Subjects: United Nations meetings in New York; Australia's Refugee and Humanitarian Programme; Essential Poll.
Minister good morning.
Good morning Ray. How are you?
Not bad. What are you doing in Dallas?
I'm catching up with family here actually, so we are going to take a few days off and back to Australia after that.
So it's been a good few days at the UN Conference and obviously the Prime Minister delivered a key speech yesterday so I think it's been a productive couple of days.
I'm a bit confused about a couple of things. I had your colleague Scott Morrison on the phone yesterday after I made a couple of comments – the first about the figure of 18,750.
It appeared from the statement made by Mr Turnbull which we have here…
[AUDIO INSERT] PRIME MINISTER: …Securing our borders has increased public confidence and enabled Australia to have one of the world most generous humanitarian systems. Australia's programme of permanent refugee resettlement is the third largest in the world and I'm pleased to announce that Australia's planned increase to almost 19,000 places from mid-2018 will be maintained at this level. This in addition to the 12,000 places we've committed for refugees from Syria and Iraq. And these commitments should be considered in the context of our national population of 24 million.
Peter Dutton didn't that announcement get made already by Tony Abbott the former Prime Minister?
Well Ray the announcement by Tony was for the current programme of 13,750 to go to 16,250 next year and then by 2018-19 to 18,750 – so it was only committed over a four year period.
The Prime Minister's announcement yesterday was that it would continue at that level beyond the four years, so ongoing…
…so in other words for the rest of time until someone else makes a change it will be a commitment for 18,750?
That's right. That's the commitment that he's made and obviously as the Prime Minister pointed out it's a successful programme and on a per-capita basis it ranks pretty well against other countries.
President Obama for example on behalf of the US announced that they are increasing there's up to 110,000 a year so obviously their population is over 300 million people compared to our 24, but they take 110,000 and Canada is the other country. And we have spoken about that for a long time that Australia is amongst the top three most generous nations in the world.
Well certainly if you compare the amount of people we bring here based on our population with what the Americans do with their 300 million plus.
Look he's talking now about Central Americans coming here as part of this and Costa Ricans. I don't think there would be too many Australians, unless they come from Costa Rica, that know too much about them. What sort of place is Costa Rica?
The programme that the US is running – they have got a centre which is set up and they process claims there. So already Australia under the existing programme takes a handful of people from Central America, so there will be an expansion, a slight expansion on that and we will work thorough that detail with the US.
But look ultimately there is a lot that we do with the US and we ask them to do things for us from time to time and vice versa.
For example on the Syrians that we are taking in, and again an announcement made by then Prime Minister Abbott, we have asked the United States to conduct security checks probably in a way that they're not doing for many other, if any other countries.
So there are things that we do for each other because obviously we are good friends with the US and they were keen to get a number of countries in to support the programme that they've got and we were happy to do that.
Would this suggest that United Nations security checks aren't up to what we would expect? Is that why we are enlisting the aid of the Americans to check out the people?
Well Ray Labor has criticised us for not being, you know, quick enough in bringing in the 12,000 Syrians to Australia, but as we've seen in Paris and as we've seen in Germany, the fact is that these criminal people smuggler networks are bringing people into the queues pretending to be refugees when they're not and you know that's not something that would be acceptable to the Australian public.
So I have deliberately – and I have been very open about this – I mean we have deliberately gone through the most arduous of checks, particularly for people that are referred to us outside of the UN process. We need to have a look at those people, who's sponsoring them and go through all of the details.
We have said that we aren't taking young men of fighting age and we want to concentrate on families, on persecuted minorities which obviously includes Christians.
So we have been meticulous about it and I think if we do that then we give ourselves the best chance of bringing the right people here. Otherwise not only would they post a security risk, but you also end up taking people that are less deserving that those who are waiting in camps.
And in relation to the people, and I'm not trying to be provocative, but the Costa Ricans would they be Christians?
For many of them they would be and they might be fleeing gang violence for example, there could be a number of reasons why they'd be deemed to be refugees, but as I say it won't be a big number and each year I make an announcement about the composition of the 13,750 or going to 18,750 in 2018-19 so there'll be a breakdown of where people are coming from, which countries, with a background, but it is literally only a handful of people.
I know you're a long way away, but have you caught up with this Essential Research Poll that I revealed yesterday from the Left-leaning Guardian newspaper about a ban on Muslim immigration?
Yes, yes I have seen it.
I mean the astounding, even the author, it comes from a Left-leaning poll, Essential Poll organisation, published in a Left-leaning Guardian newspaper.
I mean it would have the Left-leaning café latte sippers and I guess those bamboo sock-wearing set really concerned that actually Greens and Labor make up many of the 49 per cent who agree with an outright ban on Muslim immigration?
Well the Guardian runs some strange things from time to time, they're no friend of the Government, they want an open borders policy, they're opposed to offshore detention, opposed to turnbacks and all the rest of it. So I don't place too much faith in anything the Guardian publishes. But look I think people ….
….yes, but this is in direct opposition Minister to what you'd normally expect from them. This is exactly the other side of the ledger.
But Ray, it's not surprising in one way because people are watching what's happening overseas, what's happening in Germany, what's happening in Paris.
My judgement is that Australians support migration, we always have and I think as a country always will, but we're not going to accept people into our country who want to cause harm.
If people are here seeking to do us harm, then I think Australians want to see the Government deport those people and that's certainly what we will do and this is why we are going through the applications in a very detailed way, running all of the security checks that we can, because we are not going to bring people that would seek to cause us harm.
But as I've said on the programme before I can't accept that every person from a particular religion or a particular country or region is coming here to do us harm, I think that's a nonsense.
I know that, but what you've got to understand Minister is that even the Greens, a percentage of them, a third of them who were in this poll, and many of the Labor supporters don't want to take the risk.
And if you were to import every Syrian of the 12,000 you're talking about from a Christian background they'd be much more comfortable. I know it's not fair, but that's just how they feel and that's how the electorate feels.
Well we haven't got a breakdown of the 12,000 yet obviously, but my sense is that there will be a very high proportion of persecuted minorities including as I say Christians in that 12,000.
So we're not taking people that we think are going to pose a threat to us that would seek to come here to do harm. We're mindful of public opinion, understand the sentiment that they're expressing, but we don't discriminate by race, sex or anything that we ……[inaudible]…….and as we demonstrate, as people know across the country, the vast majority of people do the right thing, but those who seek to do the wrong thing or seek to harm other Australians…..[inaudible]……
That line is deteriorating so I'll leave it there and talk to you when you are home next week. Thanks very much Minister.