monitoring and curfews for the asylum seekers.

For more, I’m joined by Education Minister Jason Clare and Deputy Opposition Leader Sussan Ley. Good morning to both of you.


BARR: Jason, $180,000 every month, it’s a lot of money. That’s the estimate. That’s on top of the welfare payments, the housing. Can you understand why taxpayers are not happy?

CLARE: I get it. But this is not about money, this is about safety. The fact is if these people were locked up in prison it would cost five times as much. If we had our way, these people would still be locked up but that’s not an option.

The High Court has ordered that these people be released. We had to do that. And that’s why we had to pass these laws to make sure that we keep Australians safe.

BARR: Jason, why did you just pass them yesterday? By your own admission you argued very strongly against them being released but then these laws were rushed through yesterday. Why not before?

CLARE: You’ve got to know what you’re dealing with here. So you make sure that you write laws that work. What I saw yesterday was the Parliament working at its best, the way the Parliament should work. The Australian people are dirty with this decision. If we had our way, these people would still be locked up. The High Court has made the decision that these people be released.

I’ve got to tell you, Nat, in my 16 years here in Parliament, I’ve never seen the Parliament respond to a High Court decision as fast as this. In one week, these laws ‑‑

BARR: ‑‑ you’re putting a positive spin on this. This made your government look bad, didn’t it? Because it made you guys look flat‑footed because you didn’t pass these laws before this happened. You must have known it was a possibility, these murderers and rapists could have got out.

CLARE: The High Court could have decided to reject the application. They could have made another decision. You need to make sure you know what the decision of the High Court is.

BARR: But this was a possibility. Why didn’t you put it in place beforehand?

CLARE: You’ve got to make sure that the laws are written to respond to the decision of the High Court, otherwise they don’t work. 

BARR: This was a big possibility, Jason, so why was the contingency not put in place?

CLARE: To make sure that the laws are written in a way that works. That’s the key here. The High Court made the decision on Wednesday. Within a week here the Parliament has acted. That is a good thing. That’s what the Australian people would expect us to do. And of course, there’s been a lot of political commentary, a lot serious things that have been said in the Parliament, in the media.

The good news here is when the cameras are turned off the two major parties, Labor and Liberal, have worked well behind the scenes over the course of this week to get this legislation in place.

What it shows is when the Parliament wants to work it can work, and it’s done that over the last 24 hours to help keep the community safe.

BARR: Okay. Sussan, is this a great week for the Parliament working together?

SUSSAN LEY: Nat, this issue has been completely mishandled by the government. And one story really stayed with me as a woman. A woman in Australia saw that her abuser had been released, one of these 80‑odd hardened criminals. She broke down. She went to the police. She said, “What can I do? What can you do to protect me?” 

Anthony Albanese has let that woman down. He’s let down the Australian community. What you saw this week was the government, well they had a blind spot on this. So while they saw it coming they did nothing. Peter Dutton pushed them to legislation. They brought legislation in. Peter Dutton, I and the team pushed to make that legislation even stronger with six amendments. Keeping these people away from schools. I’m sure, Jason, if they’d consulted you, you would have agreed on that.

During the week you, Nat, had the Home Affairs Minister on your program effectively saying there was nothing she could do. You know, I agree this isn’t about politics. This is about keeping the community safe. But while Anthony Albanese has flown off overseas, yes, the Parliament did work well yesterday, but my goodness, didn’t we have to work hard as the Liberal Party and the National Party to actually push this government to a place where they did what Australians are crying out for them to do?

We talk about 80 criminals, Nat. You know, you do realise, well your viewers should realise there’s a possible 340 more that may be released into the community, and this is hugely, hugely concerning.

BARR: Yeah. And Jason, the other big thing this week that we’ve found out is that some of these people could be lining up to sue the government for illegal ‑ for being illegally detained. Are we ready for that, millions of dollars in lawsuits?

CLARE: Let’s wait and see. We still don’t even have the decision of the High Court. I think we’re going to have to wait a couple of months before we receive that. The fact is the laws that were challenged in the High Court were laws that are 20 years’ old. We argued to keep these people in jail. Whether Labor or Liberal was in power today the same thing would be having to be dealt with right now.

The key thing here is to keep the community safe. If we had our way these people would still be in jail or they’d be kicked out of the country. Neither of those things is an option, Nat, and so that’s why we had to pass the laws we did yesterday.

BARR: Yes, we appreciate that. The High Court, the Full Bench of the High Court has spoken. It can’t be overturned. But it’s those laws to restrict what the detainees can do once they’re out that were rushed through that people are saying maybe could have been brought in sooner.

Thank you both for your time today, see you next week.