Subjects: Detention protests
MARK LEVY: Well, last week I spoke to Dane De Leon from the refugee group Refugee Solidarity. Protestors announced they were planning on blocking traffic twice a day during peak hour for the next six months to raise awareness of the plight of refugees holed up in a three-star hotel at Kangaroo Point. Well, Dane and her friends, including Brisbane councillor Jonathan Sri, may be wasting their time, with Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge telling The Australian newspaper they could either elect to go home or back to Nauru or Papua New Guinea, but they won't be allowed to stay in the community.
I thought we'd catch up with Mr Tudge. He joins me on the line. Minister, good afternoon.
ALAN TUDGE: G'day Mark.
MARK LEVY: Good to talk to you as always. Just first and foremost, let's get some background on these asylum seekers. Why are they here in Australia and why are they being kept in the hotel in Brisbane and in Melbourne?
ALAN TUDGE: Yeah, so these are people who came in under what was called the Medevac legislation, which was legislation which Labor and the Greens passed against our wishes, which allowed people who were on Nauru and PNG to come into the country if two doctors, any two doctors, said that those people needed to come in for medical reasons. So, there's about 165 people now who fit that category. They're in hotels, effectively a hotel detention centre. They've had their medical treatment, now it's time for them to go home.
MARK LEVY: I've noticed the Human Rights Commission in a report last year found hotels were not appropriate places of detention, given their lack of dedicated facilities and restrictions on access to open space. But given some of the photos I've seen of the facilities they've got, especially at Kangaroo Point, it doesn't look like a bad place to be holed up for a little while.
ALAN TUDGE: Well, they're adequate facilities for the purpose of which they are there. They do have proper accommodation; they do have opportunities for outdoor exercise and the like. But bear in mind, people were supposed to come here for a short period of time and then return, but we always said, Mark, that we did not support that legislation because we said this will be a backdoor way for people to try and stay in the country. And guess what, half the people now have actually had their medical treatment but aren't returning.
MARK LEVY: If we listen to Labor and the Greens, they're virtually saying: we'll throw open the doors and let everybody come here. We've seen what that's resulted in in the past. And what I've been saying to my listeners and what they're saying to me on this program anyway, Minister, is that there's a proper process that these refugees need to follow. And in this case, they haven't been through that proper process.
ALAN TUDGE: That's exactly right. In fact, about a quarter of the people have been assessed and have been assessed as not being refugees. Now, that means they can return to their home country, but of course they're not doing that.
Believe it or not Mark, a third of the people who’ve come out here on the basis of two doctors saying that they desperately need to come to Australia for medical treatment, actually refused the medical care when they got here. I find this stat the most extraordinary.
MARK LEVY: It is, it's amazing.
ALAN TUDGE: Labor and the Greens set up this legislation because they said it was so important for these people to come to Australia for medical reasons. They get two doctors- you know, the doctors don't have to speak to the individuals for them to sign the certificates. They come in under this legislation and they've refused actual medical treatment. This was always a backdoor way for people to come to Australia. We said this at the time, and this is exactly what has occurred. We've since repealed this legislation, of course, but we're still dealing with the consequence of Labor and the Greens.
MARK LEVY: So, what do you make of these protestors that want to block traffic twice a day in peak hour for six months of the year to raise awareness of the plight of refugees? Is it just an absolute nonsense, because that's the - certainly what I put to Dane De Leon last week from the Refugee Solidarity mob.
ALAN TUDGE: Well, I just think they're being selfish, and I don't think they see the plight of those individuals in that hotel any - they don't give them any support either. In fact, to the contrary, we had to remove at one stage some of the health workers from the hotel because those protestors were putting at risk the workers who were there to support those people in the detention facility. So, not only are they disrupting people across Brisbane, not only are they just being selfish in doing so, but on top of that, they're not actually helping at all the people who they purport to help.
MARK LEVY: Yep, exactly right. Alan, I just wanted to applaud you on your comments today. Well done, and hopefully the message will sink in to these protestors. And for anybody wanting to come to our shores, to do it the right way rather than the wrong way. Thanks for your time as always.
ALAN TUDGE: We've got a very generous - we've got a very generous program, Mark, the second most generous in the world.
MARK LEVY: Yep.
ALAN TUDGE: We're proud of it, and I think most Australians are, but you do have to do it the right way.
MARK LEVY: 100 per cent. Thanks so much for your time. There's the Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge. Some very strong comments. Let's hope they sink in.