Sky News Dalley edition, interview with Helen Dalley

Release Date: 
16 February 2015
Transcript
E&OE

HELEN DALLEY:
Welcome to the program.

ALAN TUDGE:
G’day Helen.

HELEN DALLEY:
I’d like to start first with the Bali 9 duo. Is the Australian Government in your view doing everything it possibly can- that’s what it’s promised us- to seek clemency from the Indonesian Government? This is our nearest neighbor who we help and support greatly

ALAN TUDGE:
That’s right Helen and we are. Indeed the Prime Minister, just in recent times, has made a further telephone call to President Widodo seeking clemency.
Now these two lads, they did terrible things, but they don’t deserve to die. They’ve reformed from every indication and they should be given clemency. Furthermore, we argue there’s still legal processes going on. At the very least, allow those legal processes to come to fruition before any final decision is made.

HELEN DALLEY:
Why is this happening so late in the piece? I mean even the PM said it was 11th hour, why did he wait so long?

ALAN TUDGE:
We haven’t waited so long. As soon as anybody’s on death row we immediately start our advocacy - to prevent any Australian citizen anywhere in the world being executed. We always do that, we will continue to do that until the very last minute and we hope and we pray that the Indonesian Government will, in some respects, come to their senses and grant clemency for these two young Australian men.

HELEN DALLEY:
But in a sense Indonesia is in a difficult position. It has executed some foreign nationals just a few weeks ago. Could they change at this late hour and should the Prime Minister perhaps have jumped on a plane in recent days and gone up there himself? Was that considered? Should it have been considered?

ALAN TUDGE:
Well we’ve done absolutely everything possible. And the only thing I’d point out on your earlier point is that when an Indonesian national is on death row in another country, the Indonesian Government will typically seek clemency for their national.
In some respects we’re just asking for the same as what they do for their nationals and that is please grant clemency for these two young men. Yes they have done the wrong thing, but they appear to be completely rehabilitated and they do not deserve to die.

HELEN DALLEY:
Should the Prime Minister have got on a plane or considered it?

ALAN TUDGE:
I think every single option was considered. We’ve taken the best advice possible. We’ve made constant communications to the Indonesian Government. He’s just spoken to the Indonesian President in recent times and we’ll continue to press and press and press until the very last minute.

HELEN DALLEY:
The Prime Minister talked on the weekend about a tough diplomatic response if this awful event goes ahead. Is he talking about enforcing sanctions? Or is he talking about sending the ambassador home?

ALAN TUDGE:
I don’t think it would be helpful for me to go into details of that. I would simply point out that Indonesia is an important partner for us and we’re an important partner for them.
We both have a great interest in maintaining a very healthy relationship.

HELEN DALLEY:
I do want to move on even though that’s such a big subject. It looks like there’ll be a statement on increased national security measures- some sort of crackdown that the Prime Minister is flagging on residency, on social security, thosesorts of things. What actual changes will be added to those laws that are already in place that are already tough on either homegrown fighters or imported fighters?

ALAN TUDGE:
Helen we’ve already put some important measures through the Parliament and some are still in the Parliament waiting to be approved. We’ve invested a further $630 million into our security agencies.
We take national security very, very seriously. Next Monday the Prime Minister is going to be making a further statement in terms of some additional measures. One of those things, for example, which the Immigration Minister flagged today, would be looking at citizenship particularly for dual nationals and what response we can take in regards to dual nationals should they commit terrorist activities.
They’re the types of things that might be considered by the Prime Minister on Monday.

HELEN DALLEY:
Alright, under the current Immigration Act, that does allow the Minister to revoke the citizenship of Australians who commit serious crimes including terrorism, with some limits. But if they are dual citizens that can be revoked because they won’t be left stateless, so why do you need more?

ALAN TUDGE:
We’re looking very closely at exactly what the rules are and exactly what the procedures are. I don’t want to foreshadow precisely what ‘s going to be announced next Monday but the Immigration Minister did make a statement today looking at how we can learn from some international practice in this area- what additional measures we might be able to take.
It’s not always a simple exercise because it obviously involves some cooperation with the country the person might be a citizen of. So let’s just wait and see next Monday what the Prime Minister announces…

HELEN DALLEY:
But what about people who just have Australian citizenship? You can’t make someone stateless so how could you revoke their citizenship?

ALAN TUDGE:
It is far more difficult if they’re only an Australian citizen and there’s some international laws which apply in that regard. Obviously if someone is fighting abroad, committing terrorism activities abroad and then they seek to come back to Australia then they can be arrested when they land back in Australia.

HELEN DALLEY:
But can’t they already be arrested because you might’ve revoked their passport? So what’s the difference between canceling somebody’s passport and either canceling or revoking or suspending their citizenship?

ALAN TUDGE:
Well it’s a different act. Suspending a passport to an Australian citizen who may be seeking to fight abroad which is what we do if we know a person is wanting to go and fight with Daesh over in Syria or Iraq. We will seek to suspend their passports so that they cannot leave and that’s an international obligation so they can’t leave the country to go and support those terrorism activities.

HELEN DALLEY:
Without a passport they could not come back either so they…

ALAN TUDGE:
Well they can’t leave the country if the passport has been suspended…

HELEN DALLEY:
(inaudible) do that you can’t already do?

ALAN TUDGE:
At present you can suspend their passports but that's very different to canceling a passport if you are only an Australian citizen.

HELEN DALLEY:
So you do think it needs to go further?

ALAN TUDGE:
I’m not going to foreshadow what the Prime Minister is going to say next Monday. All I’ll say is that this will be a topic which the Prime Minister will discuss; that the Immigration Minister has given some flavor of what might be outlined. But I’ll just leave it at that Helen.

HELEN DALLEY:
The dumping or the sacking of Philip Ruddock as the Chief Whip- now this was kind of at a very sensitive time. It was barely five days after the spill vote. It was after the time that Tony Abbott had promised a united team. It didn’t look so united to kind of dump his former lieutenant that he’d actually relied on during the election campaign to accompany him.

ALAN TUDGE:
Philip Ruddock is one of the absolute outstanding members of our team. He’s been in the Parliament for a very long time; he’s held very senior roles. But as the Prime Minister himself has said he wanted to refresh the team and he pointed…

HELEN DALLEY:
​Because he actually said specifically so that he could get more of these issues passed onto him from the backbench which he clearly inferred were not coming through via Philip Ruddock.

ALAN TUDGE:
He said he wanted to refresh the team and he appointed Scott Buchholz to be the Chief Whip and he’s also appointed the Member for Bass as the Deputy Whip and those two are outstanding individuals, they are well liked and well respected by the backbench. And I think in some respects the Prime Minister’s decision to appoint them is a reflection on those two individuals more than it is a reflection on Philip Ruddock.

HELEN DALLEY:
Well sure, all teams need to be regenerated and that sort of thing but the reason Tony Abbott gave yesterday on the Andrew Bolt show, he did say that not enough of the issues were getting passed onto him from the backbench. If he wasn’t properly in touch with his own backbench, shouldn’t there have been a lot more avenues for him to be in touch with them rather than just via the Chief Whip?

ALAN TUDGE:
There are many avenues to be in touch with the Prime Minister and since that day the Prime Minister has put more avenues in place as well. That's one of the things that he has said that he will put into place and he’s done that.

HELEN DALLEY:
But if he was properly in touch with his own team wouldn’t he already have known via a whole lot of sources what their concerns were? If his door was really open- which he did tell the community it was open- wouldn’t he have known what some of their concerns were?

ALAN TUDGE:
I’ve always found the Prime Minister’s door very open. I’ve always had a very good relationship with him as I know many of the backbench have also. But the Prime Minister has said, we can do even better going forward. He’s starting afresh in that regard. We’re putting more procedures in place so that every backbencher does have that opportunity.

HELEN DALLEY:
Just a couple more issues because we are running out of time. From last Monday the PM promised good government. There was some confusion about the Medicare co-payment whether it was staying or going, I think you announced twice last week that it was scrapped, you were starting from scratch, and then others said oh well there’s been no official announcement. Tell us now, has the Medicare co-payment been scrapped?

ALAN TUDGE:
Well the $7 compulsory co-payment, that is off the table.

HELEN DALLEY:
Well that was off the table late last year.

ALAN TUDGE:
We have other measures at the moment which are still on the table but our commitment is to consult very broadly with the Australian public and with the medical profession and we…

HELEN DALLEY:
You did say last week it was scrapped and we’re starting from scratch.

ALAN TUDGE:
And we won’t proceed with any measure unless we have broad support from the medical profession to do so.

HELEN DALLEY:
Alright I also want to ask you about the Closing the Gap report and many of the targets have not been met but there is some grounds for some optimism that you have moved a fair way. Life expectancy is now ten years difference- the gap. But just the point I wanted to ask you about because you had a very compassionate response to that Closing the Gap report. There wasn’t a compassionate response- in fact there was a very aggressive angry response by the Government, Prime Minister from the Human Rights Commission report about children in detention. They’re both about possibly the disadvantaged groups of children being in some trouble. Why couldn’t the Government have taken a more compassionate view about the children in detention report and say both Labor and the Coalition could do better on this?

ALAN TUDGE:
We have a very compassionate response in relation to children in detention. We want to ensure that there’s no children in detention and indeed we are rapidly…

HELEN DALLEY:
Why are there still 200 in…

ALAN TUDGE:
Well we started off with about 1500 when we came to government and there’s now 200. That’s not a bad effort in 16 or so months. It peaked at 2000 under Labor.
Now we will very quickly get to zero children in detention. By the way that was how many were in detention last time we were in government. And you know what? I think the most compassionate response is to have zero children in detention because you’ve stopped the boats and you’ve stopped people coming into the system and that’s our objective.Our view was that if you were serious or concerned about children in detention…

HELEN DALLEY:
It looked at also when Labor was in government and I think a lot of people were shocked by the vehemence of the PM’s attack on them- the messenger rather than the substance of the report.

ALAN TUDGE:
The Human Rights Commission gave evidence to a House of Representatives inquiry, as you probably know, where in essence, Dr Triggs made the decision that they would not initiate an inquiry under the Labor regime but instead would wait. And so they did wait. And we thought that that was not necessarily appropriate and was somewhat partisan to do so when there were far more children in detention under the Labor regime than there are now today.

HELEN DALLEY:
Alan Tudge, unfortunately we have run out of time it was good to talk to you. Thanks very much for giving me your time.

ALAN TUDGE:
Thanks so much Helen.
Now the Prime Minister made some comments in relation to the Human Rights Commission, in part because there was some concern that the Human Rights Commission decided to initiate this investigation into children in detention - not at the peak of when there was 2000 people in detention -- but when there was a fraction of that amount once the Coalition was back in government.