23 October, 2015
Subject: PNG resettlement, medical treatment for refugee on Nauru
E & EO Transcript
PETER DUTTON: Firstly I want to say thank you very much to Luke Howarth for being here with me here today.
The Moreton Bay University will be an incredible project and it will help young kids within our region that otherwise wouldn't have had the opportunity to go to university or wouldn't have been able to travel each day in and out to QUT or UQ or to Griffith.
It's a big hole in our local community here and I think the Council has done a great job in securing the site and I hope that the Federal and State Governments can provide financial support over a period of time and that commercial partners come on board as well to make this a reality for our region.
I want to just make a couple of comments if I can in relation to the announcement by Minister Pato in Papua New Guinea.
The Government obviously has a very strong working relationship with the PNG Government in relation to the operation of Manus Island. The Regional Processing Centres at Manus and at Nauru are an important part, along of course with turn-backs where it's safe to do so, in our success in stopping the boats and making sure that they don't restart.
I welcome the advice from the PNG Government that they're going to now resettle some of those people on Manus into PNG on a permanent basis.
I'm meeting with Minister Pato over the next few days and I'll have a look at the concrete detail that's been proposed by Minister Pato, but we do welcome the advice from Papua New Guinea.
This will now be a reality and complies with the agreement that Australia and Papua New Guinea entered into.
Obviously the Government's message remains very clear, that is that we are not going to settle people who seek to come to our country by boat.
If they're in Regional Processing Centres on Nauru or Manus they will not settle in Australia and that’s why this deal is important, this announcement is important, that the people who are at East Lorengau now or who are being assessed within the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre will be on a pathway to permanent settlement in Papua New Guinea.
So we welcome that advice and I look forward to our discussions with the Papua New Guinea Government.
JOURNALIST: Minister when did Minister Pato make that announcement?
PETER DUTTON: The PNG Government released that advice and obviously I've got and my Department has meetings with Minister Pato early next week, but the PNG Government is honouring the commitment that they've entered into under the Regional Resettlement Arrangement and we welcome that advice.
JOURNALIST: Minister when I spoke to the PM’s office and other offices in PNG this morning they said there hadn’t been a statement released.
PETER DUTTON: I just ask you to have a look at the information that's been released and obviously we welcome that.
We're very keen to continue working with an important partner in PNG because our message remains very clear and that is that we are not going to allow people smugglers to restart their business, we are not going to allow these deaths at sea and people who are on Manus or Nauru will not settle permanently in Australia.
The fact that PNG is honouring the commitment within the RRA is very welcome and I look forward to our discussion next week.
JOURNALIST: What impact can you see this development out of PNG having?
PETER DUTTON: I think the development here is that it sends a very clear message to people smugglers and that is that the Government's resolve is as strong as it's ever been.
We are not going to resile from the fact that we have a tough policy when it comes to Operation Sovereign Borders, but the dividend is that we can bring people in in record numbers through the Refugee and Humanitarian Programme and we demonstrated that in particular with the announcement about the 12,000 Syrians.
But we are not going to allow the people smugglers to get back into business because 1200 people lost their lives at sea.
And this demonstrates that people who are on Manus have the potential if they're found to be owed protection to be settled in Papua New Guinea, but they will not be settling in Australia.
We're able to provide others with assistance to return to their country of origin if they're found not to be owed protection and that's a very important step.
JOURNALIST: Is this a pre-emptive move from the PNG Government to head off the constitutional challenge to the legality of the Manus centre?
PETER DUTTON: Any questions for the Papua New Guinea Government you should put to them.
I'll take one at a time.
JOURNALIST: Is there more work to be done in regard to the process if they are to be resettled in PNG? Does the Government’s responsibility in that point and go to the PNG Government?
PETER DUTTON: The Papua New Guinea Government obviously has responsibility for the management of the Regional Processing Centre on PNG as the Nauruan Government does for the RPC on Nauru.
Our determination is to provide support because regional processing is an important part of our how we’ve been able to stop the boats and we'll continue to work with our partners.
But people obviously have the ability to now move into PNG society as the agreement originally provided for and I think that's important.
JOURNALIST: Does the Australian Government provide any assistance to PNG to facilitate that resettlement?
PETER DUTTON: We do. The Australian taxpayer provides considerable assistance in terms of the way in which the Regional Processing Centre is run, in terms of the contracts and the other services which are provided there that are funded by Australia.
Part of the difficulty of course was that when Labor had 50,000 people arriving on 824 boats, they had an $11 billion blow-out in relation to border protection policy.
Now we've been able to resurrect the security and the sanctity of our borders, we’ve been able to save money, we’ve been able stop deaths at sea and we’ve been able to welcome people in record numbers through the Humanitarian Program.
That's the way in which an orderly migration program should operate and we're not going to make any decision that would sacrifice that outcome.
JOURNALIST: So Minister are you denying that the Australian Government has announced this, or your Department or you, have announced this before the Papua New Guinea Government announced this?
PETER DUTTON: I would refer you back to my previous answer to your question. I don't have any anything to add further.
JOURNALIST: Okay, and how much is it costing per refugee per year to resettle them in Papa New Guinea?
PETER DUTTON: Well the point is that Labor left us with an enormous legacy, it's a point well made.
There are 50,000 people who came by boat. There are 30,000 plus within the legacy case load including those on Manus and Nauru, but living in the Australian society or within detention otherwise and there is a big cost with that.
The cost will not reduce until two things happen. One is that you stop the boats, which is what the Government has been able to achieve. Secondly to work through those people who have arrived by boat to allow for them to be processed, to determine whether they're owed protection.
In any case, those people on Nauru and Manus will not be settling in Australia. We’ve been very clear about that and we'll provide support, settlement packages for people to return and that does come at a significant cost, there’s no question about that.
But the alternative is an $11 billion blowout which is what Labor presided over. We're not going to return to those days.
JOURNALIST: In Estimates this week it was figures that were given came to $28,000 per refugee per month of the round 48 to 50 that have been released in Manus.
Is that right? So it’s costing $28,000 a month per person that’s being resettled?
PETER DUTTON: So the benefit of having Manus and Nauru in addition to turning back boats where it's safe to do so is that we stop new arrivals.
So the point is that by having the Regional Processing Centre arrangements which in part were negotiated by Labor, dismantled originally by Labor – and bearing in mind that when Mr Rudd came into Government in 2007 there were four people in detention in total including no children. Under Labor we had 2,000 children in detention. The number today on the mainland is down to about 97 and I intend to get that number closer to zero.
So the cost of new arrivals if we didn't have regional processing and we didn't have turn-backs where they have safe to do so would be an enormous burden for the Australian taxpayer.
So that's a context in which you're looking at the costs around the management of this policy.
But if people, including those on the left within the media and elsewhere, want to us return to the devastation of 1200 people drowning at sea and the way in which Labor lost control of our borders then they should be clear about that, but that is not this Government's policy.
JOURNALIST: So can you confirm it costs about $300,000 plus a year to resettle each refugee?
PETER DUTTON: I just refer you back to the previous comment I made.
That's a context in which you should consider these figures and I think that's the fair analysis of it as I provided to you a moment ago.
JOURNALIST: Minister, apologies if it’s been raised already, but with regards to this Somalian refugee who claims she was raped on Nauru will she be given the opportunity to come back to Australia to consider a termination again?
PETER DUTTON: I made clear the other day that the Government had provided a significant amount of support to this lady who is in a very difficult circumstance.
She alleges that there was a sexual assault on Nauru and we've provided support both on Nauru, but in Australia as well.
The lady was able to see a number of doctors and nurses including mental health nurses and also with the assistance of an interpreter here in Australia.
She decided that she didn't want the termination and was returned to Nauru.
I said at the time that I thought it was very regrettable that the personal details were being played out in public. Now others made the decision to release those details, some of those details were factually incorrect and I don't think it served the interests of the lady involved at all.
I sought to correct the record in terms of what the Government had provided by way of support particularly through the medical services, but I don't think it's helpful for to us continue to talk about what is a very private matter - a matter of grave personal importance, a decision that should be made and a discussion that should be had between a patient and a doctor.
I don't have anything further to say as I've said during press conference in Canberra earlier in the week.
In relation to any of these matters, doctors will discuss issues with patients and what that is in the best interests of that patient is what will be acted upon. Okay.
JOURNALIST: Does the government have any concerns for any gay asylum seekers resettling on PNG?
PETER DUTTON: We have obviously a policy that operates not just in relation to new arrivals, but people within the legacy case load now who might be in same-sex relationships for example.
We're sensitive to situations particularly where there may be discrimination against individuals and we're able to provide support to people in that circumstance.
But in relation to Manus I'm not sure of the particular circumstances that you're referring to.
The management of the Manus Regional Processing Centre is an issue for the PNG Government, but in terms of support that we provide here, we look at each individual case and we provide assistance based on its merit.
JOURNALIST: Peter so there’s no mention of the resettlement process in the Memorandum of Understanding signed between Australia and Papa New Guinea in August 2013.
How much input has the Australian Government had into this PNG resettlement policy and when are we going to see it?
PETER DUTTON: Well I think the point that I'd make is that the Government's been very clear and that is that we're not going to allow people who have sought to come to our country by boat who are on Manus or Nauru to settle permanently in Australia.
There has been an agreement entered into originally by the Rudd Government in the case of Manus for people to settle in PNG and those people will not get a permanent migration outcome in Australia.
That's the way in which we've approached our discussions with PNG and I note that my opposite number Mr Marles today welcomed this development.
We'll continue to work constructively with the PNG partners as we will with other bilateral partners because we're not going to allow the people smugglers to get back into business…
JOURNALIST: …so have you seen this resettlement policy?
PETER DUTTON: …that's the clear policy of the Government. We're not going to allow these people to get back into business.
Thank you very much.