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Transcript of interview with Ben Fordham: Radio 2GB: 17 June 2014: Siev 221; asylum seekers



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THE HON RICHARD MARLES MP SHADOW MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND BORDER PROTECTION MEMBER FOR CORIO

E&OE TRANSCRIPT RADIO INTERVIEW 2GB WITH BEN FORDHAM TUESDAY, 17 JUNE 2014

SUBJECT/S: SIEV 221, Asylum seekers

RICHARD MARLES, SHADOW MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND BORDER PROTECTION: Good afternoon Ben, how are you?

BEN FORDHAM: I’m okay, I wanted to get your comment on the Federal Government being sued over the asylum seeker boat disaster off Christmas Island, this is 2010 and 50 people tragically dying when that rickety boat was smashed up against the rocks and we had men, women and children passing away, we had locals watching on in absolute horror as these people were dying right before their eyes and now we hear from the human rights lawyer George Newhouse, a former Labor candidate that there is a legal action that has been launched in the New South Wales Supreme Court on behalf of eight families arguing that Australia was responsible and the Commonwealth breached its duty of care, arguing that there should have been more that should have been done to save the people who sadly passed away. Now the Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has condemned the lawsuit as shameful and offensive, I wanted to hear your take on it as the Shadow Immigration Minister, what is your take?

MARLES: Well Ben I think the simple point to make here is this, on that appalling night 41 people survived. Of those 41 - 40 were plucked from the ocean by our custom and navy personnel who I might say risked their lives in the process of saving others. Now I don’t know what else one can do than put yourself in harm’s way in order to save the lives of other people and I, like I’m sure your listeners and I suspect you, am shaking my head at what has transpired today. I mean it is a genuinely amazing turn of events, it beggars belief - it is genuinely something which I think is unbelievable.

FORDHAM: It is a real slap in the face to people who were there genuinely, I mean we have seen the video, we have heard the cries for help, I’ve interviewed people that were there that day and their lives were changed forever that day, they did everything they possibly could to try and help these people.

MARLES: And I think what you said then is true, people’s lives were changed forever that day and I would remind your listeners that we are not talking about a coastline which is Bondi beach, we are talking about a rocky coastline, rough seas, only one person made it to shore unaided and Australian, brave Australian Navy and Customs personnel put themselves in harm’s way to save the lives of others. I’ve spoken with Brendan O’Connor, who was the Home Affairs Minister at the time and went up there the day after and he talked about the enormous trauma the local community felt, that I think those involved in the rescue felt and they would have seen just terrible things around them when it occurred and to do all of that and to then find that you are in a situation where you are being sued for the trouble that you took is genuinely unbelievable, I’m speechless really.

FORDHAM: George Newhouse is the human rights lawyer, he is a former deputy mayor I think of Waverly and he was the Labor candidate, he might have had a couple of goes over the years - I don’t know - but he is a Labor man, what do you say to him? Do you call on him to withdraw this?

MARLES: Well, look, George has to do what he is doing and I can only speak for myself -

FORDHAM: You’re not calling on him to withdraw it?

MARLES: I think that this is an extraordinary legal action, I am in as much disbelief as you are and I think your listeners would be in. I just think that Australian personnel put themselves in harm’s way in order to save the lives of people that night and I don’t know that there is much else one can do, that is the biggest thing anyone can do and I think to see that we have a lawsuit today against those who did everything they could, who risked their lives to save the lives of others is an extraordinary turn of events and I am gobsmacked.

FORDHAM: If it’s so offensive and you are so gobsmacked why wouldn’t you just say ‘George withdraw it’?

MARLES: Well George can withdraw it, ultimately it is a matter for him, I am appalled by the turn of events and I am not arguing with you there Ben. I just think, I struggle to come up with words which describe this situation in circumstances where people risk their lives to save the lives of others.

FORDHAM: Quick one, on another topic that is being reported today, West Australian MP Melissa Parke, a Labor MP, and Victorian MP Anna Burke, a Labor MP, have today put a motion to the caucus room that calls on Labor to no longer support the transfer of asylum seekers by Australia to Manus Island or Nauru and for “detention centres in those places to be closed”. Now this is in stark contrast to

comments you made when you were before the National Press Club in the last month or so, what do you say to these colleagues, are they going to get their way or not?

MARLES: Oh well, those events transpired this morning Ben, and what I can tell you and your listeners is that the Labor caucus emphatically endorsed offshore processing. Endorsed it, I might say in terms, where we would want Manus Island to be providing safe, dignified and humane accommodation, which I’m sure your listeners would want.

FORDHAM: As they do.

MARLES: And I’m often surprised that they are not words Scott Morrison can utter, but we absolutely supported offshore processing, as I said we would and that is a policy that we would take to the next Federal election. Now I think it is fair enough if there are people who have different views to express them in the caucus. We had a really dignified debate around this today, but it wasn’t close, let me tell you Ben it was not close. This was a clear statement in support of offshore processing and I might remind your listeners that when John Howard was the Prime Minister, the likes of Petro Georgiou, Danna Vale and Judith Troeth all had similar views and they were dealt with, with dignity within his party room - I don’t think that is anything different from today. But our position is very clear.

FORDHAM: Good to talk to you, thank you.

MARLES: No worries, thank you.

ENDS