Monday, 04 June 2018

Interview with Kieran Gilbert, AM Agenda, Sky News

Subjects: ReachTel polling; Labor's failed border protection policies.


KIERAN GILBERT:           

Earlier this morning I caught up with the Immigration Minister, now Minister for Home Affairs, Peter Dutton for his reaction to this survey.

PETER DUTTON:             

Well Kieran it shouldn't come as any surprise. This was a big issue at the last election and people voted for Labor thinking that they would have the same policy on border protection as the Coalition and that's just not the case.

We're now seeing the Labor Party in the midst of this civil war. There are positions being taken for and against – mostly against the policy of the Government that has stopped the boats and got the kids out of detention – and I think it's telling that people see Bill Shorten as a person that is not able to hold the position in relation to border protection. That's dangerous because the people smugglers heard that from Julia Gillard, and Kevin Rudd and they're now hearing the same weak message from Bill Shorten.

KIERAN GILBERT:           

When you look at the number in Longman and Braddon – as I say, overwhelming majorities in favour of the Government's approach of not…and to be fair Labor's stated approach as well in terms of not allowing those refugees on Manus and Nauru to be resettled here – you look at the nationwide numbers, it's much closer; it's only 47 per cent in favour of the Government's approach, 45 per cent think they should be resettled here.

So obviously there's still quite a bit of concern within the community about the fact that hundreds remain on Manus and Nauru.

PETER DUTTON:             

Kieran, the reality is that because we haven't had a boat now for about 1,400 days, the reality is that we don't see the footage on our television screens each day, so some people believe that the problem's fixed and that it's gone away. The reality is that it hasn't.

We've been able to turn back over 30 boats and had those boats got through, we would have seen the same scenes that we saw under Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard – that is 1,000 people a week being pulled off boats.

Now, the reality is that the Labor position is not the same as the Coalition's position. It never will be because the Left of the Labor Party are now completely opposed to turning back boats where it's safe to do so, to offshore detention and to Temporary Protection Visas. The boats would restart under Labor and it would be back at the forefront of people's minds.

I suspect the vast majority of people across the country, as we saw when Mr Rudd was in government, when Ms Gillard was in government, believe in a strong border protection policy and the modern day Labor Party just can't deliver that.

KIERAN GILBERT:           

Mr Shorten continues to state that he supports the Government's approach of offshore processing. We've seen a report in The Australian today that there are a number of submissions to the New South Wales Labor Conference from various branches stating, or very few of them, if any, state support for the federal Labor Party's approach on this issue.

Isn't it just the fact that the Labor Party and its differences of opinion within it reflect, I guess, the complexity of this as an issue more broadly?

PETER DUTTON:             

It's a complex issue and when John Howard left office in 2007 there were four people in detention, including no children. Labor had 50,000 people arrive and 800 boats and 1,200 people tragically drowned at sea. It cost our country about $16 billion and we've been able to clean that mess up through a number of steps.

We didn't put people on to Manus and Nauru. My responsibility is to get those people off. We've struck an agreement with the United States to get a large number of those people off – almost 270 so far.

The Labor Party had no plan in their agreement that they signed with the PNG Government on Manus, to take people off that island.

So we've cleaned up the mess, we've stopped the boats, but Labor is promising to restart the boats and that would be a human tragedy because they put in total 8,000 children in detention. We've got all of those kids out of detention and we've closed 17 centres.

The fact is that Labor once again finds itself in a position under Mr Shorten's leadership where he just can't land this policy. He can't provide the policy certainty that's required and the people smugglers hear that uncertainty, that weakness from Bill Shorten and I have no doubt that if Mr Shorten was elected at the election, or if he was to win the election in Longman and in Braddon for example, that that would be a clear message to people smugglers that they're on the cusp of getting back into business.

KIERAN GILBERT:           

When it comes to the US deal, I reported last week that 18 refugees had been sent from Manus to the US. That brings the total number now to 267 resettled. My understanding was that there'd be several more sent in late June, July. Can you give us a sense of where all of that is at? It does seem to be still unfolding as you'd hope. Will it step up in terms of the pace?

PETER DUTTON:             

Well Kieran, we've been very grateful to the United States for the offer of up to 1,200 places. Obviously they go through each individual case. There will be some that they reject on security grounds or some that they will reject on other grounds. The fact as you say is that 267 people have gone and we'll work very closely still with the State Department and with the Department of Homeland Security to get as many people off Manus and Nauru that Labor put there.

The fact is it's very difficult, particularly with the Iranians for example, where Tehran won't issue travel documents unless somebody willingly wants to return to Tehran. So the Iranians in particular have leverage over not wanting to accept a position and they believe very strongly that if there's a Labor government elected, they'll be coming to Australia. That means that the people smugglers would see that as an unravelling of the policy and it would be a disaster because boats would recommence.

I think people in Longman and in Braddon at the moment see a person in Bill Shorten that is unfit to be prime minister of this country. If you can't protect your borders, you can't keep the Australian people safe; that's the first fundamental principle of a leader in this country – and unfortunately Mr Shorten can't meet that test.

KIERAN GILBERT:           

We're seeing the progress on the US deal. When it comes to the New Zealand arrangement or the offer at least, what do you need to take that up? Because it's been a standing offer for some time; 150 to potentially be resettled there, but what would you need to be reassured that this would not be then providing sugar on the table, as it's been described, for those criminal smugglers?

PETER DUTTON:             

Kieran, to take up the New Zealand offer now, and in my judgement any time in the next couple of years, would be a complete disaster and Labor's about to fall into this trap.

You see New Zealand is the only country in the world that has a visa on arrival arrangement with Australia. It doesn't matter where you come from in the world otherwise; the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa, wherever it is, you need to get a visa before you hop on a plane. There are plenty of people that we deny visas to, or that we take off aeroplanes in places like Dubai or Kuala Lumpur or Jakarta so that they can't get to our country. New Zealand is the only country. So if you come out of Auckland or Wellington, coming into Brisbane or into Perth or Melbourne, wherever it might be, you can get a visa on arrival and that's why, at the moment, the people smugglers are marketing New Zealand as a destination.

There was 131 people on a venture coming out of Malaysia recently, a steel-hulled vessel. It was being marketed as a New Zealand destination – and whether or not the people smugglers intend to get to New Zealand doesn't matter – they've taken the money and people are hearing from the Labor Party and Bill Shorten at the moment that New Zealand would be open. That is a drawcard, no different to what Australia would be to say that Australia was open for business and people smugglers would be putting people back on to boats.

So at some stage New Zealand may be an offer a couple of years off – and I've not ruled it out for that reason – but at the moment, and in the current climate where we've got steel-hulled ventures being put together, people smugglers trying to take money from people right now, 14,000 people still in Indonesia ready to hop on to boats; to take up the New Zealand offer now would be a raising of the white flag. It would be a green light to people smugglers to get on to boats and that would be a disaster.

KIERAN GILBERT:           

Now, just finally, I know you've got to get on a plane, but I need to ask you about the Barnaby Joyce interview. He admitted last night he knew he was going to lose his job as Deputy Prime Minister when he found out his staffer was pregnant, and yet he clung on to the position in the end out of spite. As a senior Member of Government, as one of his former Cabinet colleagues, do you find that frustrating that admission?

PETER DUTTON:             

Kieran, I don't have any comment to make in relation to the interview. The interview was held last night. I think there's a line in the sand under this issue now and it's a now private issue. It's not a political issue.

I want to concentrate on the issues that are important to Australians; people will pay higher electricity costs under Labor, there's a tax on retirees, a tax on small business at a time when we're proposing to cut taxes and make sure that the boats stay stopped. Under Labor, the boats restart and taxes go for families and businesses. They're the matters that we want to be talking about, not private matters.

KIERAN GILBERT:           

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, appreciate your time. Thanks.

PETER DUTTON:             

Thanks Kieran. Thank you.