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Transcript of interview with Graham Mabury: 6PR Nightline Program: 31 July 2012: Labor's border protection crisis



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Michael Keenan MP - Federal Member for Stirling 6PR Nightline Program with Graham Mabury July 31, 2012

Topic/s: Labor’s border protection crisis

Graham Mabury

The record for the number of asylum seekers arriving by boat, irregular entries if you want to call them that, the record number arriving in any one year has been broken, Department of Immigration figures show. In fact 6,765 people have arrived this year topping the 2010 record of 6,555. We are going to seek a reaction to this from our next guest, the Shadow Minister for Justice, Customs and Border Protection, Michael Keenan. Thank you for joining us Michael, welcome to Nightline.

Michael Keenan

It’s a pleasure to be with you Graham.

Graham Mabury

Now you are reported as saying that this is simply proof that the current policies are not deterring asylum seekers.

Michael Keenan

I think that’s pretty clear when you’ve reached a record year and it’s only July. So in seven months this year it’s already been worse than the entire previous recorded year which was under Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard in 2010. So clearly something is not working and the people smugglers know that at the moment they have a whip hand and that’s why they’ve been bringing people down to Australia illegally in such record numbers.

Graham Mabury

It seems as though that the Australian people are saying a pox on all the politician’s houses. The Opposition won’t move, the Government won’t move; there’s a committee looking into it and yet the boats keep coming.

Michael Keenan

Well we don’t need a committee; we just need a return to the policies that have actually worked. I’m not sure that people are clamouring for a compromise, they’re clamouring for a solution and if you are going to have a solution then you need to go back to the point where the system was broken and the system was broken by the Labor Party in 2008 when they changed the robust system of border protection that they inherited from the Howard Government. When that happened, that happened in August of 2008, they changed policies, and they abolished the Pacific Solution, they abolished temporary protection visas, and what happened was literally from the next month, September 2008, the people smugglers went back into business and we started having people arrive here illegally, first as a trickle and of course that trickle has subsequently become a flood because the more successful the people smugglers are, the easier it is for them to sell their product.

Graham Mabury

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So in effect, you think that the whole situation just plays into their hands?

Michael Keenan

No question, the more successful they are about getting people down to Australia then the more successful they can be at selling their product which they can sell for US$10-15,000 a head. Clearly if they are getting people to Australia in such record numbers within a very short space of time - you could be smuggled into Australia, the Australian Government will intercept you, bring you to Christmas Island, then you’ll be released into the community, you’ll be able to work. You’ll be able to be on welfare, they’ll give you community housing and that will come with a community housing package. So clearly what is being sold by the people smugglers is an incredibly good product and that is why they are having such great success in selling it.

Graham Mabury

Is it Opposition policy to turn the boats back?

Michael Keenan

Yes it is and it has been for over a decade, we actually implemented it when we were in Government. We did turn boats back, other Navy’s around the world turn boats back. The Labor Party’s stated policy prior to being elected was that they were going to turn the boats back but they just haven’t had the courage to implement it while they’ve been in government.

Graham Mabury

We’ve had your opposite number Senator Bob Carr saying that this would be illegal under Australian law and create a crisis between the relationship with us and Indonesia.

Michael Keenan

They’ve created a crisis with Indonesia because they’ve bungled that relationship by mismanaging the Oceanic Viking incident and completely bungling the live cattle export business and the Indonesians are pretty upset with the current Australian Government. To say that it is illegal and can’t happen - it has happened, the proof is in the pudding, we have done it before and Indonesia accepted it then. I believe that we can successfully implement that policy just as we have in the past and all of the evidence suggests that we can because as I said we have actually done it.

Graham Mabury

The fact that we now have 6,765 people who have arrived here by boat but there have also been figures released that say we have 70 new illegal over-stayers every week and that Australian immigration authorities can’t find just under 60,000 of them, 55,900 plus, so have we lost a bit of perspective here?

Michael Keenan

This is a serious issue but it is a different issue and people over-staying their visa is a very different thing because if you are over-staying your visa then what you have done is that you have legally come to Australia with your travel documents and we have looked at who you are and we have granted you a visa, now that is very different to someone who arrives here courtesy of a criminal gang. The two things are totally different problems even though I appreciate that visa over-staying is relatively serious, it’s not as serious as people arriving here illegally and the two problems, I don’t think, are directly comparable in that way.

Graham Mabury

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In your view are these people who are coming here by boat, and by doing so putting their lives at risk, are they queue-jumpers?

Michael Keenan

I understand why people would want to come to Australia, we are a very lucky country and I understand that there are people around the world who would like to enjoy the lifestyle that we have here. I think that’s a perfectly understandable thing but what we cannot accept as a country is that we are not in charge of our own immigration system and what’s happening at the moment is that we have ceded that to criminal gangs - so we are not in charge of it, you pay a criminal a very significant sum of money and they can get you here illegally and that’s what no self respecting nation can accept. If we were to accept that then the numbers would just keep rising, we’ve had almost 7,000 already this year alone and you can imagine what it would be like if we were to just accept that you can pay people smugglers to get here and as a nation we just can’t possibly absorb that.

Graham Mabury

So under an Abbott Government, what would be the policy with regard to arrival by boat, what would happen?

Michael Keenan

We would go back to the point where I said the policy was broken, and that was August 2008. We would return to temporary protection visas, we would reinstate offshore processing on the island nation of Nauru and we would turn the boats back around when it was safe to do so and that suite of policies was exactly the suite of policies that stopped people smuggling before and we believe that it will stop it again.

Graham Mabury

Great to talk to you, we really appreciate your time, Michael Keenan thanks for joining us

Michael Keenan

Always a pleasure Graham.

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

www.keenan.net.au

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