Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Transcript of doorstop interview: 16 July 2012: Latest Boat Arrivals / Turning the boats back around



Download PDFDownload PDF

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

Topic/s: Latest Boat Arrivals / Turning the boats back around

Michael Keenan

I have called this press conference to highlight the fact that over the past 24 hours we have had 3 boats arrive illegally in Australia. To put that into context, over the last six years of the Howard Government we had on average 3 illegal boats arriving per year, so in the space of 24 hours we have had what would have been the equivalent of one year’s worth of illegal arrivals under the Howard Government. The reason for this change and the reason for this influx of illegal arrivals and the very reason that people smuggling has been reinvigorated under the Labor Party is because they changed the border protection system when they came to office by repealing the tough but necessary measures the Howard Government took. When changes were made to the Howard Government policy in August 2008, in September 2008 we saw the people smugglers take these changes as a big green light to get back into business and started to send illegal boats and people down to Australia again. If we are going to change this we need to return to a suite of policies that were in operation prior to August 2008 that had actually been effective in stopping people from seeking to make this dangerous journey. We need to turn the boats back around when it is safe and appropriate to do so, we need to return to Temporary Protection Visas and we need to process people offshore on the island nation of Nauru. This suite of policies worked to achieve what we need to achieve which is stopping the people smugglers from being in charge over who is coming to Australia. I just wanted to make one particular point about turning the boats back around because over the weekend the Sri Lankan Navy did exactly that. They turned boats back around that were seeking to leave Sri Lanka and come to Australia. The Sri Lankan High Commissioner has endorsed that policy and stated that it is going to be very important in stopping people smuggling. Now if the Sri Lankan Navy can do it and other navy’s such as the US Coastguard can do it also, then surely the Australian Navy can return to doing it in the way that it has been done in the past and as I said that was one of the very important planks that we had within our suite of policies that actually worked to stop people smuggling.

Journalist

Is the Opposition signalling that it is unhappy with UN Convention on refugees?

Michael Keenan

The UN Convention provides very important protections for people seeking safety in other countries. I think the point that was being made was that it was made for a different time. It was made to deal with those large movements of people in the post WWII environment. I notice that the Government have been out talking about this and I really wish the Immigration Minister would find as much time to fix the problem within his own portfolio as he does in scrutinising the Opposition’s position. He is the Minister who is presiding over the complete collapse of Australia’s border protection system and quite frankly I would have thought the 24 hours a day, 7 days a week would be devoted to fixing that.

Journalist

How would you characterise Mr Bowen’s comments that the Opposition is being hypocritical?

Michael Keenan

It is exactly as I said before. I wish Mr Bowen would find as much time to administer the wreckage of his Immigration portfolio as he actually finds to poke holes in the Opposition’s policy. The point that was being made by Mr Morrison was a sensible point, that the Refugee Convention was created for a different time and some aspects of it are now outdated, particularly when dealing with the influx of illegal arrivals that we are seeing at the moment.

Journalist

During debate for Oakeshott’s bill you were quite emotional, are you concerned at all for the welfare of refugees when turning the boats back?

Michael Keenan

I am very concerned about the welfare of refugees and if we hadn’t changed our policies in 2008 then we would have saved hundreds of lives. The whole point is that we are having this illegal influx because we have changed the policies to give the green light to people smuggling. Whilst people smugglers operate, people will die making this journey. There is no question of that and sadly there is ample evidence of that. We need to return to a suite of policies where people

smugglers do not have the opportunity to bring people to Australia illegally and that is, without a doubt, the most humanitarian thing that we can do in dealing with this problem.

Journalist

Page 1 of 2 Doorstop Interview > Michael Keenan MP

16/09/2013 http://www.keenan.net.au/DesktopModules/DnnForge%20-%20NewsArticles/Print.as...

The Admiral’s comments on turning the boats back has outraged the Tamil community, do you have any sympathy for the Tamil community who were outraged by that comment?

Michael Keenan

I think the Sri Lankan Government has shown that turning the boats back around works and I don’t want to get involved in Sri Lankan politics but clearly I have sympathy for people who believe that they need to take this journey but what we can’t do is have measures that encourage people to do it, as it is an incredibly dangerous thing to do.

Journalist

Do you accept the Sri Lankan Navy turning back Sri Lankan boats in Sri Lankan waters is different to the Australian Navy turning back Sri Lankan boats in Indonesian waters?

Michael Keenan

There are different nuances but the principle is the same and what the Sri Lankan Government’s actions show is that it is safe to be able to take this policy option. Of course the Sri Lankan Navy is not the only naval force that does it, other navies around the world do it, the US Coastguard for example does it in relation to people trying to take boat journeys to

America. The Government just says that it is impossible for us to do this, which is of course ludicrous in the face of what other navies can do and very importantly what the Australian Navy has actually done successfully in the past.

Journalist

What about the Government saying under international law a boat must be taken to the nearest port of call?

Michael Keenan

That’s exactly right. Under international law the boat should be taken to its nearest port of call. What happens at the moment is boats that are actually quite close to the Indonesian mainland are taken to Australia. That’s the problem. If we were sticking to the fact that boats that are rescued in distress were taken to the nearest port of call they certainly wouldn’t be taken in most cases to Australia.

Journalist

So you are saying that Indonesia should have a greater responsibility in that problem?

Michael Keenan

We do need to cooperate with Indonesia and that is vitally important. We have done that in the past in relation to turning the boats back. I have been to Jakarta and the point that politicians make to you constantly is that Australia needs to fix the policies that we are pursuing, which are encouraging people smuggling. They say that we need to take the sugar off the table, which is the fact that Australia’s weak border protection systems are encouraging people to go to Indonesia to take this dangerous journey. Once we fix our own policies in Canberra, which is of course is the primary responsibility of the Australian Government, then we can go and talk to the Indonesian authorities from a position of strength, not a position of weakness where our policies are encouraging people to take the journey.

Journalist

So you are saying more can be done to work with Indonesia to stop the smugglers given the origin of the boats being from Indonesia?

Michael Keenan

Absolutely. Our relationship with Indonesia at the moment is sadly very dysfunctional. That is because the Labor Government completely bungled the issue of live exports, which is a very important issue to Indonesia. They have food security as one of their most important priorities. Also the way they handled the bungling of the Oceanic Viking, which was something that we know greatly disturbed the Indonesian authorities and another reason why the current Government has broken our relationship with Indonesia to such an extent that it makes it very difficult for us to cooperate in this way.

Journalist

Your colleague, Scott Morrison, has said that the UN Refugee Convention is out of date, can you explain why then that the Opposition is so adamant that countries must sign the convention before they can process asylum seekers?

Michael Keenan

The point that Mr Morrison was making was that the Refugee Convention was created to deal with the refugee movements in a different age. It still provides very important protections for people who are seeking refuge in another country. The point he was making was that it does deal with those very large populations that were moving around in the post WWII period.

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

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

www.keenan.net.au

Page 2 of 2 Doorstop Interview > Michael Keenan MP

16/09/2013 http://www.keenan.net.au/DesktopModules/DnnForge%20-%20NewsArticles/Print.as...