Tuesday, 25 April 2017
Interview with Paul Murray, Sky News, 'Paul Murray LIVE'
Subjects: Australian Conservatives and Family First; Manus Island; Travel to the United States; Strengthening the integrity of Australian citizenship.
Minister, good evening to you.
Thanks Paul. Thanks for having us on the show.
Alright I know you just heard about it along with everyone else, but what do you think about Family First joining forces with Australian Conservatives? We know the issue for the base of the Liberal Party has been what's happening in conservative politics. When two forces join like this, what do you think is going to be the consequence?
Well my sense is that it was inevitable. I think when Bob Day exited the Parliament, he was really the father of Family First and obviously had strong financially backed Family First and when he exited it really was the case that the writing's on the wall for Family First. So it will be a natural fit with Cory and with his Party that he's set up.
So from the Government's perspective, we'll continue to work with any of the Independents or minor parties within the Senate because we've got a big agenda. And we've been very successful frankly in this term of Parliament in getting things through, negotiating things through the Senate and it's not an easy task, but we'll work with these people regardless of what hat they're wearing and hopefully we can do that in a bid as you say to try and get the Budget back into balance and make sure that we can keep our borders strong and all of the other legislation that we need to pass as part of the upcoming Budget session.
So just one more on this. We know of course One Nation and its strength around the country polling at 10 per cent, we know that there is a family - sorry, that there is an Australian conservative senator in Cory Bernardi and now they'll have state representation as well as they'll be running under that banner in South Australia. As a conservative inside the Liberal Party, when people have for want of a better term, more pure and overtly conservative options, what's the challenge for establishment Liberals to say conservatives can be in the broad tent rather than a tent of their own?
Well the challenge politically is to make sure that those people will ultimately come home to the Liberal or National Party. That's the most important thing. We don't want to see a drift of those votes.
The reality is though that Family First and Cory Bernardi's Party really has a presence, a strong presence obviously in South Australia. Pauline Hanson's got a stronger presence in Queensland and I don't think - again my sense is that having watched Family First in Queensland over a number of years really their support has waned and I think that's been picked up by One Nation. Family First still has a presence here in Queensland, but it's not where it was five or six years ago.
So I think what we're seeing at the moment is a branding as we see with Nick Xenophon which is essentially South Australian centric and given his success there it's surprising that it hasn't somehow popped up in Victoria or New South Wales, but that's the reality. So you're seeing most of these movements contained within state boundaries and we need to make sure that – I mean my preference is that people vote first for their Liberal or National Party candidate, but if they're not, if they're voting for Family First or whoever it might be that their second preference flows back to the Liberal or National parties.
Now it was unfair of me to ask you that at short notice, but I appreciate you being so generous.
Now I've got to ask you about Manus and this situation involving the kid and the unrest that led to the shooting inside – towards that detention centre. Now I'm with you that there are plenty of activists that are around that turn a morsel of something into a mountain of bears. But it has been interesting watching the past few days. Law enforcement officials who theoretically would be prosecuting the things that you've talked about in the past few days, contradicting the things that you've said in the past few days, but you were adamant last night here on Sky News, you were adamant with David Speers as well. So I've got to ask you directly, what do you know that the local police don't about this situation involving the kid at Manus?
Well Paul I mean as you'd expect I receive confidential briefings, I receive classified information from the Commissioner of Australian Border Force, from my Department and I'm not going to release that information publicly.
But there is an investigation underway and I was asked a question in relation to an unacceptable situation that took place on Manus Island which is being investigated by the PNG Defence Force and the PNG Police Commissioner at the moment so I would wait to see the outcome of that investigation.
But the reality is that over a period of time the mood, the tension had been building up. The incident to which I refer has been very clearly briefed to me and as I said on Sky last night it hasn't changed my view, my position hasn't changed, my story hasn't changed and I'm absolutely adamant in terms of the facts that have been briefed to me and I've reliably conveyed that part which I can make public.
But the reality is that the tension has been building up and people who believe that an incident on the soccer field was the sole incident that sparked the response that we saw from the PNG naval officer allegedly firing shots is a nonsense. There was a build up over a period of time and I think it was on a slow boil for a period of time and I think it boiled over in relation to that particular incident.
So all of that can be examined, but there are other incidents which are either before the courts or have been investigated or are being investigated by police on Manus Island and those investigations should take their course.
But as I said last night, there are plenty of people who want to take their information from discredited people either in PNG or off their Twitter feed and that's an issue for them to reconcile. I've been very adamant in relation to the stance that I've taken and I don't resolve from that one bit.
Is there any chance that the briefing that you got that was certain about those things was more of a first draft and have you learnt anything since the first briefing that has solidified your view or are you still adamant about the first briefing?
No I've received briefings over a period of time as you would expect and there have been a number of incidents in relation to allegations around sexual assault.
I mean we've got to realise Paul we've got hundreds of men who are contained within the Regional Processing Centre. It's an open centre arrangement so people can come and go from the centre and the reality is in terms of the geography of Manus Island, the Regional Processing Centre is part of the naval base and people - the naval officers have their families within that local community. They live within the housing there and there are people from the Regional Processing Centre wandering past or a part of that community otherwise. So it is quite integrated and there have been circumstances which have caused us concern and that's been consistent in terms of the briefings that I've received and, as I say, this is not an issue that just boiled up with one incident on a soccer field.
There was certainly the case - in terms of all of the information that I've received - advice about certain behaviours which concern me, concern me greatly and I think again people will see the facts when they're investigated. But I've been very clearly and consistently briefed and I can't really add anything further to that.
Alright. The refugee deal, Vice President Mike Pence said that it is going to happen between Australia and the United States to help clear out centres like Manus and Nauru or at least part of them, not all of them. Presumably you're going to be having to go to the United States to work out some of the detail sometime soon. When can we expect some sort of a direct contact between yourself and the United States to work out the details?
Well Paul I'm heading to Washington tomorrow as it turns out. So I'm over in Washington just for about 36 hours, or just a little bit more and I'll be back into Australia on the weekend.
We've got a lot to talk about with the US and as you point out Vice President Pence has indicated that the US to their credit is going to honour the deal that we struck with the Obama Administration.
But really the focus of the visit for me will be to meet with my counterpart. I met with Secretary Kelly in Australia in December when he was out here. I've spoken with him since then of course, but there's a lot of information that we share particularly in the Counter Terrorism space. There's an overlap in his role as Secretary for Homeland Security in relation to the work that we do around Australian Border Force, Counter Terrorism and an exchange of information around people crossing our respective borders on a daily basis.
So it's a deep relationship and it's one that we're going to consolidate further in Washington over the course of the next couple of days.
Is there any expectation from America? Because obviously they have a very tough stance on illegal immigration. There's the conversation about the border wall and the sanctuary cities, all the rest of it. Do the Americans have any indication that they want to learn things from the way we've done it in Australia? Because obviously there are things we specialise in that aren't quite relevant to them - we're an island. But are there things that you expect you can share some of the handbook with them?
I think there's a lot of interest from the United States and elsewhere around the success with Operation Sovereign Borders. It's now been a thousand days since we've had a successful people smuggling venture.
So look I think it's a constant exchange of information in relation to the technologies that the US is using at the border, similarly that we are, the analytics around the data collection and the sharing of all of that information, the biometrics and the use of that information. We've relied heavily on the United States for the checks that we did in relation to bringing the 12,000 people in under Syrian Iraqi programme. So there's a lot that we share and the United States I think it's fair to say has an interest in our announcements around the citizenship changes so no doubt that will be on the agenda as well.
But there's certainly a lot that we're sharing particularly around Counter Terrorism, the return of foreign fighters. All of that information is pertinent to the current risks that we respectively face and the United States is our greatest ally, always will be and so it's a relationship that should never be taken for granted and I'm looking forward very much to meeting with the administration over the next couple of days.
And just finally, it's not about opinion polls, but it's interesting to note when they're positive and we should take a moment to look at those. As I always say, you're bang on with this stuff because you're doing detail on it and you're coming from the strongest possible national interest on this. Today the Essential Poll came out that had views about both citizenship and also the 457 visa changes. I just want to show those to the viewers now and get your reaction to what has been a pretty positive response here where the majority of people support the changes to 457. They either strongly agree or they agree. They also strongly agree about the idea of provisional citizenship that's coming through here. I get it, I know it's not about Polls, but if nothing else it's a reminder to those who have been critical of this. This is what people want from their Government.
[pause] Sorry have we got you there Minister?
Yeah sorry Paul I thought you were going to a graphic …
…sorry I was planning on it, but that's alright don't worry.
I'll try and improvise with you, I'm sorry.
There we go, alright. Let's move on from the Tony Abbott thing, we'll do that in a moment or twos time. I want to talk however about the asylum stuff if we can, but that's alright. There we go the Essential Poll here, the Federal Government is proposing to replace 457 with the news visas, what do you think of the changes. Let's have a look at those and where the results are now.
Sorry about this Minister, the second question is there about citizenship anyway. Let's not do the graphic, let's just get an answer. The people like what you're doing.
Well look I think there is support. I want to give a shout out to the Veterans and all of those people in my local community I saw today. I did the Dawn Service at Bray Park RSL and went out to the Kallangur RSL, the Sub-Branch out there, they are great people and to Samford as well. So without exception though the people that came up to me, the Veterans either serving or retired, all spoke favourably about the changes that we announced in relation to citizenship, making sure that we enforce Australian values. And I think there is wide popular support for what we're doing because we're arguing for common sense and we're arguing for the protection of those values that our troops, over a long period of time, have defended.
And this is a great country, people flee persecution, they're escaped war and they've come from war torn Europe or Asia, wherever it might be, over a long period of time, many decades and they've come to our country to make a new start. They're part of why we're a great country, one of the best in the world and we should defend it and I think that's reflected in the numbers that you're seeing there.
But anecdotally speaking to colleagues around the country there's been a very positive response to the announcement that the Prime Minister and I made last week. And we're waiting for Mr Shorten obviously to come out to see what their position might be and I hope that they can settle it shortly. And it's something that deserves bipartisan support and there'll be legislation in the Parliament and we're expecting Labor's support. So it'll be good to see what Mr Shorten has to say, hopefully sooner than later.
Alright Minister, thank you very much. I appreciate it, thank you for battling through. I'm just but a humble TV host, I can't make it all work. Thank you mate, all the best in the United States.
Thanks Paul, appreciate it.
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Last update: Tuesday, 25 April 2017