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Transcript of joint doorstop interview : 07 May 2013: Record border failures force Labor to dump families and children in community, illegal boat arrival in Geraldton



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Michael Keenan MP - Federal Member for Stirling JOINT DOORSTOP INTERVIEW May 07, 2013

Subjects: Record border failures force Labor to dump families and children in community, illegal boat arrival in Geraldton

E&OE……………………….……………………………………………………………………………………………………………

MORRISON:

Well I’m joined by Michael Keenan today. We’re in Melbourne to have a briefing on the Geraldton incident of a number of weeks ago and I’ll ask Michael to make a few comments about that and other border related matters in a minute or so. But first of all I wanted to provide a response to the government’s announcement today that they will be providing bridging visas for families who have arrived on boats and in particular they will be taking families and children back into detention centres like Curtin and Wickham Point and places such as these for periods of on average the Minister says of around 120 days. This week we saw more than 40,000 people, the 40,000th person turn up on an illegal boat in Australia, the more than 20,000th person turn up this financial year alone. These record border failures are the reason why the government has had to make the decision that it has today. This financial year more than 3,000 children have come on boats risking their lives this year. Last year it was just under 2,000. The year before that it was around 1,000. The escalation of the number of children coming on boats under this government’s border failures is unprecedented. They’ve set the record for the number of children on boats. We know at the end of February there were around 2,000 children in the system, more than 1,000 of those were actually in more formal detention facilities like the ones the Minister has announced today. Now what is striking about that is that in 2010 it was Minister Bowen who said he was going to take all the children out of those facilities and today, as in February, there were more children in those facilities then than they were when Minister Bowen made that promise which has now clearly been overwhelmed by this government’s border protection failures.

The concerns I have about these arrangements are many. What is clear to me is Labor’s bridging visa policy has already acted as an incentive for people to get on boats as we saw the incredible increase in arrivals that followed the decision of the government back in 2011. But what we have also seen is their bridging visa policy is without standards, is without safeguards, is without safeguards where we have had individuals being found in squalid conditions all around the country. Labor’s bridging visa policy is an all care no responsibility dumping policy of asylum seekers into the community and now that they don’t have the beds available in community detention, they’re now going to do that with women and children and families as well. So not just take them into formal detention but when they’re finished with that they will just be dumped into the community. Now that will put them potentially at more risk arguably in the community than they arguably are in detention facilities. The other part of this is migrant resource centres, charitable organisations will be called upon to make up the gap for the shortage of support and services that the government have provided in these cases. These resources are already overstretched and they’re already overstrained and they will be placed under even more pressure as a result of the government’s decision today to put families and children in particular into this situation. The last point I’ll make is this; the government says they’re doing this because they think it will cost less. When the government made its decision to introduce bridging visas for single adult males, the total budget for asylum seeker management in this country for the Department of Immigration was $1.2 billion. The following year, this year, after that policy was introduced; it’s $2.5 billion. What Labor doesn’t understand is if you want to stop the cost you have to stop the boats. And if you don’t have policies that achieve that then these are the sorts of diabolical outcomes that result from Labor’s border protection failures and Australia simply cannot afford three more years of Labor’s border failures. I’ll ask Michael to make some comments.

KEENAN:

Thanks Scott and as Scott said I’m here for a briefing with himself and the Leader of the Opposition about the boat that arrived in Geraldton harbour. Now I had the opportunity two weeks ago to visit Geraldton with the Leader of the Opposition so we do know a little about what happened and we’ve been seeking a further briefing from the government before that and we’ve been continuing to seek it to get the detail today. Whilst we’re after the nuts and bolts today, we do know the reason this is happening; that a boat could sail undetected into Geraldton Harbour, that boats are essentially now just bumping into Cocos Island, that boats are coming very close to Darwin and the mainland of the north west of West Australia and that is because we are faced at the moment with an unprecedented rate of illegal boat arrivals courtesy of Labor’s failed border protection policies. So far this financial year we’ve had over 20,000 people arrive here illegally. That means within Labor’s enhanced Refugee and Humanitarian Program every single place is going to be taken up by somebody who came illegally by boat. But what I think is lost sometimes just by the sheer scale of what’s going on

is how this is deteriorating significantly since April which was the worst month on record for illegal boat arrivals, over 3,300 people. In the first week of May we’ve had over 1,000 people arrive illegally on boats so this problem has been very

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significant, this problem has been very bad for Australia but the point now is it is continuing to get worse week by week, month by month and the consequences for that are borne by hardworking men and women in Customs, the Australian Federal Police, in particular border protection command who are forced to work on a scale that’s been unprecedented in their history and of course the consequences for that are taking their toll on the personnel within border protection command but also on the fleet of boats they use which is literally cracking up under the pressure of the enhanced operational tempo that results from having to deal with this flood of illegal boats. So we’re looking forward to getting the details about how a boat managed to sail into Geraldton Harbour today, about how that boat was apparently detected by people drinking coffee at the Dome Cafe but we all know the macro reason why this is happening and that is because Labor have completely lost control over our borders and they have no plans to change their policies to alter it.

MORRISON:

Any questions?

QUESTION:

Under the current arrangement proposed by Labor, people being released into the community on these bridging visas, they’re not allowed to work. Would that be something you would allow?

MORRISON:

No the Coalition’s policy is all those who have received bridging visas from the Labor government if we’re elected later this year, they won’t receive work rights. But they will be required to engage in mutual obligation programs, work for the dole and things of that nature. In addition, we would have the appropriate guidelines and protocols that I’ve discussed before that would apply to those who are on bridging visas, that’s our policy. We warned the government when they introduced their bridging visa policy in November 2011 that the work rights they attached would act as an incentive. Both the bridging visas combined with that certainly did that and it continues in terms of the policies of this government to lead to this incredible rate of arrivals. As I said, 3,000 children plus this year on boats, that is unprecedented and that is a disgrace.

QUESTION:

Do you have access yourself - do you get access to these detention centres to have a look and talk to some of the people there?

MORRISON:

Michael and I have been to many if not most -

QUESTION:

And what have the people told you, why are they there?

MORRISON:

Well it’s for the government to actually tell you why they keep some in there - sorry?

QUESTION: Why have they got on a boat to come here?

MORRISON:

Well the reasons are mixed and varied and that’s what’s determined through the interview process. There are 10.4 million refugees in the world today and they can all tell you their stories. At the end of the day the Australian government has to make a sovereign decision about how people are taken into our refugee and humanitarian program. Now the Coalition does not support that decision being made by people smugglers and people risking their lives on boats. We are 100 percent opposed to that.

QUESTION:

You say these people are being dumped into communities. Those that are genuine refugees, what do you plan on doing with them?

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MORRISON:

Those who are found to be refugees at the end of their processing under a Coalition government would be eligible for a temporary protection visa. A temporary protection visa, no permanent visa, no citizenship but a temporary protection visa.

QUESTION:

Would they be allowed to work?

MORRISON:

On a temporary protection visa at the end of their processing when they are found to be a refugee yes but not before.

QUESTION:

The Government also claimed today that the Coalition sorry the Opposition has upset regional neighbours, do you have a response to that?

MORRISON:

I’d like you to explain how we did that?

QUESTION:

They said by your approach to handling this issue you’ve upset a few like Indonesia and -

MORRISON:

The government has more excuses than you can poke a stick at for why they do nothing on our borders. The Coalition’s policies are not theories, they’re facts. They are history. They are things that have been implemented and implemented successfully and maintaining excellent relationships with our regional partners. We’re committed to having a constructive partnership with our region and putting in place a deterrence framework that assists those countries as much as it assists Australia and the way you go about that is not the megaphone diplomacy of this government. It doesn’t go by abolishing the live cattle trade and denying Indonesia a food source, with a slap in the face, or announcing East Timor processing centres without talking to the Joint Chair of the Bali Process. That’s how this government does business. A Coalition government will work constructively with Indonesia and the other countries in the region to put deterrence back in the system as opposed to what this government has pursued.

QUESTION:

Would you follow the recommendations of the Houston Panel Report?

MORRISON: Well look we have our policies that we believe in. The vast majority of those Houston measures have been implemented and the one measure that the government continually crows about, the Malaysian people swap, they haven’t implemented the Houston Panel’s recommendations on that. That policy still stands foul of the Houston Panel Recommendations, it does not have the protections in place that the Houston Panel recommended and the government knows they’ll never be able to achieve them. Minister Bowen told me himself well before the Houston Panel the Malaysian government would never agree to legally binding protections or to waive the 800 cap. The 800 cap would see Malaysia exhausted in the first week of May. Thank you.

Ends

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

www.keenan.net.au

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