Peter Dutton Raises Prospect of a ‘Catastrophic Outcome’ in Australia Because of Visas for Palestinians
Brett Worthington, ABC, November 23, 2023
Federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton raised the prospect of a “catastrophic outcome” as the result of Palestinians receiving visitor visas to come to Australia amid the Israel-Gaza war.
The extraordinary claim follows days of the Coalition hammering Labor about Australia issuing 860 temporary visas to Palestinians. Those attacks come while the Coalition also concedes it does not know what checks the government has undertaken.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Foreign Minister Penny Wong have insisted identity, health, security and character checks were carried out before visas were granted between early October and late November.
“The inadequacy of these checks could result in a catastrophic outcome in our country,” Mr Dutton said.
“Taking people out of a war zone without conducting the checks, particularly those that are available to us in the US, is reckless.
“The prime minister here needs to hit the pause button — I’m not saying people shouldn’t come at some point — but people should come when all the checks are conducted.”
Mr Dutton’s comment have prompted Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil to accuse him of being willing to say anything to score political points “even if it puts the national security of Australians at risk”.
His comments came hours before a four-day ceasefire after six weeks of fighting is expected to take force.
The war has so far killed 14,000 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, and 1,200 Israelis, according to authorities there.
Along with the visas for Palestinians, the government has also issued around 1,800 visas for Israelis but the Coalition has not raised any concerns about these visas.
While Mr Dutton didn’t overtly reference Palestinians, he only talked about a cohort of 900 people (860 visas have been issued to Palestinians) and people wanting to flee Gaza.
He said he would “be very happy to stand corrected” if the government had carried out comprehensive checks.
Labor minister takes aim at Coalition comments
Ms O’Neil said security agencies had warned inflammatory language had a direct link to an increased risk of violence.
“Peter Dutton is a reckless politician who will do and say anything to score political points – even if it puts the national security of Australians at risk,” she said.
Federal cabinet minister Ed Husic on Thursday took aim at the Coalition’s commentary on the issue.
“From my perspective, it is extraordinarily crass by them knowing all that, to raise those questions,” he told the ABC.
“And it is crass because a lot of Australian Palestinians, who have lost family in Gaza, want to be able to help remaining family get out of harms way.
“Why would they try to score crass political points, at the point of a hardship, and when people are feeling the weight, and feeling anxiety and concern?”
Sources have told the ABC that most of the 860 Palestinians are on subclass 600 visas, in the sponsored family stream, allowing whoever applies to stay in Australia for up to 12 months if they have a family sponsor.
On that visa, you cannot work, or access education or healthcare — you are essentially a tourist, which is what people usually apply for subclass 600 visas for.
The ABC has also been told most of the 1,739 Israelis have been offered the same visa.
“The conditions of visas will be as those which apply to people who come to Australia from other parts of the world,” Senator Wong told the ABC on Wednesday.
“But I again emphasise that people who have visas have been subjected to appropriate character checks, security checks and identity checks.”
Mr Dutton said among the Palestinians receiving visas there could be “one person, or could be 10 people, I don’t know” of concern.
“Have interviews been conducted, do we know people’s ideologies, do we know their interest in the west, why do they want to come to Australia?” he asked at a press conference on Friday.
“Obviously they want to get out of Gaza and we accept that and the vast majority will be good people that we would want to call Australians but we need to make sure people who are coming out of war zone don’t provide threats to Australian citizens.”
Following Mr Dutton’s comments, a spokesperson for the government repeated that people must satisfy identity, health, security and character requirements to enter or remain in Australia.
“If a visa applicant is assessed as posing a risk to the health, safety or good order of the Australian community, their visa may be considered for refusal,” the spokesperson said.
“All visitors to Australia must meet the character requirements before granting a visa, regardless of country of origin.
“The government will not go into the detail of security or operational matters.”