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Transcript of interview with Paul Murray: Radio 6PR: 21 August 2013: escape from Northam detention centre; Kevin Rudd's PNG election fix



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Transcript

Scott Morrison MP Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Shadow Minister for Productivity and Population Coalition Campaign Spokesman

21 August 2013

6PR Paul Murray

Subjects: Escape from Northam detention centre, Kevin Rudd’s PNG Election ‘fix’

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

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MURRAY: [audio begins] What we find the longer this goes on and the debate around it continues is that 3,000 appears to be the maximum number the PNG is willing to take in the course of this year and 3,000 also seems to be the number quoted often as being the maximum capacity of the Manus Island detention centre which is the only centre in PNG which can take people who turn up off the WA coast. What Kevin Rudd told us that that whole solution was about was that everyone now coming to Australia would end up in Papua New Guinea. No ifs, no buts, they would all be going to PNG. What we found out yesterday is that since Kevin Rudd announced the PNG solution, 3,000 people, just shy of 3,000 people have arrived in boats off our coast and we at least in the media have been keeping you apprised of those numbers as they keep going. Most of the media have turned their back on the arrivals, I don’t know why, it seems to be pretty pertinent to one of the key issues in this election campaign. Behind all of that, of course, is this issue we’ve been pursuing on this programme all this week and that is the escape of five people from the asylum seeker camp at Northam, the Yongah Hill camp. We know that camp is full to the seams, it’s got a capacity of 600, we think there are about 630 there now and what we know is that at about 7:30 on Saturday night, five went over the wire. Five Vietnamese who I’m told actually were brought down from Manus Island, because they were under the pre-PNG solution deal up there and everyone has been cleared out. Everyone pre-PNG solution has been cleared out of

Manus Island to make way for all the numbers that they need to now push up from Christmas Island into Manus Island. I’m told that the five Vietnamese came from Manus Island, they, for some reason, they didn’t like being in Yongah Hill, and it appears they went over an electrified inner fence and they went over an outer fence, which the Department of Immigration always told the residents of Northam was unscaleable and they vanished into the community. The Immigration Department won’t tell us anything about them, won’t release names as you heard yesterday, or pictures because apparently that would invade their privacy and won’t tell us any details of how this escape happened which of course is of some interest to the people of Northam because they were told this was an absolutely secure facility. Scott Morrison, you hear him a lot on this programme, he’s the Opposition Immigration Spokesperson. He’s in a car at the moment, heading towards the Yongah Hill camp and he joins us now, g’day Scott.

MORRISON: G’day, Paul.

MURRAY: So what are you going to do up there today?

MORRISON: Well I’m up here with Christian Porter this morning, he’s the Liberal Candidate for the seat up here, and we will be meeting with some local residents to talk to them about the issues that you’ve just been mentioning on your programme. Whether it’s at Yongah Hill at Northam, or whether it’s in Inverbrackie in the Adelaide Hills or wherever else they’ve gone and dumped these centres, the process of community consultation and engagement has been an absolute shocker. So I think people have every right to be feeling quite put out about how this is handled and Minister Burke has been just nowhere to be seen on this, he’s almost as hard to find on this issue as the five people who went over the fence.

MURRAY: Have you got any rights as a Member of Parliament to get information from the Immigration Department about what went on here because we can get nothing from them?

MORRISON: Well I can request a briefing. I had a briefing the other day and there were scant details on that other than some of the things you’ve already repeated publically but the issue of not being able to provide police and others with description details and potentially photographs and all these sorts of things, I think is an absolute nonsense. I mean, they should be finding these people and they should be enlisting the support of the community and others to help do that. Their light touch hands-off approach here has been demonstrated right across the network for years, whether it’s when the centres burnt down in other states or in Christmas Island. Seven people were convicted of those offences but four of them were actually given permanent visas by this government. That’s just how they operate when it comes to managing the very real security issues that

exist around these facilities. They don’t treat them like a Coalition Government would which is you need to have a very keen focus on the security dimension.

MURRAY There’s no point giving the pictures and the names to the police because the state police have washed their hands of it, they say it’s not a matter for them, the Australian Federal Police told us yesterday that they’re not looking for these people, they’re not involved in it and they thought that the state police were. So really the people who need the pictures at least would be members of the public, who at least if they saw these guys -

MORRISON: That’s right.

MURRAY: - and they might be identifiable in the Northam community, might tell Serco where to go looking.

MORRISON: Well not just Serco, but the AFP and others who should be engaged in this exercise. I mean, we highlighted after the Christmas Island riots and the Villawood riots there was a need to get a better understanding between state police and the Immigration Department about how issues like this or very serious riots and other disturbances in these facilities would be handled. Now my understanding and I’m happy to be corrected if I’m not right about this, is that there is still no MOU signed between the Western Australian Government and the Federal Government and that’s not the Western Australians’ fault, that is the slow handedness of the Labor Government that have been dragging their heels on that issue in all states and territories. We also have the absurd situation where the Department of Immigration will not provide to police, whether it’s in Western Australia or any other state, the address details of people being released into the community as well and they cite privacy concerns there. Police just want to be able to manage the issues in the community and also provide support potentially to people who would be vulnerable being released into the community. But it’s just part of a culture that exists under this government that is soft touch and hands off.

MURRAY: We know that Yongah Hill is chockers, Christmas Island from reports in the Australian newspaper in the week, that appears to be chockers and running even over because the boats are just continuing to come. Are they getting any numbers at all up to Manus Island at the moment?

MORRISON: Well your description of it before was accurate. There are as many people on Manus Island today as there was before the policy was announced, all they’ve done is just swapped them over. As you rightly say there’s around 3,000 people that have turned up in the month since they announced that arrangement. Now, only Tony Burke and Kevin Rudd would claim 3,000 people turning up on 40 boats a success and that’s what they’re

doing. They’re claiming ‘mission accomplished’ on this but the boats keep arriving and terribly, sadly, once again we’ve had further tragedies and those tragedies are every much as incredibly upsetting as the more than 1,100 that have occurred prior to that. Now, no one wants to see that happen, I know the government doesn’t want to see that happen, no one wants to see that happen but at the end of the day you’ve got to look at the effectiveness of the policies and the resolve of the government of the day to actually deal with this issue. Sadly, our government has been found absolutely wanting.

MURRAY: Is it your understanding that 3,000 is the limit that PNG will accept in the course of this year?

MORRISON: That is my understanding and Prime Minister O’Neill has said words to that effect on numerous occasions -

MURRAY: Yes.

MORRISON: But we’re nowhere near 3,000 capacity on Manus Island at the moment and we won’t be near that for some months. And so this suggestion of Tony Burke’s that we can create the beds as quickly as people arrive is just complete nonsense, he should just be honest with the Australian people. I mean, they are spending $30 million of taxpayers’ money telling people in mainstream newspapers, rather than targeted communications into diaspora communities about their flailing boat policy.

MURRAY: And on this radio station, we’re still running those ads on this station.

MORRISON: Sure. They’re doing all that, but they won’t tell the truth about what the actual arrangement is. Now they claim that no one will get boomeranged back to Australia under this but quite clearly, PNG has a different view about that and it’s not in the arrangement as well, it’s just a promise from Kevin Rudd that that’s what will happen and Australians can make their own judgement about what Kevin Rudd’s promises are worth on border protection.

MURRAY: If you win government on September 7, you are going to inherit all of this - how are you then going to stop what now appears to be the swamping of this solution?

MORRISON: We will salvage out of the solution what we can and in particular, I think, where that can be achieved is to continuing to boost the capacity for offshore processing on Manus Island and at least to get to the level of around 3,000 up there as quickly as possible.

We’ve also said we will expand the capacity on Nauru as well and we made an announcement on that last week and showed just where the money would come from on that. We don’t think we need to build another facility in Singleton, in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales where the government has committed $58 million to do that, we will apply that resource to expanding the offshore capacity on Nauru because last time I looked, Singleton wasn’t offshore.

MURRAY: From the press releases put out by border control in the last few days, it’s clear there are now three naval vessels off Christmas Island because the apprehensions have been done by three separate vessels. From September 7 on, will you have those vessels deployed to turn boats around?

MORRISON: Well it is our policy to turn back boats where it’s safe to do so and the border protection command would obviously have our policy and they would be then operationalising that and getting the protocols and procedures in place very, very swiftly and so operationalising that policy would be a matter for border protection command. But -

MURRAY: You’d have to get your three star general in place first, how quickly are you going to do that?

MORRISON: We will do that immediately and we will be seeking that recommendation from the CDF, the Chief of Defence Force who would be appointing that. Whether it’s a general or an admiral or whether it’s from the air force, that would be a matter for the CDF but we would seek to get that person in place straight away. Then we have to build the taskforce and concurrently, border protection command would be getting those procedures in place to be implementing the policies that we have been standing by now for a decade.

MURRAY: So do you talk to the Indonesians first, or do you just start turning the boats around and towing them back?

MORRISON: Well that’s a matter for our government, for the Indonesian Government, we will have a good, positive, strong relationship with Indonesia and I would get up there as soon as possible as would Tony. But matters that happen on our side of the line are matters for the Australian Government.

MURRAY: How are we to judge you if you do win the election - by the end of the year, should we be expecting that there will be no boats heading south from Indonesia?

MORRISON: Well we’ve said that the judgement the Australian people would make if we’re elected on this occasion, they will be able to do that at a subsequent election and I think over the course of that term it will be very clear what the outcome will be and people will make their judgement then. We are happy to submit ourselves to that process as any self-respecting government, if we are elected, would.

MURRAY If you were to walk into the Yongah Hill camp today and ask them to show you around and answer some questions about the escape, would you get a response?

MORRISON: Well if I’d made that plan to go out there today and visit the centre, I mean I’ve been through every centre, but today my purpose is frankly to talk to the community about their concerns and to hear from them what they would like to see done differently if we are elected. So my focus today Paul is actually on the local community with Christian Porter.

MURRAY: Ok. Good to talk to you. Thanks, Scott.

MORRISON: Thanks a lot, Paul.

MURRAY: Scott Morrison, Opposition Immigration spokesman.

ENDS

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