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ABC News 24 -

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(generated from captions) This Program Is Captioned Live. You're watching ABC News 24. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has just begun a media conference in Darwin.It's good to be in the presence of my shadow ministerial friends and colleagues Scott Morrison and Stu Robert. It's good to be with my friend and parliamentary colleague Natasha Griggs. We'd all like to warmly thank Dave kill bee who is the commander of our patrol squadron and also Ben Fevell for making us so welcome here today. We pay tribute to the sterling work of the men and women of our Defence Forces who are doing such good work in the seas to our north. About two weeks to go now. And it's clearer and clearer that this election campaign pits the positive plans of the coalition against more of the same from a divided and directionless government led by a Prime Minister who has no record to defend and nothing to say about Australia's future. As I have so often let me make it clear if you elect the coalition this is what you'll get. We'll build a stronger economy so that everyone can get ahead. We'll scrap the carbon tax. We'll get the budget back under control. We'll stop the boats. We will build the roads of the 21st
century because I build the roads of the century because I would like to
be known as build the roads of the 21st
century because I be known as an infrastructure
Prime Minister. Obviously border protection is one of the key issues in this election campaign. And the coalition has been absolutely clear and consistent for several years consistent for several now. We've essentially had the same policies on border protection for more than a decade. The essence of our policy is first temporary protection visas, to deny the people smugglers a product to sell. Second , a rigorous offshore processing at Nauru and Manus Island. Third, the willingness to turn boats around where it's safe to do so. And fourth, working much more closely with source and transit countries so that at every step in their journey, the life of people smugglers becomes more difficult and the policy which Scott Morrison and I are proud to announce today essentially involves working much more closely with source and transit countries to interdict the operations of the people smugglers. There's about 440 million dollars of new commitments by the coalition that we announced today. Essentially, to do four things. First, to increase the AFP presence in Indonesia and elsewhere, which has been reduce ed by Second, to work more closely with local authorities an local people in Indonesia to ensure that it makes sense for them to be working with us rather than against be working with us against us. Third, to work with Indonesia and other countries to increase their surveillance capacity, to increase and improve their search and rescue capacity, and fourth, to ensure that we do have much greater capacity to process and deal with people offshore rather than having to bring them onshore as this government has done so often. This is a very important additional element in our policy to stop the boats. It complements Operation Sovereign Borders which Scott Morrison and I announced the other day in Brisbane and I will now ask Scott Morrison to speak to the detail of the policy that we announced today. Thanks very much, Tony. Regional cooperation has always been a critical component of how you stop the boats. Twabs under John Howard and when Alexander Downer established the Bali process with Indonesia as co-chairs. It is critical to have the cooperation of our regional partners in addressing this issue. We need to do what we need to do on our side of the line and Tony has once again reiterated those key points about temporary protection visas and turning boats back where it's safe to do so. And of course having the offshore processing. What we're announcing today is putting substance to what regional cooperation means, because the substance just hasn't been there over the last five years. Going to meetings is not a substitute for having real action on regional cooperation. You've got to have the substance of the commitment and the substance of the measures and our measures for regional cooperation are all about deterrence. The government's approach has been about processing people and drawing people through the region. With a regional protection framework, that's what they call their approach. Our approach is a regional deterrence framework. It is focused unashamedly on deterring people coming into the region and through the region trying to get to Australia. Australia wants stronger borders and we do and a coalition will deliver stronger borders. We need to have stronger regional borders as well. When the boats leave Indonesia or Sri Lanka, when they come to Australia, it costs they come to Australia, costs the Australian taxpayer based they come to Australia, it
costs the Australian taxpayer based on the 11-12 figures
around $12.8 billion per boat. The more we can do The more we can do to prevent those boats leaving in the first place, the more success we will have in stopping the boats but equally, we won't have to go to the other measures which have greater risk and greater cost, once those boats leave, things get more dangerous and more difficult. To those measures we announced today, first of all, getting people on the ground in Indonesia working in close partnership with the Indonesian national police. That's the offer we're makeing with a commitment of $67 million to work collaboratively with the Indonesian national police as well as in Malaysia and Sri Lanka to boost our intelligence networks, to boost our level of cooperation with those other partner agencies, particularly in Indonesia, and the joint operations we have there. The second part of it is a community outreach program into the villages. Presently, there is the most low level of activity in terms of trying to enlist the support of local Indonesians in disrupting people smuggling networks throughout the region. We want to have a program that reaches out up to 100 villages across Indonesia. We need to give the people implementing that program the tools they need to engage those local communities. Having village wardens that can be on stipends. Having the ability to offer bounties to lead to information that leads to arrestnessage successful prosecutions but also the opportunity to have the option to be able to get that boat before the people smuggler does and stop that boat from leaving Indonesia. That saves lives, it saves the taxpayers money ultimately and it stops boats coming to is the issue on the coming to Australia. Then there is the issue on the borders themselves where they will provide increased support to the tune of up to $40 million, 37 in fact. And that's all about trying to give our partners in the region the technology and the skills, know how and training to have better border controls in Indonesia and other countries in the region. Will you most in the policy things like advanced passenger processing and things of that nature which means their borders are stronger which means our borders are stronger. The search and rescue commitment is a commitment of $71 million. That's an offer to boost their capable particularly along the southern Javan coast so where can have a process where Indonesia has a greater capacity to respond to incidents in their own search and rescue zone. That will save lives and ensure that those vessels are addressed in the with the laws that govern the certain and rescue protocols. We will also have transfer vessels that will support the fleets that we've seen here. This means the people on those patrol boats will be out there intercepting and patrolling, not running a taxi service as this government has had them doing for several years. That's a commitment there thank will involve funding of around 198 million to ensure we can have the vessels in place to ensure these guys can do their job out at sea of intercepting and patrolling. The other measures are outlined in the policy. But this is about having a fair dinkum regional deterrence framework, giving meaning. Now, these matters have been briefed obviously to the Indonesian hours, as well
ambassador. Over the last 24 hours, as well as taking curt sieve of advising the Malaysian High Commissioner or his officers it was the Sri Lankan High Commissioner by Julie Bishop.This is our country and we will decide who comes here. I can think of no-one better than Scott nor ston to oversee a strong and effective policy to stop the boats. It's also important while we are stopping the boats to look after the families of Australia's service personnel. And Stu Robert I will ask you to speak to our policy there.It's great to be here at HMAS Coonawarra where there are 10 Armidale patrol boats and 15 cruise and some 600 personnel. Whilst we speak about what our service personnel do on the high seas or indeed overseas or an exercise here at home, we need to remember there's 71,000 dependant s, husbands, wives, kids, dependant parents an grand parents that rely on those service personnel. So it's great to be here with Tony and our fine Solomon in Natasha Griggs and to announce under and our fine upstanding for
Solomon in government those Solomon in Natasha Griggs and to announce under an Abbott government dependants will government those 71,000 receive free GP services and dependants will be able course up to receive free GP services course up to $400 for course up to $400 for any or physiotherapy or dentistry this is the same policy we took to the election in 2010. We have been completely consistent whilst Tony's been leading the opposition that we will opposition that we will take care of the 71,000 dependants of our men and women who serve us so well in uniform. The Labor Government has been running a trial now for six years. The policy in 07 was to build 12 centres, they've built known. This financial year alone they took $50 million out of the trial program. We say enough trials. We'll implement the policy. There will be up to $400 for each dependant per annum for each ancillary service. It's a freight policy and I'm glad to be here with you to announce TAny questions? The vote buyback scheme, isn't there a danger you could stimulate the boat-building industry in Indonesia and therefore see more boats coming to Australia?There's roughly $20 million as I recall that has been allocated to these sorts of village watch activities. It's much better and much more sensible to spend a few thousand dollars in Indonesia than to spend $12 million processing the people who ultimately arrive here. So it's a commonsense measure that will give our cooperation with the Indonesian authorities the ability to do more, to cut off more, to cut off this evil more, to cut trade at source. What would be the sort of price that the Australian taxpayer will pay for one of these boats?This is an option that will be available to our people and their counterparts in Indonesia as part of a whole range of measures neshs to interlikt this evil trade at every level. Now as I said, it makes a lot more sense to pay a few thousand dollars in Indonesia rather than spend $12 million once these boats bring their cargo to Australia. About $2,000 a boat?I won't put a figure on it. This is money we will be make available to be sensibly deployed by people on the ground who are determined to stop the boats far more effectively than has happened up till now. The bounties, what size will those be and who would be handing over the money to the person believed to be ...Again, this is the kind of thing that will be left to the discretion of our people on the ground acting in close cooperation with the Indonesians. The important thing is that we stop the boats. In order to stop the boats we need action at all points in the people smuggling chain. We need action in source countries. We need action at airports in Malaysia and Indonesia, we need action on the ground in Indonesia. On the coast of Indonesia. We need action in the high seas. We need better action here in Australia. So this is adding to the arsenal of options that we need if we are genuinely going to stop the boats. Subject to agreement with Indonesia, a fleet of fast transfer vessels would be commercially leaseed to take asylum seekers directly from a suspected illegal entry vehicle for charter transfer directly to Manus or Nauru. What happens if the asylum seekers on that boat resist and secondly what go Indonesia doesn't sign up to that element of your policy? Does that mean that the-vee and customs vessels are left providing a taxi service for SEIV passengers?The important thing is that we don't just continue doing what we are doing up till now. If you always do what you've always done, you will always get what you've always got. That's the problem. This government has comprehensively failed to protect our borders, they've had every policy under the sun, except one that's worked. And we all know the result. More than 50,000 illegal arrivals. More than 800 boats. More than 1,000 deaths ATSI. $11.5 billion in border protection cost blow-outs. We've got to do it differently. We've got to do it We think it makes sense to be able to ensure that our naval forces and customs vessels in the forces and customs vessels the seas to our north aren't running a constant taxi service to Christmas Island. They are actually protecting our borders. If they have the option of unloading people from operational vessels onto other vessels that obviously frees them for operational duties. So we are trying to maximise the range of options available to our forces so that we can maximise the success of our operational activities. I understand what you are getting at but I guess what I'm saying is what's your sense, have you spoken to Indonesia, have there been representations made to Indonesia about this element of your policy and what happens in they don't agree to it?It is in Indonesia's interests to stop the boats. Because as long as the boats keep coming, there will be people in Indonesia who frankly don't really in Indonesia. And frankly don't really want to be in Indonesia. And inevitably,
they will be a nuisance to the Indonesian authorities. So it is absolutely in Indonesia's interests to stop the boats. I have no reason to think that the Indonesians won't be prepared to work cooperatively and constructively with us. That's what happened in the past. I believe that's what can happen in the future. I'm not going to go into specific details as to who has spoken to whom and when. But I am confident we can make this work. I am confident that the professionalism of our naval and customs personnel is such that we can deal with any contingencys that we might find on the high seas. Has there been some contact with Indonesia though?I will ask Scott to add to this answer, because Scott has been in Indonesia many times over the last few years, talking to a whole range of people from ministers in the government down. There has been a very great deal of contact between members of the coalition and people in Indonesia, and Indonesia wants us to succeed. Indonesia wants us to The Indonesians are full of goodwill towards Australia. They just want us to be serious about the job. And as President Yudhoyono himself has said, the problem is that the Australian Government has put the sugar on the table. So the Indonesians want to work with us but they want us to be serious and this is a demonstration that we are absolutely serious about stopping the boats.I would only add that also the proposal doesn't just only rest on that option there are many other options that are available. That's what you do in the Bali process. That's what you do in a regional cooperation framework. You have a single minded focus on deterrence which is our approach. That means identifying points of transfer and departure. As Philip Ruddock will well remember when the Manoura went directly to Nauru, all those years ago, from the insense. Tampa, the point is this: wherever you can avoid people crossing our border, that's what we'll do. You don't get to cross this line. That's what the policy is directed at achieving.Is from Sri Lanka, Indonesia achieving.Is there agreement from Sri Lanka, Indonesia and
Malaysia to from Sri Lanka, Indonesia Malaysia to have more Malaysia to have more AFP officers in those countries? How many? How many? And you often criticise Labor for cutting the number of AFP officers on Indonesia by 40%. They cut it down from 5 to 3. How many are you proposing would be overseas stationed in those countries? We want to put more than Labor has had. We certainly want to put significantly more than Labor currently has. And the important thing is that if we are serious about stopping the boats we need to have Australian operatives on the ground. Obviously they need to work constructively and cooperatively with their Indonesian counterparts, that's happened in the past, it can and must happen again, but we need the resources available. Labor has actually refused to make relevant resources available, and Scott might like to odd to that answer.It's important not just to have the AFP officers on the ground but to have the special operations funding to support their work. They work currently with over 100 Indonesian national police. These positions you put into those countries leverage up and so if you have special operations funding and you have more people the AFP, that multiplies many, many times over, in terms of many times your ability many times over, in your ability to deploy right many times over, in terms Bishop
across Indonesia. Now, Julie Bishop and Michael Keenan and I were in Sri Lanka in February. There was one AFP officer, just one. Doing everything. You have to have more people who can do that and we also note there is a Special Envoy for Operation Sovereign Borders to work through these issues throughout the region. This is an operational get it done role where this envoy would be working with the Indonesian national police, with the military, with other organisations to work through the operational challenges and how the commitment we've made in this policy, over $400 million, the commitments we've made can be put to best effect on the ground in these countries. Is Jim Molan under consideration for that role?We'll have more to say at different points in this campaign. But point I want to make is that we are serious about this. We're not just going to be all announcement and no execution. We're not going to be all talk and no action here. We are sending the clearest possible signal to the people smugglers, your game is up. We run this country, and we decide who comes here. We will exercise the control that is necessary to keep our country secure. We will work very decisively with our friends and neighbours to ensure that this evil trade is finally stopped. Now Mr Rudd talks a good game, there's no doubt about that. And the announcement he made a few weeks ago, Prime Minister O'Neill of PNG, was an impressive announcement. But since that time, 3,000 people have come illegally by boat and just a little over 300 have actually gone to PNG. You can't take this government and this
Prime Minister serious take this government and Prime Minister serious ly when Prime it comes to border Prime Minister serious ly it comes to border protection
because what they it comes to border because what they do never
backs it comes to border protection
because backs up what they backs up what they say . Where will these regional transit will these regional ports be? Do they require agreements with these countries and how soon would you look at using them?They are part of the much greater cooperation that we expect to develop with