Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Transcript of interview with Julie Doyle: ABC Capital Hill: 19 June 2014: Labor's immigration policy

Download PDFDownload PDF



JULIE DOYLE: This week the government has marked what it’s describing as a milestone, six months since the last asylum seeker boat reached Australia. The Immigration Minister says it shows the government’s policies are working. But the opposition disagrees. It says the biggest factor affecting boat arrivals was Labor’s PNG resettlement deal negotiated before the last election, I spoke to Labor’s Immigration spokesman Richard Marles a bit earlier today.

Richard Marles, thanks for joining me. I wanted to start by talking about the government reaching a milestone as it is describing it saying that no asylum seeker boats have reached Australia in the past six months. Doesn’t this show that the government’s policies are working?

RICHARD MARLES, SHADOW MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND BORDER PROTECTION: Well look, we have seen an end to the loss of life at sea, we hope, is obviously a good thing and Labor unequivocally supports that and we support it because from a position of compassion we have always wanted to see an end to the loss of life at sea and that’s the way in which we go about our business, quite unlike the government or the Coalition who have approached this from a very political perspective from day one. But I would make the point that the single most important measure that has been taken to see a decline in the number of asylum seeker vessels to see a decline in the loss of life at sea was the arrangement that the former Labor government entered into with the government of PNG last July. The regional resettlement arrangement which took Australia off the table more than anything else -

DOYLE: And how do you measure that Richard Marles? How do you judge that? How do you make that assumption?

MARLES: Well we can make that assumption, well it’s not an assumption we can measure it. We can measure because there is data around the arrival of boats and people who were on those boats over the past few years, if you look at the number of boats that arrive or were arriving at time that the regional settlement arrangement was put in place so 19th July last year, by the time that we get to the election that flow has been decreased by 90 per cent and it stayed the same right through until the middle of December. Now there was no substantive policy that was put in place by the government during that period. No boats were turned around before the 19th December, no fishing vessels were bought in Indonesia. The only public policy measure that had been taken which applied to this area was the regional resettlement arrangement and it reduced the flow of asylum seeker vessels by 90 per cent.

DOYLE: But what about the last six months in particular from December to now, we know the government has been turning back boats and putting in place those other measures. Would you acknowledge that that has had an impact here?

MARLES: We have seen the government engage in turnarounds, we have seen that occur, I might say, in the context of a suspended relationship with Indonesia. That’s an important point to make here because the real test of the efficacy of that policy is going to be how it survives a situation where we have a more normal relationship with Indonesia and where we have a more cooperative relationship with Indonesia. Our concern all along has been that the policy of turnarounds has been eroding our relationship with Indonesia and it’s plain common sense that if we are going to have a resolution to this, not last month and this month, but this year and next year we need to be doing this hand in glove with Indonesia -

DOYLE: But hasn’t the turning back though, hasn’t that affected the numbers though in the past six months?

MARLES: Sure, but the question there is how does it go forward in a context where this is a policy which erodes our relationship with Indonesia and Indonesia needs to be a critical player with us going forward. But a number which we will not hear come from the government’s mouth is that on Wednesday it was a thousand days since we had in the Parliament legislation which would have enabled the Malaysian arrangement. Legislation which would have seen an effective turnaround of 800 people, now by the Minister’s own logic in the last two days that is a measure which three years ago would have brought an end to the flow of asylum seekers -

DOYLE: Well I want to talk about what’s happening now though -

MARLES: But a thousand days ago, a thousand days ago this Minister teamed up with the Greens on Malaysia to keep the boats coming -

DOYLE: Well let’s talk about the Labor’s policy now though and talking about offshore processing now we’ve seen at this week at Labor Caucus. The Western Australian MP, Melissa Parke, put forward a motion calling on Labor to end its support for offshore processing, that motion was defeated but Richard Marles. What kind of support was there in the Caucus for that kind of motion?

MARLES: Well we had a very dignified debate within the Caucus around this matter and can I say what characterised the debate and what made it completely different from the way in which the Coalition goes about this business is that we spoke from the perspective of values, of values of compassion, values of fairness, values of generosity and it’s on that basis that we emphatically continue to support offshore processing in the Caucus resolution on Tuesday and it wasn’t close -

DOYLE: What kind of support level was there? What kind of [inaudible]

MARLES: I’m not going to go into the details of that, but it was not close, it was a clear statement on behalf of the Caucus that this is a party which is supporting offshore processing from a position of compassion because we want to see an end to the loss of life at sea and hopefully that is now what has occurred.

DOYLE: Richard Marles we’ll have to leave it there, thank you.

MARLES: Thank you