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Anthony Albanese refuses to apologise as Peter Dutton hits out over ‘pedophile protector’ gibe

Ellen RansleyNCA NewsWire
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Camera IconNot Supplied Credit: News Corp Australia

Anthony Albanese has refused to apologise to Peter Dutton after senior ministers suggested the Opposition Leader was protecting pedophiles.

The Opposition Leader on Friday said he would look at legal action if the Prime Minister did not step in and apologise for his ministers’ remarks.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil called Mr Dutton a “protector of pedophiles” in question time on Wednesday after the opposition voted against legislation earlier this week that made it a criminal offence for child sex offenders in the cohort of 141 detainees released in the wake the NZYQ High Court decision to be near a school or childcare centre.

The Coalition maintained the latest round of laws were not strong enough, and it wanted stronger legislation, including a preventive detention regime, which Labor will introduce next week.

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Labor has also pointed to Mr Dutton’s role in the NZYQ case – namely that during his time as immigration minister the man was allowed to reapply for a visa and was not deported.

Aged Care and Sport Minister Anika Wells backed Ms O’Neil’s statement on Thursday.

QUESTION TIME
Camera IconOpposition Leader Peter Dutton says Labor has ‘crossed the line’ in its latest round of attacks. NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

Mr Dutton, who was a police officer before entering politics, has demanded an apology from Mr Albanese over the accusation but said on Friday morning he had yet to receive one.

“I’ve got thick skin and I give as good as I can take it, but I think the Labor Party and the Prime Minister crossed the line this week,” he told Channel 9.

“It’s the complete opposite of the truth … I think they’re becoming more and more desperate, and they lash out like this.

“I haven’t got an apology yet. I would have thought if (Anthony Albanese) is man enough he will apologise. I’m not expecting one.”

Asked numerous times whether he would apologise to Mr Dutton, Mr Albanese said he wasn’t accountable for what his ministers said.

QUESTION TIME
Camera IconMr Dutton says he wants an apology from Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

In a terse exchange with Neil Mitchell on 3AW, Mr Albanese deflected the radio host’s assertion that as their boss, he should demand better.

“What the minister said was that his opposition to the legislation that was before the parliament on Monday is completely inconsistent with what he (Mr Dutton) said from day one,” Mr Albanese said.

“We have here on this issue, the High Court of Australia making a decision and consistently what the opposition have done, led by Peter Dutton, is suggested that somehow we wanted these people to be out on the street. That is not true.

“I’m accountable for what I say. It’s time Peter Dutton took responsibility for what he said.”

Mitchell put to Mr Albanese that he and Mr Dutton should be working together to ensure community safety not “throwing abuse at each other”.

“That is what we did by introducing legislation in the parliament that unfortunately Peter Dutton voted against,” he said.

Asked whether he would take legal action, Mr Dutton said he’d await an apology and “make a decision after that”.

“I think in the end it’s a distraction away from what’s been a debacle for this government,” he said.

QUESTION TIME
Camera IconThe House of Representatives will sit again next Thursday to pass preventive detention legislation. NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

Labor Party president Wayne Swan said Mr Dutton had been given a “colourful character assessment, similar to what he has given to people over his years in parliament”.

“The facts of the case we are talking about here is that this person came by boat, they convicted a crime here and Peter Dutton, as the minister, allowed him to stay,” Mr Swan told Channel 9.

In a case brought about by a stateless man convicted of child abuse, the High Court last month deemed ongoing indefinite detention was unlawful.

As a result, 141 people were released from ongoing detention into the community.

Mr Dutton said there were now questions for the government over whether all 141 people needed to be released given the Coalition’s interpretation of the High Court’s decision.

Amid reports people smugglers had been paying attention to the decision, Mr Dutton warned about the potential domino effect.

“This is likely to unravel Operation Sovereign Borders,” he said.

Mr Swan stood by the government, saying it had appropriately responded to the High Court decision.

“The High Court has taken a series of decisions and the governments have to react to those decisions. It’s just a fact of life, it happened under the previous government and it’s happening under this government,” Mr Swan said.

“It’s how you deal with it. The government’s been upfront. It’s been on the case and it’s dealing with it.

“They can’t do any more than that. They can’t forecast High Court decisions.”

Originally published as Anthony Albanese refuses to apologise as Peter Dutton hits out over ‘pedophile protector’ gibe

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