20 November 2023


NATALIE BARR: Well, the government says it doesn't have the power to redetain the 93 people who have now been released into the community from immigration detention. Those individuals will instead be forced to comply with strict monitoring conditions, including wearing trackable ankle bracelets after emergency legislation was pushed through last week. The government says another 247 people could be released into the community in the coming months.


For more we're joined by Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek and Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce. Good morning to both of you. Tanya, how can the public be sure the government won't be blindsided by yet another High Court decision on an issue so serious as keeping high risk detainees out of the community?


TANYA PLIBERSEK, MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER: Well just to be clear we were in court arguing against the release from immigration detention of these people. The High Court took a different view. We then got the Australian Federal Police and Australian Border Force working together. We've now passed legislation that has very strict conditions, including ankle bracelet monitoring, including people being restricted in where they can go, where they can work, the sort of jobs they can do. The conditions are very strict because some of these people have previously committed very serious crimes. The reason that they couldn't be released from detention after doing their sentences, in many cases there was no country that would take them.


BARR: Yeah, Barnaby, the government says it did all it could. It argued very strongly against these people being released and then the High Court let them out.


BARNABY JOYCE:  Well, look, I was away for a couple of weeks but from where I could see it look liked a total cluster down there in Canberra. I mean, we've got a Prime Minister who no longer loves us, he's never in the country. We basically had Peter Dutton had to take over and start running the show. I mean all those amendments that you just talked about are Peter Dutton's amendments. And now we've got the same High Court that we were apparently supposed to trust on the Voice that's letting paedophiles and criminals and rapists out into the street. I mean what on earth is going on? Who's running the show? This is out of control. It's not just the cost‑of‑living that's a major issue, but you just look at it from a distance and go, what, don't they love us anymore? What on earth is going on? They got a six-month warning about this. Six months ago, they started saying, "Well, mate, you're on shaky ground."  Well, the shaky ground just opened up and, you know, it is a cluster. It is a total cluster.


BARR: Tanya, if there was a 50/50 chance that these people could have been let out by the High Court, which we know you couldn't have done anything about because you argued strongly, but if there's a 50/50 chance that they could have been let out, why didn't you pass this legislation earlier than after they were let out?


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well, we were working very closely with the Australian Federal Police and Australian Border Force to prepare for this eventuality but, you know, we were very focused on trying to keep these people in immigration detention in the first place and we've responded to the decision of the High Court as quickly and as effectively as we can. This isn't the decision that the government wanted, and I think we've made that very clear the whole way through.


BARR: Okay, moving on. Tanya, why did the government wait until after the Prime Minister's meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping to tell us some of our Navy divers were injured by sonar pulses from a Chinese warship?


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Look, I can't comment on the timing but what I will say is that the Australian Government has made it very clear at the highest level that this is completely unacceptable behaviour. That our sailors, their safety is our absolute top priority. Our people were in international waters within the Japanese exclusive economic zone. They made it very clear that the reason they had stopped, and they were diving was to release nets that were tangled around the propellers of the ship. I can't stress highly enough that we have made it very clear as a government that this is unacceptable, it's unsafe and unprofessional behaviour.


BARR: Yeah, so you say "Our government made it very clear to their government" but the thing here is that our Prime Minister was right there having apparently a long chat with the Chinese Prime Minister. Did Mr Albanese bring it up with him?


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well, I'm not going to comment on what the Prime Minister says to other world leaders. It's absolutely vital ‑‑


BARR: How come?


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: ‑‑ that leaders can have conversations that they don't then go out and report on. We know what happened when Scott Morrison released private messages between he and the French President Emmanuel Macron. It doesn't help international relations to behave in that way. We behave as a mature government would do, which is to make clear that we have said to the Chinese Government that this behaviour was unsafe and unprofessional and that we have serious concerns about it and that our sailors don't deserve to be treated this way.


BARR: Barnaby, the allegation this morning is that the Prime Minister didn't defend our ADF personnel on the global stage. Is that fair?


JOYCE:  Well, what on earth does he do when he's overseas? I don't think he loves us anymore. He's left us, he's gone away. And now we were supposed to be normalising relationships with China. Is this how you normalise them?


They would have known that he's going to meet President Xi and whilst that's happening these pulses, I mean they can cause massive damage to people, and they know, they do it deliberately to hurt you, that's why they do it, to hurt you. This ship was not in Chinese waters. And now we've got a Prime Minister who says, you know, "Oh, I don't know whether I brought it up with him. I might have brought it up, I don't know. Might have".  I mean it's just ‑ a mature government? Tanya just said a mature government. Please, that's for the comedy hour. This is ridiculous.


BARR: Okay. Well look, we'll leave it there. Congratulations on your wedding, Barnaby, we hope you've had a good week.

JOYCE:  Thank you very much. I've now got to work harder and lose weight.

BARR: Like everyone in Australia. Thank you very much, see you next week both of you.