Topics: Bill Shorten’s weakening of border protection policy, offshore processing and Labor’s policy failure
KIERAN GILBERT: Let's bring in the Immigration Minister David Coleman. Well first of all, the fact that the Government lost a vote, first time in many decades in the
House of Representatives. Why didn't the Prime Minister call on a vote of
confidence? Because precedent would suggest that he should've tested the Parliament's confidence in the Government and that's [indistinct] in Parliament?
DAVID COLEMAN: Well no, that's not the case at all Kieran. And obviously the
Independents and others have indicated they're entirely separate issues as the PM
indicated. I mean, the real…
GILBERT: But if you look at other occasions where there's been a vote against a
substantive bill. Now there aren't that many - the Government of the day fell. In 1929,
the Bruce Government, they went to a vote of confidence immediately - why didn't
the Prime Minister?
COLEMAN: Well he indicated very clearly the reasons in relation to that last night
and I don't think the Independents or others are suggesting that it was in relation to
that issue. What this vote was about last night was Bill Shorten's appalling political
opportunism. This bill, and let's be clear on this because, you know this. This bill is
about the Labor Party seeing a political opportunity, and in complete disregard to the
advice of our security agencies, in complete disregard to the successful operation of
our border security over the past several years. They have deliberately sought to end
LAURA JAYES: Is this the result of this bill, do you think? Has it ended offshore
COLEMAN: Well look, I think it's very clear. If you look at the bill, that is what it is
designed to do. It is designed to end offshore processing, and for Labor…
JAYES: Okay. Why?
COLEMAN: Well, it's in the structure of the bill. I mean, the standard in terms of its- people coming for medical assessment, the entire structure of the bill, is designed…
JAYES: It only applies to those who are already on Manus and Nauru - no new arrivals.
COLEMAN: Well, this is a bill that has been put forward by the people who destroyed Australia's border security in the past. That saw 1,200 people drown at sea on their watch, where 50,000 people arrived, and also, let's not forget, they forcibly placed 8,000 kids in detention.
GILBERT: That's a history, what Laura’s saying accurately now is that this is only those cohort that are still in offshore processing facilities, that this is not new arrivals. Mr Shorten has been very clear on this point.
COLEMAN: Well Mr Shorten has been very clear, has he Kieran? I mean, Mr Shorten has been absolutely disgraceful on this issue and all over the place.
GILBERT: But no he said this morning, he said, this is not applicable to new arrivals. That's what he said.
COLEMAN: But frankly, who is going to seriously listen to Mr Shorten on this issue Kieran? Come on. This is the person, who in December, sought to rush something through in Parliament in one day without getting any briefing from any security agencies. It would've been the law of Australia on 6 December if he'd had his way. This is the person who is seeking to dismantle what has been a very successful management of Australia's borders, which has provided and continues to provide medical care to people who need medical care on Manus and Nauru; and the person who has been completely politically opportunistic. Now, the reality is that before the 2007…
GILBERT: There's a bit of irony in that, isn't there? I mean, who's being politically opportunistic right now?
COLEMAN: Well the Labor Party has been extraordinarily politically opportunistic Kieran. The situation, as you know, is we had a completely chaotic situation when we came to government, and you might not want to talk about it, Kieran, but it's true. It was completely chaotic. People died, including children. I think that's very relevant. I really do.
GILBERT: Well, it might be relevant but you know as well I do that sentiment is a huge driver of this trade, and you and your colleagues are creating the sentiment, the view that Shorten is laying out the welcome mat. You're just as culpable.
COLEMAN: Well absolutely not Kieran. I mean, before the 2007 election, Kevin Rudd said he wouldn't change anything. He changed everything. Bill Shorten now has dismantled offshore processing and then he says: oh, but trust me, I'll manage
this and there won't be any people smuggling ventures arrive or boats arrive. Now, that is just absurd. It is fanciful. It is taking a situation where the issue has been successfully managed by the Government and basically are seeking to pull it apart, and that is completely irresponsible. It is in conflict with all of the advice that we have received. And for Labor to say that it supports offshore processing is absolutely ridiculous because the marketing material that they have provided with this bill to people smugglers is incredibly powerful.
JAYES: What about the 400 people that you brought to the mainland for medical treatment from Nauru and Manus Island? When will they go back?
COLEMAN: Well people are here for treatment and as you know...
JAYES: Not one has been sent back?
COLEMAN: Well Laura as you know, a number of these people, a large number of these people launch legal action once they get to Australia. So, it's correct that we have a brought a significant number of people.
JAYES: By doing that, have you dismantled offshore processing?
COLEMAN: Well no, not at all because what we've done Laura, is we have a situation where the Government of Australia decides who comes to Australia. Right. That's what happens now. Under this bill, the Government of Australia does not decide who comes to Australia. Now again, you might not think that's important but we do. We think that's very, very important because this is about a question of sovereignty. It is about a question of the government actually managing its borders, and under the Labor law, the Government does not actually control the decision as to who enters the country.
GILBERT: Minister we thank you for your time. Thanks so much.
COLEMAN: Thank you.