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Transcript of interview with Ashleigh Gillon: PM Agenda: 16 July 2012: Labor/s Border Protection Crisis



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Michael Keenan MP - Federal Member for Stirling PM Agenda Interview with Ashleigh Gillon July 16, 2012

Topics: Labor’s Border Protection Crisis

Ashleigh Gillon

Joining me now for more is the Shadow Minister for Justice, Customs and Border Protection Michael Keenan. Good afternoon to you.

Michael Keenan

Good to be with you Ashleigh.

Ashleigh Gillon

If the Refugee Convention is no longer relevant why is the Coalition using that as a reason why the Government shouldn’t send the asylum seekers to Malaysia?

Michael Keenan

We haven’t said it is no longer relevant. It actually still provides very important protections for people who are seeking asylum from persecution from their own government. The point that was made by Scott is that it was framed in the aftermath of WWII when we were dealing with those enormous populations of refugees. Clearly the refugee problem has changed significantly since then so it makes sense that we do look at the Refugee Convention and see if it can’t be updated for modern circumstances, which are very different to the circumstances in which it was framed.

Ashleigh Gillon

What in particular would you like to see included in that Refugee Convention to make it reflect practical reality, which Scott Morrison said it doesn’t at the moment?

Michael Keenan

In the past if someone was seeking asylum from persecution from their own government then the most likely scenario was that they would just move into a neighbouring country. Now we are seeing people come half way around the world specifically because they would like to get to Australia. When the Refugee Convention was framed in the aftermath of WWII it did not envisage those sorts of circumstances so that is why we have been calling for some time, this is not actually new, we have been saying this for many years, that the Refugee Convention needs to be modernised to reflect the current situation and the current circumstances that refugees find themselves in.

Ashleigh Gillon

So again, if this convention is so flawed why have you been repeatedly holding it up as the gold standard when it comes to the needs and rights of refugees?

Michael Keenan

I am not saying that it is so flawed that it isn’t relevant. It provides very important protections for people who are seeking protection from persecution within their own government. It is a very important convention, it doesn’t mean that it is perfect and it doesn’t mean that we couldn’t modernize it to better reflect the situation that is occurring in the world at the moment.

Ashleigh Gillon

A lot of people are saying that your policy isn’t exactly perfect either, especially when it comes to the turning around the boats angle of the policy which of course has just one part of the policy along with introducing Temporary Protection Visas and sending asylum seekers to Nauru. We have heard from the Indonesian they don’t like it, we have heard from senior navy personnel they don’t like it. Will the Coalition consider dumping that part of your policy?

Michael Keenan

We won’t be dumping it. It is a very important plank of our policies that have actually worked to stop people smuggling. I note over the weekend that the Sri Lankan Navy turned some asylum seeker boats back to Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankan High Commissioner today, has been endorsing that as a very important plank to deter people from taking what is a very dangerous journey. So we won’t be dropping that policy. It is a policy that we have actually used in the past very effectively to stop people smuggling and it is a very important plank in our policies moving forward to stop people

smuggling again.

Ashleigh Gillon

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Just to clarify though, as we keep hearing from the Navy they don’t think this is safe. So Tony Abbott has been said that boats would only be turned around if it was deemed safe to do so. Can I just clarify that that is a call to be made by the Navy on the scene?

Michael Keenan

That’s right and of course we would never envisage doing anything that would endanger the lives of people who are seeking asylum.

Ashleigh Gillon

But that Navy is saying that’s exactly what this policy is doing?

Michael Keenan

The Navy have effectively done it before so clearly they have the professional capability to do it. Other navies around the world also manage to do it. The Australian Navy has formerly been able to do it very well and return those boats back to Indonesia, which they did safely. They do have the capability to do that again. What I will say of course is the most unsafe thing that is happening for people seeking asylum at the moment is the fact that we have given a green light to the people

smugglers to bring down over 20,000 people in 353 leaky boats. That is the most dangerous thing that is happening at the moment and hundreds of people have died under this open borders policy. We do need to do something different and turning the boats back around will be an important plank in stopping that.

Ashleigh Gillon

The cross-party committee is meeting tomorrow to discuss and debate asylum seeker policy. They are trying to come up with a way that we can try and get over this deadlock that we saw in Parliament when it was last sitting. Why not have a Coalition representative at least at the table?

Michael Keenan

Because we have our policy we don’t need a committee.

Ashleigh Gillon

That’s not compromising at all is it?

Michael Keenan

We are really not seeking to compromise and I don’t believe that the Australian people are clambering for a compromise. What people would like to see is a solution. We don’t need yet another failed policy; we have had so many failed policies since the Labor Party came to office. It is now time for a solution.

Ashleigh Gillon

So it is your way or the high way? There is no room for compromise here?

Michael Keenan

The reason we are facing this problem is because when the Government changed, the Labor Party changed what were effective border protection policies. Surely the most effective starting point would be to return to when those policies were changed. They were changed in August 2008 and in September 2008, just one month later, the people smugglers went back into business. Surely it would make sense to return to a time when we had an effective border protection system that actually stopped people smuggling.

Ashleigh Gillon

The bottom line is that you are not in government at the moment. Even if you do win government at the next election that is 12-18 months away. In the meantime isn’t there some sort of compromise that you could help the Government come up with, which would stop people getting on boats in the meantime?

Michael Keenan

We are seeking a solution. We are not seeking another failed policy. We know what that solution is and if the Government is not going to return to it then I don’t really see why the Opposition should be involved in legitimising yet another failed effort from this Labor Government. We know what we need to do, we should stop farthing about having committees all this nonsense discussion that is going on, when all this is is a smokescreen stopping us from returning to an effective border protection regime.

Ashleigh Gillon

Just finally why don’t we know what the Coalition’s industrial relations policy is that you will be taking to the next election?

Michael Keenan

It would be very unusual for an Opposition to release it’s comprehensive policy this far from an election.

Ashleigh Gillon

Not when it is such a controversial issue and a lot of people argue that Workchoices was one of the main reasons you lost the 2007 election along with a number of others that we don’t have time to go into now. When it is such a controversial

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issue why not take the air out of Labor’s attack on the Coalition which is that you are planning to bring back Workchoices by simply letting everyone know what you are planning to do?

Michael Keenan

Because we are still developing our policy and we are developing it in conjunction with some of the reviews the Government is actually doing into its own Fairwork Act. The idea that the Opposition would be releasing a comprehensive policy this far from an election is nonsense. You are exactly right in 2007 it was one of the most controversial policies. The Labor Party only released their policy about 3 and half months prior to that election. It is complete nonsense and the whole issue of industrial relations is just Julia Gillard as a Prime Minister is a drowning person desperate to find some sort of life raft but to revisit those battles that were fought five years ago I think is just an indicator about how desperate she is for a distraction.

Ashleigh Gillon

We all know that Workchoices is politically poison but are there any aspects of those laws that WA businesses are telling you they would like to be reintroduced?

Michael Keenan

Workchoices is a debate that was concluded five years ago so I don’t think there is any point in us revisiting those policies.

Ashleigh Gillon

So there are no aspects of Workchoices that you think the Coalition should bring back?

Michael Keenan

What we want is a common sense practical policy. It is not going to be an ideological policy. It is going to be one that is based on the problems that people are bringing to us about how the Fairwork Act is operating and I don’t think anyone who has had a passing interest in the way that Fairwork Act is actually operating and the way it is effecting businesses and the way it is effecting workers would say that it is a perfect policy that cant be tweaked to make it work better.

Ashleigh Gillon

How would you like it to be tweaked to make it work better?

Michael Keenan

Our policy is being developed and it is not up to me to announce it here.

Ashleigh Gillon

Sure but you are a senior figure in the Coalition and in WA, the engine room of the country’s economy; you must be hearing some common problems that you can share with our viewers?

Michael Keenan

I am hearing a lot of concerns. You can see it just in the statistics; strike action is almost double what it was several years ago. Clearly the Fairwork Act has problem but the Government even knows that the Fairwork Act has problems. Their own Minister has been highlighting some of those in terms of Greenfield agreements for example. We can do better but we are not going to be approaching it in some ideological way we are going to be approaching it in a common sense way and we are going to fix the problems that people keep coming to us and say are occurring.

Ashleigh Gillon

Right but you can’t nominate a particular area where you think there needs to be a change?

Michael Keenan

No. Our policy will be released closer to the election and I am not in a position to announce it here but it will be a sensible policy, it will address the issues that have been raised with us and we will try to make a system that works better for employers, it works better for workers and the Fairwork Act I think by mutual acclamation from both sides of that debate is not perfect and I think we can make it work better by having a look at those practical solutions.

Ashleigh Gillon

Michael Keenan we do appreciate your time. Thank you for joining us.

Michael Keenan

Very happy to talk to you Ashleigh.

Ends……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

© Authorised by Michael Keenan MP, 203 Wanneroo Road, Tuart Hill WA 6060

www.keenan.net.au

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