Thursday, 14 March 2019

Mornings on 6PR with Gareth Parker Thursday 14th March



Subjects: Foreign fighters, Native title High Court decision.

GARETH PARKER:Righto, we spoke to some, well we spent some time this morning talking about Zehra Duman from Melbourne - ISIS bride, 24 years old, two young children. Went to follow a boyfriend, ended up marrying him, he was killed. She married another ISIS fighter, he was killed. She's now in a refugee camp, wants to come home. What are our responsibilities to her, if any? And what are our responsibilities to her two young children? Christian Porter is the Federal Attorney-General. Christian, good morning.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL:Gareth, yes. They're pretty (indistinct) cases, obviously.

GARETH PARKER:No they're not. I appreciate your time. What's the law? I mean what obligations do we have to her? She's an Australian citizen, are the kids Australian citizens?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL:They would be, I mean, it depends on every case. But I imagine that they would be. But look, there are three layers to this - the first layer is there's a range of people who are now in an increasingly small geographical part of these territories. Many of them were Australians who went away and effectively fought against their country and their country's interests. And obviously there are nationals of other countries as well who did the same thing. So the first level of the question is - is Australia going to take effort and expend resources such as diplomatic or consular resources, or risk the lives of diplomatic or consular individuals or Australian servicemen and women to go into these warzones effectively, to extract people who have gone over there to act and fight against their country's interests? The Prime Minister's been very clear and we won't be doing that. We're not risking the lives Australian servicemen and women in those circumstances. So if there's any expectation on the part of people like this individual that that's going to happen, then they would be greatly mistaken in that expectation.

The second issue is that, if of someone's own effort and volition, they manage to get to a point where as a citizen they are attempting to return to Australia, the question arises on every case - are they a dual citizen?  Because we've introduced and recently strengthened the laws that would allow us to withdraw Australian citizenship from a dual citizen, which would prevent them returning to Australia and of course, do so in circumstances where we meet our international obligations to not make someone stateless.

GARETH PARKER:So if she had dual citizenship, Australian citizenship could be cancelled?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL:Well anyone who has dual citizenship will find that that can be cancelled. We obviously look at that on a case by case basis, but you'll see from recent examples that we have been very firm on using that ability to keep dangerous people who have acted against the Australia's interest, out of Australia.

The third issue then becomes if there's no ability to prevent someone from returning to Australia, what can we do and indeed, recently we introduced legislation which is now before the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security that deals with what are known as temporary exclusion orders. So in circumstances where there was absolutely no ability to prevent someone's return, we could, if this legislation is passed, put very strict conditions on their return, including making sure that they come into Australia in a particular flight and in a particular way that we can monitor them as soon as they hit the ground, that they wouldn't be able to come back to Australia with certain conditions being placed upon them, including reporting, such circumstances that make their return look similar to parole.

I think the best summary is from the Prime Minister that our intention is to deal with people who have gone away to fight against Australia's interests internationally, our attention is to deal with them as far away from Australia as we possibly and legally can.

GARETH PARKER:Okay. If she comes back to Australia, can she be charged with supporting a foreign enemy?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL:Well that depends on all the evidence and the facts of the case. But generally speaking, people who have returned from these zones, if they can be prosecuted and there's evidence to prosecute them, what they would be returning to is a prosecution.

GARETH PARKER:Okay. Two year old son, 6 month old daughter; what about them?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well I mean obviously the parents have taken terrible decisions which have placed their children in horrendous situations, there's no doubt about that.  But they are ultimately and solely responsible for those circumstances. And this comes back to the first of those three things I mentioned. It seems to be that some of these people now, including the one that you've spoken of, have an expectation that Australia is going to expend significant time, effort and resources through diplomatic and consular resources through to the resources of our Australian Defence Forces to try and extract them from circumstances that they have placed themselves and their children in. And as the Prime Minister indicated, we are not going to risk the lives of Australian servicemen and women, or diplomatic or consular staff to extract people from circumstances that they themselves have placed themselves in.

Now, that is not always an easy decision, but we think that risking the lives of Australians who've done the right thing is not what we should be doing in circumstances like this. And our hardworking servicemen and women deserve better than to be sent in to try and extract people from circumstances which they themselves have put themselves in, for the purpose of acting against their own nation's interest.

GARETH PARKER:But if she gets herself to a consulate or an embassy then, well, she's got the rights of any other Australian citizen.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL:Well she has, except that we look at those rights on a case by case basis, and we consider whether or not someone's a dual citizen and we look at ways in which we can deal with them as far from Australia as possible. But if that's not possible, then of course there's very often prosecutions awaiting people, and indeed, we've introduced legislation for temporary exclusion orders. So, I think that you can get the picture from all of that, that our instinct is to protect Australian servicemen and women, protect our hardworking diplomatic and consular staff, and protect Australians from the return of people, who, in many instances, are inherently dangerous and who went and travelled away for the express purpose of fighting against the interests of their own country, being Australia.

GARETH PARKER:Are you dirty on Barnaby Joyce? He hasn't been particularly helpful to your Government's cause this week.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL:Look, I think there was a sort of apology from Barnaby the other day and we’ve just moved on from it. You know, we're heading full-blown into an election campaign. There are just better things to talk about, to be honest.

GARETH PARKER:What's he doing, though? Does no one learn the lesson that disunity is dead? Is that just incapable of penetrating through some people's skulls?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL:Again, there's been all sorts of speculation around this. I'm not entering into it, you know. Honestly, Gareth, I do this phone call then I'm back out in my 14,000 square kilometre electorate talking about Labor's housing property tax, and retiree tax, and that's how I'm spending my time. It's just not a matter I'm getting myself engaged in.

GARETH PARKER:Just briefly, the native title decision in the High Court yesterday. We went over it with Ben Wyatt this morning. He wants the Commonwealth to sort of come to the table and come up with sort of an arrangement, a formula by which State and Federal are accountable for compensation. Is that something that you're prepared to explore? You dealt with this issue as a State Attorney-General, too.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL:I did, and look, I read through the transcripts of Ben's contribution on your show, there's not much in it that I disagree with. I think the first thing is that the decision isn't, sort of, overwhelmingly surprising. It represents a clarification of the situation that we’d long-expected at law was going to arise and, in fact, even with the calculation of the value as a percentage of freehold value, it's probably less or it is less, it's gone down to 50 per cent when the previous decision of 65 per cent of freehold value. As Ben noted, it's been the Commonwealth’s position for quite some time that they will deal with the relative responsibilities of the state and the Commonwealth Government in compensation in these circumstances on a case by case basis. I think there is room going forward, particularly now that this decision has been handed down to have a, sort of, more structured approach around that. But that's sort of a little bit more of a medium term approach and that would need to be heavily negotiated, not just with WA but all the states across Australia. But obviously, WA and its mining industry have got a particular interest. But I don't think this decision is sort of radical in any sense. There's always been compensation, we've always compensated. There've been arguments around what the way forward in terms of calculating that compensation will be. That's now very clear, and as Ben noted. The second question, then, becomes once you know how compensation, generally speaking, is going to be calculated, you're probably wise to have as much structure around who contributes what percentages to that compensation if possible.

GARETH PARKER:So, more talks to come on that one. Christian, thank you. Appreciate your time.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL:Cheers, Gareth. No problem.

GARETH PARKER:Christian Porter, the federal Attorney-General.