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Transcript of interview with Tom Elliott: 3AW: 31 October 2016: Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing Cohort) Bill; Sri Lankan asylum seekers; refugee resettlement; crossbench Senators



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The Hon Peter Dutton MP Minister for Immigration and Border Protection

TRANSCRIPT

Interview with Tom Elliott, Radio 3AW Drive

31 October 2016

Subjects: Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing Cohort) Bill.

E&EO…………………………………………………………………………………………..

TOM ELLIOTT:

Joining us on the line now is the Minister for Immigration Peter Dutton. Mr Dutton, good afternoon.

PETER DUTTON:

Good afternoon Tom.

TOM ELLIOTT:

So why have you decided to make this latest change to the immigration laws? I only ask because we don't…we haven't had many boats coming in the last three years or so. Why have you decided to get even tougher on asylum seekers?

PETER DUTTON:

Well, part of the problem of course is that we are still dealing with boats. We've turned back 29 boats or so over the last couple of years. The issue is that they're not on TV screens each night, the footage of boats turning up at Christmas Island, so we've got the issue under control, but we know there are about 14,000 people in Indonesia at the moment that would hop on a boat tomorrow. We know that there's activity in Sri Lanka and Vietnam and elsewhere and we are going to be with this problem for a long period of time.

I mean, people can see what's happening in Paris, in Belgium, in Europe, people drowning on the Mediterranean. People smugglers have not gone away and it may be off the television screens of a night time, but we're dealing with this issue each day.

We're also dealing with Labor's legacy of these people that have been left on Nauru and Manus and I want to find an arrangement with a third country where we can get people off those islands either back to their country of origin or to a third country. So if we can do that, it'd be a good outcome.

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TOM ELLIOTT:

Just on that note, I read a story in The Australian this morning about Sri Lankan asylum…alleged asylum seekers who have gone back to Sri Lanka with a few thousand dollars given to them by the Australian Government and now they're gainfully employed as fisher people and whatever. Would you do that? Would you give people some money to leave Nauru and go somewhere else?

PETER DUTTON:

Yes, Tom, and we do on a regular basis. The difficulty that we've got, though, is that a lot of people sit down with us, talk through the settlement package that we would offer, because ultimately it's cheaper to provide that support than to keep them on an offshore processing centre, and we strike this difficulty where the advocates here and the Green and people on the left of the Labor Party social message - so they Facebook post and Tweet people on Manus and Nauru - and say look, don't accept that package, don't go back to your country of origin because eventually the Australian Government will change its mind and you will get what you paid the people smuggler as an outcome - and that is come to Australia….

TOM ELLIOTT:

…okay and of course that will tell other people that they should make the journey as well. Can I ask you, are there people on either Manus or Nauru who have been assessed as legitimate asylum seekers?

PETER DUTTON:

Yes, as refugees. That's certainly the case and the arrangement that Mr Rudd struck with PNG, for example, is that if people were found to be refugees they would settle in PNG, and similarly, the arrangement that we've arrived at in Nauru is that if you're found to be a refugee then we can accommodate you in Cambodia.

The difficulty of course is, as I say, that many people are reluctant to take the package, because they've been told by people who might think they're doing the right thing but ultimately are offering false hope that the whole family can come to Australia.

TOM ELLIOTT:

Could they stay in Nauru as potential Nauruan citizens in the future?

PETER DUTTON:

There's a 10 year visa arrangement with Nauru at the moment and they can stay on Nauru. There will be some people I think regardless of what third country settlement option we offer up, who will decide to stay on Nauru because despite what you read in the Fairfax papers and hear on the ABC, there are some 300 people who are employed on Nauru. There are about 30 that have set up businesses, small businesses and for some of those people I think they will decide to stay on Nauru.

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But we've got all the kids out of detention in Australia, we've closed 17 detention centres and I do want to find an arrangement where we can move people off Nauru, starting with the family units, the women and children and men within those family units.

TOM ELLIOTT:

Alright, now Mr Dutton, obviously one of your key tasks to get this legislation passed is to convince possibly members of the Opposition to support it. Earlier today, the Shadow Minister for Immigration, your opposite number Shayne Neumann, spoke to our Canberra correspondent Michael Pachi. Here's a bit of what he had to say.

[excerpt]

SHAYNE NEUMANN:

But can I say, the idea that someone who might be reassessed as a refugee….be assessed properly under our guidelines, the migration legislation, as a refugee, be resettled in a third country, become a prominent citizen such as a doctor who wants to come here on a medical conference or a leading politician or someone who wants a cultural exchange or simply to visit a family member on a tourist or a business visa or something of that nature, can't come to this country on those terms and conditions after decades down the track, it seems to me to be nonsensical and ridiculous.

[end of excerpt]

TOM ELLIOTT:

Well, there you go, nonsensical and ridiculous. What do you think the Labor Party's going to do with this legislation? Will they eventually vote it through or will they try and knock it back?

PETER DUTTON:

Oh well Tom, look, if they're serious about stopping boats and making sure that we can get people off Nauru and Manus then they will support it. The trouble for Bill Shorten is he had before the election is that he's got a split right down the middle in terms of his party. He's got people who were out there even before Bill Shorten could provide any sort of response saying this was an outrage and the Left of the Labor Party won't tolerate it. These people smugglers are part of sophisticated networks. They watch what I say, what the Prime Minister says, what Mr Shorten says, and they message that out and they offer that as some hope or opportunity for people that would pay money to a people smuggler in Indonesia, for example, to get on a boat.

TOM ELLIOTT:

Okay. You mention a split. Is that what you're trying to do here, is wedge or split the Labor Party on this issue?

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PETER DUTTON:

No. My honest assumption was that Bill Shorten would come out and support this because we've got a start date of the 19th July 2013, which is the date that then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said that after that date, no-one will ever permanently settle in Australia. Mr Shorten, during the last campaign, is consistent with what Ms Gillard said and what Mr Rudd had said, and that is that people wouldn't come here.

So I've actually been a bit flabbergasted by the response from Bill Shorten because he needs to show leadership on this issue, and if we want people smugglers to get back into business then we need these sort of divided messages out there and I just don't think it's in our national interest that Mr Shorten can't control his party.

TOM ELLIOTT:

Very quickly…what about other Senators? If you can't rely on Labor to support it, what about Nick Xenophon? Obviously Pauline Hanson will support it, some of the other Independents. Will they support you on this issue?

PETER DUTTON:

Well, we'll have those discussions, but that's all a moot point if Mr Shorten decides to support us and I’d hope that he does. I hope that he can see fit to provide support because the difficulty today for Mr Shorten is that he sounded fairly shrill, to be honest, and sounded a lot like Kevin Rudd. He was flustered on the issue and it just demonstrates to me that Labor just has not learnt the lessons of the Rudd-Gillard years - 1,200 people drowned at sea and we're not going to repeat those days.

TOM ELLIOTT:

Final question. I mean, the Shadow Minister there, Shayne Neumann, said what if you get one of those people in a camp, they go and settle somewhere else, 10 years down the track they're a prominent person, they might even become a local politician and they want to enter Australia as a tourist or as a visitor. You don't think it's a bit harsh to ban them from ever dong that?

PETER DUTTON:

Well Tom, there's a ministerial ability under the Act, as is the case with most visa categories at the moment, that is the Minister can decide that it's in the public interest to issue a visa for that person.

What Mr Neumann leaves out is that we've got women apparently who were trying to travel from Australia to PNG at the moment to marry some of these people off Manus so that they can get a spousal visa and come to Australia. We've got people who, if they come from Iran for example, if they land in Australia as a tourist at some time into the future, they know that even if we're able to look at their application, know that they're not a refugee, once they get here, we can't return them to a country like Iran who will not take forced returns, unlike Canada or New Zealand or the UK for example and that's the great dilemma.

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We are just not going back to the days where we lose control of our borders and my judgment is that this is a very necessary piece of legislation and I think Mr Shorten should support it.

TOM ELLIOTT:

Peter Dutton, thank you for your time. Peter Dutton the Minister for Immigration.

[ends]