Subjects: Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing Cohort) Bill
I will just make some comments in relation to the Government's announcement on the weekend in relation to restricting certain persons from coming to Australia. This is a very serious issue because at the moment we face a scenario where we've got 14,000 people in Indonesia ready to hop on boats.
We have difficulties in Sri Lanka, in Vietnam and elsewhere and people who believe that the people smugglers have gone away or that the issue around people arriving by boat has somehow disappeared are completely blind to the facts in relation to this issue.
Now, the Government has done a number of things.
Firstly; it has now been over 800 days since we've had a successful people smuggling venture. The Labor Party presided over 50,000 people coming on 800 boats and 1,200 people drowned at sea – we have not had a drowning at sea since the commencement of Operation Sovereign Borders.
We have been able to close 17 detention centres here on the mainland and get 2,000 children out of detention – and I am not going to preside over a situation where we see boats recommence and a need for detention centres, either on the mainland or in other parts of our region to reopen or to be re-established to accommodate new arrivals.
Now, Mr Shorten has a very simple proposition in front of him; that is that he supports the Government's proposal to stop people that would seek to come to Australia by boat from receiving a visa.
Mr Rudd in July of 2013 was quite specific about it and the Labor Party has claimed, at least up until the last 48 hours, that they were of a similar view to us and that they would support an ongoing arrangement where if people seek to come to our country by boat they won't be settled in this country.
Now the difficulty for Mr Shorten is that in the absence of his leadership on this issue he now has the Left wing of the Labor Party running around putting out social media messages, no doubt picked up by people in regional processing centres and the people smugglers themselves monitor very closely exactly what each of us says in relation to this issue – and is it any wonder that people smugglers can see a weak Labor leader a mile away. Mr Shorten has certainly put himself into that category.
We want to make sure that we can get the support of the Labor Party which demands Mr Shorten to take control back of this issue within his party because clearly the Labor Party, as they were at the last election, remains bitterly divided when it comes to border protection policies. I am happy to take any questions.
Minister Dutton you say that this is simply to try and stop refugees from resettling here as Labor promised three years ago, but it is clearly different matter when you are not talking about not letting them ever travel here or visit here as a tourist or on business.
So can you explain why that is necessary as a separate thing to resettling them here and giving them a resettlement visa? Why the Government views it as necessary to stop them even travelling here for a temporary period?
Well there are a number of reasons. I mean once somebody comes here they – under the migration law and under the protocols and the convention – are able to claim protection and they are able to then embroil themselves in a very costly legal process. We have hundreds of cases underway at the moment where people have come to Australia for medical assistance and then we've been injuncted so that they can't go back to regional processing centres and this portfolio is one of the - and always has been, one of the highest litigated in the Commonwealth because people have numerous opportunities to appeal cases all the way to the High Court.
So there is the very real prospect that somebody would go to a third country and then would seek to come to our country at some future point and we have said that that is unacceptable – and that is what I understood the Labor Party to say – but if you are going to allow some sunset clause – which Mr Rudd never made that qualification, Mr Shorten never made that qualification and neither did his predecessor Ms Gillard – they were definite as I recall their words in saying that if you seek to come by boat you will never settle in this country.
Mr Shorten now is being torn apart by the Left of his party and it demonstrates why in government and in Opposition the Labor has no ability to send a tough message to people smugglers and to keep our borders under control.
It would seem likely that this measure could be supported if there were some clear resettlement destination for these people….
No, either you support this measure or you don't. I mean the Labor Party either supports it or they don't. There's not qualifications around it. The issue for Bill Shorten is to show leadership and not allow the left of his party to runout, to put tweets out and Facebook posts and the rest of it like some undisciplined rabble. Mr Shorten needs to show leadership because the people smugglers are watching this indecision and they know that Mr Shorten is no better than Julia Gillard or Kevin Rudd when it comes to border protection approach by Labor and this is the reality.
This was an opportunity for Mr Shorten to join with the Government to send a very clear message because at the moment people do believe that they will come to our country, regardless of what we have said, regardless of how many times I have said it publicly and as far back as July of 2013 Mr Rudd and every other leader of both major parties has said it since, people believe they will come to this country and they believe that if they hold out long enough the Australian Government will fold and that they will come to this country.
Now, hundreds before have decided that not to be the case, that they have returned back to their country of origin or back to a third country and the legislation that we are putting forward cannot be any clearer in our intent, and I hope the people see that in what the Government is doing.
I mean this is the fundamental point with respect; once people hear we are in a legal roundabout, and it costs the taxpayers millions of dollars in each case – there are 30,000 cases here at the moment of people who the Labor Party allowed to get onto boats, 1,200 drowned at sea, but of the 50,000 there are around about 30,000 who are here now – and we are in this endless legal arrangement.
Not only that, if you have got people that have come from countries where we cannot do returns like we might do to Sri Lanka for arguments sake or to Vietnam or to the UK or the US or Canada, wherever it might be, that is forced returns, if you're talking about somebody from a country like Iran or Iraq or elsewhere, those countries will only take people back if the person goes voluntarily.
So once people get here they know that there's not the ability to be deported and there's not the ability to be returned back – even if the Government wins at every turn in the courts – and that is why it is a complicated message and that's why we are not going to send a message to people particularly from countries that don't have the ability to be forcibly returned, as we do when people arrive off aircraft or if they overstay their visa arrangements as a tourist or a student, people are taken into immigration detention every day and are returned back to their country whether it is against their will or not.
But there are certain countries, and these are represented in significant number within the IMA cohort, they come from countries where they cannot be forcibly returned.
So your proposition with respect is to embroil us in another legal process which will never be resolved and will cost literally tens of millions of dollars on an annual basis and much, much more – that's the difficulty.
So that's why it is incumbent upon Mr Shorten to come out, to show the leadership that he supports this in principle. We'll work with the Labor Party. We will provide them with briefings, but we are not going to allow the work that we have done, the gains that we are presided over, over the course of the last couple of years to be undone. I am not going to have children and women drowning at sea during my period in this portfolio. I am not going to allow children to come back into detention. I'm not going to allow detention centres to reopen.
Labor can talk all they want. The Greens who are in coalition with the Labor Party at the time can talk all they want because in this space talk to cheap. What they presided over was deaths at sea, an $11 billion blowout. We have tided that mess up. This is the latest step in tidying Labor's mess up and we are not going to take a backwards step until we can get those people off Manus and Nauru, to third country arrangements or back to their country of origin or settling in PNG or settling in Nauru or Cambodia or wherever the case might be, but I am not going to do it in such a way that allows the people smugglers to get back into business because if you look at what is happening on the Mediterranean now, and thousands of people are losing their lives on the Mediterranean, if you look at what is happening in France, across continental Europe, have a look at what is coming out of Libya and we have a significant problem ongoing because we don't have boats arriving each day doesn't mean that our efforts at sea and in the air and through the intelligence agencies in certain ports and the rest of it, that somehow that is no longer required, it is and the threat of boats recommencing – and if you get half a dozen through, you'll get 60 and you'll get 600 – and we are not going to preside over that mess.
I thought Bill Shorten had learnt the lesson. I thought Bill Shorten had learnt from the failure of Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd, but it is obvious to me that Bill Shorten has not learnt the lessons of history. The Labor Party has divided itself again on this issue just at a time when our country needed them to step up, support the Government's work, to stare down people smugglers and Mr Shorten should rise to the occasion and I am sorry he hasn't been able to do so, so far.
Minister, can you explain why this policy does not - this proposal, rather, does not breach Section 31 of the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees?
Well look, our - you asked this question yesterday - our advice is very clear in relation to the constitutionality, the aliens power. It is very clear in relation to the advice that we got from AGD and from AGS, and from my own department. If there are issues that have been brought to your attention, I'm happy to have a look at them. But the legal advice was definitive and we've been very clear about that.
[inaudible] … about those changes, can you tell us about that.
No and I'm not going to go into that. Look, the point is, we want to get this Bill through and quickly. We want to do it with the support of the Labor Party. The crossbenchers only come into the equation if the Labor Party decides that they are not going to support what is a sensible measure. And we have as a courtesy, started some discussion, but that will continue, no doubt, when Parliament returns and perhaps beforehand.
But the priority now is to get Mr Shorten in a position to agree to this legislation because it is in the national interest. It will allow us to return people back to their countries of origin, or to third countries, whatever prospective arrangement may be entered into and we have the ability, through this legislation to send a clear and consistent message, one that people aren't listening to at the moment and I think that Mr Shorten needs to step up, learn the lessons of Labor's past failures, support this Bill, and I hope that we get support from the independents. That, of course, won't be necessary if Mr Shorten supports this very reasonable measure.