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Transcript of interview with Lyndal Curtis: ABC News 24: 23 August 2013: Coalition's policy for Regional Deterrence Framework to Combat People Smuggling
Scott Morrison MP Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Shadow Minister for Productivity and Population Coalition Campaign Spokesman
Friday 23 August 2013
ABC News 24 with Lyndal Curtis
Subjects: Coalition’s policy for Regional Deterrence Framework to Combat People Smuggling
Scott Morrison, welcome to ABC News 24, now you’ve announced new deterrence measures involving more AFP officers in the region, how many do you envisage being involved?
Well more than double the current deployment but the real issue for the AFP deployment is not just the number of officers, which the government has actually cut back by 40 percent, but it’s the Special Operations funding that is needed to support what they do in Indonesia. Our officers up in Indonesia and in other places actually leverage their influence by working with hundreds and hundreds of Indonesian National Police and they have an outstanding relationship up there and we need to significantly upscale what they’re doing. We also need to take that model from Indonesia and we need to put it into Malaysia at a much more significant level and also into Sri Lanka and we’ve dedicated $67 million to do just that. Now that will also increase the intelligence gathering and analytical work up there which will enable us to better target our efforts.
So how many police officers would be involved overall in the three countries you’ve mentioned?
Over the three, we’d be more than certainly doubling what’s in Indonesia at the moment and we’ve certainly funded to increase it in the other places. The ultimate arrangements though, we want to be very careful, Lyndal, that we want to work with our officials as well and particularly people like Commissioner Negus and others through Operation Sovereign Borders. We are creating the funding to do that and increase these places. We also want to get those details working together with those in our agencies at the same time. So
we’ve created the opportunity for it and how they physically deploy we will work through that detail with the responsible chiefs of various agencies.
So how many officers, you say the government has cut numbers by 40 percent, how many police officers are in Indonesia now?
There are three there at the moment. There are three that are focussed on people smuggling, I should stress. There are other officers in Indonesia and other places that are focussed on other tasks but for people smuggling it was cut from five back to three, as we understand it, and we will be more than doubling that, but more importantly, I’m stressing that we are significantly increasing and providing the special operations funding to support joint operations in Indonesia, in Malaysia, in Sri Lanka, because that’s what intercepts, that’s what deters, that’s what disrupts, and that’s the model that we think is just not at the level of funding it needs to be and that’s why we are committing to it so significantly as part of this package today.
And what happens with the boats when you buy them? Do you destroy them?
We destroy them. Now, I know the government will deride this measure, as I noticed the Prime Minister was earlier today. But I think what that does is portray a lack of understanding about the tools and resources and options needed up in the region to disrupt this activity up within the region. I mean, we’ve been there, we’ve listened to people up there, we understand the sorts of tools and the sorts of options they need and the sort of funding they need to have an influence. I mean, Kevin Rudd’s let 50,000 people come to the country illegally on over 800 boats. He has no answers here, he’s just got election fixes that continue to unravel.
How do you get around the problem of corruption in Indonesia?
Well it’s the Australian Federal Police who this money would be channelled through and our customs agencies working through the relationships, ideally with the International Organisation for Migration. Now these are reputable organisations that have a lot of experience dealing in these areas and ultimately they control the purse strings on this. They have effective, honest and trusting relationships that they’ve spent many, many years building and they’re the appropriate agencies to work through. There’s no suggestion here - the Prime Minister would like people to think we’re going to put an ad in the paper because that’s what they do, they put plenty of ads in the paper at taxpayers’ expense, and advertise for a boat buyback. Now that’s just nonsense, that just completely fails to understand the policy and the importance of community outreach at a meaningful level that actually stops boats coming to Australia. In the 2011-2012 figures, the average cost to the Australian taxpayer of every boat turning up Australia was $12.8 million. Now we think it’s smart to actually engage earlier up the chain, either through the use of bounties or if necessary, boat buybacks or other measures to stop that boat leaving Indonesia, the government seems to have a different view.
You’re also going to set up a separate method of transferring asylum seekers to, as you say, stop the navy becoming a taxi service, it also involves regional transit points. How would they work? Would it be asylum
seekers picked up in international, not Indonesian waters, but you seek to transfer them if they’re closer to Indonesia to Indonesian ports?
Well the interception arrangements remain as they are and where those interceptions can be undertaken legally. The transfer vessels are important because, as you say, the Rudd Government has our navy and our customs fleet operating as a taxi service. We want them to be out there patrolling, intercepting, doing that work. Not being taken effectively off the field to run transfers to other places, so we need to supplement the fleet in effect. That supplement assists boats with turn backs, it also assists with transfers for offshore processing. The proposal here is to work through the regional fora and our bilateral arrangements to identify and establish transfer ports with access to airstrips that means that people who are going to offshore processing can be taken there and then transferred to those places in Nauru and Manus. The point here is that it is our intention that no one gets across the line.
So these will be transit points in countries like Indonesia?
Well we will work through the details of where as part of the proper process if we’re elected. I mean, oppositions don’t get the opportunities to make those sorts of arrangements or frankly, even seek them out necessarily. It’s important that you work through those details through the Bali process. We established the Bali process when we were in government back in 2002 with Alexander Downer and we want to see that Bali process with our co-chair Indonesia who has been supportive of this all the whole way through, getting the focus back on deterrence, and this is an important part of ensuring that deterrence framework is in place.
Tony Abbott said this morning that you have had a great deal of contact with Indonesian officials. Have you raised these specific issues with them?
Well, a lot of the matters which we’ve talked about today have been informed by the discussions I have had, not only with our Indonesian officials, but I’ve had the opportunity for many briefings and I’ve spoken to many people over the last four years. I mean, these measures we’ve announced today, like the ones we announced last Friday, like Operation Sovereign Borders, this is the product of years of research and work and consultation and devising measures that we believe are necessary to stop the boats and it’s a comprehensive plan. So we have had these discussions, I wouldn’t go into the details of any of those private discussions on any occasion, but it is important to know that it’s very much informed by that work which has been done over many, many years.
Scott Morrison, thank you very much for your time.