Loading

Monday, 31 October 2016
Transcript

Interview with Peter van Onselen, Newsday, Sky News

Subjects: Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing Cohort) Bill.

E&EO…………………………………………………………………………………………..

PETER VAN ONSELEN:  

And going back to our top story now, I'm joined by the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton live from our CBD studio. Thanks very much for your company.

PETER DUTTON: 

Thanks Peter.

PETER VAN ONSELEN:  

Let me – I've got to – you know, I'm one of the many, not few, many commentators that had to eat humble pie, that didn't think that you guys would stop the boats but you did. What is wrong with that policy that requires this change going forward?

PETER DUTTON: 

Well Peter there are a few things. I mean as you know, yes we've had over 800 days since we've had a successful arrival of a boat but we've turned around almost 30 boats and our view is, and the experience is through the Labor years, if three or five or 10 of those boats had of got through, then you end up with the 800 that Labor presided over.

So, we've got 14,000 people in Indonesia at the moment ready to get on to boats. You're seeing thousands of people drown on the Mediterranean and just because this is not in the news every night and we don't have footage of boats arriving on Christmas Island like they did in the Rudd/Gillard years, doesn't mean that this problem has gone away. This problem will be with us for our lifetimes and we are trying to provide support to people who are on Nauru and Manus at the moment, to go back to their country of origin and at the moment a lot of them are saying to us, we're not going to accept that financial support package to go back because we're being told that one day Australia will change its position and we'll come to Australia and therefore we're happy to stay here until we can come to Australia. That's what they've paid the people smuggler to do. We're not going to allow that to happen.

There are reports of women going up to Manus Island to try and marry some of the people within the Regional Processing Centre up there who now walk freely out in the community as a way of bringing some of those people to our country. So, the thought that this problem has gone away is just misplaced and the other element of course, is, as we've always said, the priority was to stop boats, stop drownings at sea. We've closed 17 detention centres on the mainland. We've got 2,000 children out of detention and I want, as our priority now, to get women, men and children off Nauru and off Manus. We can only do that if we have a consistent, clear message and it's obvious at the moment that some people believe that that message is not clear and I don't want…if we can arrive at third country arrangements, I don't want people from those third countries then making application to come to Australia at some point in the future because that would completely undermine the success that we've had around Operation Sovereign Borders.

PETER VAN ONSELEN:  

So is that the primary purpose of this legislative change? Is it aimed at those existing people who are refusing to go home, for example but you're trying to find third country settlement for? Is this all about ensuring that those people can be settled in a third country?

PETER DUTTON: 

It's for all of the reasons I outlined Peter and the difficulty is that having reduced the population substantially on Nauru and on Manus, having closed 17 detention centres here and got 2,000 children out of detention, I don't want to have an arrangement where we find third country settlement for some people only to find that the vacancies created are back filled by new arrivals. That would be a disaster because the voices in this debate that can't be heard are the 1,200 who went to the bottom of the ocean and I've had no deaths at sea since I've been Minister. We have not had a successful boat in 800 days. We have closed those 17 detention centres and we got 2,000 children out of detention and I am not going to allow us to go back to the flip flop days of Rudd/Gillard/Shorten and that is why you've seen a complete overreaction from the left, from Mr Marles, from Mr O'Connor, from Ms Plibersek, from Mr Shorten, because they know – and the people smugglers know – that Labor is still absolutely divided when it comes to border protection policy and they've demonstrated it again, sadly, in the last 24 to 48 hours.

PETER VAN ONSELEN:  

Is it right, though, my understanding that, it sounds from what you're saying that the primary goal of this legislative change is being directed at sorting out, if you like, the legacy problems from the Gillard/Rudd years, that is to say the people that are in limbo, rather than needing this policy to as an added deterrent to what you're already successful at, which is stopping the boats?

PETER DUTTON: 

That's exactly right. So, at the moment we've got some people who have been found not to be refugees. We want them to go back to their country of origin. We're offering literally thousands and thousands of dollars. We'll help them re-establish their lives. We'll provide support to them and their family. We'll help them get a job. All of that and when it comes to agreeing to that, they say no, no but I'm getting all of these Tweets and Facebook messages and social media messages from advocates in Australia who say don't negotiate with the Australian Government because you will eventually get what you wanted, what you paid for and that is an Australian residency outcome.

PETER VAN ONSELEN:  

Sorry to interrupt, but Minister, your view is or your pitch I suppose, is that talking about those non-refugees just for starters who are refusing to go home, despite as you point out, the suite of incentives, your point is that you are of the view that if this law comes in, this legislative change, they will then realise it is absolutely 100 per cent, lock stock, all over any chance of coming here so they'll be more likely to take the package and go home.

PETER DUTTON: 

That's exactly right and this is, as you point out Peter, the latest step in cleaning up Labor's mess and I'm not going to allow the re-emergence of the 50,000 people on 800 boats and the kids drowning at sea.

We have got the situation under control but the threat remains. The threat remains with the 14,000 who would hop on boats tomorrow. There are 65 million people that the UN speaks of who are displaced or would seek to come to a country like Australia tomorrow and we want to get people off because I don't want them there on Nauru or Manus long term.

The difficulty is that Labor put them there. I'm trying to take them off and send them back with a resettlement package so that they can re-establish their lives because all of the advice, all of the intelligence that I get, is if we allow those people to settle in Australia, the people smugglers will rub their hands together once again to say, see, we told you so, all you had to do was hold out long enough and you're on your way to Australia – and if that happens, you will see tens of thousands who follow.

Now, the difficulty for Labor, frankly, is that the shrill reaction of Bill Shorten over the course of the last 24 hours, A, is to distract from his problems with the CFMEU in Queensland which are endemic, and secondly it shows that the left of his party are completely and utterly out of control still and he's putting off all these press releases and sending his Shadow Ministers out there to try and deflect attention away.

I'll tell you who's hearing the weakness in Bill Shorten's voice; it's the people smugglers. He has an opportunity to stand up, to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Prime Minister, to stare down people smugglers, to be on the side of the Australian people who voted for us at the last election to clean up Labor's mess and instead he demonstrates that he doesn't have the leadership once again to deal with what is a very vexed issue.

PETER VAN ONSELEN:  

Because you look at the Howard years, I mean you were part of the Howard Government, you look at the Howard years and the Howard Government essentially had a very similar set of policy scripts for stopping the boats to what your Government has now. The difference then versus now was that when the spotlight was…when the spotlight, I should say, was taken off this issue, refugees were quietly settled here in Australia. I've heard yourself and other Ministers make the point that that's a one-time trick almost, my words not yours, you can't do that again because it's now been exposed so you have to look for third party settlements as a result.

That has been the sticking point, hasn't it, for the Government, trying to find third party settlements? You've managed to stop the boats, Labor didn't do that. You're left with this legacy issue, you can't do the Howard trick again because it's a onetime trick. This presumably is all about fixing that one area, I guess, of your border protection policy that has been, so far, an unsolved problem. Is that a fair summation?

PETER DUTTON: 

Yeah, that's a good summary and that's the dilemma that we face. We sit down with the individuals, we go through the support that we can provide, we explain to them very clearly that they can't settle in Australia, and, as I say, they continuously each day, even today, are getting messages from advocates here saying don't listen to that Government, don't take the package, don't negotiate and I believe very strongly that if we can put into legislation that they will not come here, that that will help them get over that mental hurdle that they can't get over at the moment because they've paid money, they've been told that they will come here and they look to the history of some people having come here.

Well, the difficulty is that we've now got an age of social media where people instantly are being informed about press statements here, words of Bill Shorten, words of Malcolm Turnbull, of me, of my opposite number in the Labor Party. They are watching in a very sophisticated way everything that we say.

So, for example, when I say we've got two thousand children out of detention, the people smugglers are up there messaging that if you've got a family, now's the time to come because you won't go into detention, you'll go into Australian society and receive all the support and benefits that Australians can provide to you.

So, the thought that somehow this problem's been dealt with and it's going away, there are no boats ever to be seen again, it just defies reality. What you're seeing in Paris, what you're seeing in Belgium, what you're seeing across Europe and Africa now, these are problems that will be with us for decades to come and we need to be realistic about it.

PETER VAN ONSELEN:  

And Minister, when you talk about the number of boats that are still coming here but are being stopped because of the turn back policy and the other various suite of measures, is your argument as well that this change would reduce that quantum? You're successfully turning them around, they're not getting here, but would your argument be that this change will actually reduce that quantum?

PETER DUTTON: 

There are three elements to our success. One is the Temporary Protection Visa reintroduction, which Labor and the CFMEU opposed, the second is to make sure that we can turn back boats where it's safe to do so – we do that and we must continue to do that – and the third is regional processing. They are the three elements to our success and the consistency of message.

If the people smugglers hear Bill Shorten saying something today with qualification and then they've got people on the left of the Labor Party out there messaging that this is a bad policy, it'll never happen, they love that indecision and they love that lack of leadership and they demonstrated that they could pick out a weak Labor leader when they targeted Kevin Rudd and when they targeted Julia Gillard and, frankly, Mr Shorten is putting himself in the frame once again as just the latest Labor leader who is soft on border protection when he had the opportunity to stand up with us, make a strong statement that this is a tough policy, but it's fair and it is part of the reason that we are going to stop any future deaths at sea and people coming to Nauru or Manus because, like they said before the election, if they actually believed in this, Mr Shorten said that they did support turn backs and they did support regional processing and they did support an arrangement where people wouldn't be settled in Australia.

But, as I say, the difficulty for him now is that he's in a weak position, he's got Tanya Plibersek and Anthony Albanese biting at his heels and I think he is very worried about the left of the party, and I'm sorry that that's the situation because it is not in our national security interest for Bill to be weak and divided on this issue.

PETER VAN ONSELEN:  

But Minister, just on – let me give an example – you mentioned it's a fair policy before. What do you say to this example, you know, the example of the person who has been processed to be a genuine refugee, fair enough, we're not prepared to settle them here, that's part of our suite of measures to act as a deterrent. They get settled somewhere else, you know, now or eventually overseas and then under this change, they can never come here, ever, in the future; not on a tourist visa, not as a businessperson, not for a funeral of a relative that might be over here, not were they to marry an Australian in years to come. When they are already in a third country where they've got no interest in sugar on the table to come to Australia, we're talking about life circumstances. What's your response to that sort of outcome example that could happen as a result of this policy change?

PETER DUTTON: 

Well Peter the approach is exactly the same as we do in spouse visas now, in visas for children or ageing parents. The reality is that there is Ministerial Intervention that is used on a regular basis to look at specific cases and to say well there's a family that's been separated or there's a child who's ill or a grandparent who can't return back to country of origin, whatever the circumstance might be, and the Minister of the day, he or she has the ability to intervene in those cases.

PETER VAN ONSELEN:  

You wouldn't do that on a businessman example or a tourist visa; that would only be to deal with the sort of a death of a family member.

PETER DUTTON: 

You could look at the circumstances of the individual case and that's exactly what happens now, and that's what we propose under this arrangement. We've also said that this arrangement won't apply to children under the age of 18 if they were at that age when they were transferred to the Regional Processing Centre or country.

So we've been consistent in our approach and you know I'd love to say that we could take 65 million people here tomorrow. We're a population of 24 million and we have to have an orderly migration programme. The fact is that we take refugees in record numbers. We are, along with Canada and the United States, the biggest settler of refugees in the world. We should be proud of that, but we have been very particular in saying and consistent in this policy, and supported by the Australian public in saying that we are not going to allow people to settle in this country if they pay the people smuggler to come on a boat.

PETER VAN ONSELEN:  

There's two quick things I want to get to because I'm already out of time, but I want to get to these two things. Firstly, a lot of people assume that this is about an imminent deal with New Zealand, because this legislative change would prevent the standard thing that can happen with New Zealanders travelling to Australia and vice versa. Any truth in that?

PETER DUTTON: 

Peter, I've said all along I'm just not going to comment on individual countries or where we are with discussions. I've said consistently for a long period of time now that having got the children out of detention, having stopped the drownings at sea, my priority is to get women and children off Nauru and if we can do that with a third country then we'll make an announcement at the appropriate time, but there's nothing that we can announce at the moment.

PETER VAN ONSELEN:  

And the other quick question, just to finish, Labor are saying they want to see the legislation. When will we see the legislation before it goes before Parliament?

PETER DUTTON: 

Well the normal course of things, the way in which we do this, as Labor did when they were in government, is that they would see the legislation next week in Canberra. We provide briefings to my Shadow Minister, happy to provide briefings to Mr Shorten's office or whoever else is interested and we do that on a regular basis.

So that will follow the normal course and we're happy to provide that detail, but the principle here is very straightforward, and the question is why Bill Shorten is being held to ransom once again by the left of the party because people smugglers will be rubbing their hands with delight at that weakness in his leadership.

PETER VAN ONSELEN:  

Peter Dutton Immigration Minister, we appreciate you joining us on Newsday.

Thanks very much.

PETER DUTTON: 

Thanks Peter.

[ends]