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Transcript of doorstop interview: 13 February 2010: border protection and Labor's bungled home insulation programme.



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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

Joint Doorstop.

Subjects: The Coalition’s Border Protection Committee; Labor’s bungled home insulation programme; workplace

relations policy; welfare quarantining.

E&OE

TONY ABBOTT:

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

colleagues today.

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.

SCOTT MORRISON:

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.

TONY ABBOTT:

Michael.

MICHAEL KEENAN:

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.

TONY ABBOTT:

Well said. Nigel?

NIGEL SCULLION:

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.

TONY ABBOTT:

Thank you. OK, questions?

QUESTION:

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?

TONY ABBOTT:

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.

QUESTION:

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?

TONY ABBOTT:

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.

QUESTION:

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…

TONY ABBOTT:

I didn’t say that.

QUESTION:

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?

TONY ABBOTT:

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.

QUESTION:

You don’t think that kind of rhetoric is too extreme; people wouldn’t die if this government didn’t take these

policies?

TONY ABBOTT:

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?

QUESTION:

And in relation to formaldehyde, how serious a threat do you think this could pose?

TONY ABBOTT:

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.

QUESTION:

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?

TONY ABBOTT:

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.

QUESTION:

You don’t think that would be a good thing?

TONY ABBOTT:

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.

QUESTION:

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?

TONY ABBOTT:

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.

QUESTION:

Alright, with your committee, when do you think you’ll be forming and how often will you be meeting, that sort of

thing?

TONY ABBOTT:

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.

QUESTION:

The Prime Minister’s always criticised for all these sort of “talk fests”. How do we know that this is any different.

TONY ABBOTT:

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.

QUESTION:

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?

TONY ABBOTT:

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.