Subjects: Border protection policies; people smuggler arrests and venture disruptions, Rebekha Sharkie's opposition to border protection, Melbourne African crime gangs, Mayo and Longman by-elections; Pauline Hanson; infrastructure Investment in the Adelaide Hills.
Good morning everyone.
It's been clear to me over the last couple of months speaking to people here in Mayo that border protection is a big issue. People are really keen to see continuation of the Turnbull Government's strong border protection policies. We cannot return to the bad old days under Labor where we saw 50,000 people seek to come to Australia by boat and 1,200 people – that we know – perish at sea.
Of course in the last few days we've seen revelations of more people being arrested in countries to our north who have been working to send people by boat to Australia.
We cannot give an inch to the people smugglers. Any sign of a softening of our border protection policies has the risk of opening up this trade again, which is ultimately a trade in peoples' lives, a human trafficking trade that we cannot ever, ever oversee the restart of.
Georgina thank you very much. Great to be here in Mayo and thank you all for coming out this morning.
The Government obviously has taken a number of decisions over the course of the last few years that has resulted in boats stopping, but as we see on the Mediterranean, this year alone, we've had 50,000 people travel across into Europe; 1,400 people have either drowned or are missing and so the problem has not gone away. It's been underscored by the fact we've turned back 33 boats, but we've disrupted now over 70 ventures.
Now, had all of those ventures got through or even one or two of them, it's clear to me – and history shows this – that had one or two got through, a dozen, 50, 100 or more would have followed and that was the Labor experience.
Now, we've had some support from crossbenchers over the course of different pieces of legislation that we've put forward in the Parliament, but I can tell you that Rebekha Sharkie has voted against us on every occasion. She has been there with the Greens and with Labor voting against tough border protection policies and I would say to anybody who is a Liberal voter, anybody who is voting in the Mayo by-election next Saturday, that if you believe in strong border protection policies, then don't vote for Bill Shorten's candidate Rebekha Sharkie because Rebekha Sharkie has sided with the Greens and with Bill Shorten on every key decision to oppose us in our tough border protection policies.
The Government is working with countries right across our region to see now – some 600 people arrested over the course of the last three or four years – and as I say, the people smugglers treat human beings as they do any other commodity – so they move drugs, they move tobacco, they move gun parts, they move people – and if they think there's an opportunity to get back into the people moving business, they will be there. We know that we've got 14,000 people in Indonesia and that those people are ready to hop on boats right now. So let's be realistic about the threat that's there.
This is why this civil war has erupted within the Labor Party between Anthony Albanese and Bill Shorten. Labor is proposing to dismantle our border protection policies as they did when John Howard left office in 2007 – and remember when John Howard left office in 2007, there were four people in detention including no children – Labor put 8,000 children into detention and opened 17 detention centres.
We have got all of those children out of detention and closed the 17 centres. I've not had a death at sea on my watch and we're able to take now over 300 people off Manus and Nauru to send them to the United States, bearing in mind it was Labor that put all of those people on Manus and Nauru.
I'm happy to take any questions.
It's been reported that some 600 people smugglers have been arrested. Is that accurate and over what time period?
It is accurate and obviously Operation Sovereign Borders commenced in 2013 and we've seen a number of successes. There are 16 agencies working within Operation Sovereign Borders – so our intelligence and law enforcement agencies. We've been able to turn back those boats, we've been able to deal with the threat, but they, the people smugglers, look at every word that's uttered by the Prime Minister, by Mr Shorten, by myself and if they believe there's an opportunity for them to get back into business they'll be back in it.
This is a thing that Rebekha Sharkie and Bill Shorten just don't understand; people smugglers are an evil scourge who are looking for innocent men, women and children to take money from. They don't care whether they make Australian land or go to the bottom of the ocean and that was the experience when Labor was last in government. We're still cleaning up their mess.
I'm very pleased and grateful to the Indonesians, to the Sri Lankans, to other governments including the Malaysian Government, within our region, who have helped us in not only deterring those boats and those ventures, but also their involvement in the arrests of people smugglers involved in this evil trade.
How many boats have been turned back?
The Victorian Government wants to expand anti-association laws to tackle crime in the state. Do you think the Andrew Government is doing enough to tackle crime?
I'll come to that in a second.
So we've turned back 33 boats and we've done that in the face of Labor opposition. It's clear that Labor's policy already has been watered down and watered down to the point where it would allow people to get back on boats and why Rebekha Sharkie is opposed to the Turnbull Government's strong border protection policies is something she needs to explain to the people of Mayo.
We have a very definite policy. We don't want people drowning at sea. Last year we were able to bring in the biggest offshore intake under the Refugee and Humanitarian Program in a couple of decades. So we can bring people and provide support in the right way, but it's clear to all of us that Labor and Rebekha Sharkie pose a great threat to our strong border protection policies.
Now, in relation to matters in Victoria.
There's been a tragic loss of a young life we've seen this week. There have been a great number of people that have fallen as victims of crime to these African gangs and it's unacceptable. It's pointless Daniel Andrews going around denying that there's any problem.
Mr Andrews has created a problem in Victoria where he has weakened bail laws to the point where they're completely ineffective.
We don't have problems with Sudanese gangs in New South Wales or in Adelaide or in Brisbane, we have the problem Victoria and the problem is of the State Government's making and until Daniel Andrews shows the leadership that Victorians demand, this problem will not be fixed.
There's no sense in denying that these victims of crime don't exist or that people haven't had their homes broken into or that crime is not taking place otherwise. He's living in a parallel universe and he needs to get back in touch with the view of the majority of Victorians; that is, they want law and order reinstated and they want the government to enact legislation that allows proper bail laws; bail laws that act as a deterrent to these people, as opposed to an incentive.
Victorian Police are saying that Laa Chol's death doesn't have anything to do with gang conflict. So are Coalition politicians being too quick to link it to that debate?
Well again, I just think look at the history of this whole sad and sorry saga of Daniel Andrews' creation. He has presided over a legal system that has gone weak in relation to bail laws in Victoria.
Why is this a problem in Victoria, but not in New South Wales or Queensland or elsewhere? It's because of decisions of Mr Andrews.
I don't want to see any further violence in Victoria. Victoria's a great state. Most Victorians want to see the State Government clean up the mess of their own making.
Just back to the previous topic. The federal courts are listing asylum seeker appeals out to the year 2021. Is that an unacceptable delay?
Well it's the reality of the mess that we've inherited.
So when 50,000 people came on 800 boats, Labor was pulling 1,000 people a week off boats on Christmas Island and of course the capacity was reached very quickly. So many of those people were brought to Australia. There's a legacy caseload that will take years to clear. It cost us well over about $10, $11, $12 million a year now in litigation with people who are onshore.
In total, this whole Labor debacle on borders has cost us about $16 billion and not to mention the tragic loss of 1,200 human beings who drowned at sea. So why Labor would want to go back to a situation where the people smugglers are back in control, why Rebekha Sharkie is supporting policies that would weaken our border protection systems in this country, is beyond me.
We need to be realistic about the threat.
Georgina, polling out yesterday has you well behind Rebekha Sharkie. Is it still winnable from this point?
I'm working really hard towards the by-election this Saturday and the response I'm getting is that overwhelmingly people do not want a Bill Shorten Labor government next year and they are asking the question about Ms Sharkie's voting record. While she was in the Parliament for 22 months, she voted 176 times with Labor and they're asking the question if she were elected on Saturday, what would she vote with Bill Shorten next?
She's clearly Bill Shorten's candidate. He's preferencing her in this by-election. She has a strong record of voting with the Labor Party and people are really concerned about what Rebekha Sharkie would do next if she were elected.
Do you believe the polls are wrong then?
I'm really focused on a positive result on Saturday and the response I'm getting is a good one for my campaign and so far we've been able to deliver some great things for Mayo in terms of $10 million for an Adelaide Hills Aquatic Centre, we've got $750,000 down in Kangaroo Island to reopen the walking trail and so many other projects that are really, really essential for this community, including a one million dollar study to look at how we can fix a traffic management around Hahndorf.
What I'll be fighting for if I'm elected this Saturday is to make sure that we do focus on infrastructure investment that fix the choke points in this growing Hills region. I want to see around $40 million invested in the South Eastern Freeway to complete the interchange around Hahndorf to reduce truck congestion around that area, but also congestion around the Crafers area.
So I'll be fighting really hard for those investments if I'm elected and I also want to fight really hard for the redevelopment of the iconic Goolwa Wharf precinct down on the south coast. It's such an essential part of our history and the Alexandrina Council was unfortunately unsuccessful in a Building Better Regions fund application recently. I'll be fighting to make sure we can get that funding because it's really important, not just for the tourism industry and our history down in Goolwa, but also for creating local jobs.
Minister Dutton, just on another by-election, what's your view on Pauline Hanson taking holidays in the lead up to the Longman one?
It's an issue for Pauline Hanson. I mean I want people to vote one for Trevor Ruthenberg as I do want people to vote one for Georgina Downer in Mayo. I want to make sure that we can win these crucial by-elections.
I was down in Braddon last week and I've had a number of visits up to Longman as well and people don't want Bill Shorten. If you vote for other candidates your vote may well end up with Bill Shorten and I would encourage people to vote in Longman for Trevor Ruthenberg, one, and make sure they number the boxes otherwise. He's a good candidate. He deserves to be elected and he'll be a great member, as will Georgina.
But are you concerned it may affect the Government's chances with preferences from One Nation?
No, no I'm more interested in making sure that we can get people to vote number one for Trevor Ruthenberg because Susan Lamb has lied about her citizenship, she's been quite deceitful – frankly as Rebekha Sharkie has been – and I think people need to weigh that up when they're casting their vote. We don't want dishonest people and that's what is on offer in Longman. You've got a Labor candidate that's lied to the electorate and I don't think people should support her and I don't think people should support Rebekha Sharkie here in Mayo either.
Just to confirm your view, are you accepting of Pauline Hanson's decision to go on holiday?
Well it's not an issue for me. I don't approve her leave and don't have any say in where she goes. It's an issue for her.
I think what's important is that we can get Trevor Ruthenberg elected in Longman because a vote for Susan Lamb is a vote for Bill Shorten and I want Trevor Ruthenberg to be in the Parliament, as I do Georgina Downer, because I want us to have a Government where we can provide strong responses to the national security issues that we face, our border protection's important, as is the national economy. So there are many reasons to vote for the Liberal candidate or the LNP candidate on Saturday.
Georgina, where does that $40 million figure come from for the freeway?
That's a figure that we have been talking about with the government departments here in South Australia, but it's not of course a finalised figure. It's something that I will be working towards. We've commissioned the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure here in South Australia with a $1 million commitment from the Federal Government and that was announced by Michael McCormack the Federal Infrastructure Minister and Deputy Prime Minister a couple of weeks ago to study what is required in that Hahndorf area, particularly in relation to the Hahndorf town centre, but also around the Hahndorf-Verdun South Eastern Freeway Interchange.
I'm working towards making sure we get that plan in place, which will be done over the next few months and once we get the results of that planning study there, I'll be fighting to make sure we get that real infrastructure investment in that area because quite frankly; there are tens of thousands of people in the Adelaide Hills who drive down the freeway and are experiencing heavy congestion as our Hills population is growing and growing and we need that investment in the freeway.
We had the Bald Hills Interchange in 2015 – that was a Coalition Government commitment that was delivered to this area – but we need more investment in the freeway because it is an important road for people in the Hills to get down to the city and we need to make sure that these roads are safe, but they're also efficient so that people can get to work quicker, but also get home to their families quicker.
And your plans for the Crafers section, is that separate to the Managed Motorways project that the Federal Government's already committed funding to?
This would be an investigation of enlarging the lanes around Crafers from two to three. It's a well-known choke point for people when they're driving down the South Eastern Freeway and I'll be fighting to make sure we get that funding for that particular part of the freeway.
If you ask anyone around that area they will say it's a real frustration driving down the freeway, particularly around that area and the way the lanes merge from the interchanges into the freeway too, there are significant problems and often accidents when cars are merging onto the freeway. So we need a fix there. We need to make sure the freeway's as safe as possible for people and the traffic flows as quickly as possible for people.