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Transcript of press conference: Melbourne: 21 June 2014: High Court finds Abbott Government's policy unlawful; reintegration payments to asylum seekers

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SUBJECT/ S: High Court finds Abbott Government’s policy unlaw ful, Reintegration payments to asylum seekers.

RICHARD MARLES: Thank you for coming this morning. Yesterday the High Court found the Abbott Government’s policy of refusing to process people who are on bridging visas in Australia is unlawful. We welcome that decision. Faced with the rejection of Temporary Protection Visas by the Parliament, Scott Morrison’s decision to close up shop was always an act of petulance and it was an act of petulance which has caused untold misery throughout communities in Australia. Scott Morrison has been slapped down by the High Court and his processing policy is in disarray, the High Court has made clear that those persons who are on bridging visas must now be processed and we would expect that the Abbott Government and Scott Morrison now act in accordance with the law. Last week we saw new heights of self-congratulation from the Abbott Government, Scott Morrison and Tony Abbott could barely stop themselves from high fiving each other, now we have seen the incompetence of this minister exposed by the High Court.

This is a minister who is very happy to beat his chest on the good days but there are silence on the bad, and we need a minister who is more substance than showman.

REPORTER: The Government has said it will look at other ways it will cap the visas, would you support that?

MARLES: What we need to see in Australia now is people being processed, this was an act of petulance of the part of the Abbott Government to stop processing people, in effect to close up shop in circumstances where the Parliament had rejected its policy of Temporary Protection Visas. There is no deterrence value associated with Temporary Protection Visas, particularly in a context where Australia was taken off the table through the PNG Arrangement in July of last year. What we need to see is

this Government simply acting in the Government’s own best interests, in the nation’s own best interests and start processing people.

REPORTER: Should they try to reintroduce Temporary Protection Visas?

MARLES: Labor utterly opposes Temporary Protection Visas, TPVs put people in a state of limbo, Temporary Protection Visas only prolong this whole issue, what we need to see is people who are in Australia now, being processed and if they are found to be genuine refugees then they should be resettled in Australia and if they are not they should be facilitated back to their original country. That is what ought to occur in the national interest and it is as simple as that. Temporary Protection Visas have no deterrence value whatsoever in circumstances where Australia has already been taken off the table through the PNG Arrangement.

REPORTER: The situation this week in Geelong with the asylum seeker who self immolated and the Government’s refusal to grant a visa to his family, do you think there was capacity for the Immigration Minister to intervene in that case?

MARLES: I think what we saw this week from the Government in refusing to grant visas to Leo Seemanpillai’s family to attend their own son’s funeral reaches new heights in meanness. There is absolutely no doubt that Scott Morrison as the Minister, if he wanted to allow Leo Seemanpillai’s family to attend his funeral he could have done that. Compassion is one bridge which is too far for this Minister.

REPORTER: You describe their asylum seeker policy as being in disarray but you know they say that what Labor couldn’t do is stop the boats..

MARLES: Well the basis of which we see a reduction in the flow of asylum seeker vessels from Indonesia has principally been because Scott Morrison has prosecuted Labor’s own arrangement with PNG. That has unquestionably been the policy which has resulted in the reduction of asylum seeker vessels from Indonesia, but when we are considering those people who are already in Australia, who were in Australia before the 19th of July last year. We need to have a sensible policy in the national interest which gets people off the Government tab, which sees people be processed and if they are found to be genuine refugees then allowed to be resettled in this country and if they are not, then they are facilitated in their transport back home. It is as simple as that. Temporary Protection Visas play no role in deterrence and they only put a whole lot of people in this country in a state of limbo, which causes untold misery in communities throughout Australia. And the decision by Scott Morrison to close up shop faced by the Parliament’s rejection of Temporary Protection Visas was an act of petulance and that has been struck down now by the High Court.

REPORTER: Does this mean we could see more boats starting again?

MARLES: This decision has no bearing on whether or not we will see asylum seeker vessels come to Australia, it has absolutely no bearing on that at all. What we have seen which has demonstratively brought about we hope an end to the flow of asylum seeker vessels from Indonesia and Sri Lanka to Christmas Island, we hope has brought an end to the loss of life at sea is principally the PNG Arrangement that

Australia negotiated with the government of PNG under the then Labor Government. It was that agreement which took Australia off the table, it is that agreement which has made the difference, now from that moment on it became clear that no one would be offered a visa in Australia if you came by boat to this country. So in those circumstances whatever you do in relation to the people who are already here can be neither deterrence nor an incentive to those who are yet to come. So what we need to be doing is dealing with the group that are already here in the national interest. The government stubbornly acted with petulance in its policy of closing up shop and that has been utterly repudiated by the High Court and Scott Morrison’s policy is now in total disarray.

REPORTER: Should the Government be offering asylum seekers thousands of dollars to go back to dangerous places?

MARLES: We don’t need blank cheques, we need people being processed. But I would remind you that when Scott Morrison was in Opposition, he opposed Labor’s own reintegration packages and now he is offering sums which are triple the amount. In Opposition, Scott Morrison opposed the PNG Arrangement and now it forms part of his own strategy, there is no bridge of hypocrisy that Scott Morrison will not cross, but in a week in which we saw this Government deny visas to Leo Seemanpillai’s family to attend their own son’s funeral, for Scott Morrison compassion is one bridge which is too far.

REPORTER: What do you make of the reports of Australian jihadists fighting with ISIS and getting involved in some of those shocking massacres?

MARLES: I’m obviously very concerned about that, what is more concerning is that one of those jihadists, who was on a no fly list, left this country last year on his own brother’s passport to fight in Syria. It is just another example of Scott Morrison’s

incompetence in presiding over that affair. And this is a minister who has presided over that, he has presided over one of the largest data breaches we have seen in the Australian Government’s history, he has presided over the melting down of Manus Island, where we saw the loss of Reza Berati’s life in an Australian funded facility, he has presided over a policy which is eroding our relationship with Indonesia by the day and he now has his own policy of suspending processing for people on bridging visas utterly repudiated by the High Court, that is a score board of incompetence that you will not hear from Scott Morrison. Thank you.