JOURNALIST: Immigration Minister Peter Dutton joins us now. Peter Dutton welcome to Breakfast.
PETER DUTTON: Thanks Fran.
JOURNALIST: Minister, for months now the Government has been warning that if Labor is elected the boats will be back. Well if Bill Shorten succeeds at the ALP national conference then I guess you won’t be able to say that any more as the Coalition will be a unity ticket on the treatment of asylum seekers? Do you welcome that?
PETER DUTTON: Well Fran, I think that people need to look at what Labor does, not at what they say they will do.
Before the 2007 election there were no children in detention when Mr Rudd came to power and he said exactly the same words as Mr Shorten is saying now and yet 50,000 people arrived on 800 boats and 1,200 people drowned at sea.
So I think you need to look at the reality behind the scenes. Yes, I think Mr Shorten wants this issue to go away. I think Tanya Plibersek is vehemently opposed to the position and I think the Labor Party has a continuing problem.
I think the fact that the language has changed from Mr Shorten 7:30 Report interview last night to Mr Marles’ words this morning. I think that is quite significant.
JOURNALIST: How has it changed?
PETER DUTTON: Well they are talking about this ‘option.’ There is no definite language, which is a very important point.
We know that people smugglers watch every word that is said by us and that is said by the Opposition on this very important issue.
JOURNALIST: Minister that is because they are talking about a Party platform, they are not talking about a policy yet. You have to have a platform before you have the flexibility to start talking about policy don’t you? That’s fair enough isn’t it?
PETER DUTTON: Well it has to be genuine and I think that is the problem with Bill Shorten…
JOURNALIST: …You don’t think Richard Marles is genuine when he tells us this morning that this…
PETER DUTTON: I think that Richard Marles wants this policy to be put to bed and wants it to go away. I think that’s what the Labor Party wants.
The reality is that people smugglers are still putting people onto boats. We turn-back boats where it is safe to do so and the people smugglers would be rubbing their hands together if they knew that there was this division within the Labor Party.
The fact that Mr Shorten might stitch up some union deal over the weekend to get him through conference and into the next election, I just think it’s a phoney persona that they have got and I think that people are seeing through it.
JOURNALIST: With respect though Minister, that is a very political take on this. How can you, you have been urging Labor to adopt your policy, now they want to do it because that is the way to save lives, and you say that this is phoney and a stitch up.
What could Labor do to persuade you? They’re not in Government. Is it time to stop talking about this in political terms and acknowledge that this is a very complex policy that is a matter of life and death, and allow some bipartisanship on this?
PETER DUTTON: It is time to call Labor for what they are on this.
They have been completely divided Fran, and they continue to be completely divided now. You see Anna Burke, Tanya Plibersek, Melissa Parke…
JOURNALIST: [interrupted] of course but there are some on your side of politics that don’t support it too.
PETER DUTTON: Well you can look at the success of the Government over the course of the last 18 months and contrast that to the six years of demonstrated operation of policy in this area under the Labor Government Fran.
Now the difficulty that I’ve got is in the language, which is softening overnight. Mr Shorten hasn’t even been able to hold the position from 7:30 last night to 7:30 this morning.
The difficulty is that people smugglers hear that language and we have to have a united front against what is an organised criminal syndicate. We have to make sure that we stare down this threat.
JOURNALIST: But Minister, you are not allowing Labor to have a united front. They are saying they were wrong to scrap that policy in Government, they are saying that it cost lives, they are saying that they in all conscience repeat that, they are saying that they will take on, in Government, that they want the option of taking on turn-backs, as you have done, and you are saying that that is not operating together.
PETER DUTTON: And then in the next breath Fran, they qualify it by saying that they want an option.
This is the difficulty and this is why there is not a consistency in language. Mr Marles has modified the language this morning from what Mr Shorten had to say last night and I think that is most telling.
Yes they are saying the right things in regards to some parts of the policy, but ultimately you need to look at their language. The fact that it is qualified, which is obviously part of the deal that they have done to get their support at their conference on this matter – to put this weak word of option in there.
You need to have a definite and determined policy and stance to stare these people down. These people are trading in human lives…
JOURNALIST: [interrupted] but isn’t Bill Shorten, by taking on Labor left at the conference and possibly staking his leadership on this politically? I mean this will be a divisive debate at the conference there is no doubt about that. Do you think he would risk it if he wasn’t serious about this?
PETER DUTTON: If he hadn’t stitched up a deal with the CFMEU then he would be out there talking about it Fran - that is the reality.
Now, the question is whether he can hold that position until the election, let alone into Government if they are elected.
All I say is to look at what Labor does, not at what they say they’ll do.
When Mr Rudd was elected in 07, as I say, there were no children in detention. Labor presided over policies that saw 2000 children go into detention. We have got that number down close to 100, I want to get it to zero, but I am not going to allow boats to restart and detention centres to refill.
JOURNALIST: On this policy more broadly Minister, the global reality is, and we have heard this from the UNHCR in recent times, that more asylum seekers have died at sea in 2014 than in any other year in history.
So the policy of our Government may be saving lives in the waters near Australia, but the broader ambition of saving lives at sea has had no impact on that. In fact some say that it is forcing people to take other journeys that are just even more dangerous.
PETER DUTTON: Well that is just rubbish, Fran, to be honest.
And what is happening on the Mediterranean at the moment and people coming out of that part of the world, travelling across the Mediterranean in these ventures, these are not people who are coming to Australia or who would have come to Australia.
The numbers of people going into Indonesia has either plateaued or fallen away.
The reality is that we have been able to deal with this issue in our region, but the people smugglers would start up their business tomorrow. There is no end in sight in terms of the numbers of people that they can put on boats. That’s why 50,000 people on 800 boats was just the start of it.
Now I believe there are considerable issues for us to contemplate within the UN and through regional processes and how we can talk about this issue.
The reality is that in our region we have been able to stop the deaths at sea and it’s something that we can be proud of. At the same time we have been able to increase our humanitarian intake through our Humanitarian and Refugee Programme and that is something that we should celebrate as country. We have been able to take people in record numbers into our country and I think that it is a pretty significant outcome.
JOURNALIST: Labor will be offering an increased intake of refugees ultimately up to 27,000 which is almost double your quota, will you match that?
PETER DUTTON: Well the problem for Labor again, Fran, is that when they were in Government what happened was that because of the boat arrivals they took places away. They took places away from the Humanitarian Programme to settle people that had arrived by boat and …
JOURNALIST: [interrupted] yes, but we are in a different scenario now…
PETER DUTTON: …we are not in a different scenario.
JOURNALIST: Well we are, Minister, boats aren’t arriving.
PETER DUTTON: Well, all I can tell you is that Labor had for six years 50,000 people arrive on 800 boats.
They are presiding over a set of weak words at the moment to get them through the Labor Party conference and I don’t think that anybody is going to fall for this stunt.
I think people see Labor for what it is and they are evenly divided when it comes to boats.
I think that is regrettable for the sake of those people would seek to take this journey.
We have stopped the boats and we will continue to make sure that these people smugglers can’t continue to get into business.
JOURNALIST: Minister, can I just ask you finally on another issue that we have spoken about with you before on the programme.
It’s the five year old Iranian girl. She is currently not on Nauru as you have allowed her permission to live with her family in the community in Brisbane. She has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She has displayed disturbing an inappropriate sexual behaviour since she has been on Nauru. There is a court case still pending as I understand it trying to be sorted so that she won’t be sent back to Nauru.
Have you decided yet whether to intervene to ensure that this child won’t be sent back to Nauru again?
PETER DUTTON: Well Fran, just a general comment because I am not going to comment on specific cases, but the general comment that I would give to you is that we provide millions and millions of dollars of support each year to people who need medical attention, who need support, psychological support.
We allow people if they can’t get medical services in Nauru or Manus for example then we bring them back to Australia or a third country.
We put a lot of support into having a humane arrangement to do that because I want an environment in which people can live safely until they can be returned to their country of origin.
Despite all of the scare campaigns and despite some of the nonsense that you read from some of the left wing journalists in this country - in their columns and what they put to air - we are providing significant medical attention and support.
I am proud of what we are able to do and we will continue to do it.
JOURNALIST: I am simply asking you since you have discretion in this case. Would your conscience allow you to send a five year old girl who is traumatised back to Nauru?
PETER DUTTON: Well I take the advice of the doctors and the experts Fran, and if the doctors and the experts say that somebody has to stay to receive medical attention then that is the decision that is taken.
If the medical advice to us is that the person is able to receive that medical attention back in Nauru for example then that is where the medical attention will be provided.
The determination of the Government overall is that we are not going to allow people smugglers to get back into business because I don’t want the children that we are moving out of detention to be backfilled by new arrivals.
I also want to make sure that people hear the very clear message that if they have sought to come to Australia by boat then they won’t be settled here.
We will provide support to repatriate them back to their country of origin, or somewhere else, but they will not be settling in Australia.
At the same time, the dividend of all of that is that we are able to increase number of people that we take the right way through the refugee and humanitarian intake.
As a country, we are one of only one or two countries in the world that are taking those sorts of numbers. So there is a lot as a people to be very proud of, but we are not going to allow the deaths at sea to recommence or the children to pile back into detention.
JOURNALIST: Minister, thank you very much for joining us.
PETER DUTTON: Thanks Fran.