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Transcript of doorstop interview: 13 February 2010: border protection and Labor's bungled home insulation programme.
Sat, 13th February 2010
ABBOTT DOORSTOP - BORDER PROTECTION AND LABOR'S BUNGLED HOME INSULATION PROGRAMME
Mr Scott Morrison MP
Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship
The Hon Tony Abbott MP
Leader of the Opposition
Mr Michael Keenan MP
Shadow Minister for Justice and Customs
Subjects: The Coalition’s Border Protection Committee; Labor’s bungled home insulation programme; workplace
relations policy; welfare quarantining.
I’m here in Darwin today with my colleagues Scott Morrison, the Shadow Minsiter for Immigration, with Michael
Keenan, the Shadow Minister for Justice and Customs, with Senator Nigel Scullion who is the Shadow Minister
for Indigenous Affairs as well as being the Senator representing the Northern Territory.
We’ve had some very interesting talks and visits with military personnel here in Darwin and most recently we’ve
been talking to Northern Command and we’ve just been, as you know, on HMAS Ararat to talk to the personnel
that’s actually involved in border protection. Now, the situation on our borders is getting worse all the time. The
trickle of unauthorised boat arrivals is rapidly getting more like a flood. We’ve had as many people arrive in the
last six weeks as came in the first six months of last year. It’s bad and it’s getting worse and it’s getting worse
because of the neglect of the Rudd government.
The Rudd government inherited a border security policy that worked. It has systematically dismantled that policy
and we see the result, we see that on current projections it’s quite likely that we’ll have 5,000 unauthorised
arrivals by boat this year. So I’m very pleased that my colleagues Scott Morrison, Michael Keenan, Julie Bishop
and other members of the Shadow Cabinet will forming a Shadow Cabinet subcommittee tasked with finalising
border security policies that really work. We don’t want to get into government, should the people elect us at the
end of the year, and then have to make it up from there. We don’t want to get into government and form
committees, we want to know exactly what we are doing from day one. That’s why I’m pleased to be here with my
Just before I throw to my colleagues I should just say a few words about the latest developments with Mr Garrett.
It seems that every day more and more problems are being revealed about the insulation programme which Mr
Garrett has so badly mismanaged. Not only are there four deaths linked with the programme but Mr Garrett’s
office admitted yesterday that 86 house fires had been linked to the insulation programme and it now seems that
much of the imported insulation is gravely substandard and poses significant health risks.
Now, it’s plain that Mr Garrett should go. Someone has to take responsibility for the very, very serious
maladministration of this programme, but every day Mr Rudd protects this incompetent Minister his own Prime
Ministership is called more into question. It is the fundamental responsibility of a Prime Minister to ensure the
competence of his government and Mr Rudd can’t continue to protect a Minister who has been responsible for
incompetence on such a grand scale. So look, I might ask Scott and then Michael and Nigel just to say a few
words and then we’ll take questions.
Well, thank you. Tony’s right, I mean under this government Labor have lost control of our borders and we have
virtually got a sea highway to Christmas Island that has become a visa factory for people smugglers. If Christmas
Island continues to be overrun their next destination is right here in Darwin. I visited the centre at Berrimah this
morning and that’s where the government is planning to bring the overflow.
In government we had a very clear policy and a very sure policy which was all about offshore processing of those
who have arrived illegally in this country and we’re very committed to that and as a result what you’ll see in terms
of policies that will be brought together through the committee that Michael will be coordinating and together with
other colleagues is a one stop shop.
We will have the solution to ensure that we stop the boats. This is what Kevin Rudd promised he would do, he
promised that he’d have a tough position on people smuggling, but on every opportunity, whether it’s winding
back visa policy or he’s squibbing on the Oceanic Viking, he’s just taken decisions which have made our borders
softer and softer and softer. Thanks.
Well, thank you. As the Leader and Scott were saying, the Rudd government inherited a situation where this
problem had been solved by the resolve that was shown by the previous government. What we have now is a
crisis on our borders and I’ll be very pleased to convene the committee that involves Foreign Affairs, Defence,
Attorney-General, Immigration, Justice and Customs, so we can know from the first day we get into government
the approach that we will take to solve these problems and we will have an approach that shows the resolve that
we actually need to ensure that we did exactly as the previous government did, that we find a way to stop the
boats from coming and making sure also that our borders are protected with all of those other very important
linkages, because people smugglers link back to international criminal networks and we will find a way to make
sure that they go out of business.
Well said. Nigel?
Thank you very much. Territorians and particularly those who live in Darwin need no reminder about the impacts
of the collapse of our borders. Over a decade ago many of you will remember the outbreak of congeria sallei, the
black-striped mussels in Cullen Bay. Over $2 million to get rid of this when it was actually enclosed. The impact
that that would have had if it had got out on our environment and our tourist industry is absolutely unthinkable
and certainly the proximity of many of these vessels to Christmas Island National Park, one of the biggest
projected marine parks it’s about to be announced, I think it has a huge impact on all of us and in every way we
just need to ensure that we send a clear signal that Australia’s borders are simply not open for business.
Thank you. OK, questions?
Mr Abbott, are you concerned that Christmas Island is filling up if not full now, and where do the asylum seekers
be brought next, to Darwin perhaps?
Well, I am concerned that people are going to be brought directly to the mainland and it seems that under Mr
Rudd boatpeople have got a highway to Australia and it’s no wonder that they keep coming when we have a
highway to Australia in operation under this government.
What about when Darwin fills up, what would your view be when you’re in Opposition and you’re watching the
government take people down south, for example?
Well look, what we need is effective border protection policies and effective border protection policies, as the
Howard government showed, have four elements. First, a policy of rigorous offshore processing. Second,
temporary protection visas so that people don’t think that if they can get here they can stay here forever under
the ordinary circumstances of migrants who come the right way. Third, we have to have strong and cooperative
relationships with host and transit countries, and fourth, we have to have a possibility under the right
circumstances of turning boats around.
Now, the Rudd government has progressively weakened border protection policies. First of all it abolished
temporary protection visas, it closed down the processing centres overseas, it announced that all people who
came by boat would be processed quickly, it’s extended avenues of appeal. It’s no wonder that the people
smugglers are back in business because Mr Rudd has given them a product to sell.
And in relation to insulation, yesterday you said Mr Garrett has blood on his hands. Now that kind of rhetoric, is
that really doing a…
I didn’t say that.
You were saying that these people would be alive if it wasn’t for this scheme, is that sort of rhetoric to that effect
doing a disservice to the issue?
What I said was that if Mr Rudd had heeded the warnings and had closed this programme down, fires wouldn’t
have happened, deaths wouldn’t have happened. That’s why Mr Rudd has such a heavy, heavy burden of
responsibility, that’s why this Minister needs to take that responsibility, do the decent thing and resign and if he
won’t resign the Prime Minister should sack him.
You don’t think that kind of rhetoric is too extreme; people wouldn’t die if this government didn’t take these
Well, on 16th October the Master Electricians Association warned Mr Garrett that if the programme did not
continue there would be fatalities and they called for the foil insulation programme to be suspended. Now, the
programme continued and we know the tragic consequences. Mr Garrett’s problem is that he failed to heed the
warnings that he was repeatedly given and it now seems that he didn’t just have 13 warnings, he had 17
warnings. I mean, how many warnings does a Minister need before he finally acts?
And in relation to formaldehyde, how serious a threat do you think this could pose?
Look, it’s certainly a danger to health, no doubt about that, and it’s yet another illustration of the monumental
bungling and incompetence associated with this programme.
In relation to the Rudd government’s policies on workplaces, workplace policy, you said something to the effect
yesterday that we’re going to be all going to church on Sunday because no businesses are going to be open.
What do you mean by that?
Well, because of the return of penalty rates under the Rudd government, because of the much higher costs that
businesses will face if they’re opening after hours and on weekends, I think there’s a very real risk that the
weekend as we have come to know it over the past couple of decades will cease. That’s the point I was making. I
made the further point that it’s good that Mr Rudd goes to church on Sunday but he’s trying to almost encourage
the rest of us to go to church on Sunday because there won’t be anything else to do. Certainly the possibility of
shopping will be greatly limited under this government’s workplace changes.
You don’t think that would be a good thing?
Look, I think that it should be people’s choice. I don’t think it should be something that they have to do because
there’s nothing else available.
Back to the immigration thing, if we can, it’s a common argument that more people are actually coming across on
planes and are just overstaying their visas and that sort of thing. What do you plan to do about them?
And they need to be dealt with appropriately but there’s a world of difference between someone who arrives with
a visa safely on a plane and someone who arrives without a visa at great risk to themselves and others on a
boat, just two totally different circumstances.
Alright, with your committee, when do you think you’ll be forming and how often will you be meeting, that sort of
We will have an enhanced border protection policy in good time before the election because the last thing we
want to be is a government which wins office and then has to make up its mind about what to do. We don’t want
to win an election and then form a committee, we want to go into this election knowing exactly what needs to be
done to ensure that once again Australia’s borders are fully secure.
The Prime Minister’s always criticised for all these sort of “talk fests”. How do we know that this is any different.
Look at our record, look at our record. Our record in government, we found a problem, we created a solution. Mr
Rudd found a solution and he created a problem.
We’re at the second anniversary of the Apology to the Stolen Generations. What do you say to all the people who
are protesting over the fact that the Racial Discrimination Act hasn’t been reinstated yet, given that you don’t
even support that?
Well, I support the intervention, I support policies towards Aboriginal people which are fair and reasonable and
what I’ve said is that the current proposal from the government is one step forward but one step backwards. Yes,
it’s good that the government is proposing a very limited form of automatic welfare quarantining throughout the
Northern Territory but in so doing it’s significantly reducing the quantum of welfare quarantining that will be taking
place in the 73 intervention communities and I very much doubt that the government has had any serious
consultation with the women of Hermannsburg, for instance, or the women of Yuendumu, for instance, who have
been so supportive of the intervention, particularly of the welfare quarantining aspects.
Thanks very much.