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Transcript of doorstop interview: Parliament House, Canberra: 13 June 2006: Senate Inquiry into proposed changes to Australia"s immigration law, Migration Amendment (Designated Unauthorised Arrivals) Bill 2006.

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TONY BURKE MP Member for Watson Shadow Minister for Immigration


E&OE-PROOF ONLY _______________________________________________________________

Subject: Senate Inquiry into proposed changes to Australia’s immigration law, Migration Amendment (Designated Unauthorised Arrivals) Bill 2006.

Tony Burke: What I want to talk about this evening is the Senate Inquiry that has just been released into John Howard’s Bill to excise the whole of Australia from its own migration zone.

I don’t know when the last time this happened was but we have a Government report unanimously recommending that Government legislation not be proceeded with. That is supported by the opposition and cross bench members of that committee.

What this report shows is what Australians had already recognised and that is you cannot fix this piece of legislation. There are no amendments that can be moved that will affect the law of Nauru. There are no amendments that can be moved that will affect the law of Papua New Guinea when people are dumped on Manus Island. This legislation is about pretending Australia has no border and dumping people in other countries. There is no way of amending Australian law to prevent that from being anything other than offensive, anything other from throwing away every single human rights obligation that Australians consider as part of a concept of a fair go. We already knew John Howard was willing to listen to Indonesian politicians. We now get to find out whether he is willing to listen to Australian politicians. Without exception, the Australian politicians who have been looking closely at the evidence have said there is one way to fix this piece of legislation and that is to vote no. Labor will be voting no at every stage. We will not be moving any amendments for one simple reason: this legislation is irredeemable.

Journalist: So you’ll vote no to every amendment as well, even if it is likely to be the best outcome you can get?

Tony Burke: If someone else moves an amendment and it ameliorates the legislation we’d vote for that on its merit, but no matter what form the legislation looks like at the end, it will involve dumping people in other countries and pretending that Australia has

no borders. There are no amendments that will cause us to end up supporting the Bill. We will be voting against the Bill at every stage.

Journalist: Tony how do you feel about the motivation for this amendment with regard to Indonesia?

Tony Burke: There was no demand for this amendment from Australia. The only demand was coming from Jakarta. Australians were not scared of an invasion by 43 Papuans in a canoe. There was no issue of border protection and if there was an issue of

border protection you don’t solve it by pretending you have no border at all and that’s exactly what this legislation does.

Journalist: Kowtowing to the Indonesians?

Tony Burke: That’s precisely right. This legislation is wrong in substance but its motivation is unforgivable. The motivation for this legislation is John Howard standing up and saying to Jakarta ‘Indonesia will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come’.

Journalist: The timing of this report isn’t terribly good in terms of the Government’s efforts to patch up relations with Indonesia.

Tony Burke: What the Government should have done is they should have treated Indonesia the way Indonesia treats Australia. When we haven’t been happy with the way their criminal law affects Australian citizens, they’ve said well they might be your citizens, but they are in our country and it’s our law. Well, the Papuans are citizens of Indonesia but they came to our country and our law will apply. You don’t try to throw your Immigration Act in the air and tear it to pieces when it lands as a way of solving diplomatic problems. You solve diplomatic problems by getting your diplomats to do their job and simply explain that we have an independent immigration process that operates, or it’s meant to operate, according to the rule of law. In the case of the 42 Papuans who were given protection visas that’s precisely what happened and the Government instead of just explaining that to Indonesia, went down a path of appeasement instead.

Journalist: Would you agree this could cause more problems with our relationship with Jakarta?

Tony Burke: We will continue to get problems until the Government has the courage to explain to Indonesia that we are a country with our own legal system. Even under this proposal we will end up with what happened last time with the Pacific Solution and that is that people will languish for years and years and years, have their lives wrecked, have a series of mental health problems, have millions of Australian dollars thrown to keep them there-about six million a month- and at the end of it they will end up living on the Australian mainland anyway because every other country in the world says “hang on it’s your responsibility”. At that point Indonesia will be angry again. At some point you

have to have the courage to say this is our country, this is our law. We shouldn’t be spending the next two weeks of parliament appeasing Indonesia by changing immigration law to suit them.

Journalist: It seems regardless of the outcome of this report John Howard is determined to proceed with this amendment.

Tony Burke: John Howard is determined to proceed and he is dealing with the same parliament that 12 months ago had every Member of Parliament saying there should be no children in detention, there should be no indefinite detention, there should be case-managed mental health care and there should be oversight by the Commonwealth Ombudsman. Every single one of those changes is thrown out the window if you dump people in Nauru. Those same Members of Parliament all get a vote and if they’ve had a change of principle in 12 months, they can stand up and explain why it’s fundamentally wrong to lock children up in Australia but okay to incarcerate them in Nauru.

Journalist: With this report what should John Howard do?

Tony Burke: John Howard should say he first came up with the Bill because he listened to the politicians in Indonesia, he should now throw the Bill out because he should listen to the politicians and the people of Australia.

Journalist: If he doesn’t, the Government members of the committee do they have any real choice but to vote against it in your view?

Tony Burke: Every member of the Australian Parliament has an obligation to vote with the same principles they showed 12 months ago. It’s not just the members of the committee, every member of the Australian Parliament 12 months ago decided to stand for something, to try to change and bring some decency into our immigration system. Anybody who votes for this Bill is undermining everything that happened a year ago.


Media contact: Maria Iannotti 0408 274 696