Subjects: Bill Shorten's opposition to the Government's strong and effective border protection policy.
I’m very pleased to be here with Michael Keenan. I want to say thank you very much to the staff that have showed us through the National Monitoring Centre here. It is incredibly important work in keeping our borders safe and keeping our ports safe and on a daily basis the officers here are working in with the AFP, and with other authorities around the country and with their ABF contacts in a way that Australians won’t see each day, but they should be reassured in the knowledge that this work is being done in an effort to detect crime and to keep Australians safe.
I want to say thank you very much to Commander James Watson who is the Regional Commander here in Victoria and Tasmania and also to the AFP representative here John Beveridge and Mr Keenan can talk more about the work of the AFP shortly.
I wanted to say a couple of words this morning about Mr Shorten and the Labor Party’s approach to what we have got on the table in the Parliament at the moment. The legislation that was introduced and passed in the Lower House is absolutely crucial in our continuing message to people smugglers.
Don't forget – and no Australian should believe that people smugglers have not gone away, this problem is with us and will be with us for a long period of time to come –Mr Shorten is out there trying to throw around these red herrings that somehow this is going to be a problem in 30 or 40 years when people want to come to Australia and apply for a tourist visa.
The reality is that this Government is dealing with the threat to our country over the next three or four days, over the next three or four weeks, over the next three or four months.
This problem of people smugglers is with us, it is tangible. We know that we have 14,000 people in Indonesia waiting to get on to boats now and we need to have this legislation in place so that we can stare down threat from the people smugglers.
Mr Shorten is out there now today talking about 457 visas. This is another distraction. It's another distraction away from the fact that the Labor Party remains bitterly divided over border protection policy.
This Government has struck a deal with the United States to get people off Manus and Nauru. Labor put these people on Manus and Nauru. We are getting them off. We are doing it in a way that means that we can stare down the threat of new boat arrivals, but if we have divided messages coming from Australian political leaders, the people smugglers will trade on those messages.
Mr Shorten is out there trying to create distractions at the moment, but he needs to answer the core question. He talks a big game, he says that he is on a unity ticket with the Government and then votes against us. He says that he's for shaving off the numbers of 457 visa applicants, but when he was a Minister in a Labor Government, the number of 457 visas increased. So don't believe what Mr Shorten says, look at what he does.
He has turned out to be a weaker leader than even Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd when it comes to our response of staring down people smugglers. It is now time for Mr Shorten to deal with the Left of his Party, to show the leadership that he promised at the last election and deal with this issue – stare down the Left of the Labor Party and support this legislation through the Senate. If he does that then that will send a strong message of deterrence to people smugglers who will seek to misrepresent the deal with the United States, our efforts to clean up Labor's mess, because we don't want to see new arrivals filling the vacancies in the regional processing centres on Nauru and Manus. We have been able to close down 17 detention centres on the mainland and get 2,000 children out of detention that Labor put into detention.
We want to continue to work together with the agencies, including very importantly the Australian Federal Police, and I will ask Minister Keenan to say some words and then we're happy to take some questions.
Thanks Peter. It's good to be here at the National Monitoring Centre of the Australian Border Force with you. I'm pleased to be joined by Commander Watson from the ABF and Commander John Beveridge, the AFP's State Manager for Victoria.
You can see behind us the sorts of sophisticated technologies that we use to secure our ports and airports. When we came to Government we found both Customs at the time and our other law enforcement community had not been supported by the previous Labor administrations. They didn't have the capability to do what they needed to do to keep the Australian people safe.
We reinvested in Australian Border Force, we reinvested in the Australian Federal Police, we created the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission – an agency that had not been supported by the previous administration – to make sure that we are doing everything we can to tackle the organised criminal groups that particularly try and peddle in the misery of drugs.
The Australian Federal Police works very closely with the Australian Border Force, both in keeping our ports and our airports secure, but also in Operation Sovereign Borders – it's one of the 16 agencies responsible for destroying the people smuggling trade. That cooperation continues to be alive in the wake of the resettlement deal that we have made with the United States and like other agencies, the Australian Federal Police will be ensuring that they have resources on hand to deal with anyone in the people smuggling trade that thinks that they can test our resolve. If they do test our resolve, they will lose. We are determined to eradicate the people smuggling trade and our record on this shows that we will continue to do exactly that.
Now it’s up to the Labor Party about whether they are going to support these efforts. It is clear that over the six years in government that every decision they made, every judgement they made on people smuggling was wrong. They should listen to the Government that got everything right when we came to office and eradicated the people smuggling trade when they said it was impossible for us to do that.
The Australian Federal Police will continue to work very closely as part of Operation Sovereign Borders and will continue to work very closely with Australian Border Force to keep our ports and airports safe and I'd like to congratulate Minister Dutton for the work that he's doing in ensuring that people smugglers never get another leg up to game the system by bringing people illegally to our country.
Ok. Are there any questions?
Minister Dutton you spoke a lot about Bill Shorten, but you've got four crossbenchers in the Senate who are unsure whether they're going to support this legislation. Are you concerned they will block it?
This is an issue for Mr Shorten. Mr Shorten has the balance of power in the Senate and if he decides to support the Government that is important not only in the sense of getting the legislation through, but more importantly for the people smugglers to hear a united message from the Australian political leaders. Both the Prime Minister and the alternative prime minister of this country must send a strong and coherent message to people smugglers and at the moment it is only Malcolm Turnbull that's meeting that test.
Unfortunately Mr Shorten has failed that test; not for any other principle than the fact that he has got 26 people in his own Party who spoke out against this legislation even before Mr Shorten was able to open his own mouth. It shows that the Labor Party is desperately divided still on border protection policy. They have the ability to show leadership now and they need to do it.
When the Senate reconvenes next week and the week after – there are only two sitting weeks left this year – the Labor Party needs to deal with this legislation, to pass the legislation so that we can stare down the threat of people smugglers who will be using the US resettlement deal as propaganda to try and get people back onto boats.
It looks like Bill Shorten is not going to support this. Nick Xenophon says he will support it if there is an additional increase in Australia's humanitarian intake. Are you going to consider that?
I want Mr Shorten to support this legislation so that we can get it through the Senate. That's the important test here. Mr Shorten is out there throwing around all sorts of red herrings and distractions, but Mr Shorten needs to explain today when he stands up and addresses the media conference in Queensland, he needs to explain to the Australian people why he went to the last election saying that he was on a unity ticket with the Government and yet his actions demonstrate the complete opposite.
I mean why does Mr Shorten, when it comes to the 457 issue, always pretend to be a friend of the workers when really he is only a friend of union bosses?
So you’re not going to negotiate with the crossbenches?
We shouldn't be in a position to have to negotiate with the crossbenches because Labor has the ability to pass this legislation.
What we need for the people smugglers to hear – as we have seen reports out of Indonesia this morning with the Police Commissioner in Jakarta who has said that he is concerned about reestablishment of the people smuggling trade – if the people smugglers hear messages of weakness from the alternative prime minister in this country, then that is manna from heaven for them. They are rubbing their hands together with Bill Shorten’s indecision. I mean this is obvious. This is what's happened over the course of the six years of Labor Government.
The people smugglers are sophisticated criminal organised crime syndicates. They watch every word that I say, that the Prime Minister says, that Mr Shorten says, that leaders in this country – including Premiers – have to say on this issue and they use that to manipulate the message that they are giving to people to pay money to get on to boats.
Now 1,200 people drowned at sea when Labor was last in power and 50,000 people came on 800 boats. The Labor Party apologised for that massive failing of public policy – probably the most significant failure of public policy in our country's history – and yet Mr Shorten wants to repeat the mistakes of Ms Gillard and Mr Rudd. It seems to me that Labor has not learnt their lesson when it comes to border protection policy.
This Government has put in place measures which have stopped drownings at sea, we’ve got 2,000 children out of detention, we have closed 17 detention centres and the test now is for Mr Shorten to stand up on the side of the Australian people; not cower to the 26 people on his own backbench on the Left of the Party that are beating him into submission, because it seems to me that Anthony Albanese, the leader-in-waiting in the Labor Party, is getting his way at the moment over Bill Shorten and Mr Shorten needs to step up and show the leadership that's required to send a very strong message that Malcolm Turnbull has sent to the people smugglers in Indonesia and elsewhere.
Will there be exemptions for people fleeing conflicts in Australia's direct neighbourhood?
Our policy has been very clear: that is that the US deal that we have announced will not apply under any circumstance to new arrivals. I don't care where people are coming from, I don't care what their circumstance is, they will not be settling in this country. The policy that we have announced doesn't apply to people under the age of 18 if they have arrived at a regional processing country after July 2013.
We have been very clear about the Ministerial Intervention powers that will be within in Bill which will allow the Minister of the day to look at particular cases, particularly for example, where families may have been separated. We can look at a sensible way at each of these measures. But for Mr Shorten to be out there saying that he is blocking this because he is worried about people coming here on tourist visas in 40 years, demonstrates that he doesn't have the capacity to deal with the issue today.
So people fleeing conflicts, say a hypothetical conflict in Fiji, Indonesia; David Leyonhjelm has raised concerns about that, will you make exemptions for those people if there is a hypothetical conflict in the future?
I am not going to deal in hypotheticals.
Minister Keenan, may I ask you a question regarding the police operation off the NSW coast targeting a drug vessel? Are you able to give us an update on that?
Look, I can't because it is an ongoing operation.
Are you happy to tell us if there have been any arrests?
Look, again, it’s an ongoing operation so we will be able to make comment about that when the operational phase has concluded.
Thank you very much.