29 October, 2015
Subject: Medical treatment for refugee on Nauru, Amnesty International, NZ deportations, Russell Packer
E & EO Transcript
JOURNALIST: Minister, good morning.
PETER DUTTON: Good to be with you, Ray. Thank you.
JOURNALIST: Now, I wanted to get straight to this pregnant Somali asylum seeker on Nauru who had been flown to Australia to allegedly have an abortion.
I know there are privacy issues here we’ve got to be careful about. We don’t know who the woman is by the way.
She decided, you told me last Thursday, she wouldn’t go through with it. She was flown back to Nauru.
You made the point that we’ve got facilities, specialist facilities in PNG and perhaps she should go there.
Why the change?
I’ve got emails a plenty here, Minister, this morning saying well hang on, we can’t look after Australian citizens as we should and we’re spending all this money backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards. When does it stop?
PETER DUTTON: Well, Ray, what we’ve done in this case is we’ve had a couple of specialists who have spoken with the lady.
They’ve given us advice about what is best in her circumstances and she, on that basis, is coming to Australia and will seek specialist services not just in relation to help her about a decision as to whether or not she wants to terminate the pregnancy, but also some mental health issues that need to be addressed.
The doctors have advised us that the best place for that to happen is in Australia and she’s been brought here on that basis.
JOURNALIST: Last week you were talking about the fact if you bring someone back to this country the lawyers from the left side of politics seize upon that and all of a sudden you’ve got High Court challenges about whether you want to return someone to a place of detention.
How does that fit in with what’s happening here?
PETER DUTTON: Well look, Ray, without pre-empting what will happen here, it’s an issue for the lawyers.
Look we have a mess to clean up from Labor’s time when all of these people came by boat. Remember there were 50,000 who arrived on 800 boats, but we’ve still got 30-odd thousand people to deal with.
It’s expensive, it costs a lot of money to charter flights and send people backwards and forwards.
But in the end we’re going to have this problem for a couple of years.
We have no new boat arrivals – absolutely essential that we continue the strong policies of Operation Sovereign Borders so that we aren’t backfilling the vacancies as we’re moving people out of immigration detention, returning them back to their country of origin.
That’s why it’s important for the success to continue stopping the boats.
Yes it’s going to take money to clean up Labor’s mess and we’ve got a mess to clean up and we’re doing it.
We’ve got some very difficult circumstances and in the end we’ve got to treat people humanely and we’ve done that in relation to this particular woman.
We’ll provide the support that is necessary based on the medical advice and that’s what we’ve done consistently and what we’ve done again today.
JOURNALIST: But based, Minister, on what you said last week it’s almost a fait accompli that she’ll stay in the country now. Because as you’ve already indicated, there will be challenges immediately to her removal depending on what she decides in relation to further medical treatment.
PETER DUTTON: Well that’s just what the refugee advocate lawyers do Ray.
As soon as somebody touches foot on Australian soil…
JOURNALIST: … yeah, but if we don’t bring them here...
PETER DUTTON: …we’ll that’s exactly right.
So, look, we avoid bringing people to Australia because we’ve got $11 million that we’ve spent on a hospital at the regional processing centre in Nauru.
Another $26 million to upgrade the hospital on Nauru and services and be provided in PNG otherwise.
For Nauruans there are about 300 births a year and those mothers use the services of the hospital and whatnot up there.
So people need to understand this message, including the refugee advocates here.
We are not going to water down our policy when it comes to boats. We are not going to allow people to settle in Australia if they’ve sought to come here by boat.
We have been clear about it; we’ve been consistent about it. The policy continues under Malcolm Turnbull, it continued under me when I took over from Scott Morrison.
We are not going to take a backward step.
Over 240 people already have had, well we’ve had injunctions taken out against us stopping us returning those 240 people.
It costs a lot of money and it weakens our message to the people smugglers that we’re not open for business.
JOURNALIST: So does that message also go to Amnesty International who have released this report By Hook or By Crook and have taken out full page ads in publications across the country today talking about the unlawfully detained, ill-treated, denied medical care and those on board Border Force vessels and the ads saying that, you know, basically we’ve done the wrong thing and we paid people to send people back.
I mean where does it leave you with Amnesty International?
PETER DUTTON: Well Ray look lots of these groups have been against John Howard, they’ve been against Tony Abbott and they’re now against Malcolm Turnbull.
They don’t like Operation Sovereign Borders. They try and attack the Border Force staff and the Naval staff and I think it’s a disgrace.
I think in the end you can take the world of the people smugglers or you can take the word of our staff at Australian Border Force and people will make their own judgements.
Amnesty International and others don’t like Operation Sovereign Borders and the fact that we’ve stopped boats, but we are not going to stop our resolve.
We went to the last election saying that we would stop the boats, stop them we have.
We’re not going to be bullied into some watering down of that, because people drown at sea and our detention centres fill.
We’re just not going to return to those crazy days.
JOURNALIST: Tony Abbott delivered that address in London, the Margaret Thatcher oration, warning European leaders about their response to the Syrian refugee crisis. He tried to tell them that we’d done it successfully here, on a much smaller scale compared to what they’re confronting.
He’s now being criticised by Fairfax Media, some sections of Fairfax Media, and the ABC.
But he’s been criticised by Labor.
Now just correct me if I’m wrong, don’t they have the same policy as a platform going forward to the next election as you?
PETER DUTTON: They want you to believe they do, Ray.
This is the problem. Behind the scenes they are tearing themselves apart.
Just like Kevin Rudd did, if they get into Government they will not continue these policies.
The demonstrated that when they ripped John Howard’s policy apart and 50,000 came on boats.
So they’re all over the place.
JOURNALIST: Look, we’ve had a discussion about returning people guilty of criminal offences if they’re citizens of another nation – most notably New Zealanders.
That’s created all sorts of angst.
I had a letter this week, and this is invariably how it goes, without revealing all the details. It’s a wife of a bloke who has lived here for quite some time and a New Zealand national.
She said, ‘oh he’s on a drink driving charge and we’re sending him back,’ and he’s in detention somewhere across Australia at the moment.
So I thought about it, I responded to the lady and said look, I find it almost unbelievable that someone on a drink driving change is currently in immigration detention being sent back.
So it turns out the he has a colourful past, if I can say that. There were three offences within the space of a short period of time.
And high-range drink driving is a criminal offence for which you can be jailed.
PETER DUTTON: Yes.
JOURNALIST: And there were other offences, as well.
So I wrote back and said look, you know, I know that you have this point of view, but the point of view is simply this – the only person to blame for the situation in which he finds himself is your husband. Had he behaved himself and not gone outside the law we wouldn’t have a problem.
In light of the fact that today the St George Illawarra Club amongst, you know, much heralding from everyone has said they have signed Russell Packer to a fairly high value contract, Russell Packer.
Russell Packer, of course, faced very serious charges.
He says he’s learnt a great deal spending twelve months in jail for charges relating to assault occasioning actual bodily harm last year.
Why is Russell Packer different to anyone else?
PETER DUTTON: Well he’s no different to anyone else, Ray.
His case is being considered at the moment.
People, whether they’re from New Zealand, from the UK, from the US, whether they’re football players, brickies, whatever it might be all of that is completely irrelevant.
JOURNALIST: …so in other words a determination has not been made on Russell Packer?
PETER DUTTON: It hasn’t been made.
The only consideration needs to be whether people have breached the law here, whether they’ve broken the law, whether they’ve assaulted, robbed, raped Australians. That’s the law.
If people have done that as a non-citizen, they’re here on a visa and they break their visa conditions they can expect to have their visa cancelled and be sent back to their country of origin.
Look, we take into account considerations around Australian-born children, how long people have been here. All of that is available to weigh up against the severity of the crimes that have been committed.
My responsibility is to keep Australia safe and my responsibility is to cancel the visas of people who are here breaking the law and we’ll apply it consistently.
JOURNALIST: So St George Illawarra in announcing the signing of Russell Packer to a two year playing contract have done it without knowing, I suspect, that the Department of Immigration have not made a determination on his ability to stay in the country.
PETER DUTTON: Well no decision has been made, so they’ll have to answer questions about their approach.
JOURNALIST: Ok. I appreciate your time, as always.
PETER DUTTON: Thanks, Ray. Take care.