Minister Shorten Interview on Sunrise with Monique Wright


SUBJECTS: Arrest of repatriate from Syria

HOST, MONIQUE WRIGHT: We're joined now by Government Services Minister Bill Shorten and the Deputy Opposition Leader, Sussan Ley. Welcome to you both. Bill, we'll start with you. You just heard from the Fairfield Mayor there about community anger and the way that people are feeling about it. Do you still think that it was the right decision to bring those brides, so called brides and their children to Australia?

BILL SHORTEN: Well, national security has been paramount in all decisions. And just like our predecessors did in 2019 when they bought some people back, we want to make sure that it's all done in a way which keeps people safe. There's an investigation, a charge been laid. So I do think that we're doing the right thing. And, again, I just finish where I started. It's all about making sure that the security of Australians is paramount, which is what is happening.

WRIGHT: Will you push to get the other brides that are in camps at the moment back to Australia?

SHORTEN: Well, first of all, when we talk about the brides, there's also little children there, they didn't have any say in the matter. I think anyone who knowingly went to aid ISIS deserves the full weight of the law. But I'm not convinced that every little child over there, that no one asked them. And to be straight, I think that we can monitor them better here in Australia than you can little kids getting radicalised in the Middle East.

WRIGHT: Yeah. Okay, Sussan, is this just the system working, the fact that this woman has been arrested?

SUSSAN LEY: Mon, the first priority of every Australian Government is to keep Australians safe and we join the government in that. However, we are talking about a woman who's been charged with serious terror offences. Now, when Bill was Opposition Leader and he's referred to previous repatriations, he agreed that we shouldn't bring adults back to Australia, but we should bring orphan children. And that's what we did. It is not in Australia's national interest to have had these ISIS brides repatriated. And we just heard from Frank and he's obviously bought the concerns of Western Sydney to your program before. This particular individual is out in my neck of the woods in regional New South Wales. So the government has a list of questions to answer. How many ISIS brides are going to continue to be repatriated, those who might potentially be charged, like this woman, with serious terror offences? What communities are they in and what assurances can the government give us? Because at the moment, communities are confused and bewildered.

WRIGHT: Okay, before we go to Bill on that, so do you think that only orphan children should be repatriated to Australia and those children that have still got a mother would need to be separated from that mother to come back?

LEY: We made that decision when we were in government. Bill, as Opposition Leader, agreed with it. And I actually don't think that Bill would have made the decision that Anthony Albanese made last year. And I'd like to ask you that question, Bill. Would you have made the same decision? Would you have changed your mind from your position as Opposition Leader and actually repatriated individuals who deliberately chose to join a mission that had at its heart the destruction of Australia or our Australian way of life?

SHORTEN: I listened. Sussan, I understand that you're just sort of looking for an argument, but the issue here is, are we keeping Australians safe? Yes, we are. Has information about one of these women who went across there emerged and she's been charged? Yes, that's the system working as we are. It wouldn't have been possible to charge her if she wasn't here. I think that the system is working as it should be. Despite all of the smoke and all of the sort of point scoring, the reality is that there's been no suggestion that anyone who's comeback here is causing any actual threat to safety. The police are monitoring them all.

WRIGHT: Do you think it's a storm in a teacup, do you think Bill?

SHORTEN: No, I don't think it's a storm in a teacup, but I think you actually nailed it in one of the observations you just made Mon. Is this the system working as it should? Yes, it is. So I'm not going to run around, start scaring people with a whole lot of smoke when the reality is that the information has come to light. The police, authorities, the joint counterterrorism task force, are doing their day job.

LEY: I'm not looking for an argument, Mon, I'm not looking for an argument. But the community is looking for answers.

WRIGHT: Okay, look, people in Western Sydney are clearly very angry about it, some of them, at least. We really appreciate your views, as we always do. Sussan and Bill, it's good to see you for the New Year. Thank you so much.

LEY: Happy New Year.