Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Interview with Kieran Gilbert and Laura Jayes, Sky News Live

Subjects: Temporary protection visas, offshore processing and medical transfers from Nauru and Manus


LAURA JAYES: David Coleman, good to see you. Why maintain Temporary Protection Visas and leave people in limbo? Is it fair enough that Labor's now arguing that they're no longer relevant?

DAVID COLEMAN: No, absolutely not. It's basically about tearing down one of the three key pillars of our border security laws Laura. TPVs basically say to people, if you arrive unlawfully by boat you'll receive a three-year Temporary Protection Visa if you're entitled to protection and that will be assessed every three years. What Labor wants to say is – get rid of all that – it's exactly the same thing that Kevin Rudd did in 2008, get rid of all that and make it a permanent visa. And what that means is, that's a really powerful incentive for people to arrive by boat unlawfully and it's a fantastic piece of marketing collateral for people smugglers. There are three core elements of our border security, TPVs are one of them. And another one of course Laura that Labor wants to effectively dismantle as well is offshore processing. So, this is a very bad policy.

KIERAN GILBERT: But it's actually – it's not correct though offshore processing. They've reiterated their commitment to that. Shorten couldn't have been more explicit in terms of his support for offshore processing and boat turn backs. And that's – in relation to TPVs, where would you send these people? They're already found to be, many of them, genuine refugees – are they just meant to be kept in limbo indefinitely, because you certainly haven't found third country resettlement options for those already who remain on Manus and Nauru, so how can you say you're going to have an option for these 10,000-plus people that are here?

COLEMAN: Well Kieran let's address that point, you said that Bill Shorten said that he's fully committed to offshore processing. That is 100 per cent wrong. The law that Labor voted for on Thursday will effectively dismantle offshore processing. And let me explain very clearly why. What is required under this law is that any two doctors anywhere in Australia say that somebody should come to Australia for medical assessment. Someone on Manus could consult 100 doctors via Skype, if 101 and 102 say they should come to Australia, then unless the minister within 24 hours on reasonable medical grounds effectively disputes that medical evidence, they're coming. And under the law Kieran – people need to know this – under the law, it's not only the individual, it's also their family and it's also any other person nominated by those two doctors. So the notion that Bill Shorten is supporting offshore processing is wrong. These laws would mean that in very short order, the substantial majority of everyone on Manus and Nauru would come to Australia. It is basically about dismantling offshore processing. And Kieran just think about this – so what Bill Shorten is saying is that a future Labor minister, who is given those two medical certificates by doctors saying that the person should come to Australia for assessment, what's required is the Labor minister would have to say, well no that medical evidence is wrong and I'm going to present a report to the Parliament of Australia about why it's wrong and I'm going to make that decision within 24 hours. Now no Labor minister is going to do that.

GILBERT: But what about this other point in relation to the TPVs, that the 10,000-plus? I mean, you say it's one of your pillars of the policy but there are 10,000 – more than 10,000 people in this country, many of them genuine refugees who are on TPVs. Is your view that they just stay in limbo basically as to their future? Is that viable?

COLEMAN: Well they're assessed every three years Kieran. And basically what happens is at the end of the three-year period, if there are continuing problems in their home country which means that they cannot return, they can…

GILBERT: Stay in limbo.

COLEMAN: …receive a further TPV for an additional period of three years. But we don't think what they should receive is something that says you can stay in Australia permanently for the rest of your life regardless of what the condition is back in your home country, if they arrived unlawfully by boat. And it's really important Kieran, this is not ancient history, five years ago 1,200 people died. They drowned at sea and that includes children Kieran. And part of the reason why that occurred was the dismantling of the successful border protection policies of the Howard government. So let's not sort of kid ourselves here, this is serious stuff, this needs to be thought through very carefully, this is not about something that should be pursued through flippant parliamentary tactics on the last sitting day of the year to try and get some sort of political win. This is a serious issue which requires being thought through carefully. I mean I saw today Kieran, Bill Shorten is trying to say he's sort of standing up for border security by saying that he supports turn-backs, well even if he does, that's one out of three. It’s not supporting TPVs, he's not supporting offshore processing, there are three pillars and one out of three is bad. And that is what Bill Shorten's position is. It is very important that the Australian people understand the detail of this bill passed on Thursday Kieran, because the detail of it is quite extraordinary.

JAYES: Okay. Minister when it comes to medical transfers though, it's not a perfect system. This has been a great source of community angst about how asylum seekers are treated on Manus Island and Nauru. What are you proposing to improve that system, anything?

COLEMAN: Well we have a system in place Laura, and that system has been effective in – we've seen, as the Prime Minister said, more than 100 children transferred under the existing system on his watch. And people are assessed by doctors actually on site, which is obviously appropriate. Under what Labor's proposing…

JAYES: So there's no need to make any changes? So it's a perfect system when it comes to medical transfers?

COLEMAN: Well Laura, the system is working appropriately and Labor's proposed system is frankly ridiculous. A person on Manus Island would be under no obligation to consult a doctor on Manus Island at all and could simply decide to speak to two doctors in Launceston. Now that is what Labor's law says Laura. And if anyone thinks that is a sensible approach for a mature government to take to a matter of such significance as this, I think that's an extraordinary proposition.

GILBERT: David Coleman, Immigration Minister, thanks. We'll talk to you soon.