Monday, 3 June 2013
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship. I remind the minister of evidence given in Senate estimates by the Director-General of ASIO that ASIO informed his department on 30 August last year that a man they were holding in a low-security family accommodation facility in the Adelaide Hills was a convicted Egyptian Jihadist terrorist subject to an Interpol red notice. Why was no action taken by the then minister to remove the man to a more secure facility at that time? He was only moved to a secure location once the story was published in the media in April, more than seven months later.
I thank the honourable member for his question. I can assure the House and assure the honourable member that national security is the most important priority of this government. I can assure the House that our security agency, ASIO, the Australian Federal Police and the department work very closely together to ensure that our people are kept safe. For that reason we can assure this House that we will continue to ensure there is rigour when we make assessments. What people do understand is that when we have people arrive in such a fashion—that is through irregular maritime arrivals—there are assessments for security, for identity and for health purposes. That occurs so as to ensure that, if we were to release people, we would release people in an appropriate manner.
In so far as the matter in question that has been raised by the honourable member is concerned—
Mr Robb interjecting—
It would be misleading for the honourable member in asking the question to suggest that the person in question has been out of detention. He has not been out of detention. Further to that, there has also been surveillance and monitoring of that person while in detention.
There are a number of things that I will not disclose and should not disclose because they are matters of national security. We have a convention of providing briefings that we are very happy to extend to the opposition, of course provided that, if we do allow such a briefing, they do not disclose those details publicly, which happened last week by the shadow Attorney-General after being briefed by—
Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I am sure all of this is very interesting, but he was asked why the Jihadist in question remained in the Adelaide Hills after 30 August last year and it was true he was only moved when it appeared in the media.
As I was saying, we have ensured that the person has been detained at all times. That was the advice I received from my department. The department continues to work with the Australian Federal Police and ASIO to ensure that our people are kept safe. It would be absolutely outrageously misleading for the honourable member to suggest otherwise.
Further to that, we do not want to reflect on the hardworking men and women of our agencies. They do a wonderful job. This question insinuates that somehow those agencies failed us. They did not fail us. For that reason the honourable member should rethink what he wants to be putting to me in question time if he is suggesting and impugning the good name of our agencies.
Madam Speaker, I wish to ask a supplementary question. My question is to the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship in relation to his just answered question. I remind the minister that article 32 of the refugee convention enables signatory countries to deny asylum claims on national security grounds. Has the department of immigration commenced processing the asylum claim of the convicted Egyptian Jihadist terrorist who was the subject of an Interpol red notice and, if so, why?
I have not received advice as to whether the person in question has gone through any assessment, but I can assure the House that the person is in detention and there is no determination made insofar as any protection visa being provided to that person and, as I have made very clear, the department, the security agency, the Australian Federal Police and other agencies do a very good job in ensuring that they protect the interests of this country.
Opposition members interjecting—
The honourable member would also know that there might be situations where people may be afforded protection even if they have committed offences or where there are allegations of offences; however, as we have already seen in relation to other individuals where there has been, for example, protection afforded or potentially afforded to them because of the situation in which they are in, there has been sufficient security in place in order for them not to be released. The honourable member would understand that there are situations where a person could indeed be determined to be a refugee, on one hand, and yet still not be able to be released into the community because of the offences they may have committed. That, of course, is why we rely so heavily upon ASIO and other agencies. (Time expired)