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Monday, 04 February 2019
Transcript

Interview with Laura Jayes and Keiran Gilbert, Sky News First Edition

Topics: Medical Transfer Assurance Panel

E&OE…

LAURA JAYES:

The Immigration Minister David Coleman joins us live now from Sydney. David Coleman, what has the National Security Committee actually decided? How will this panel work?

DAVID COLEMAN:

Well Laura, let's just take a step back first. We know that Labor put 8,000 kids in detention – 2,000 when we came to office, we got them out. We know that Labor put kids on Nauru, we’ve got them off. Now what Labor voted for in December in relation to medical transfers would effectively take the government out of decisions about medical transfers and that is a ridiculous proposal and it's one that we strongly opposed. Now what the National Security Committee has agreed to put in place would be a panel which can review decisions in relation to medical transfers, so if a medical transfer for instance is rejected, the panel could review that decision. They would then provide advice to the government and the government would make the final decision. That's how it should be. Governments are elected to govern and whilst we obviously want to take on medical advice as we already do in these decisions, it is ultimately, it's very important that ministerial decision making stays in place. Now it's really important to note that at Labor's...

KIERAN GILBERT:

The Prime Minister was asked repeatedly about this last year though. Minister, he said: we already have doctors doing exactly this, we already have medical transfers where they're necessary and undertaken. In December, he said we already have processes where if people require medical attention decisions are made now, that's what we have now, he said it many, many times. This is a back flip under political pressure, isn't it?

COLEMAN:

No I don't agree with that Kieran. The Prime Minister's right, we do have a process in place and the fact of the-

GILBERT:

So why change it?

COLEMAN:

Well the functioning of that process is demonstrated by the fact that, as you know, there has been a significant number of medical transfers. What this additional-

GILBERT:

So don't change it. It's a capitulation isn't it?

COLEMAN:

Well not at all Kieran, and perhaps if you let me finish my answer. What this panel will do is provide an additional level of assurance in relation to medical transfers. I mean one of the arguments that the advocates make, is that bureaucrats are standing in the way of medical decisions to make transfers. Now that's not correct. This panel will be able to review any decision made by the committee that reviews these matters and if they are unsatisfied with what that committee decided, they can tell the Minister and then the Minister and the government make a decision.

JAYES:

Yeah, they can tell the Minister, that's correct isn't it? But they don't have the power to override the Minister do they? So what is the point?

COLEMAN:

That's correct.

JAYES:

You're saying that the panel - it's a five member panel as I understand it, if they don't like a decision made by you, they have no power to overturn that decision. What's the point of the panel then?

COLEMAN:

Well they will provide an additional level of assurance and scrutiny of these decisions. So as I say, if the panel takes the view that the original decision was wrong, they would then go to the Minister and say so, and obviously the Minister would take that into account and consider that very carefully. But in Westminster Government, Laura, we don't outsource the function of government to other bodies. It's the government that must make the ultimate decision.

JAYES:

Do you think this will satisfy the crossbench and stop that bill going forward then?

COLEMAN:

Well look, it's absolutely critical that the bill doesn't go forward because if the bill goes forward, offshore processing comes to an end effectively. If offshore processing comes to an end, then the boats will restart, and as you know the bill that Labor voted for applies not only to people currently in offshore processing centres, but also any new person who arrives. So the scenario is, a boat arrives, people are taken to Manus or Nauru, two doctors from Dapto say that they should come to Australia for assessment based on a phone call and they would come here. And as a consequence of that, in a short period of time, substantially everyone would be in Australia and that would send a very clear message to people smugglers. We have fixed the problem that Labor created.

GILBERT:

But how can you argue - yeah that's true, you did. Credit for the government for that, but please just be upfront this morning and say to us that this is a political move because you've been arguing for months that the system in place works, the Prime Minister has said it works, so if it's all great, fine and dandy, why put this in place?

COLEMAN:

Well, this is to provide an additional level of assurance. I think as the PM said…

GILBERT:

Why is it needed?

COLEMAN:

Well people have said, as I said Kieran, that bureaucratic decisions are standing in the way of medical transfers and that's not the case, but this panel will be able to assess whether or not that has occurred. And if they believe that it has, they'll be able to make that recommendation to government. So it's an additional level of assurance and we think it's appropriate to put in place. But importantly, the government will continue to make the decisions.

JAYES:

Minister, sorry to interrupt. If you're talking about due process here, I'm told that this new panel and these new panel members were told at 6.30 last night. I mean has there been any kind of build up to who might be on the panel? Has there been any discussion? This seems like it was pretty hastily arranged and these members were told at 6.30 last night.

COLEMAN:

Well look, the panel will be appointed by the Cabinet based on the recommendation of the Minister and we'll be working through those issues.

JAYES:

So members haven't been told? But not yet to be announced?

COLEMAN:

We'll be working through the panel members in the coming days Laura, and they'll be appointed by the Cabinet in - as all sort of committees of this kind are and that's what one would expect.

JAYES:

Minister David Coleman, thanks so much for your time this morning.

COLEMAN:

Thanks Laura.