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Transcript of doorstop interview: Perth: 12 April 2010: border protection; skilled migration; Western Australia's mining projects.

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The Hon Julie Bishop MP

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs

Deputy Leader of the Opposition

Doorstop interview, Perth

Monday, 12 April 2010

Subjects: Border protection; skilled migration; Western Australia’s mining projects


JULIE BISHOP The Rudd Government is still in denial about the failure of its border protection policies. Until the Rudd Government admits that the changes it made to the laws in August 2008 have caused the resurgence in the people smuggling trade the boats will continue to come.

The Rudd Government is also continuing to misrepresent the United Nations High Commission for Refugees on its usual processes about reviewing the situation in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. In fact the Rudd Government is misrepresenting UNHCR by suggesting that it supports the Government’s so-called solution to suspend the processing of asylum seekers from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, because that is not the case.

Now this is just a political fix designed to get Mr Rudd through and past the next election. It is not a solution to the problem of the resurgence of the people smuggling trade and the fact that asylum seekers will continue to come by boats across the very dangerous seas.

Now Mr Rudd must admit that the changes he made to the laws have lead to the resurgence in the people smuggling trade and this solution of trying to suspend the processing of asylum seekers from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka is not a solution at all it is merely a political fix for getting through to the next election.

JOURNALIST Will the Coalition go to the next election with a policy of turning refugee boats back at sea?

JULIE BISHOP Well that was Mr Rudd’s policy before the last election. He talked tough and he promised the Australian people that he would turn back the asylum seeker boats. Well his policy failed.

What the Coalition will do is ensure that we work closely with nations in the region and that includes Sri Lanka. And I do question what discussions the Rudd Government has been having with Sri Lanka since the end of the civil war over there in relation to asylum seekers. We will work closely with the region, we will bring back a temporary form of visa to ensure that people smugglers cannot promise permanent residency as they have been under the Rudd Government’s failed border protection policies and we will, where appropriate and where possible, turn back the boats.

JOURNALIST Will that put lives at risk at sea?

JULIE BISHOP No. Only in circumstances where it is appropriate and possible, but there must always be the threat of turning back the boats if asylum seekers come to Australia in the numbers that they have been under the Rudd Government’s failed border protection policy. But as Tony Abbott…

JOURNALIST So what circumstance would those people smugglers be aware in which your policy wouldn’t turn back asylum seekers?

JULIE BISHOP Well obviously the people smugglers are following the Government’s changes very closely. There have been admissions today that they watch it over the internet. They were very well aware in August 2008 that Kevin Rudd weakened the border protection policies that the Howard Government had in place and as a direct consequence of the Rudd Government weakening those laws the people smuggling trade came back into business and has flourished with over 100 boats now arriving for Australia, around 5,000 asylum seekers on our shores as a result of the weakening of the Rudd Governments laws.

JOURNALIST Troy Buswell said in his speech today and afterwards that he’s sick of the xenophobic fears about migrants and immigration, are you xenophobic?

JULIE BISHOP Not at all. I spoke today, if you listened to my speech, I spoke today about the need for skills migration into Western Australia and the need for an increase in skilled migrants particularly in the north and the north west.

But in the context of the population debate we must be very careful not to assume that all population pressures are the same across the country. Here in Western Australia the population is centred on Perth and the south west region but we have important and significant mining and resource projects in the north west of the state. I am calling for a greater increase in the permanent population in the north of Western Australia, along our coastline. And if we do that we’ll need significant infrastructure in the north and the north west to support these projects, we’ll also need to refocus our defence and security arrangements to protect an increasing population and these nationally significant projects.

JOURNALIST [inaudible] need more immigrants, do you care where they come from?

JULIE BISHOP We need them from interstate, as we have seen from previous booms, and we need them from overseas…

JOURNALIST Whereabouts from overseas?

JULIE BISHOP Well I’m a supporter of the 457 visa, and I think we should continue to ensure that Australia has a generous humanitarian process underway, which we do, but also we need skilled migration. But that is not the case in every part of Australia. There are incredible population pressures in Sydney, in Melbourne and particularly the south east corner of Brisbane. But Western Australia needs more people and we need to secure a permanent population base in the north of the state.

JOURNALIST But you’d rather get people from the east over here.

JULIE BISHOP No I’m saying - that’s not what I said - I said we need to increase the population in the north of the state. We need skilled migrants whether they come from the east, whether they come from overseas, as has always been the case with Western Australia’s mining and resources industry.

JOURNALIST Mr Buswell also made the point though that he’s concerned the debate might be hijacked by Federal MPs from other states - they could be both sides, your side and the Labor side - to the detriment of Western Australia. Can you avoid that?

JULIE BISHOP Well you’ll have to ask Troy Buswell what he meant by that.

JOURNALIST It’s quite clear what he meant.

JULIE BISHOP Well he didn’t say which side of politics.

JOURNALIST He said both sides.

JULIE BISHOP Sorry I wasn’t at his press conference. My point is this, and this is the point I made today in my speech to the Chartered Accountants Forum, Western Australia has the potential to be the energy capital of our region. Some are calling us the Middle East of Energy in the 21st century. In order to do that we need to be able to expand the potential from not only our iron ore in terms of steel production overseas but also our coal, uranium and natural gas.

Now for these projects to develop we need people and we’ll need people from the east, if there are areas of unemployment on the east coast we should consider focussing on seeing if they can move west, we should be looking to take people from the east coast as well as overseas to support those developments.

And the point I’m making is Western Australia needs a permanent population in the north. With over 70 percent of the population centred in the south west of Western Australia there is ample opportunity for us to have more people in the north and support the major resource and mining developments that are going on up there.