MONIQUE WRIGHT: Clare and Jane join us now. Welcome to you both. Clare, we'll start with you. Look, you've said on this program it is your job to keep Australians safe. Now, three detainees have now been rearrested on new charges. Should you resign as the Coalition says?
CLARE O’NEIL: Thanks, Mon. I'll leave the politics to the commentators. My job is to do everything I can to try to protect the community, and that is exactly what I'm doing. So let me take you through it. Firstly, understand that if it were up to me, all of these people would never have been released from detention if it were up to me and I had the power, every single one of these people would be back behind bars immediately. The High Court of Australia made a decision which ordered the Australian Government to release these people and the work of the Parliament now is to find ways that we can protect the community within the confines of the law. So you have seen the Government set up a very significant police response that we have devoted significant resourcing to. We've established new laws that allow us to put ankle monitoring bracelets and subject people to curfews and the work of the Parliament this week is to set up a preventative detention regime. My focus is singularly on my work, singularly on my work, and that is the job that I do every day.
MONIQUE WRIGHT: But Clare, with the benefit of hindsight now, two of the three of these arrested detainees, they are sex predators. Now, when you look back, do you wish you had got on the front foot? Could you have done something sooner about this and tried to get these laws through preventatively?
CLARE O’NEIL: This is you know, these people should be behind bars is my view and that is the way that I manage them when I had the power to do this. So let's be really direct here. Some of these are very bad people who have done very bad things and that is the exact reason why when I had the power to keep them in detention, I would. I say to your viewers again, if I had any legal power to put these people back behind bars, I would do it. I've got three children as if I want these people walking around on the street. Now, the job for the Government is to make sure that we can provide ways to protect the community within the new laws that have been set down by the High Court of Australia and that's exactly what we're doing. So we got the reasons for the High Court decision a week ago. We've already constructed a preventative detention regime. It passed the Senate last night. We'll be putting that to the House of Reps today and hoping by the end of the day that that becomes Australian law.
MONIQUE WRIGHT: Okay, Jane. Penny Wong in Parliament yesterday accused the Opposition of inconsistencies, and said the Coalition is more interested in fighting than fixing this. What is the Coalition doing to try to help fix this? Will you pass those laws when it goes to the House of Reps?
JANE HUME: Well, let's face it, Mon, we actually brought those laws on early yesterday in the Senate to try and hasten the process to be as constructive as we possibly can because the Government has botched this from go to woe. Both Minister Giles and Minister O'Neil have botched this and now they've gone to ground this week. We haven't seen you, Clare. Where have you been for the last few days?
CLARE O’NEIL: Well I’m here talking to you now on live television.
JANE HUME: We've had to find out about these releases from television, from the media. We've had to find out from the radio. Australians have been put at risk because of the decisions that you have made and you have gone to ground. First of all, you could have made a much better submission to the High Court and so you've botched that. Then you released all of those detainees when the writs said you only had to release one, you didn't wait for the High Court's ruling and then you failed to get those preventative detention measures in place, which you could have done months ago. But instead you blamed your department, you've blamed the High Court, you've blamed the Coalition, you've blamed Peter Dutton. But this is on you. It's on Minister Giles and quite frankly, you owe the Australian community an apology and If you're a responsible minister, you would also offer your resignation. This is a test now of the Prime Minister. He should sack you.
MONIQUE WRIGHT: Clare, I didn't hear your response when Jane asked where have you been? Because there have been growing calls for both you and the Minister for Immigration, Andrew Giles, to face the media, to talk to the public about what's going on. But we haven't heard from you until now.
CLARE O’NEIL: Well, Mon, just to be frank about it, I'm talking to you right now on live television, so I'm not sure what you can be possibly complaining about. We're actually actively right now having a political debate and I am talking to you about these issues and being accountable for them and I just say to Jane's commentary there, you know, the Liberals have had, you know, played a lot of politics with this in the last few weeks. I don't think anyone could deny that.
JANE HUME: We have done your job for you.
CLARE O’NEIL: Looking at the facts of the case, Liberals have been dreaming up ways while they've been in meetings, dreaming up ways that they can say, you know, different things about me and Andrew Giles and other people in the Government. We've been focused on doing the work and that is why in record time we've set up a police response. We've put in place the regime which puts ankle monitoring bracelets and curfews on people and we have within a week of a High court, very significant High court reasons for decision being given to the government, created a preventative detention regime.
JANE HUME: This is because the Coalition has pushed you here.
CLARE O’NEIL: Now, I'm focused on the work - oh don't be ridiculous. Don't be ridiculous, Jane, that's absolutely absurd.
JANE HUME: It’s absolutely true.
CLARE O’NEIL: The only reason we have a preventative detention regime is because our Government has created one. Now what I'd say to Jane today is I hope you're there with your MPs in the House of Representatives ready to pass this bill. Because that's how we get a better solution here, not by playing politics and making arguments.
MONIQUE WRIGHT: Jane and Clare, we really appreciate you being with us. But before you go, Clare, we really want to ask you because Labor MPs are mourning the loss of your colleague and your friend Peta Murphy who died at the age of 50 and she had breast cancer. Clare, how will you remember her?
CLARE O'NEIL: Oh look, I'm so pleased to have the opportunity to say something brief about Peta Murphy. She was a dear friend and a colleague of mine, an MP representing South East Melbourne down in the Frankston area. What I want your viewers to know is that we've lost a great Australian here. She was an absolute warrior for her community, but also a warrior for the fight against breast cancer, a horrible disease that kills thousands of Australian women each year. I want you to know that she spent every day that she was in Parliament fighting for her community and fighting for proper resourcing for this horrible illness that took her at just the age of 50. So I just want to say to her family, to her husband Rod, vale, it was a life well lived and Peta, we will never forget you.
MONIQUE WRIGHT: Beautifully said and Jane, I can see you nodding there.
JANE HUME: Peta was a beautiful person. She was quick with a smile, she was disciplined in her work. She was a great advocate for her community and she was a genuine valued friend and colleague in Parliament. She will be very well missed in this place.
MONIQUE WRIGHT: What lovely words, all right. Thank you both so much for being with us, Clare and Jane. We appreciate it.