Government vows to improve asylum seeker outc


Electronic Media Monitoring Service 


17-12-2010 08:06 AM


ABC Canberra 666

Parl No.


Channel Name

ABC Canberra 666


17-12-2010 08:06 AM



17-12-2010 08:46 AM

Cover date

2010-12-17 08:06:34

Citation Id






BOWEN, Chris, MP

CURTIS, Lyndal


Open Item 

Parent Program URL
Text online


Media Deleted


System Id


Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document

Government vows to improve asylum seeker outc -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

Government vows to improve asylum seeker outcomes

Lyndal Curtis reported this story on Friday, December 17, 2010 08:06:00

TONY EASTLEY: The Federal Government says it's still willing to offer briefings to the Coalition on
the details of the tragedy on Christmas Island despite the Opposition's reluctance to participate.

As we've heard the operation is continuing on the island and the Immigration Minister Chris Bowen
has acknowledged that it's largely about recovering bodies rather than searching for survivors.

Mr Bowen is speaking here to chief political correspondent Lyndal Curtis.

CHRIS BOWEN: We have five people who have been evacuated or in the process of being evacuated to
Perth for more extensive medical treatment. The rest are being treated by doctors on Christmas
Island, either Department of Immigration doctors or doctors at the Christmas Island hospital.

LYNDAL CURTIS: What is now a recovery operation is continuing?

CHRIS BOWEN: Yeah, I think that's the tragic and unfortunately conclusion that we are now no longer
primarily searching for people who survived but we are searching for bodies.

LYNDAL CURTIS: Now, we now know that the boat wasn't being monitored or tracked on its journey but
did you have any information about where the boat left from and any warning that it had left?

CHRIS BOWEN: No. This boat wasn't individually being tracked and our relevant agencies weren't
aware that this individual boat was approaching.

Of course the intelligence agencies do track people smuggling activity in Indonesia and would be
aware of general activity but no information to lead them to view that this particular boat would
be in distress or would be approaching at that particular time.

LYNDAL CURTIS: This tragedy has again focused attention on the policy questions. Is taking the
middle ground, treating people humanely when they get here and are found to be refugees but trying
to stop them coming, not working? Do you have to be harsher at either end of the process?

CHRIS BOWEN: Well I think what we do need to do is stick to our strategy which is to find an
international model to break the people smuggling model. That's what I have been working on. That's
what the Prime Minister has made clear is her priority. And I think that's the only sustainable
policy solution going forward.

I don't think, and I don't mean to be political here but I don't think that making our domestic
regime harsher and more punitive is an effective deterrent. I think that's been shown in the past

But I do think we need an international arrangement to break that people smuggling business model,
to remove incentive to move around Asia and towards Australia. That's what I have been discussing
with our regional neighbours and the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees and that is what
we continue to be focused on.

It does take time but at the end it is the only thing which will work in any sustainable sort of a

LYNDAL CURTIS: You are only recently back in Australia from those talks in Geneva and Malaysia. Are
you making any progress? Has any country signed up to it yet or are is there any country willing to
host the centre?

CHRIS BOWEN: We are certainly making progress. I had some constructive discussions with Antonio
Guterres, the High Commissioner for Refugees and also with some of our colleagues in Asia on the

And obviously those discussions are ongoing but that was if you like the second leg. I've been
twice now to the region. It was my first trip to Geneva to discuss this with the United Nations.

We are making good progress but obviously as I stress and as I say very clearly, it's not something
which occurs overnight.

LYNDAL CURTIS: You say you're making good progress but what does that progress actually involve if
countries haven't signed up to it yet?

CHRIS BOWEN: Well what it involves is discussing with them models which could break the people
smuggling business model, discussing with them what role they may take in that model. And they are
discussions that are ongoing and obviously they are discussions which will continue with those
countries and the United Nations.

LYNDAL CURTIS: You've offered the Opposition and other non-government MPs briefings through a new
mechanism. But your Opposition says it wants the briefings but not the mechanism because it says
it's up to the Government to manage the issues. Did you make what you were offering clear to the

CHRIS BOWEN: Oh look I had a good discussion with my shadow minister. I had several discussions
yesterday with my shadow minister Scott Morrison.

And let's be clear, nobody is suggesting any sort of mechanism to involve management of the
agencies involved. That's clearly the Government's responsibility. But what was offered was a
mechanism for briefing.

Now the Opposition have said that they would like their briefings independently of the Government,
that they would like us to facilitate briefings direct from the agency. That's fine. I'm not
critical of them for that. And of course that offer will also be made available to the Greens and
the independents.

But it's a matter for the independents and the Greens and the Liberal Party and the National Party
as to how they get their briefings.

But what we are very clear about is we don't want a debate over the facts. People can debate an
interpretation of the facts but we want the facts to be very clear, well established and

LYNDAL CURTIS: But the Prime Minister did say yesterday the mechanism will draw properly informed
conclusions about the operational processes at work and whether in operational terms, anything
would be done differently should the same circumstances occur again. That's making policy, isn't

CHRIS BOWEN: No, the policy would be made by the Government. But what she was doing was providing
an opportunity for every political player involved to have access to the full information as they
draw their own conclusions. And that's what the Prime Minister was proposing yesterday.

LYNDAL CURTIS: And so you don't have any problem at all with the Opposition deciding to take its
briefing separately outside this new mechanism?

CHRIS BOWEN: Oh look I am not being critical of the Opposition in these circumstances. Everybody
has got to make their own decisions. They've said they want their briefings independently and we'd
facilitate that.

TONY EASTLEY: The Immigration Minister Chris Bowen speaking to Lyndal Curtis.