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Transcript of interview with Kieran Gilbert: PM Agenda Interview: 5 November 2012: Latest Boat Arrivals



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Michael Keenan MP - Federal Member for Stirling PM Agenda Interview with Kieran Gilbert November 05, 2012

Topics: Latest Boat Arrivals

Kieran Gilbert

We have seen the 6th boat in 72 hours as this boat problem continues for the Government. We are going to cross live now to Perth with the Shadow Minister for Justice, Customs and Border Protection, Michael Keenan is standing by. Mr Keenan thanks for your time. As I said six boats in three days, Tony Abbott says all the arrivals should be sent to Nauru and Manus for offshore processing but how would the Coalition Government manage that? You would need an enormous capacity of up to 20,000 maybe even more?

Michael Keenan

Well the first thing you need to do is stop the rate of arrivals. That is the absolute heart of this problem and always has been. It is an unsustainable rate of arrivals that are coming down at the moment and once the government changes we would need to take the tough but necessary decisions to stop those boats from coming here in the first place. You couldn’t manage this number of illegal arrivals so what you would have to do is stop those boats from coming and that is what we intend to do from day one if we have the privilege of forming government.

Kieran Gilbert

So these people that have arrived during the Labor Government, would they all be sent for offshore processing? Because if that is the case you would have to boost the capacity and it would not only be difficult for Nauru and PNG to manage but it would also cost billions and billions of dollars, wouldn’t it?

Michael Keenan

Clearly that would be very difficult to do and we can’t make those judgements based on what the future rate of arrivals might be, particularly considering every month we are seeing an increase in illegal boat arrivals. September was the worst month on record, then October was even worse than that and now November we have already had seven boats arrive this month. It is very difficult for us to make these judgements based on what might be happening with the rate of illegal arrivals next year and we will need to make these decisions once we get into government and look at the lie of the land then.

Kieran Gilbert

So potentially some of those or many of the people who have arrived here aboard the boats that Mr Abbott is calling for to be sent offshore now would actually remain in Australia for processing under a Coalition Government?

Michael Keenan

As I said it is very difficult to make those judgements but we would from day one aim to stop those boats from coming. That is why we have a full suite of policies including turning the boats back around when it is safe to do so. It is stopping the illegal boats and the squashing of people smuggling that is the absolute heart of this problem and that is what we would aim to address as soon as we got into government.

Kieran Gilbert

The Minister Chris Bowen actually argues that the numbers from Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan have actually stabilised or reduced since the response to the Houston plan has been introduced by the Government and that it is Sri Lanka where the problem remains. Does it show that this is at least working in part and that when they get the message through to the Sri Lankan people smugglers that this will actually potentially work?

Michael Keenan

Look I saw those comments and that is just completely in la la land. The rate of illegal boat arrivals is increasing. It is increasing significantly since they made there announcement to reopen offshore processing on Nauru. We have had over 6000 people arrive since that announcement was made in August. So the rate of illegal arrivals is increasing under this Government’s failed policies. It is certainly not decreasing.

Kieran Gilbert

But what he says is the message hasn’t got through to those in Sri Lanka at this point and with 116 Sri Lankan asylum seekers having been returned home since August, there is potential that this message might sink in and that this could work?

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Michael Keenan

Well I would like to see it work but there is absolutely no evidence that it is at the moment. The boat we had today 110 people arrived at a place where we normally wouldn’t expect Sri Lankan asylum seekers to arrive - they usually arrive at Cocos Island. So the idea that the Government’s policies are working is completely and utterly farcical. This is one area of policy where you cannot hide. It is very easy to see whether your policies are working by the rate of arrivals that are coming down here courtesy of people smugglers and when you have seven in the first five days of this month that shows you that the Labor Party policies are certainly not working.

Kieran Gilbert

There are enormous contradictions over the Labor Party policies over recent years and you wont get any argument over that but there are also contradictions within the Coalition policies, particularly when you are saying you don’t want asylum seekers to be sent to Malaysia but you are happy to have boats turned back around to Sri Lanka, which is not a signatory to the UN Convention on refugees?

Michael Keenan

I have heard this argument and I completely reject it. The idea of intercepting a boat and returning it from where it came is the same as taking people and returning them to a third country for processing, they are both very separate things. Turning the boats back around is a separate policy from sending people to Sri Lanka and I reject the comparison.

Kieran Gilbert

What about the ongoing hunger strike in Nauru? It show that sending people there is hardly going to be great in comparison to Malaysia, which again as I say you don’t want to adopt because of the human rights issues and we look at the hunger strikes, upward of about 100 people at least involved in that in Nauru, these asylum seekers pushed to take that action.

Michael Keenan

I don’t think they have been pushed to take that action. The important thing is that when the Labor Party said that they were going to follow a particular course of action, once they have come under pressure to change policies they have buckled every time and that is why people who are detained on Nauru think that they can put pressure on the Labor Party and get a result. It is very important in this case at least that they have the resolve to stick to the policy course that they have set. We can’t have a policy in Australia where self harming or going on a hunger strike gets you a particular result because clearly that would send a message to everyone in the detention network that this is the way that you get the Australian Government to act and we can’t afford to have that happen.

Kieran Gilbert

But when I say pushed to take that action I mean pushed by the circumstances to take that action, how is that not the case?

Michael Keenan

We are following a course of policy that the Government has announced well in advance. I reject the idea that our policies are pushing people to do anything. We are trying to, as a Parliament, pursue policies that protect Australia’s borders. Unfortunately the Labor Party are not doing it particularly well but as I said what they cannot afford to do is buckle to this sort of pressure because that is going to send the message that this is the way you get the result that you want and that would be a terrible thing.

Kieran Gilbert

Michael Keenan, I appreciate your time today. Thank you for that.

Michael Keenan

Good to talk to you Kieran.

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

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www.keenan.net.au

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