30 October, 2015
Subject: Amnesty Report, medical treatment for refugee from Nauru, Nauru, Tony Abbott’s speech.
E & EO Transcript
JOURNALIST: The Minister for Immigration, Peter Dutton, joins us now from Sydney.
Thanks very much for your time, Minister.
PETER DUTTON: Thanks, Paul.
JOURNALIST: It was quite a strong reaction from you yesterday talking about that report and in fact saying that Amnesty International tries to attack Border Force and the mobile staff and it's a disgrace.
What did you mean by that?
PETER DUTTON: Well Paul I think for a long time plenty of NGOs have had very strong opposition to the Government's policy on Operation Sovereign Borders and I think people have taken every opportunity to attack ultimately what is a success of Operation Sovereign Borders.
We have been able to stop drownings at sea and increase the number of people we take through the Refugee and Humanitarian Programme otherwise.
But people are ideologically opposed to Regional Processing Centres even though it's a policy of both Labor and Liberal and people are opposed to detention. Therefore people come up, from time to time, with ways that they can attack that policy.
The Government is absolutely resolute in our determination to make sure that we keep the boats stopped, that we can still bring people in record numbers through the Humanitarian Programme otherwise and to get kids out of detention.
They're all priorities for us, but I think some of the approach of some including Amnesty in the report yesterday go beyond the pale and I pointed that out.
JOURNALIST: What was wrong about the report? What did you take particular offence within the content of the report?
PETER DUTTON: As I say, I think people have an ideological opposition to Regional Processing Centres, to detention and that is their right. We live in a democracy.
I have no problem with that, but people will use whatever angle they can to try to attack the core of the Government's policies.
That is what I think has happened in this case and I think people who have compiled this report have put it together, ultimately, with the objective of trying to stop us from our success in Operation Sovereign Borders and I am not going to be a party to that.
JOURNALIST: Do you stand by earlier statements that Australian officials have not handed money over to people who are in charge of those boats as part of the turn-back policy?
PETER DUTTON: Well Paul I commented in relation to the issue at the time, we provided a submission to the Senate enquiry. I don't have any further comment to make to that matter.
The only point I would make is that our staff operate within the law, within Australian law. We meet our international obligations in terms of treaties and other agreements that we operate under and the Australian Border Force staff are highly professional.
They have been responsible for stopping deaths at sea and we are not going to allow people to come across the seas in rickety boats paying people smugglers.
We prefer to take people in record numbers on a per capita basis, the highest number of refugees is settled permanently in this country each year. That’s something we are very proud of, but we are going to conduct our migration policy in an orderly way and we are not going to allow the people smugglers to recommence ventures as they would seek to do.
That is the position we have had for a long time.
JOURNALIST: What is your reason for not directly going into whether or not money changed hands?
PETER DUTTON: As I said I commented on it at the time and we have provided a submission to the Senate inquiry. I just don't intend to raise it again and to give it more oxygen. I think…
JOURNALIST: Did you look into? Was there a comprehensive investigation from the Australian Government?
PETER DUTTON: Obviously we were aware of the allegations at the time and in terms of our internal discussions and deliberations I am not going to publicly canvas that.
My point here is I think an opportunity to be taken to attack, in an ideological way, the way in which we have stopped the boats and turned back boats where it's safe to do so.
People are opposed to that, including Amnesty, and I respect that.
But I think this has just been an opportunity to launch an ideological attack and that's why it needs to be addressed because the Government is not going to be bullied into changing our position of what has been a very significant success of stopping boats and stopping drownings at sea.
JOURNALIST: Can we move to another matter and the pregnant woman who has now been given medical care, taken off Nauru and given medical care.
Are you satisfied that all the medical help was first-class in this case?
There have been reports overnight that the Immigration Department did not act on several requests from medical staff on Nauru that she be taken to Australia for care early?
PETER DUTTON: Well Paul all I ask is that Instead of reading posts and blogs I ask that people look at the facts in relation to this matter.
This is a very sad and personal matter for this lady.
We have provided significant assistance through the medical staff both on Nauru and here in Australia.
Her discussion now is between her doctor, her medical staff and no doubt her legal staff and I think it's deeply private matter.
The point I have made is we provided additional medical assistance over the last week or so to provide support and advice to the lady on Nauru.
The advice to us was she was best brought back to Australia so she could seek the assistance of mental health services here and also to speak to a doctor about the options in relation to a termination – a decision which is deeply private and for her to make with all the advice available to her and that is what we have facilitated.
Now I think if this was an Australian who was alleging that she had been sexually assaulted, people would want to respect her privacy.
The facts in relation to this matter remain that we have provided significant support, medical assistance.
The lady will receive that assistance in Australia and I think that is where it's best left.
JOURNALIST: Can I speak more generally about the situation in Nauru.
Have you looked at the legalities of the current Royal Commission which is ongoing into institutional responses to child abuse looking at allegations of sexual abuse on Nauru?
Obviously this case would be different, but there have been allegations of child abuse as well.
PETER DUTTON: Well Paul all I can say is if there is a request for information or any authority is seeking assistance, the Department will provide every assistance.
In terms of Nauru, the Regional Processing Centre is operated by the Nauruan Government but the Australian Government provides significant financial support.
I've said before we should be very strict in our policy of not allowing people to come to our country who have sought to come here by boat.
We take people through the Refugee and Humanitarian Programme otherwise, but at the same time there should be a humane, decent environment for people to be accommodated until they can be returned to their count of origin or a third country.
But we have been very clear that people aren't coming to Australia.
I want to see people out of Nauru and out of Manus and back to a better arrangement, but we can't have a situation where we can allow the boats to restart so the vacancies are refilled by new arrivals.
So we have to have a policy where we can support the Nauruan Government.
We have sent additional Federal Police up there to provide capacity building, to provide a response and people that commit offences, as is the case in Australia, should face the full force of the law.
That is something nothing that we have resiled from or anyone can suggest our approach has been anything different from that.
JOURNALIST: Minister Dutton that takes me neatly to my next question.
Did Tony Abbott show you his speech before he read it out at the Margaret Thatcher lecture?
PETER DUTTON: No, Paul. I think my staff will tell you I am not a great editor of copy.
JOURNALIST: …did he tell you what he was going to say in general terms?
PETER DUTTON: I had a conversation with Tony about a week before he left and I knew then that he was going to raise the Government's success in relation to Operation Sovereign Borders.
I didn't see the copy of the speech, but I thought it was a good speech.
I thought in terms of policy approach it was the fact that in the last couple of elections the Government went to the election saying, on a very strong platform, saying that we would stop boats and we were elected on that basis.
That's why Malcolm Turnbull has continued the exact same policy in relation to Operation Sovereign Borders and, as I say, we aren't going to allow these organised criminals, the people smugglers, to get back into business to send people on rickety boats across high seas.
We’re going to take our refugees in record numbers through the United Nations and the Humanitarian Refugee Programme and through the SHP programme here otherwise.
JOURNALIST: He made a couple of comments and I’m sorry Minister our time is very short, but I’ll get to this one. Just a couple of quotes.
“Too much mercy for some necessarily undermines justice for all. No country or continent can open its borders to all-comers without fundamentally weakening itself.”
In recent times we have been told that the Sovereign Borders operation is about saving lives at sea and yet that is talking about something quite different.
Did you have any thoughts on that and the language that was used considering the ex-PM said he was loathed to make these comments while he was in top office?
PETER DUTTON: I just think people who are interested should read the full text of the speech so they can see any of these comments in context.
But the fact is that we don't want to be a party to people drowning at sea. When I speak to the ADF staff, to naval staff, to Border Force staff – people who were pulling bodies out of the ocean, they plead please don't go back to those days.
We want an orderly process and we want to afford a new life to people.
The 12,000 places that we have offered to those who are displaced in Syria is evidence of the fact that we can run a very successful Migration Programme.
We’ve settled over 825,000 refugees since the Second World War.
We welcome people, but we don't want to be party to tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people, coming across the sea to our country in a way that results in children, women and men dying at sea or people flouting the law otherwise.
We want to bring people in an orderly way, provide them with the settlement services, allow them to start a new life, but we don't do that if we lose control of our borders and Labor has admitted exactly that over the course of the last few years.
JOURNALIST: Minister Dutton we will leave it there. Thank you for your time this morning
PETER DUTTON: Thank you.