Interview with Kieran Gilbert
Sky AM Agenda
28 June 2012
SUBJECTS: Asylum seekers, migration bill
This is AM Agenda, thanks for your company. Joining me now is the Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury and the Shadow Minister for Small Business, Bruce Billson. Gentlemen, where do we start on this, David to you, the vote in the Senate this morning it seems to me like the Government is trying to milk it, but it’s just not going to happen for you.
Well we shouldn’t prejudge what happens in the Senate but obviously there are people out there stating their positions. I’d make this point and that is that overwhelmingly the Australian people want offshore processing. There are a range of views on this matter and obviously many people have been concerned about the nature of offshore processing as a policy response. But we’re now in a place, particularly in context of the number of lives that we’ve seen lost at sea, where I think the Australian people frankly just want us to take some action. What we have today is the opportunity to take action. We have a Bill that has passed the House of Representatives, which in this parliament is no mean feat. A Bill that is capable of giving the Australian Government the powers it needs to engage in offshore processing post the High Court decision and that is a bill that will be voted on by the Senate. The feedback that I’ve had overnight in my electorate and I have received quite a bit of feedback on this, and that is people want this resolved. I think we need to resolve this, and the clearest opportunity for resolution of this matter is to seek support of the Bill that has already passed the House of Representatives.
Well why not do what Joe Hockey and Malcolm Turnbull are saying, and that is try Nauru, see if it works and if it doesn’t you’ve got the basis to say in a year, with the sunset clause, let’s review it and then you’ve got more of a case to then pursue Malaysia, the Coalition is not relenting.
Well I think the point we would very clearly and very strongly make on this is that when it comes to Nauru, particularly in the course of the nature of the debate that we’ve had in recent times, I think the reality is that people smugglers know that the problem with Nauru is that if you get to Nauru, it may delay your passage to Australia but ultimately if you’re processed as a refugee in Nauru, you’ll end up in Australia. That is the very point about why people are taking this life threatening journey. Ask yourself, well why are people taking this life threatening journey? Because they’re desperate, yes they are desperate, but also because it’s a calculated risk. They’re taking a calculated risk that they will end up in Australia. Can I just finish by saying the difference with Nauru and Malaysia is if you get to Nauru and you are a refugee, in all likelihood, you’ll end up in Australia. Whereas the thing about Malaysia is that the incentive is taken away.
I know, I know this is a debate that we’ve had so many times and I just think many in your electorate, many in yours would be just frustrated at the stalemate, Bruce.
Well I think they are and I think what happened in the Parliament yesterday was that the Government has steered this whole topic into a dead end street. You hear talk of compromise, there was no compromise from the Government. The Government wanted a bill where it could send people wherever it wanted. The Coalition said no no, we’ve signed up to certain responsibilities to take care of people that come into our care and if we’re going to outplace people for processing somewhere else, we don’t all of a sudden give away that need to care for them. That’s what the discussion was. The Coalition hasn’t insisted on Temporary Protection Visas, yet you know we support that. The Coalition hasn’t insisted on turning around boats where it’s safe and the boats are navigable and that’s an appropriate thing to do, we haven’t insisted on that. We support offshore processing, but we support offshore protection. It’s like when your kids go to someone else’s house, you don’t stop being a parent. You’ve still got responsibilities for those people that are in your care. Yet the Government says it doesn’t want to be constrained by a continuum of care if we send people offshore. So what we’ve asked for, our compromise, is to send people to places where there is a certainty of care because they’re signatories to the convention. The very same point the Prime Minister made before the election when she promised people wouldn’t be sent to anywhere that wasn’t a convention signatory. We’ve made enormous compromises, but the Prime Minister has driven this into a cul-de-sac where it’s her way or no way and basically dared the Parliament to disagree with her knowing there was a package of policies under the Howard Government that worked. The Australian public know that, Nauru, Temporary Protection Visas, turning around the boats where it is safe to do so, it worked. We had fewer boats in 6 years, fewer refugee applicants in 6 years than we’ve had in 6 weeks. Now we see this argument about sending people where, you know, sending 13 year olds to Malaysia without any certainty of care, what kind of a responsibility is that?
We’ve only got 1 minute left because we’ve had Chris Bowen and Joe Hockey it’s a busy morning, 1 minute left 30 seconds each, just please keep it tight.
This is just hypocrisy. All this talk about the convention, let’s not forget that when the Howard solution was in place, Nauru was not a signatory to the treaty. Let’s not forget that when you turn a boat around and try to take it back into Indonesian shores, firstly, Indonesia is not a signatory, secondly if you’re really serious about trying to take away the threat to life at sea, who on earth would want to board boats on the high seas and turn them around? How can you say you’re serious about saving lives?
Bruce your response.
It’s quite simple, in Nauru it was Australians looking after Australia’s responsibility to those in care. We had a legal requirement, you’ve had a good go David, a legal requirement that the Government couldn’t meet and that’s why the High Court struck down their bill. In terms of the turnarounds, these are Indonesian flagged boats from Indonesian ports with Indonesian captains, doing their own thing in international waters, they can go back to Indonesia which is where people went in the first place, not subject to persecution, not in our care, but when they are we need to make sure we uphold our responsibilities.
Gentlemen we are out of time, we only had a brief chat with Chris and Joe Hockey this morning, but thanks for your time.