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Transcript of interview with David Koch and Sam Armytage: Sunrise: 2 September 2019: the Biloela family

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SUBJECT: The Biloela Family

DAVID KOCH: Let’s bring in Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce and ALP’s Joel Fitzgibbon for more on this right now. Good morning to you both - Barnaby, is this a simple case of showing compassion towards a family who’ve done all they can to show their commitment to Australia?

BARNABY JOYCE: I think it’s a special case no doubt about it Kochie. I mean, when you think about it, the kids, Kopika and Tharunicaa, they’re born in Australia - their Australians as far as the community is concerned. Nev Ferrier, the Mayor of Banana Shire, which includes Biloela, has also endorsed support of the community for them. I know that Minister Dutton is in such a vexed position because they’re both coming in from Sri Lanka - the decision that has been made that the parents were not qualified as asylum seekers, but that’s the parents not the children, and time has moved on and there’s, you know - policeman; constabulary right; ministerial discretion - at times I think this should be exercised to, basically, bring a situation to a conclusion. These children were born in Australia, they are not their parents, and I think we have to consider this in a different light.

SAM ARMYTAGE: But this is tricky even though the kids were born here, they’re not citizens technically, and I guess this all revolves around legal wording Joel. This case has already gone all the way to the High Court; should their family and supporters just accept the previous Court ruling.

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Good morning everyone. I think the front page of the Australian newspaper today says it all, that big story about a boat heading our way is design to do one thing and that is pursue the Government’s political agenda. My appeal to Peter Dutton is, and Barnaby and I are obviously on a unity ticket here, is to make a decision made on common sense, based on our humanitarian obligations, and based on the law gives which gives him the discretion, rather than the decision based on what is very clearly a political positioning on his part. The Government thinks that despite all the protests that the majority of people, or indeed at least their base, loves Peter Dutton talking tough on boat people and that is exactly what this is all about. Remember when on water matters were a secret; the Government couldn’t talk about them? Well when it’s convenient, you get front page photographs like the one we saw this morning.

KOCH: Yeah it is a bit suspicious. But Barnaby, Peter Dutton would say: ok if I do this, then couples can then come on a boat, have children here, and then get to stay. Sort of - he is between a rock and a hard place - I understand the compassion issue and have a lot of sympathy for it, but he’s saying it will start a flood.

ARMYTAGE: These two parents didn’t come together, they met each other here. They didn’t leave Sri Lanka together as a couple. Barnaby?

JOYCE: Seems there’s a debate between Sam and Kochie on this as well, which is great. The issue is quite clearly that if I’m driving home and I’m going at 150 or 140 km/hr to get a child to the hospital, the policeman has a constabulary right and can say: Look, you should slow down, you are against the law. We are not going to change the law for you, but because other circumstances completely beyond what we would generally accept, we will let you off this time - don’t do it again. I think it’s a case in this instance that this couple met in Australia; the children were born in Australia; the community accepts them in Australia; they are doing jobs that other people want to do; they are living in a regional town; they’re not blocking up your traffic in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane; they haven’t just gone and lived down in one of the suburbs and not really made an effort to become part of the community; they support the community; they’re part of community programs and community work in Biloela. I think these are other issues we should take into consideration. I hate, at times, going at odds with Peter Dutton, who is a great Minister, but I think this one is a special circumstance and I got to look after the regional people who are backing these people as well.

ARMYTAGE: Well you are right they do seem to be contributing wonderfully to the Biloela community, and Barnaby, Kochie and I often do disagree on things - that’s all part of the service. Joel what do you think, will we see, I mean if Peter Dutton relents on this, will more boats come?

FITZGIBBON: No of course not. The discretion is a discretion, it doesn’t establish a legal precedent. Yeah, it might put Peter Dutton under some more pressure somewhere down the track, if a similar case, or cases, emerge. But that’s why he is paid the big bucks to make hard but sensible decisions, and it is clear the right decision here based on common sense is to allow this family to stay.

ARMYTAGE: We shall see over the next few days and weeks what happens here. We have to leave it there gentlemen, but thank you for your time today.