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Transcript of joint doorstop interview: Inverbrackie, Adelaide: 3 November 2010: visit to Inverbackie; interest rates

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3 November 2010



Subjects: Visit to Inverbrackie; interest rates.



It’s good to be here with my federal colleagues Scott Morrison, the Shadow Minister for Immigration, and also with Jamie Briggs, the local member, but also with Isobel Redmond, the Leader of the Opposition here in South Australia. I think Jamie has done a terrific job articulating the concerns of local people about the proposed detention centre here at Inverbrackie.

Now, I’m going to ask each of my colleagues to speak in turn, but I just want to say that this is obviously quite an idyllic part of Australia and bringing asylum seekers to a place like this is hardly sending the right message to the tens of thousands of potential boat people in our region. I think bringing asylum seekers to an area like this is basically saying to the people smugglers and their customers that the welcome mat is out, that the red carpet treatment is available and it’s the last thing that the Government should be doing.

Now, the basic problem here is that the Government has lost control of our borders and it can’t stop the boats and building a detention centre here is not going to contribute to stopping the boats, if anything it is going to add to the pull factors which have been in place ever since the Rudd-Gillard Government changed the rules back in August of 2008.

So, I’m here today to listen to local people but just as I look at this facility here, it’s hard to see that bringing asylum seeker families to a beautiful idyllic area like this is going to send anything other than the dead wrong message to the people smugglers and their potential customers. So Scott, do you want to say a few words?


Thank you. Well, it’s good to have the opportunity to come here today and to be joined by Tony Abbott and Isobel Redmond and of course Jamie Briggs. What we’re doing here today is providing the consultation directly to the community of Woodside that the Minister has so far still refused to do. We had the sanitised


and forced form of discussions that occurred earlier this week but still the Minister would not come to Woodside.

Now, I understand he toured through this facility but never had the gumption to go and face the people of Woodside in an open meeting. That’s what we’ll be doing today. We’ll be listening very carefully to the concerns and questions, legitimate questions which the Government has described as hysteria. I think that’s a very insulting way to treat legitimate concerns which range from everything from bushfire risks to simply how this is going to impact on how the local schools are run. It’s not just a question of how much money Chris Bowen is going to shell out to state governments to keep them quiet about this, it’s a question about how it’s going to work on the ground and the reason this is occurring, as Tony has said, is because this Government has a rolling detention crisis. The reason there is a need for 400 more beds here at Inverbrackie or another 1,500 at Northam or another 600-odd up in Curtin, the reason for all of that is because the boats keep coming. We have had a record number of boats already arrive this year and decisions such as this will ensure that there are more.


Well, thanks Tony, Scott and Isobel and for you all being here on this beautiful warm Adelaide Hills day. Look, it is a great pleasure to have Tony and Scott here. I think this is a great contrast from the Labor Party’s style of managing our country. You’ve got Tony Abbott the Leader of the Opposition, our Shadow Immigration Minister Scott Morrison going to a forum which is for the community, for the community to have their say about what they think of this decision, something that Julia Gillard, who was here 24 hours before her announcement of this detention facility wasn’t willing to do, something that Chris Bowen who strolled into town, went 20km away from the actually site on Monday and had a hand-picked meeting wasn’t willing to do.

There are concerns, there are concerns about bush fire risk a month before the bushfire season starts. Chris Bowen said on Monday he’s got no plan to deal with a catastrophic day. There are still concerns about the impact on the schools, the impact on health services; there are legitimate questions which people in the community have which not been answered and so Tony, Scott and I will listen to their concerns today and we’ll take them back to parliament.


Thank you. Well, can I first of all welcome Scott and Tony to the beautiful Adelaide Hills as warm as it is, and thank them for taking the time to come to visit this area. As they’ve already indicated, this is a wonderful part of the world and my concern is simply that at a state level the government has not taken the steps that it should have taken to ensure that the community’s concerns are addressed, that there are, as the others have already mentioned, a number of issues, particularly in relation to schooling and how our local small schools will cope with a sudden influx of a number of children who obviously will not have English as a first language, that will certainly have an impact - we need to address those issues.

The risk of bushfire in this area, particularly after a wet winter is another major issue, for this area for the settlement of people who are not even familiar with the risks of bushfire. We have enough trouble here with people who’ve moved into the area who are permanent residents who don’t understand the risks. This is a major concern and we do need to address it.

I think the presence of Tony and Scott here today indicates that on the Liberal side of politics we have a good relationship, we expect to be able to discuss these things with the community and with each other at state and federal level and the failure of our state leaders in this state to discuss with our federal Government I think is an indictment on them.



Thanks Isobel. Ok, alright, are there any questions that people have?


Tony, isn’t it true that the Opposition is powerless to actually stop this detention facility going ahead?


Well, I don’t believe that the people of Australia are powerless. I think that people power does sometimes get a response in Canberra and I think it is so obvious that this is the wrong place to be building a detention centre that if people make their voices heard, maybe even a Government as tone deaf, even a Prime Minister with as tin an ear as this one will listen.


[inaudible] more compassionate version though then previous Coalition government centres such as Baxter and Woomera?


Well, the point I should make is that the Howard Government did get families out of detention. There were virtually no children in detention by the time the Howard Government left office because, amongst other things, we actually stopped the boats.

Now, if you want to avoid detaining women and children the best way to do it is to stop the boats. But the point I make about this is that there are many, many Australian families who would be perfectly happy to live in this kind of accommodation and what sort of a signal are we sending to the people smugglers to bring asylum seekers to a place like this and effectively settle them in the community. Basically it’s saying to the people smugglers, it’s saying to their customers, if you can get here you can stay here and you can have a great life. Now, that’s hardly the message we want to send to people who are contemplating coming to Australia illegally.


But these houses are empty at the moment and there aren’t other needy Australian families living in them, so why not make them available for refugees?


Well, I suspect if the Federal Government were to announce that these houses were available, put proposals to us, they would be knocked over in the rush. But what’s happened here is that the Government has said no, this former military accommodation is going to be used to house asylum seeker families. Now, they’ve done that without consultation in a very arrogant and even cowardly way, announcing a decision and not fronting local people to explain it and defend it. But, as I said, I’m sure that if the Federal Government was to say the accommodation here at the Woodside base is available, what do you think we should do with it? There’d be any number of proposals.


Do you feel your visit today and meeting with local people may fuel racism that may not have been here in the past?



I completely reject any suggestion that people don’t have a right to ask legitimate questions about what happens to their community if there is a big influx of people. This idea that the people of this area are somehow rednecks to question what is an arrogant and cowardly Government decision is just wrong.


Two more boats arrived last night, do you directly link their arrival with these announcements about the new detention centres?


Well, it’s very interesting that there have been 28 boats and more than 1,400 people come since the election. So, scarcely two months after the election, scarcely two months after an outcome we’ve had this further surge in boats and arrivals. Now, I think that there is no doubt that a Government which has lost control of its borders is a standing incitement to the people smugglers to keep sending the boats and that’s why what we need to do is reduce the pull factors, introduce temporary protection visas, make sure that we have rigorous offshore processing, don’t send what would effectively be a picture postcard to the people smugglers ‘come to Inverbrackie’.


Do you think it would have been more appropriate then for the Government to consider reopening Baxter than Invernbrackie?


Look, I’m here today to listen to the people of Invernbrackie. I know what the Government should do. I think the Australian people know what the Government should do; it should stop the boats and having a detention centre here in the idyllic Adelaide Hills is hardly the way to stop the boats.


Can I just add something to that last question, last week with the support of Tony and Jamie we moved a motion in the parliament and we moved the motion in the parliament that the Joint Standing Committee on Migration should undertake the consultation that the Government refused to undertake.

Now, the Government rejected that motion out of hand and used their numbers with the support of a few others. One of the things that was in the terms of reference of that inquiry was to look at what were all the other alternatives that were available to the Government instead of using this site. Now, that remains a very valid question. The department has been running around now for months looking at any number of sites all around the country, yet this site was chosen and I think it’s a very fair question that the locals have is why this site, why not other sites?


Where would you put them?


Well, our policy before the last election was to reopen the tax payer funded facility in Nauru and that would have included family appropriate accommodation. I’ve been to Nauru, I know it can be done. That was our choice, that was our process. This Government’s choice - they said before the election they wouldn’t be


expanding the onshore detention network, since then they’ve opened another 3,000 beds. So we’ve always been upfront with the Australian people about what our policies are, this Government changes them by the day.


Well Mr Abbott would you support a detention centre in the outback; is that a better option?


Look, the point I’m trying to make is that you do not send idyllic picture postcards from Australia to the people smugglers and their customers and you know this is effectively a postcard from Australia saying come on over, that’s what it is and I just think that that’s the last thing that we should be doing.


[inaudible] rate rise, obviously the big banks are under some pressure over their decision to raise interest rates above the RBA level, you’ve spoken about your mortgage, who do you bank with and would you consider shifting your loan?


Look, it’s not my mortgage which is the issue, what’s the issue here is lack of competition in the sector and the Coalition has put forward a plan to get more competition in the sector. Last week the Government pilloried the plan, this week a very embarrassed Government is starting to look at it. Well, they should not have got us into this position in the first place but I think that Joe Hockey and the Coalition can feel vindicated by the Government’s shuffling belatedly and embarrassedly towards our position today.

Thanks very much.