Topics: Australia’s humanitarian program, offshore processing, medical transfers from Nauru and Manus and temporary protection visas
LAURA JAYES: Let's go straight to Brisbane now. Joining us live is the Immigration Minister David Coleman. David Coleman, thank you for your time.
DAVID COLEMAN: Good morning, Laura.
JAYES: You just heard it there from a long-time Liberal voter, a former Liberal advisor, about what you need to do on the humanitarian side. Do you heed that advice?
COLEMAN: Well Laura, we have a very strong humanitarian program. This government's actually increased the humanitarian program by some 35 per cent. The only country in the world that has a comparable intake per year per capita is Canada. So we have a very strong humanitarian program Laura. But what we have is a program that is controlled by Australia, that is not controlled by people smugglers, and where we determine the composition of the program and the manner in which it is run. And let me give you an example – in the previous government under Labor, because the borders were so overwhelmed, the special humanitarian program, a key part of the program, in 2007 5,000 people came to Australia on a special humanitarian program. In 2012 – 500. Those were people in refugee camps around the world, seeking to come to Australia through the proper process. They were badly disadvantaged by Labor's loss of control of our borders. We know that 8,000 kids were placed in detention. We know that 1,200 people drowned at sea, and we know that the cost to taxpayers has been $16 billion. So we do have a very strong humanitarian program Laura, that's a good thing. But it needs to be a program that is properly managed and that's what this government does.
KIERAN GILBERT: The Labor approach has been endorsed though, as you heard there, by Ian Smith, among others. He says they've got the balance right. You are critical. You say that they're tearing down two pillars of a successful policy approach, and only have the boat turn backs as their option in terms of deterring people smugglers. But by doing that and by making this argument as vocally as you and others are in the Government, aren't you doing what Bill Shorten said, and that is providing a megaphone to people smugglers to highlight that vulnerability?
COLEMAN: Well Kieran, we're hardly just going to sit here and let Bill Shorten propose the dismantling of Australia's border security and just sort of wave it through and say that's all fine. I mean, what Labor is proposing is quite absurd. And it's really important to understand the detail of this proposal on offshore processing. What Labor's policy says - they voted for this by the way in the Senate, so this isn't just some theoretical policy. They're committed, they voted for this. What their policy says is if any two doctors anywhere in Australia - could be Mudgee; could be Hobart; could be Perth; could be anywhere - say that someone should come to Australia for assessment - medial assessment. They don't have to say they're sick; they merely have to say it's necessary that they come here for an assessment, unless the Minister objects within 24 hours. And what Labor Minister will do that? Those people come. Now, that is such an extraordinarily low bar, Kieran. Then what that means in practice is, substantially, everyone on Manus and Nauru will quickly obtain those two medical certificates and will come to Australia and it…
JAYES: But Richard Marles, yesterday, Minister, said that he thinks, essentially, that the Minster should have the final say. Would you be comfortable with that? If you have the finally say, is this a policy you could support?
COLEMAN: Well, we are not proposing a change to the existing system, which is working well. What Richard Marles said yesterday is totally inconsistent with the law that Labor voted for two weeks ago. So the law that Labor voted for two weeks ago takes away all discretion from the Minister, except in the very narrow circumstances of a breach of security as defined under the ASIO Act, which is a very specific definition. That's it. Apart from that, the Minister has no discretion at all. Now, Richard Marles told your colleague David Speers yesterday that the Minister should have discretion, that the Minister does have discretion. So either - two possibilities: either he misled David Speers in the interview yesterday or he completely misunderstands what the Labor Party voted for. And this is really important Laura, because this goes to the character of the Opposition because as you'll recall, they tried to rush through this legislation in Parliament a couple of weeks ago, seeking to score political points. They would - they voted for it in the Senate; they would've voted for it in the House; and it would have fundamentally dismantled Australia's offshore processing system. Now Richard Marles is saying that it maintains ministerial discretion. It absolutely does not and no objective observer would agree with that if they've read the legislation. So this is serious business. This is not something to be trifled with on the last day of parliament to try and score a political point. There was a human catastrophe in this area; it's only five years ago, we're not talking about ancient Roman history here, this is recent Australian history…
COLEMAN: A terrible human burden and Labor doesn't even know what they've voted for.
GILBERT: And the prime minister, who was in office when that overturning of the Pacific solution, will be in Adelaide today, receiving his life membership by Kevin Rudd of the ALP incidentally. So a bit of a reminder of policy mistakes in the past - that's fine, but don't you - even when you have successful policies need to move with the time so to speak? In relation to the TPVs, I'm just wondering if temporary protection visas - how do they remain relevant when you're taking about thousands of people on those in Australia as a deterrent. How are they still a deterrent when those who arrived won't be in Australia? They will subject to offshore processing.
COLEMAN: Well it's very important that to those people that are already in Australia, that TPVs are there because they say that every three years, if conditions are still such in your home country that you can't return, you get another three year stay. But it's not appropriate to have a permanent visa for people who are onshore, who arrived unlawfully.
GILBERT: So you're going to just keep that indefinitely? So people could live their whole life on a three-year cycle basically?
COLEMAN: We believe that TPVs are very important Kieran. There are three key elements to our policies here: temporary protection visas, maintaining offshore processing and boat turn backs. Now we've been very successful here Kieran. It's hard to dispute that. We've had no successful boat arrivals for four years, we've stopped deaths at sea, we've saved Australian taxpayers billions of dollars. Bill Shorten is saying: trust me, I'll dismantle that and it will all work out fine. Now before 2007, Kevin Rudd didn't say he was going to dismantle it but he did. Bill Shorten is effectively saying he'll dismantle it and so based on what we already know, there's going to be huge problems and then who knows what additional steps they'll take if they are elected.
GILBERT: Immigration Minister David Coleman, we appreciate your time. Talk to you soon.