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Transcript of doorstop interview: Government House, Sydney: 17 April: Lifehouse at RPA; Ashmore Reef boat incident.



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Interview 17 April 2009

Doorstop Interview at

Government House, Sydney

Subject(s): Lifehouse at RPA; Ashmore Reef Boat Incident

PM: The reason I’ve been delayed talking to you this morning is because I’ve been talking to Chris O’Brien. I think those of you who had the privilege of meeting him would understand the significance of his life, his work and what we’re here to do today. And it’s all about one thing. Improving the level of cancer care and cancer treatment and cancer research for Australians.

That’s why as Prime Minister of Australia I’m pleased to be in Sydney, to support what is a critical new addition to the investment of the health infrastructure of Sydney and New South Wales. This integrated cancer care centre is designed to provide additional support for public and private patients, for families of those suffering from cancer. It’s an important step forward in the nation’s fight against cancer.

Today I’ve announced a trebling of the Australian Government’s contribution to this appeal. I’m confident that we are going to see this building launched later in the year. There is a small amount of money still to be made up, but I think we can get this thing going.

And what’s the end point? To integrate the proper research, treatment, care and outreach that’s needed for all those families of cancer sufferers around the country. There are 40,000 deaths from cancer each year, the largest

single killer in Australia. We have a national responsibility to lift our national effort. And I would commend again publicly the enormous visionary contribution of Chris O’Brien to this great national cause.

Furthermore, could I simply update you on the latest advice that I have received from Border Protection Command on the incident which occurred recently off Ashmore Reef.

First of all, I’m advised that all of the 33 critically and seriously injured

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patients from the vessel involved in the incident off Ashmore Island, have arrived on the Australian mainland and have been transported to hospital.

Passengers from the vessel were transferred from the Royal Australian Navy Patrol Boats, HMAS Childers and HMAS Albany, under the control of Border Protection Command by helicopter to Truscott in Western Australia. Medical officers assessed the 31 passengers in Truscott before they were transported to the most appropriate medical facilities.

The eight passengers with the most severe injuries were transferred to Darwin and all arrived by approximately 6am local time. One patient was sent to Broome for an urgent surgical procedure and will remain there until stable enough to be moved to Perth.

The remaining 22 patients were transferred to Perth. Four patients were moved on a Challenger jet that arrived at 2.50am. Two stretcher patients were transferred on a Royal Flying Doctors Service aircraft which arrived at 7.00am. The A C130J aircraft from the Australian Defence Force is due to arrive with the remaining 16 patients this morning. My latest advice is that this will occur at 10.00am. The passengers on the C 130J aircraft do require medical treatment but the situation is not as critical as those who were transported earlier.

The remaining 13 passengers from the vessel are on the HMAS Albany. I’m advised the latest estimated time of arrival of the HMAS Albany to Darwin will be this afternoon, 1.15pm local time.

Furthermore, an update on the investigation. I’ve also just received advice in relation to the ongoing investigation of this matter from Border Protection Command and it is as follows. I’ve been advised by Border Protection Command that it’s still too early to confirm the cause of the explosion on the vessel in question. In line with that advice I will not be speculating on the cause of the explosion today until that investigation is concluded. I believe that to be the right and responsible cause of action.

The AFP have advised the Government that they have currently 18 people deployed to Darwin and Perth to assist with the Northern Territory Police investigation into the explosion yesterday. The joint AFP/Northern Territory Police operation is called Operation Devario. AFP assistance includes investigators, forensics personnel and criminal

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intelligence officers.

Let me just conclude by making some remarks about people smugglers themselves. People smugglers are engaged in the world’s most evil trade and they should all rot in jail because they represent the absolute scum of the earth.

We see this lowest form of human life at work in what we saw on the high seas yesterday. That’s why this Government maintains its hard line, tough, targeted approach to maintaining border protection for Australia. And that’s why we have dedicated more resources to combat people smuggling than any other Government in Australian history.

Over to you for your questions.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd is it true that there are more of the, these boats in Indonesia preparing to send out (inaudible)?

PM: All these activities across the Indonesian Archipelago more broadly are under constant surveillance from our authorities. This has been the case going back a long period of time and I would commend our naval authorities,

our customs personnel, our aerial surveillance staff for the excellent work that they have done.

This is an ongoing challenge and as has been underlined by various comments in the last 24 hours, there are global factors at work here. Global factors concerning security, which are leading to additional push factors around the world and we have to respond to that with all our resources, and we’ll continue to calibrate our resources to threats as they emerge.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister (inaudible)

PM: Sorry?

JOURNALIST: If you think our stance is strong enough against people smugglers, why are they still trying to get to Australia?

PM: As the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has indicated you have global factors at work, you have tens of thousands of people arriving as refugees on the shores of countries right around the world and it

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means therefore that in our response to these global factors affecting countries in the Mediterranean, affecting countries right around the world, that we must continue to match our efforts and resources to the emerging challenge.

Now our staff, our naval staff, our coast watch staff, our aerial surveillance staff and others, our police, are doing a first class job backed up by our intelligence officers as well, also in collaboration with partners across the region. But we will continue to match the resources necessary to the challenges that unfold and I say again this is a challenge facing so many countries around the world at the moment. Our job in partnership with our neighbours is to respond to the challenge here as it unfolds further.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister what exactly (inaudible) what exactly is the Government going to do to bolster border protection?

PM: Let me say that the measures we have in place, measures which resulted in the interdiction of this vessel on the basis of our surveillance of the vessel indicate of themselves the deployment of effective resources in the field. Furthermore, as the challenge through these global pressures mounts further and further, we will up also our resource allocation. That is the normal and appropriate way to handle these things. This has been a process that has been underway for some time going back to earlier boat arrivals as well.

The other thing is this, what we dedicate by way of resources, maritime resources, naval resources, as well as what our customs people do and what our intelligence office is doing, that is one thing. The other thing is to deepen our cooperation with our friends and partners and neighbours because the ability for us to work effectively with Indonesia, with Malaysia, with a whole range of other countries is as critical in this fight as is anything else.

And the third thing is this, because it is a global phenomenon and we are finding push factors operating from around the world, our active partnership with international governments and international agencies like the UNHCR is equally critical. This is a fight on many fronts. It is a fight which we have been engaged in for some time and a fight which other governments around the world are equally engaged in with us.

JOURNALIST: Do you think that the Opposition is playing politics with this issue?

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PM: Well I seem to hear my good old friend Joe Hockey and Mr Broadbent and others indicate today that they also recognise these global factors are at work.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

PM: People smugglers are the vilest form of human life. They trade on the tragedy of others and that is why they should rot in jail and in my own view rot in hell. That is why this Government is absolutely committed to dedicating all resources necessary to fight the fight against people smugglers, to maintain a hard line, tough and targeted strategy in maintaining this country’s border protection. We are dedicating more resources to border protection than any previous Australian Government and we will continue to calibrate the resources we need to the challenges that unfold, a challenge faced as I said before by governments across the world.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister (inaudible) to be asylum seekers will they be given (inaudible)?

PM: They will be treated under the normal provisions of the law through the examination of each of their individual cases.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister as a means to an ends (inaudible)?

PM: Well I don’t answer hypothetical questions and I think you would have studied carefully what I said before and that it is important that we proceed in a calm, methodical fashion in establishing the facts concerning this case.

I have indicated before the Australian Federal Police resources dedicated to this in partnership with the WA police and with the Northern Territory police, as each fact is determined and established then we will make that public to you. But prior to that I don’t intend to engage in speculation on what might or might not be the case. I don’t think that’s responsible.

JOURNALIST: What is really happening with the flow of information (inaudible)?

PM: We have no cause for concern on that front and can I just say in terms of questions which I understand have been put more broadly to the Government on the supply of video information and photographs. Our

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commitment as a Government is this: as soon as this information becomes available to us within any reasonable timeframe we will be turning it over to you good folk in the media. We believe in transparency on these questions, it’s very important because where we’ve been in the past on some of these questions, it’s very important that you in the media are in the know about what’s happened. So our understanding is that the Australian authorities engaged in this, as soon as information is provided to Government then quick smart we will get that through to you in terms of photographic material etc.

JOURNALIST: How long can we expect to wait before we can get (inaudible)?

PM: Well you know it’s often a challenge establishing the facts in any individual case and that’s why I think, particularly burdened by historical experience, that we should be careful, methodical in establishing all the facts and we intend to do this in a transparent fashion.

JOURNALIST : (inaudible)

PM: That, when it comes to this Government’s approach to border protection it is hardline, tough, targeted and integrated with the border protection efforts of our friends and partners around the world. We have dedicated more resources to border protection than any previous Australian Government and furthermore will dedicate what further resources are necessary as this threat, this global threat, unfolds not just for us but for other countries around the world. Thank you very much.

[ends]

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