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Transcript of doorstop interview: 16 August 2012: MV Parsifal



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Michael Keenan MP - Federal Member for Stirling Doorstop Interview August 16, 2012

Subject: MV Parsifal

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

MORRISON:

I’m joined by Michael Keenan, the Shadow Minister for Border Protection and Home Affairs. It’s good for Michael to join me here today on what is a very serious issue. The incident confirmed by the Minister for Home affairs today that a merchant vessel, the MV Parsifal which is owned by the same company that owned the Tampa, went to the rescue of asylum seekers and took those asylum seekers on board under their obligations, doing their duty at sea to rescue people. The allegations that the Minister has confirmed that that vessel and the Master who was en route to Singapore under threat allegedly of violence to the crew turned the vessel around and headed hundreds of miles to Australia instead. Their demand means that this government has effectively received asylum seekers on Tuesday night, several days ago, who have potentially committed an act of piracy on the High Seas. This creates potentially the reverse Tampa principle where asylum seekers are turning boats around and heading them to Australia. This is an environment that this weak government has established and I’m frankly amazed that since Tuesday night, the master of the vessel, allegedly, there have been no statements taken from. The Minister confirmed on AM radio this morning that they were yet to speak to the Captain. A criminal investigation should already have been under way. I understand the government may now belatedly be moving on that simply because their hand has been forced by the Coalition in raising this issue so prominently today. We can’t have the reverse Tampa principle of asylum seekers now putting out rescue calls, having merchant vessels turn up to provide their rescue and be then held under threat of violence unless they follow the demands of asylum seekers and take them to Australia. Nothing could be in starker contrast than the actions of the Howard government under the Tampa. The actions of the Howard government under the Tampa crisis sent a loud and clear message that the Howard government was not going to put up with this trade. What the government has done here if this proves to be true has created the reverse message at the same time they say they’re trying to be tough. So I think it just shows once again that this government not only refuses to implement the Howard Government policies to get the Howard government results on stopping the boats, they still refuse to adopt the Howard Government resolve and strength and attitude that stopped the boats. I think this is another sad chapter in what has been a farcical performance by this government. Michael.

KEENAN:

This is just another example of a government that just doesn’t think through the consequences of its actions when it comes to border protection. Every time they’ve been tested, they take the path of least resistance and what that means is that we’ve come up with circumstances such as the one that the Shadow Immigration Minister has just outlined today. This is actually the second merchant vessel that has rescued people within the Indonesian search and rescue zone, very close to actually Indonesia, that has brought passengers down to Australia this week. There was a second incident where the merchant vessel picked up 62 passengers and they were transferred to the Triton who then brought them down to Christmas Island. The government just doesn’t think through the consequences of the sorts of decisions it’s made. For instance, what are the territorial limits of this new policy? These vessels were well within the Indonesian search and rescue zone, they were also very close to the coast of Indonesia, now how far does this policy apply? If a vessel is north of Java, is it appropriate for them to be brought to Australia? Let’s just say it was a vessel that’s left Sri Lanka, that was intercepted off the coast of India, would the government allow people to be brought to Australia under those circumstances? The policies, the way the Labor party is going to move forward on these issues need to properly be thought through. We cannot have a situation where merchant vessels will within the Indonesian search and rescue zone are now being co-opted by people smugglers and then acquiesced to and then that action is acquiesced to by the Australian government. There are very important questions for the Labor party to answer on these issues. Are they going to have a full and proper investigation into what occurred on the MV Parsifal where people demanded to be brought to Australia? How are they going to proceed in future if there is a safety of life at sea situation where people demand to be brought to Australia, even though the International Convention says that they should be taken to the nearest convenient place of safety. In this case, that was nowhere near Australia. These are the sorts of questions the Government must answer and these are the sorts of consequences when they take the path of least resistance every time they’re faced with a challenge by people smugglers.

QUESTION:

Can you clarify this point - are you suggesting the government from the Minister, maybe from the Prime Minister down, should have ordered the Captain of the MV Parsifal to stay where he is and continue his way to Singapore rather than coming back?

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MORRISON:

Well the position that the master of the vessel was in at the time is he said he was going to Singapore and that is where he was obligated to go. That has been a longstanding Convention, particularly taking those who are rescued at sea to take them to the next port to which you are heading and for the vessel to have been turned around allegedly under threat of violence to go in completely the opposite direction which I imagine would have been at significant cost to the owners of the MV Parsifal I think is an outrageous act to have been committed. These people were received on Tuesday night as asylum seekers to be assessed. They shouldn’t be being assessed, they should be being investigated for potential crimes of piracy that carries a life sentence under our Crimes Act.

QUESTION:

Mr Morrison there’s no Tampa precedent here because the Howard government didn’t charge any of the Tampa refugees with piracy and of course the Captain wasn’t investigated either.

MORRISON:

What happened at the Tampa is the boat never came to Australia. This boat came to Australia. Australian -

JOURNALIST:

Christmas Island.

MORRISON:

Which is Australia, Paul. That is Australia. This boat has come to Australia and it never came, people were never unloaded in Australia, they went to Nauru as you know and as we all know in this place, the government has now decided to send people to Nauru. Something that I know many here may have thought would never have happened and maybe would never have agreed with happening again but it is happening and finally the government has conceded that. They have a lot further to go and the point I’m making today is it’s just not the Howard Government policies that you need to deal with this issue to get results, you need the Howard Government attitude.

QUESTION:

What would you have done if you were employing this resolve that you’re talking about?

MORRISON:

There was another navy vessel I understand was reported to be nearby.

KEENAN:

Yes, the Maitland.

MORRISON:

The Government when John Howard was Prime Minister actually put the SAS on board to ensure that people behaved themselves. Now there are options available to the government and the question I think is very firmly out there - what will both the Australian government or the Indonesian government potentially be asked to do to ensure the safety of vessels who are going to the rescue of those asylum seekers who are asking for distress, now given this incident and the alleged acts that took place. This is - we’ve already had the situation where the government has allowed people to now believe with the people smugglers that if you put out a rescue call, then the water taxi will turn up and they’ll take you to Australia. Now they’re potentially sending the signal that if they won’t take you to Australia as a merchant vessel, you can make threats and the Australian government will receive you.

JOURNALIST:

The question is what you would have done -

MORRISON:

Well I’ve just outlined what one of the options were.

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JOURNALIST:

No you didn’t actually.

MORRISON:

I did.

JOURNALIST:

What would you have done -

MORRISON:

I’ve just outlined them to you. I said the option was there for the - the option was there for other naval vessels that were in the area to provide some assistance if that master was in distress. The master I think in this situation had the absolute legal authority to take those asylum seekers to the next port and I just can’t imagine how anyone could excuse or countenance or even suggest there should be acquiescence from a government to accept people who are under alleged threat of violence, turn the master of a vessel around to have people force their claims here in Australia. I think this is an outrageous act and I think Australians will be absolutely outraged and I think those who would baulk in these circumstances I think are well out of touch with what the Australian people think.

QUESTION:

Scott, you’re saying that the navy should have boarded that vessel?

MORRISON:

No it is for the government to provide these responses. What I’m saying is the government received people on Tuesday night, they received people on Tuesday night and did not even commence a criminal investigation as to what occurred on Tuesday night. Minister Clare this morning confirmed on AM radio that they haven’t even spoken to the master of the vessel. When, if at all, has a criminal investigation been launched into this incident? That’s the first thing that should’ve been done if the vessel was to come. But the first thing that should have been looked at is what options were available to assist the master of that vessel, under threat of violence, to ensure that they could continue on to their next port. What we have here is the asylum seekers dictating terms to this government and every time they lean against this government, this government folds like a deck of cards. I think that is just an indictment on a government who may want to now embrace some of the Coalition’s policies but they certainly don’t have the resolve that is required to implement them. They can’t be trusted to implement policies they don’t believe in. The Australian people know that and I think this incident demonstrates that even as these bills pass the Parliament.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Morrison are you saying that the government should put SAS on those border protection vessels now and would you do that if you were in government?

MORRISON:

Well I would take what steps are necessary to ensure that those vessels we have asked to come to the assistance of people were not subject to these threats -

JOURNALIST:

Is that necessary?

MORRISON:

I haven’t even finished the answer yet so you might allow me to finish it.

JOURNALIST:

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By all means.

MORRISON:

I would be looking at every option available to me and I’m sure Michael would to and Tony Abbott would as Prime Minister to ensure that asylum seekers were not dictating terms and issuing threats to Captains or the Australian Navy or anyone else when it comes to protecting the security of our borders and that’s what’s taken place here. This government has condoned it in the first instance by not even initiating a formal criminal investigation at the time that this boat turned up at Christmas Island on Tuesday.

JOURNALIST:

Does that include the use of the SAS?

MORRISON:

There are any number of options that are available and I would look at every single option in the same way that John Howard did and I know Tony Abbott and Michael and I would do the same thing. You’ve got to have the resolve to deal with these people smugglers. They are dictating terms to this government and they are basically flying in the face of the hollow threats that this government makes because they know they don’t back it up when push comes to shove. A Coalition government will back it up and they know it.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Morrison isn’t it up to the Indonesian government to investigate the initial incident given it was in Indonesian Waters?

MORRISON:

No.

JOURNALIST:

I accept that the ship now came to Australia -

MORRISON:

Well now that they’re here, it’s up to us and under our laws and under international laws, our government can initiate a prosecution for acts of piracy on the high seas and it would take the Attorney General because of those circumstances to initiate that but what should happen right now is these asylum seekers should’ve been received by the Federal Police, not

by the Department of Immigration and taken away for processing. The question to Minister Bowen is, is he going to give a visa to someone who has potentially committed an act of piracy under Section 501 of the Character test?

JOURNALIST:

Well John Howard did, he gave a couple of hundreds of Tampa people.

MORRISON:

Those people weren’t convicted of piracy.

JOURNALIST:

They weren’t even charged.

MORRISON:

They weren’t convicted of piracy. Paul, if you’re trying to imply here, as it doesn’t surprise me, that somehow the Howard Government was soft on the people on the Tampa…

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JOURNALIST:

[inaudible]

MORRISON:

I’ll let you make that argument in your piece tonight on Channel 10 but the Australian people do not doubt the resolve of John Howard on this issue, they do not doubt the resolve of Tony Abbott or myself or Michael and they can count on a Coalition Government showing that same resolve because they can’t count on this government to stump up when stumping up is required. Thanks.

Ends

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

www.keenan.net.au

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