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Transcript of interview with Leon Delaney: 2SM: 15 April 2013: Labor's border protection failures



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Michael Keenan MP - Federal Member for Stirling 2SM Interview with Leon Delaney April 15, 2013

Topics: Labor’s Border Protection Failures

Leon Delaney

Joining me now the shadow Minister for Border Protection Michael Keenan, good morning.

Michael Keenan

Good morning Leon.

Leon Delaney

How are you today?

Michael Keenan

Very well and you?

Leon Delaney

Not too bad. Whenever we say the two words ‘asylum seekers’ I guess we open a Pandora’s box don’t we?

Michael Keenan

Well we do because we have got one of the greatest policy disasters of the Gillard Government unfolding before our eyes and it is costing the Australian people an enormous amount in losing control over who comes to our country but also in the tax payer dollars that have been wasted because of Labor’s failure to do something that they are fundamentally responsible for and that is to protect our borders.

Leon Delaney

Ok, protect our borders from what?

Michael Keenan

We need to have control over who comes to Australia and at the moment we have ceded that control to organised criminals operating out of South East Asia. Now I don’t think that anyone considers that to be a particularly good situation. It is bad for us as a country. It is also very bad for the people who would seek out the services of a people smuggler because they will be undertaking, what we have sadly been reminded of over the weekend, a very dangerous journey.

Leon Delaney

Is it a far more complicated issue though then just saying we have to protect our borders better? Really we are protecting our borders, we do have patrol boats, we do have interceptions, those who do arrive are detained, its not as if we are just saying sure come on in fellas?

Michael Keenan

All these problems are very complicated and of course there are a lot of aspects to this but the simple fact is Leon that the Federal Government does have the responsibility to protect our borders and that means controlling who comes here. I agree it is a complicated problem but the idea that it is complicated so therefore we can’t have a solution is not right.

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Leon Delaney

I contend though that we spend so much time talking about the issue as a question of border security that we have completely forgotten to talk about the issue of asylum seekers, which is an international issue posing a challenge to many countries, including Australia, and a challenge which won’t be resolved without the cooperation of a number of countries internationally.

Michael Keenan

We do need to work internationally but the reason this problem is occurring is not because of the international situation. The reason this problem is occurring is because of Australian domestic politics and the fact that when the government changed the Government changed policies that opened the door again to people smuggling. International movements of people is certainly part of that problem but you must remember that this problem was solved when the government changed. We had stopped people coming illegally to Australia, by taking tough but necessary decisions.

Leon Delaney

Again, it’s not actually illegal to ask for asylum, is it? You knock on the door and say here I am, I am asking for asylum. Now that is not illegal.

Michael Keenan

No it is not illegal to ask for asylum but it is certainly illegal to cross Australia’s borders in this manner.

Leon Delaney

No its not, because what you do if you are an asylum seeker is present yourself and say I am seeking asylum. Now arrivals in that manner according to the advice I have been given, and if I am wrong its because I have been advised incorrectly by people who should know, but it is not illegal. Such arrivals are described as irregular or unlawful but unlawful is not the same thing as illegal.

Michael Keenan

The terminology of illegal has been used by all political parties for many years…

Leon Delaney

Yeah I know.

Michael Keenan

I have had this conversation with many other people and I think it is not really interesting or a particularly pertinent point but the truth is it is illegal to cross our borders in this way. It is not illegal to seek asylum.

Leon Delaney

How do you seek asylum without arriving at the border?

Michael Keenan

It is the matter of arrival that we are describing as illegal but look I don’t think this is a particularly interesting or pertinent debate.

Leon Delaney

Well why did you ring me?

Michael Keenan

No I’m talking about the debate around the terminology. I don’t think it is the most pertinent point. I think the pertinent point here is that we are not controlling who comes to Australia. We have ceded that control to criminal gangs and I don’t think

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that is a very acceptable situation for our country and I suspect most of your listeners would agree with me.

Leon Delaney

Yeah nobody like people smuggling, it is a vile and evil trade where organised criminals exploit the desperate and take everything they have in some cases, in order to benefit from the despair of others. Now obviously that is not good in anybodies language but are we really addressing that problem when we talk about illegal arrivals and border security, which is really just one aspect of the debate?

Michael Keenan

It is the whole debate in terms of Australia. This is not a debate about international people movement. It is a debate about how we shaped our policy.

Leon Delaney

Well why isn’t it? Because isn’t that the route of the problem?

Michael Keenan

No the root of the problem is the domestic policy changes that were made by the Labor Party when they came to office. We had this problem solved under the previous Government and what happened was when the government changed, they took a series of very ill advised decisions that encouraged people smugglers to again target Australia. Now if you want to go somewhere and you are say in the Middle East, you will sometimes be offered a suite of options of where you would like to go and what these people smugglers do is they look for international weak points and because of the domestic changes that were made in Australia, by the Labor Party when they came to office, Australia was again offered up as a country with a weak system of border protection that could be targeted in this manner. It is just not correct to say that this is a large international problem…

Leon Delaney

Aren’t you ignoring it then? Are you just trying to sweep it under the carpet? The prospect that there are in fact millions of people adrift throughout the world, without a safe refuge and many of them are within our corner of the world.

Michael Keenan

Well they are not. The vast majority of the 20 million or so people who are classified as refugees, in Africa for instance are not the sort of people who are getting on a boat to come to Australia

Leon Delaney

But when I say many of them are in our corner of the world, there are probably more than 20,000 in Indonesia at any given time.

Michael Keenan

Well that’s right but people are travelling half way around the world to be there Leon. It’s not like they started out in Indonesia.

Leon Delaney

They didn’t start in Indonesia but unfortunately Indonesia does not offer safe harbour to anybody.

Michael Keenan

They do. You could ask for asylum in Indonesia if you wanted to and of course you could ask for asylum at any of the points in between where you stopped.

Leon Delaney

Well you can’t because some of those countries are not signatories to the UN convention and they don’t offer asylum.

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Michael Keenan

That doesn’t mean that you couldn’t ask for asylum.

Leon Delaney

Well you could ask but nobody would give it to you.

Michael Keenan

That’s not the case. Look the point is people are deliberately targeting Australia so their purpose is coming to Australia and seeking permanent residence and that is the product that the people smugglers are selling and that is why we are finding people who are deliberately wanting to come here as opposed to asking for asylum at any other points along their journey. That is the thing that we must close down. There is an enormous problem internationally with people who need to seek safe harbour from persecution of their government. But when we are talking about people smuggling, which is a criminal enterprise targeting Australia, I think we need to make a distinction between those two problems because if you have been persecuted in Uganda or any country in Africa for instance and you moved across the border to seek asylum from persecution from your government, I think that is quite a different problem then if you live half way around the world and pay a very significant sum to a people smuggler because you are seeking permanent residence in Australia.

Leon Delaney

Yeah but you see if you are in Indonesia or Malaysia, you don’t have any rights. You are not recognised as an asylum seeker. You don’t have the option to be recognised as a refugee. You don’t have any work rights. If you work at all then you do so illegally. You are not welcomed in those countries. Australia on the other hand does have an agreement to provide refuge to genuine, legitimate refugees and regardless of however many show up on boats the overall quota that we take in each year still doesn’t change does it?

Michael Keenan

No that’s right we take in 13,750 has been the figure we have taken in the past.

Leon Delaney

And the Houston panel recommended increasing it to 20,000.

Michael Keenan

Yes that’s right. The point is if someone arrives illegally on a boat they take one of those places and when they take one of those places they deny it to someone who may be waiting in a refugee camp.

Leon Delaney

All asylum seekers I presume are in some way desperate, so I think the real target here ought to be on the people smugglers rather than on political discourse which tends to demonise desperate people.

Michael Keenan

We certainly don’t do that Leon and you would never find any statement on the record from anyone in the Coalition demonising people. We are always talking about attacking the people smugglers and that is where our policy will be. If you are going to attack the people smugglers then you need to take away their product. The product they are selling is permanent residence to Australia. The way you attack their ability to do that is you go back to the policies that we have

used in the past that did eliminate people smuggling. I do resent the implication that we would be demonising people. We are going to attack and close down people smuggling. They are vicious criminals and they do not care anything for the welfare of people they smuggle down here.

Leon Delaney

I have got no argument with that. If we come back to the Houston panel recommendations however, the recommendation

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was that policies of the past, if they were reinstated as they were then wouldn’t necessarily work now because so much has changed.

Michael Keenan

I don’t think that is what the Houston panel recommended. The Houston panel really recommended that a very similar approach to the one we…

Leon Delaney

It certainly incorporated some of the previous policies but it added some new ingredients to the mix didn’t it?

Michael Keenan

They essentially green lighted temporary protection visas. They also said that it would be a very good deterrent if we were to turn the boats around.

Leon Delaney

Yeah but you are cherry picking aren’t you because the Houston panel also recommended pursuing the so called Malaysia Solution?

Michael Keenan

The problem with the Malaysian option is there are no human rights protections for the people who are returned to Malaysia but also very significantly is the Malaysia arrangement was only negotiated for 800 people. Now we have had 1400 people arrive in the last two weeks so that means that the Malaysia option that the Government constantly uses as an excuse for doing nothing, would only last for about a week anyway.

Leon Delaney

Well that’s assuming it went ahead in its original form but it is not going ahead in any form at the moment is it?

Michael Keenan

No it is not going ahead in any form but there is no suggestion that it will go ahead in any other form than the form that the Government negotiated with the Malaysians and that was the 4000 for 800 people swap arrangement. How significant do you think that would be if we were to go ahead with that and that quota was to be exceeded within the space of a week.

Leon Delaney

The point that the Houston panel made though was that all of the recommendations be adopted as a package and it just doesn’t seem to be happening?

Michael Keenan

There were a lot of similarities in what they recommended and what our policy will eventually be. The way we feel about the Malaysia arrangement is very well placed on the record for the two reasons I just explained to you. I think the idea that we would send 800 people up there and that will make one bit of difference to the people smugglers is completely nonsensical.

Leon Delaney

Obviously for it to have any hope of working you would have to negotiate something beyond the 800. You would need a plan for what happens after you reach that figure but at this point there is no plan for that is there?

Michael Keenan

There is no plan for that and I would be highly surprised if the Government were to get a better arrangement than the one they have negotiated with Malaysia because that’s all they managed to negotiate. Now there has been no suggestion that they would be able to increase that and that’s why I think the idea of this Malaysian option is just an excuse for them not to

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do anything because it is certainly not the answer.

Leon Delaney

If the Coalition should be elected in September and you institute your suite of policies, including the reintroduction of Temporary Protection Visas, the continuation of offshore processing and the turning back of the boats and yet we still have asylum seekers arriving in the 12 months subsequent to that, is that a failure?

Michael Keenan

We believe we will have a very significant impact as soon as we implement those policies. When we have implemented those policies in the past, the impact was immediate. The point is we need to show the people smugglers that we do have the resolve to close them down. If they test us, if they continue with their evil trade then we will do what is necessary to stop them. That is the way you stop people smuggling and that is the way we stopped it in the past. The problem that we have at the moment is we have pursued policies that have encouraged people smuggling under the Labor Party and then when people smugglers have tested the Labor Party they have folded every time. So we have sent the message that Australia has a weak border protection system and you can beat these guys and that is exactly what has always happened and we have to change that right from the first day we are elected, and we will do so.

Leon Delaney

Michael Keenan thank you very much for your time today.

Michael Keenan

Nice to talk to you Leon.

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

www.keenan.net.au

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