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Transcript of interview with Pete Davies: 104.9 Mix FM 360: 21 May 2013: Labor's border protection failures



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Michael Keenan MP - Federal Member for Stirling 104.9 Mix FM 360 Interview with Pete Davies May 21, 2013

Topics: Labor’s Border Protection failures.

Pete Davies

Joining me now is the Shadow Minister for Justice, Customs and Border Protection Michael Keenan, good morning.

Michael Keenan

Good Morning Pete, nice to be with you again.

Pete Davies

Yes welcome back. I note that apparently we destroyed another boat yesterday. I would like to know what they have done with the bits and pieces. We used to strip the motors out of them and recycle the engines. How do we dispose of these boats? Do the boys use them as target practice?

Michael Keenan

No I think they have done different things in the past but of course these boats are bio hazards so we need to be very careful about the way that we dispose of them. Often they have been burnt. I am not sure what mechanisms they are using at the moment but it is very important that we destroy them as best we can because they can bring in pathogens and things we don’t want to see in Australia.

Pete Davies

Getting back to the broader issue of border protection. In the last five years we have seen a massive increase in the number of people coming to this country via the sea and it just continues. The question I wanted to ask you Michael is surely we must have intelligence from the skippers and crews of these boats because a large amount of these boats are part of an organised industry. It is a business. Now surely we must have gotten over this time, with so many boats arriving on our shores unannounced, surely we must have got intelligence from the skippers and the crews?

Michael Keenan

I think that is right and we do get a lot of information from crews. You are exactly right Pete. These are very sophisticated criminal gangs and they are making an enormous sum of money off what is really a diabolical trade in humans. We can do lots on the intelligence front and on the law enforcement front but that will only go so far. What we actually need to do is change the immigration system that is encouraging this trade in the first place and that is what we need to do to solve the problem. We need to change these policies in Canberra that are acting as a huge magnet, pulling people in from all over the world. We can close down one of the people smuggling rings but another will take its place whilst Australia’s policies are so encouraging for that industry.

Pete Davies

What is the answer? I mean we have our responsibilities from a humanitarian perspective and really that should be at the top of our list because many of these poor wretched souls, yes there are some of them that are queue jumpers and some of them who are simply taking a shortcut, but many of them are poor wretched souls who are trying to escape oppression and fear, so they have to be at the top of our priority tree. But at the same time how do we get them here, those who are worthy, how do we get them here safely and how do we stop the queue jumpers?

Michael Keenan

When you say what is the answer, we know what the answer is because we have actually faced this problem for decades and it responds to the policies pursued in Canberra. We have faced this problem in the past and we have destroyed people smuggling in the past. We have a very successful humanitarian program that takes people from the most wretched

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conditions around the world but what we must insist on is that we control who has a place on that program. In my electorate for instance, we have a lot of people who have come on that program from Africa and they could have never afforded the money to pay a people smuggler. We cannot have a situation where criminals, and this is literally what is happening, it is criminals who are deciding who gets to Australia and no sovereign government can accept that and we certainly won’t accept that if we get a chance to form government.

Pete Davies

With most things that arrive in any particular direction if you look close enough there is an identified conduit. Yes we get the odd boat from Sri Lanka and we get the odd boat from other areas but the main conduit seems to be Indonesia.

Michael Keenan

Yes that is right and we do need to work with Indonesia about solving this problem. I have been up to Indonesia and I have spoken to politicians up there and they politely say to you that this is really Australia’s problem and they feel like they are victims of Australia’s failed border protection policies as well because there country is being used as a transit point because the Australian Government is pursuing policies that have encouraged people smuggling. We need to work closely with Indonesia but we must fix our own problems first and then go and talk to them from a position of strength. That is exactly what we did in the past and we did cooperate with them when the Howard Government closed people smuggling down.

Pete Davies

Obviously the numbers show that since Labor came to power that the number of illegal boats arriving on our shores has mushroomed. What did Labor get fundamentally wrong that made it changed quite dramatically and quite quickly?

Michael Keenan

It is very easy to see it. Empirically it is impossible to argue. What happened was we had a huge spike in illegal arrivals around the year 2000. The then Howard Government said enough was enough and they took very tough and controversial measures at the time, you can have a lot of views about the measures that were taken, but you cannot realistically argue that it didn’t work. From 2001 until the change in government we had on average three boat arrivals per year. If you want to put that into context Pete, sometimes we have five boat arrivals in a day now. We had completely closed that industry down and then when the Labor Party came to office they thought they could mess with that successful formula and it wouldn’t have any consequences. What they did was they abolished the Pacific Solution, they abolished Temporary Protection Visas, they refused to turn boats back around when it was safe to do so. What they did was they sent the message loud and clear that Australia had gone weak on this again and people smugglers instantly took advantage of that. Since people smuggling has started up again we have just seen the most enormous increase over time because the more successful they are the easier it is for them to sell that product and that is what is happening at the moment.

Pete Davies

Natasha Griggs, the Member for Solomon, how big an issue is this at an electorate level, at a community level?

Natasha Griggs

Well Pete there is a lot of concern in the electorate and I have always been out door knocking and this is one of the key issues that people raise with me most often. Michael and the other Coalition members, we are very careful to put this issue on the people smugglers. We have an issue with the people smugglers because they have a product to sell and it was the Labor Party that gave these people smugglers this product to sell. Michael and I were talking on the way in about some of the issues that have been caused in the electorate particularly around health services and the increased demand of having these people in our community and the extra burden that puts on the services that are already under pressure. There is a bit of resentment and I have had people come to me from the African community wanting to talk about this issue and when I heard them referring to some people as queue jumpers, I was a bit surprised by that. I didn’t think that was the feeling of some people in the electorate. A lot of people are sympathetic to people taking the risky journey to come here but they want the issue to stop and they see that we have done it before, in terms of the Howard Government. We stopped the boats and they believe we would be able to do it again. Now it is not going to happen overnight and I think that is part of Michael’s role. We have never said it would happen overnight but we have done it in the past and we would do it again. We need to make sure we are not causing hysterical racism because we have got a very multicultural community here and there are some people that are sympathetic. It is not illegal to seek asylum. My issue is and will always be with the people smugglers, who currently under the Labor Government have a product to sell. That is the issue that is in the community that a lot of people have an issue with the people smugglers as well.

Pete Davies

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Surprise surprise yesterday I was having a chat with someone about the Palmerston hospital and this person turned around to me and said why is it that we can find the money to build a big detention centre out at Wickham Point, why is it that we can find the money to house asylum seekers whilst they are being processed in other accommodation, yet we

can’t find the money to build a facility in Palmerston so that people who have got coughs, colds and sore holes can go and get fixed?

Natasha Griggs

Sure Pete and I have actually raised this issue in the Federal Parliament and one of the things that I did say was under this Labor Government they have built more detention beds than they have hospital beds and that is nothing to be proud of. Last week Michael and I spoke on this particular issue and I raised again the fact that there has been $10 billion that has been spent on failed border protection policies and $10 billion in Palmerston and Darwin would build the Palmerston hospital and fund the ongoing costs.

Pete Davies

Crikey if we had that sort of money Tash we would be the coughs, colds and sore holes capital of Australia.

Natasha Griggs

That’s right Pete, so suppose that is why there is such an issue in the community and some sort of resentment about the money that is being spent that could be used very effectively in our electorate to provide a hospital, to provide schools, to provide roads and instead it is being spent on something that could have been avoided if the Labor Government didn’t change the policies that worked.

Pete Davies

Alright Michael Keenan great to have you back.

Michael Keenan

It is nice to be here Pete.

Pete Davies

Enjoy your stay in the deep north.

Michael Keenan

I always do.

Pete Davies

And Natasha Griggs, the Member for Solomon, no doubt I will see you numerous times between now and September.

Natasha Griggs

No doubt. Thanks Pete, take care.

Ends……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

© Authorised by Michael Keenan MP, 203 Wanneroo Road, Tuart Hill WA 6060

www.keenan.net.au

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