10 November, 2015
Subject: Christmas Island Detention Centre disturbance
E & EO Transcript
JOURNALIST: What’s the situation like on Christmas Island at the moment?
PETER DUTTON: Well, obviously reinforcements have arrived onto Christmas Island and there’s an operation underway at the moment.
We want to restore calm and order to the centre and we have been very clear about the fact that the Government is not going to cower in the face of the activities of some of these criminals.
People need to bear in mind that the population within the Christmas Island Immigration Detention Centre is now a much hardened population compared to what it would have been a few years ago.
The Australian Border Force conducts individual assessments about the risk posed by each detainee and then they will decide which detention centre the person goes into.
Many of the people on Christmas Island in the detention centre there are bikies, people that have been convicted of manslaughter, of serious grievous bodily harm charges, sexual assault against children.
We’re not going to tolerate destruction of Commonwealth property and those people that have undertaken that sort of behaviour will face the full force of the law.
JOURNALIST: Have the forces that arrived been able to ascertain how many people are causing trouble?
PETER DUTTON: Well, the operations are underway at the moment.
So those investigations will take place once that calm has been restored and that’s as you would expect.
JOURNALIST: Has there been any more violence overnight?
PETER DUTTON: Not that I’m aware of.
The initial reports that I received, and it’s always the case that as updates are provided, further information is made available.
But on the initial reports, the early reports that I’ve received, the officers were met with little resistance.
Nonetheless there’s still a core group of criminals who are causing a disruption and the Australian Federal Police and the Serco guards no doubt will deal with that threat in due course.
JOURNALIST: The person who was taken away by ambulance, what injuries had they suffered and how were they injured?
PETER DUTTON: Look, the advice that I have is that that need for medical assistance didn’t relate to, or didn’t result from, injuries incurred out of this incident.
That’s in the initial advice that I have got.
Medical assistance was provided to that person, but it was of a minor nature as I’m advised.
JOURNALIST: Are you confident that the facility will remain secure in the coming hours and days?
PETER DUTTON: Yes, I am.
Obviously the Australian Border Force staff, as well as the Australian Federal Police, will provide assistance to the Serco contractors and those guards on the ground.
They will restore order and the place will be cleaned up and people who have caused damage to Australian Government property will be dealt with accordingly.
JOURNALIST: Sorry if this has been asked, but why is it necessary that the riot squad be taken in?
PETER DUTTON: Well the officers on the grounds obviously have deemed the threat level and they have responded accordingly.
So the operation is underway at the moment and the Australia Federal Police will assist the Serco guards in restoring order.
As I say, people that have committee offences, or if they’ve caused damage to Australian Government property, then they’ll face the full force of the law.
JOURNALIST: Minister, again sorry if this has been asked, but have police fired rubber bullets at the protesters?
PETER DUTTON: Not that I’m aware of.
I gave a quick update before to say that the early advice to me is that the Australian Border Force staff, so far, the Australian Federal Police and the Serco guards have not me with physical resistance against the officers.
But there is a particular compound where I think some of the most hardened criminals have barricaded themselves.
The officers will deal with that issue as they see fit and they will restore order.
As I say, the investigation will commence from there.
JOURNALIST: Yesterday afternoon you said you hoped the stand-off would be resolved within hours.
What went wrong?
PETER DUTTON: Well obviously Australian Border Force, Australian Federal Police have arrived overnight. It takes some time to dispatch those staff.
Obviously those professional staff attached to the Australian Federal Police have taken the operational decisions as necessary and I trust their judgement.
They are executing the operation now and they’ll restore order in due course and, as I say, the investigation will commence from there.
JOURNALIST: Have you got an understanding of how many people are still involved in this altercation?
PETER DUTTON: I don’t have the exact numbers.
Obviously those investigations are underway and the AFP are dealing with those people, negotiating or resolving the issue as they see fit.
In the end these calls are matters for the operational officers and those in charge on the ground and I’ve got full confidence that they will do a very good job in dealing with the issue.
JOURNALIST: Is the group specifically taking part, is it just 501s?
PETER DUTTON: Well, I think it’s safe to say that a lot of people who have had their visas cancelled on character grounds, in particular those that have been involved in outlaw motorcycle gangs and other people, including those that may have been charged with manslaughter or serious criminal assault charges, could be involved in this incident.
That will be investigated in due course.
The priority now is for the police to work with the Serco guards to restore order to the centre and that operation is underway.
JOURNALIST: Is there any indication that you might strengthen the security conditions in Christmas Island permanently?
I mean I know they’re different compounds as it stands, but will there be any extra security measures, given this disturbance?
PETER DUTTON: Well there has already been significant hardening of the facility there.
As I say, the Australian Border Force looks at each individual detainee and then makes a judgement about what risk that person poses and then where they’re accommodated in the detention network is decided at that point.
So, we’ve already been aware of the need to harden the facility and to provide additional resources to the IDC in Christmas Island.
There will be a review after this incident to see whether or not anything further is required and if it’s required the Government will respond accordingly.
The priority for now is to make sure that the officers on the ground can do their work to restore order and send a very clear message that the Government is not going to tolerate this sort of behaviour.
We’re not going to allow damage, wilful damage, of Australian Government property to go by without a response from the police.
JOURNALIST: Can you tell us what staff are actually inside the centre?
Because we’re getting conflicting reports about that.
PETER DUTTON: There will be, again, operational judgements made about when staff can return…
JOURNALIST: … So they’re not in there at the moment?
PETER DUTTON: Well the answer at this point in time may not be relevant to the briefing I had half an hour ago, but the understanding that I had from the most recent briefing this morning was that the administration area, the medical centre and whatnot other compounds had been, control had been restored there.
So it may well be the case that staff have re-entered, but I just don’t have that information available.
JOURNALIST: Minister, are you concerned about any sort of diplomatic ramifications between Australia and New Zealand as a result of potentially the New Zealand Government getting involved here?
I believe some of the New Zealand detainees want consular assistance and other forms of help as a result of the disturbance.
PETER DUTTON: I met the week before last with the two relevant Ministers from New Zealand.
We had a productive meeting in New Zealand. Obviously the Prime Minister has spoken with Prime Minister Key when he was in New Zealand.
I note the comments by Prime Minister Key yesterday, who said that many of these detainees, whether they’re on Christmas Island or in the detention network on the mainland, can return to New Zealand in many cases at any time.
But for many of them they’re appealing the cancellation of their visa and they’re appealing that through the court process here, which as you know is their right, but it can take some time.
So if people want to return to New Zealand we’re happy to have that conversation with them.
If their appeal is successful in many cases they can return to Australia and they can do that without prejudice.
In many cases people are deciding to stay for their own, based on their own judgements.
But as Prime Minister Key pointed out yesterday, many of these New Zealand detainees can return to New Zealand.
It’s their choice, in many cases, to stay. If they do wish to return then we’re happy to accommodate that.
JOURNALIST: Can we just be clear on this question of rubber bullets, because that is a report that’s coming out of the detention centre.
Have police been instructed that they can use rubber bullets to try and deter people who are protesting and are you absolutely sure that that hasn’t happened?
Or is it possible that you just haven’t been briefed that that’s occurred?
PETER DUTTON: Well I’ve not received any brief and I’ve not seen any reporting of that.
The Australian Federal Police response unit is a very professional one and they will make judgements according to the operational needs.
They’ll respond to the threat according to their training and according to the law.
They’ll respond in the appropriate way.
The determination of the Government obviously is to make sure that, through the AFP presence on the ground, that order can be restored to the centre and an investigation can commence and that’s what’s underway.
Alright, thanks very much.