Doorstop Interview, Parliament House, Canberra

 

Thanks very much everyone. Look, Bill Shorten has got to show some leadership today. This problem for the Labor Party continues to compound day by day. We now have the eighteenth and nineteenth member of the Labor Party, this includes both candidates and sitting members of the Labor Party, who are in open defiance of their leader in relation to the boat turnback and border security policies.

Bill Shorten is out there with a weak set of words himself saying that there’s an option for turnbacks, and it was only through a dodgy deal stitched up with the CFMEU that Mr Shorten was able to hold the position at the conference last year.

Now Mr Shorten wanted to go into this election campaign making Australians believe that the Labor Party was going to be a carbon copy of the Liberal Party when it came to stopping the boats and restoring integrity to border protection in this country, but what has unravelled in the last few days is bigger than any of us estimated.

Eighteen, nineteen, even more, I suspect, over the coming days, will be identified as those who are adamantly opposed to Mr Shorten’s position on boats.

Now this was a key election, a key election issue in 2013, many people voted on this very issue because the Labor Government, under Mr Rudd, had lost control of our borders.

Mr Shorten is promising that he would continue the success presided over by this Government in stopping the deaths at sea, in getting the kids out of detention and stopping the boats.

Mr Shorten now is standing for something very different and this is a true test of Mr Shorten’s leadership.

We are only a few days into this campaign and it’s hard to see how the Labor Party can hold this position all the way to Election Day, and it is completely without credibility that Mr Shorten could suggest that they would hold the position into government. This is a real significant test for Mr Shorten and he needs to answer this today.

JOURNALIST:

Cathy O’Toole stood up next to Bill Shorten yesterday and said she fully supported the Labor policy and isn’t it inconsistent, or isn’t it consistent, to call for more humane treatment of asylum seekers without calling for an end to turnbacks?

PETER DUTTON:

No, what she said yesterday was everything but she supported the position of turnbacks, Regional Processing Centres and Temporary Protection Visas. They are the three elements that have worked in stopping the boats, getting kids out of detention, and stopping the deaths at sea.

It is very clear through Cathy O’Toole, through Miss Neaton in Capricornia, very clear with Dr Freelander now today, in a significant break away from Labor Party policy, he’s the Labor candidate in Macarthur, it is very, very obvious that the wheels are falling off the Labor Party’s border protection policy.

It’s obvious to all of us that Mr Shorten doesn’t have control of his own party when it comes to the crucial issue of border protection. Twelve hundred people drowned at sea when Labor last lost control of our borders.

The Coalition has closed 17 detention centres after Labor opened 17 detention centres and we have restored integrity to our borders and it seems to me that Mr Shorten has completely lost control of this issue.

He needs to provide some clarification, some discipline of those members, but there is open revolt within the Labor Party and it is obvious to all Australians that Bill Shorten has lost control of this issue and that the wheels have clearly fallen off the Labor Party’s policy on border protection.

People don’t want to see people drowning at sea or new boat arrivals and that’s what’s Labor is promising at the moment.

JOURNALIST:

Aren’t some of the examples that you’re citing in this argument breakaway from the national conference last year and now that that issue has been resolved, there’s a vote that’s been taken and a policy been adopted, so those arguments are no longer valid?

PETER DUTTON:

Well we have collated a lot of information, as it turns out, in relation to these members and I suspect others who, to this day, still hold that same opinion so we’re seeing candidates in Tasmania now, Labor candidates in Tasmania, who are openly stating that their position is one of opposition to Bill Shorten and they can’t pretend one thing and then do something else by way of their actions.

Now it is clear to all that Labor says one thing before an election and does something completely different after the election when it comes to border protection and Mr Shorten, just like Mr Rudd before him, has not got the ability to control people within his own party that will stare down and rip apart this policy if the Labor Party is elected in the next election.

JOURNALIST:

Minister, George Christensen says he’s been advised Syrian refugees won’t be resettled in his seat of Dawson do you know whether the Department has advised MPs, who have asked, that Syrians won’t be resettled in their seats? Are there no go areas for Syrian refugees?

PETER DUTTON:

Well the Federal Government obviously works with the States and you’ll remember that the State Premiers and Territory Leaders were falling over themselves to provide support to the 12,000 people being brought in, and we welcome that, and we’ve been working closely with States and Territories.

In the end, people make decisions about where it is that they’ll reside. I suspect most people will reside in capital cities because that’s where they have family members and that’s where they have support networks within the refugee community……

JOURNALIST:

…..but has your department told specific MPs, refugees won’t be resettled in their seats?

PETER DUTTON:

Our department’s job, as the Immigration Department, is to provide screening of people and we’ve screened some 9,500 and there have been about five thousand visas issued, and about fifteen hundred people that have arrived in Australia already.

Our job as the Immigration Department is to screen those people, to make sure we have the health checks done, to make sure we have the security checks done, and in terms of settlement services, well that’s an issue for Mr Porter and the Social Services portfolio.

But from an Immigration Department perspective, our job is to make sure that we deal with people to make sure they’re not going to be a threat to Australian society and we help settle refugees in record numbers and many of those coming from Syria and other parts of the Middle East will be Christians because they’ve been part of a persecuted minority there and that’s part of the criteria that the Government put in place when we made the announcement…..

JOURNALIST:

…….So it is possible there are no go areas for Syrian refugees? Coalition seats are no go areas?

PETER DUTTON:

Well again, I don’t know how you can draw the conclusion that…

JOURNALIST:

….well that’s what George Christensen’s saying.

PETER DUTTON:

Well as I said, refer back to what I just stated and I’m not sure how you could try and represent that some other way, so that’s the position of Immigration and Border Protection and….

JOURNALIST:

…….have you personally had any discussions with Mr Christensen about settling Syrian refugees in Mackay or that area?

PETER DUTTON:

I haven’t spoken to Mr Christensen and look, we’ll work with people across the country and no doubt Social Services will do that work to help settle people in community housing. We’re a generous nation when it comes to refugees and that’s the position of this department, in terms of the Syrian intake, in terms of the 13,750 people that we’ll take this year within the Refugee and Humanitarian Program otherwise, as I say our job is to provide the security and health screening checks, issue visas, and provide that assistance.

JOURNALIST:

What’s your message to MPs who say that Syrian’s aren’t welcome in their areas, like George Christensen?

PETER DUTTON:

Well again I don’t have any comment to make in relation to those issues. In terms of immigration, our job is to provide support to people to come to our country. We welcome people that come here under the Refugee and Humanitarian Program. That’s been a long established practice in this country and we’ll continue to provide that support.

JOURNALIST:

Minister the PNG Government confirmed that Manus Island is now an open centre, would you mind commenting on that, and is the Government putting in arrangements to, a, scale back garrison services and, b, to ensure the safety of those detainees in the Manus Island community?

PETER DUTTON:

Well Manus is obviously an issue for the PNG Government to comment on and we have had officials providing assistance to the PNG Immigration authorities there. Those discussions as I say, will continue on for some time, but the Australian side has made it very clear that people won’t be settled in Australia and the PNG side has made it very clear that they want to comply with the ruling of the court, which of course was not to close Manus Island and those questions are really best put to PNG.

JOURNALIST:

So you’re saying Australia doesn’t have any responsibility for … [inaudible]….

PETER DUTTON:

Well as you’re aware PNG is a sovereign nation. They have responsibility for their regional processing centre. That’s the basis of the MOU signed by Mr Rudd actually, when he was Prime Minister. So that’s the basis on which we will work with the PNG authorities and it’s a similar case, of course, for Nauru where they’re a sovereign nation and they have responsibility for their regional processing centre.

JOURNALIST:

Does being an open centre mean you’ll have to renegotiate the contract for the people who run it?

PETER DUTTON:

No I don’t this it does. I mean there are still support services that are provided. We obviously provide funding to the PNG Government and to organisations to provide those health services, those meals, all those services that are provided. As you’re aware there’s no detention on Nauru. It’s an open arrangement there, 24/7 open centre arrangement, and if PNG are heading down that track well that’s really an issue for the PNG Government to comment on.

JOURNALIST:

Minister, have you decided yet where the pregnant African asylum seeker will go to have her abortion?

PETER DUTTON:

No I don’t, as I said the other day, I don’t have any further comment to make in relation to that matter.

JOURNALIST:

Can I ask why Senator Sarah Hanson-Young was banned from visiting detention centres during the election campaign, does that apply to all Federal MPs and are you trying to prevent the emergence of politically damaging information?

PETER DUTTON:

No it’s hard to know why The Guardian’s become a spokesperson for Senator Hanson-Young. The only thing I would say is up on the Department’s website there is a caretaker convention and if The Guardian was able to have a look at the departmental website, they’ll see that the same caretaker arrangements apply to everyone and a Senator is not allowed to visit a detention centre outside of their home state during an election period. That’s been a longstanding arrangement, as I understand, operating under both sides of government in this country and Senator Hanson-Young, through her mouthpiece in The Guardian, really needs to reassess why she wants to mislead and why The Guardian wants to mislead the Australian public. Alright, thanks very much.