Turnbull resists pressure to put Dutton on national security committee

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull meets with his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Kuala Lumpur. EPA/Ahmad Yusni

Federal cabinet’s national security committee (NSC) meets on Monday, as Malcolm Turnbull continues to resist pressure from the Liberal right to make Immigration Minister Peter Dutton a permanent member of it.

Turnbull returns early Monday morning after attending the East Asia Summit in Malaysia.

Parliament resumes for its final fortnight of the year, with security dominating the public debate, questioning around the leasing of the Port of Darwin to the Chinese, and Labor still anxious to focus attention on the prospect of a change to the GST being a central part of the tax package the government will take to next year’s election.

Abbott supporters have been arguing Dutton should be on the NSC – after having a place there under Tony Abbott – but Turnbull again indicated on Sunday he thought this unnecessary. The NSC was relatively small and other ministers were co-opted as needed, he said.

“I can assure you that Mr Dutton is intimately engaged with all of our linked discussions about security, where they affect the Border Protection and Immigration portfolio,” Turnbull told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.

He made pointed reference to Justice Minister Michael Keenan, “who of course is the minister assisting the prime minister on counter-terrorism. When those issues arise he is co-opted as well.”

“You should be under no misapprehension. Every single minister, whatever their portfolio, if there is a matter before the NSC which is relevant to their portfolio, they are there. If there is a matter to which they can make a relevant contribution, they will be there.

"This is a very traditional, consultative, cabinet government,” he said, emphasising that what he had sought to do with all the institutions of government was, as far as he could, “model them on the practices of the government led so successfully by John Howard”.

Howard had the immigration minister as a member of the NSC for a relatively short part of the time he was in government.

Turnbull heads off overseas again on Thursday. He will attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Malta, which starts on Friday, and then will go to Paris, where the climate conference is being held. The conference starts on November 30. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will also be in Paris for the conference.

Shorten and Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen are due to be briefed on the Port of Darwin lease by Defence Department secretary Dennis Richardson. The 99-year lease to the Chinese Landbridge Group was issued by the Northern Territory government. Defence has said it has no issues with the lease. Independent Nick Xenophon plans to try to get a Senate inquiry on the deal.

Changes to citizenship – for the revocation of the citizenship of dual nationals involved in terrorism – will be in parliament this week, as will the government’s revised family tax package.

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