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Transcript of national interview with Lyndal Curtis: 26 June 2012: Asylum Seeker Boat Tragedy / Border Protection Policies



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Michael Keenan MP - Federal Member for Stirling ABC News 24 Interview with Lyndal Curtis June 26, 2012

Topics: Asylum Seeker Boat Tragedy / Border Protection Policies

Lyndal Curtis

Michael Keenan, Shadow Minister for Justice, Customs and Border Protection, welcome to the program.

Michael Keenan

Pleasure to be here.

Lyndal Curtis

Are you waiting for a call from the Prime Minister? She did put one out very publicly yesterday.

Michael Keenan

Well that’s the point. She hasn’t picked up the phone and spoken to Tony Abbott. She hasn’t picked up the phone and spoken to Scott Morrison. And she certainly hasn’t spoken to me. All she has done is brief the media that they might be looking at something else but they haven’t explained how their position has changed, what they might be looking at and clearly I don’t think this is the way you would go about anything in good faith.

Lyndal Curtis

With all those questions in your head is that not enough for one of you, Mr Abbott or Mr Morrison or yourself, to pick up the phone to the Prime Minister’s office and say I heard your message yesterday, do you want to have a meeting?

Michael Keenan

We would be very happy to do that if the Government was going to embrace a policy that would actually work. There has been a lot of talk about compromise and a lot of commentary about

compromise but I don’t believe what the Australian people are clambering for is just a discussion where we come out with another failed policy. I think what they are clambering for is a solution and we know what that solution is because we have implemented a solution and solved this problem in the past. Obviously we would be very happy to support the Government if they were to adopt that solution and stop people smuggling.

Lyndal Curtis

Are you prepared to look at anything that deviates one iota from the policies John Howard had in place?

Michael Keenan

What we need is a solution. We know what that solution is as it has been our policy for over a decade.

Lyndal Curtis

So you are not prepared to look at anything that deviates even a little bit from that?

Michael Keenan

What we want is a solution. We will look at a solution and we know what that is. These are the policies that we have held dear for ten years. We have been criticised very extensively for them, for the whole of that time, but the point is they actually work. There is empirical evidence that they stop the boats because of course once they were implemented after 2001 we had an average of 3 illegal boat arrivals every year under those policies. They were clearly and unarguably a success.

Lyndal Curtis

Are they the only way to solve this problem? Is there possibly another solution that may work as well?

Michael Keenan

These are the policies that have actually done the job. There is no better guarantee of a policy outcome then one that has actually worked in the past. We are saying if you are serious about stopping the people smuggling, adopt these policies and if you have some resolve to stick to them then people smugglers would actually know you were serious and they wouldn’t continue to see Australia as a soft touch, which is what has got us into this situation in the first place.

Lyndal Curtis

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So you are not prepared to consider anything that’s in any way different from the policies that John Howard had in place?

Michael Keenan

Well Lyndal we know what works and if the Labor Party and Julia Gillard were serious about stopping people smuggling, then these are the policies that they would adopt.

Lyndal Curtis

Scott Morrison said yesterday that the problem is not the policies but the Government itself. Is that an argument that this Government needs to consider? Whatever this Government does the Government need to change before anything would work?

Michael Keenan

Whilst I think there is a lot of validity in that, the problem is that I couldn’t even tell you how many policy positions Labor has had on this issue, they changed that many times. You would need to go back over a lot of years to find out how many times they have changed their mind. The problem is when you adopt a new policy, people smugglers who are making millions of dollars out of this evil trade, are not just going to down tools, they are going to probe for weakness and they are

going to continue to find ways to continue to do what they are doing because there is an enormous amount at stake.

Lyndal Curtis

Wouldn’t they even do that under your policies because you have argued that you should turn the boats back around to Indonesia where it is safe to do so but Indonesia says that it doesn’t like that policy?

Michael Keenan

I have no doubt that they will test our resolve but what they will find when they do that is we are not for moving. The problem is when they have tested the resolve of the Labor Party, is every time they have won that battle of wills and that is why the point has been made that it is the Labor Party that are now the problem. Whilst they remain in Government they remain as a huge incentive for people smuggling and people smugglers will not be convinced that they are serious about doing anything to actually stop them from being in charge over who is coming to Australia.

Lyndal Curtis

Is there a political advantage for not resolving this issue?

Michael Keenan

This is not a political point that we are making.

Lyndal Curtis

But your party has campaigned hard on this since 2001 surely that is because there is, at least in some way, a political advantage to the position you hold?

Michael Keenan

It is not politics that has lead us to this position. It is because we want to see the federal government be in charge over who comes to our country. The problem is under the policies of the Labor Party is that we actually have no border protection system left. So it is not politics that has brought us to this conclusion, it is a desire to see Australia again be in charge over who is coming here, which I think is what the Australian people always expect of their federal government.

Lyndal Curtis

Do you not agree that the Immigration Department says the policies you had in place under John Howard would not work?

Michael Keenan

We certainly don’t agree and if we did agree then we wouldn’t be pursuing them.

Lyndal Curtis

On what basis do you not agree? Surely the Immigration Department has some deep understanding of the issue?

Michael Keenan

On the basis of the empirical evidence about what happened when we implemented them in the past. We stopped people smuggling because we implemented a series of very controversial, tough but necessary policies and if we were to go back to them we absolutely believe that they would stop people smuggling again.

Lyndal Curtis

Scott Morrison has criticised the Malaysia people swap on the grounds that it is only 800 people and once that cap is reached the boats will keep coming and those asylum seekers won’t go to Malaysia but the Immigration Minister points out that there is an effective cap on Nauru as well because there is only so much capacity there, isn’t that right?

Michael Keenan

I think the point about the Malaysian people swap is that we are swapping 800 people for 4000 with the Malaysians. Now

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we are getting a rate of illegal arrivals of about 300 a week at the moment so it is less than three weeks work under the Labor Party to have that cap exceeded.

Lyndal Curtis

How many would it take to fill up Nauru?

Michael Keenan

Clearly Nauru would be part of a suite of policies that we would implement to stop people smuggling. It is not the one plank of policy that we would be implementing. We would also adopt Temporary Protection Visas, which is vitally important because it totally undermines the people smugglers business model, and we would turn boats back around where it is safe and appropriate to do so. We are not advocating Nauru in isolation we are advocating it as part of a wider suite of policies that would stop people smuggling.

Lyndal Curtis

Michael Keenan, thank you very much for your time.

Michael Keenan

Good to talk to you Lyndal.

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

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

www.keenan.net.au

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