28 October, 2015
Subject: Medical treatment for refugee on Nauru, Philippines
E & EO Transcript
JOURNALIST: With me now is the Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton.
Minister, thank you for your time this afternoon.
What can you tell me about any latest developments in relation to Abyan?
PETER DUTTON: Well thanks very much, David.
I can provide you with some updated information.
Obviously there are some media outlets reporting in relation to this matter this afternoon, so I thought it was important to provide an update in relation to what is a very sensitive and important issue.
As you rightly point out, this lady alleged that she had been sexually assaulted on Nauru, she was brought to Australia for the purposes of a termination which was her desire.
After seeing doctors and seeing mental health nurses, also aided with the assistance of other nurses, medical staff and interpreters, she came to a conclusion that she didn’t want the termination and was subsequently transported back to Nauru.
Since that time she has met with staff on the island. Initially she advised that she didn’t want to come back to Australia, but we’ve engaged medical support and those doctors have spoken with her and she will travel to Australia and will seek some expert assistance from medical staff in Australia.
That’s as it should be. As we said all along we would do what was in the best interest of this particular lady and that we would take the advice of the medical experts.
The medical experts have spoken with the lady and she’s accepted the advice that she should come to Australia, not only to speak to a doctor in terms of the termination, but also to seek mental health services.
I think it’s very important that we respect the relationship between the patient and the doctor in relation to this very sensitive issue and that we respect her privacy otherwise on what is a traumatic circumstance for her.
Ultimately we have taken the advice of doctors to act in her best interests and that’s what I can provide you with by way of update this afternoon.
JOURNALIST: So, Minister, can you tell me when this will happen?
When will Abyan return to Australia?
PETER DUTTON: David I’m not because I don’t want this to be some sort of media spectacle. I think the lady deserves her privacy.
If there was an allegation of rape made in Australia the victim would be treated with the utmost respect and that’s what should happen in relation to this matter as well.
I can say, as I have said to you before, the Government’s interest is in making sure that we do the right thing by this lady.
We’ve given medical experts the opportunity to meet with her to discuss the circumstances of the case.
The decision was made that it would be in her best interests to come to Australia for medical services that she wouldn’t otherwise be able to receive on Nauru.
She has accepted that advice and she will travel to Australia and receive that medical assistance as it should be.
JOURNALIST: Now, when you say medical assistance I suppose there is no guarantee that she will definitely go ahead with an abortion.
You can only provide that option and the counselling, the mental health nurse, as well as you’ve previously indicated?
PETER DUTTON: That’s right, David.
Ultimately this is a decision for the lady or if, for example, somebody was to be appointed to act on her behalf then that would be an issue for that person or that advocate.
But this is really quite a private matter and obviously it involves, as I say, the allegation of a sexual assault, but also mental health aspects as well which can be addressed by experts here in Australia.
I think it’s important that we respect the privacy of this lady and, as I say, that’s the standard that we would apply if an allegation of sexual assault was being made by an Australian woman.
We’re providing all the assistance that we can and I think we’re doing that in a compassionate way and bearing in mind all of the circumstances in relation to what is a fairly unique case.
JOURNALIST: Well, obviously she had a great deal of difficulty last time here in Australia.
Will she be coming on a commercial flight? Will this be a charter flight? How will it actually work?
PETER DUTTON: Well again, David, I just don’t want to go into those details because I think it’s important that we respect her privacy.
She’s able to consult with the doctors when she arrives in Australia and I think her privacy is paramount here.
I’ve only made comment again this afternoon because there has been public speculation about it in the press this afternoon.
I said when I addressed the media last week that I really didn’t want to provide a running commentary because I thought it was in her best interests for her privacy to be respected and for the doctor patient relationship to be respected in this very sensitive case.
I’d just ask people to respect the fact that we’ve provided as much detail as we’re able to.
Now we need to let her seek the medical assistance that she deserves and needs. We will facilitate that and we will act, as I’ve said before, in the best interests of the patient based on the advice of the doctor.
I think we demonstrate that again today.
JOURNALIST: Now the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights overnight urged Australia and Nauru to provide a ‘decent outcome for Abyan urgently.’
Did this have any influence on what has happened today?
PETER DUTTON: No it didn’t David.
So these plans have been in the making for some days and obviously we haven’t publicly commented on that, but for whatever reason it’s made its way into the press this afternoon.
I thought it was important that we provided the facts in relation to this matter before some others who might be out trying to feather their own nest provide some version of events.
They’re the facts as I can provide them to you in relation to this case.
JOURNALIST: Let me put to you more broadly though the UN Human Rights Commissioner has said, and I quote:
‘That it’s a matter of particular concern that asylum seeker and refugee women who have allegedly been raped or sexually assaulted are left in unsafe conditions given their own vulnerable status and the close proximity of their attackers. They tend to be stigmatised by the population and by members of the Nauru Police Force.’
What do you say to that?
PETER DUTTON: Well David the only thing that I would say is that I’m happy to respond to comments from people who have been properly informed and who have sought the adequate information.
We’ve had no conversations with outside agencies in relation to this matter.
People haven’t sought the facts from us and if people want to make comment based on Twitter and Facebook postings well that’s an issue for them.
But all I can do is deal with the facts in relation to what is a very sensitive issue.
All along we’ve provided support to this lady who is alleging that a sexual assault took place. As I say it’s further complicated by mental health issues and we need to be sensitive in relation to this particular scenario.
I think people making comments; particularly if they’re ill-informed comments, don’t help the lady in this circumstance.
That’s the best way that I can summarise our approach.
We act in a compassionate way.
We’ve been very determined and very clear to say that people who seek to come to our country by boat won’t come to Australia by boat.
We’ll settle record numbers of refugees through the UNHCR and Humanitarian Programme otherwise, but we’re not going to allow people to settle in our country who have sought to come here by boat.
At the same time I’ve always said, for as long as I’ve been in this portfolio, that we need to provide people with the adequate medical support that they need.
There are over 300 babies born a year on Nauru. We’ve spent $11 million on the hospital at the Regional Processing Centre, a further $26 million on the hospital in Nauru and we fly specialists in to provide support otherwise.
I’ve always believed and still believe very strongly that we should provide support to Nauru, to have a compassionate and lawful arrangement in terms of the way in which we provide support to people who are in Regional Processing Centre arrangements until they can be returned back to their country of origin.
So we’ve got a compassionate approach, but at the same time we’ve been very determined to make sure that people smugglers don’t get back into business.
JOURNALIST: Alright, Minister, just a final question before we go.
You mention there until they can be returned to their home country for a lot of those, particularly found to be refugees they won’t be doing that. Presumably you’ve been talking to other regional countries about resettlement options.
The President of the Philippines says his country won’t accept any refugees if they’re permanently resettled there, but he’s considering temporary resettlement.
Is that an option?
PETER DUTTON: Well David all along I’ve said that the Government has been in bilateral discussions. We’ve been in discussions with the United Nations; the High Commissioner for Refugees and with parties otherwise.
We do want to find an outcome for people on Nauru and Manus, including settling in Cambodia or in the case of Manus within PNG.
And I welcome the advice of the PNG Minister over the last few days about developments there of settling people into the PNG community proper.
But in relation to the Philippines I just don’t have any comment to make in relation to specific negotiations, but I welcome the comments from the Prime Minister, the Philippines and the President of the Philippines and the Ambassador here in Australia.
Look they’re all very decent people and they are good to deal with.
The Philippines is a good friend of our country. We have a very good relationship with the Philippines, but other countries within the region as well and out of respect of that relationship and for the discussions that go on in private I just don’t have any comment to make publicly in relation to where those discussions are at.
JOURNALIST: Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton thank you for joining us this afternoon.
PETER DUTTON: Thanks very much, David.