Dutton admits he may be wrong about Labor’s security briefings

Dutton admits he may be wrong about Labor’s security briefings
Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton. Photo: Dimitris Avramopoulos, Wikimedia Commons

Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton has recently accused Opposition Leader Bill Shorten of ignoring the warnings of security agencies regarding a bill on asylum seekers.

Labor has said that these high-level security briefings never took place.

In a radio interview, Mr Dutton outlined the contents of security meetings that he has claimed were attended by members of the Coalition and Labor. Labor has since accused Mr Dutton of “lying” about the intelligence briefings.

Mr Dutton’s contention was that, if Labor had listened to the briefings, they would not support legislation that allowed asylum seekers to settle in Australia. He said that Australia’s security agencies have warned that such legislation “would be a disaster, that it would restart boats.”

Later the same day during a press conference, Mr Dutton admitted that it was his “understanding” that Labor has received briefings, acknowledging that it was possible no meetings occurred at all.

He then added that if Mr Shorten was denying attending any meetings, then he needs to “explain why”.

Labor’s immigration spokesman, Shayne Newumann, said that “Peter Dutton is lying” with regards to supposed intelligence briefings regarding the asylum seeker bill.

The bill itself, being supported by Labor and crossbench MPs, has the chance to be the first major legislation to pass without government support since 1929.

The legislation, created by independent MP Kerryn Phelps, who won Malcolm Turnbull’s old seat in a by-election, would see that refugees on Manus Island and Nauru were evacuated to Australia under the advice of two Australian doctors. Under the proposed legislation, the Home Affairs minister would have a limited ability to reject transfers on security grounds.

Mr Dutton has argued that the bill would undermine Australian border security, despite legal advice sourced by Labor that the legislation is broad enough to protect Australia against reasonably supported security risks. Mr Dutton rejected this advice, saying that it came from a “Labor activist”.