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Transcript of interview with Kieran Gilbert: AM Agenda: 15 August 2012: Houston Report



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Michael Keenan MP - Federal Member for Stirling AM Agenda Interview with Kieran Gilbert August 15, 2012

Topics: Houston Report

Kieran Gilbert

The Shadow Minister for Home Affairs Michael Keenan. I spoke to him a bit earlier and put to him that the Houston panel did not recommend a return to Temporary Protection Visas and turning back the boats.

Michael Keenan

It recommended offshore processing and I am glad that the Government have taken that up but what it did say importantly about turning back the boats is that it can be done and if it is done it will act as a deterrent. What they said was that they believe the current conditions are not one hundred per cent ideal for it at the moment but surely if you were the Government you would take that as a challenge to go and sort out those things within the region so we could pursue this deterrent when the Houston committee has specifically said it will work to stop people smuggling.

Kieran Gilbert

But this is the contradiction though in the Coalition’s argument. You are saying on the one hand this with turning back the boats but when it comes to Malaysia it was a similar assessment, had worth but not at the moment, so why don’t you back both components?

Michael Keenan

The difference with Malaysia is that Malaysia would need a Parliamentary solution; it requires legislation because it was the High Court that knocked out this Malaysia arrangement. With turning back the boats that could be done today. They could issue orders to the Navy today and that very effective deterrent, where you are sending boats back from where they came and undermining people smuggling, could be in place today. That is the very great difference. The Houston Committee said that it would be a very effective deterrent if it was being done and it is possible to do it but there are a few things that they need to tick off in the region. The Government should go out and sort that out and then issue orders to the Navy.

Kieran Gilbert

First of all if we look at the Malaysia component, if it needs Parliamentary approval and if the Coalition is behind doing all it can to provide these deterrents why not allow that Parliamentary support?

Michael Keenan

The problem we have always had with the Malaysian arrangement and why we are not going to support it is it involves ripping out all of the human rights protections that we have always insisted were there for offshore processing. They were put in place by the Howard Government. If we process people on Manus and process people on Nauru, we can guarantee the conditions of those people. If we are going to transfer them to Malaysia, we cannot. This is the problem that we have always had with this Malaysian solution and that is why we won’t be supporting it.

Kieran Gilbert

But the Coalition is not even saying that if those problems are resolved, if the humanitarian elements, the protections are fixed, that you would back it anyway?

Michael Keenan

The Government has explicitly told us when we put it to them that they need to make some changes to the arrangement that it can’t be done. They are the ones who have told us it can’t be done and clearly the Houston Committee said it cannot go ahead in its current form.

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Kieran Gilbert

On turning back the boats, do you feel comfortable with the prospect of asylum seekers, or people smugglers more to the point, sabotaging their boats so that then they have to be rescued? Because that is something that the Houston panel pointed out explicitly in their report.

Michael Keenan

That is exactly right. We know from past experience that it is a difficult operation to fulfil properly. The Navy has experienced doing it and they have done it very successfully in the past. They are very professional in the way that they approach these things and I believe that they certainly have the capacity to do it again in the future. Nothing would undermine people smuggling more than when boats left Indonesia they were turned back around safely when we could do it and sent back to Indonesia. That would go round the communities of people who are seeking to come to Australia in this way and it would undermine the ability of people smugglers to sell their product. That is why we support it and that is why it is so effective.

Kieran Gilbert

Finally, on the prospect of asylum seekers living in tents indefinitely really, we don’t know when this interim measure of the army setting up tents and temporary accommodation will be resolved, when civil contractors will be the more permanent accommodation in place. Are you comfortable with the notion of these people living in tents indefinitely on Nauru and Manus?

Michael Keenan

I don’t think it is indefinitely. We had advice at the time that we could have Nauru up and running within a couple of months and of course there is existing facilities there because they were built by the previous Government.

Kieran Gilbert

You think it would be more months than years?

Michael Keenan

I don’t know.

Kieran Gilbert

Because the numbers continue to flow, there was another boat arrival this morning.

Michael Keenan

That’s right. It has to be done immediately. There is no question of that and then they need to make sure they can get the standard of accommodation to the point where it is appropriate as quickly as possible. But it does need to be done immediately and because there are existing facilities on those two islands it should be able to be done very quickly.

Kieran Gilbert

Ok Michael Keenan, thank you for your time.

Michael Keenan

Good to talk to you.

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

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

www.keenan.net.au

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