19 October, 2015
Subjects: Medical treatment for refugee on Nauru, Philippines.
E & EO Transcript
JOURNALIST: Can I start by asking, what in the end actually convinced you that she didn’t want an abortion?
PETER DUTTON: Well her own words, and as i…
JOURNALIST: …she said that?
PETER DUTTON: Absolutely the case.
Look the first point that I’d make is that it’s very uncomfortable and unfortunate, I must say, that we need to be talking about this lady’s personal medical details.
Now this is not something that we would do. We wouldn’t speculate on this sort of detail had it been an Australian woman who was claiming to have been raped, but obviously some advocates have put out detail which is incorrect.
I saw it necessary to correct the record today.
I detailed in Question Time and on the ABC this morning exactly what assistance was provided.
I mean, it defies common sense that we would have brought the woman from Nauru to Australia in the first place if we weren’t prepared to provide medical assistance to this lady.
JOURNALIST: …well that’s true, but can you understand the confusion because she says in her own words, in her own letter, that I have never said that I did not want a termination?
PETER DUTTON: Well, again, David, I can only report to you the advice, the very specific advice, that was given to me by my Department, by the medical specialists…
JOURNALIST: …and what was that? Who did she say, who did she tell, that she didn’t want an abortion?
PETER DUTTON: Look I’m not going into her personal conversations.
Suffice to say that she had, as you pointed out, multiple visits to the GP, to the doctor, to the mental health nurse. There were interpreters present and clearly the lady said that she didn’t want the termination and she didn’t want the appointment for the termination which was scheduled for next week.
JOURNALIST: Okay so she said it to medical persons?
PETER DUTTON: That’s right. So once that had been determined a decision was then made for the woman to return to Nauru.
JOURNALIST: Was there, at all, any consideration of allowing more time, because certainly her lawyer George Newhouse is saying that she was not feeling physically or mentally well enough and that she’d told medical staff she would inform them tomorrow or the next day.
Could there have been more time allowed given the expense you went to of bringing her here?
PETER DUTTON: Well David, I would be very pleased to see you interview Mr Newhouse and go through the public statements that he’s made and address the inconsistencies and the way in which his account has changed since Friday night’s interview with Emma Alberici on Lateline.
JOURNALIST: …I appreciate that but…
PETER DUTTON: …I just ask people to look at that because there are a lot of claims that are being put out there.
I’ve provided you with the absolute facts as they were advised to me in terms of the sequence of events.
The fact that the Government brought this lady down to Australia in the first place indicated our intent to provide support.
She went to a series of medical consultations, advised very clearly that she didn’t want the termination at the end of that, which is entirely a decision for her and within her right – she advised that…
JOURNALIST: …could a reason for these conflicting accounts be that she didn’t want the abortion right then, last week? That she wasn’t feeling well enough last week?
PETER DUTTON: That’s not the advice that I have, David.
JOURNALIST: So she made it clear no abortion at all?
PETER DUTTON: Correct.
JOURNALIST: And that was communicated to who?
PETER DUTTON: There’s been no equivocation in the advice provided to me at all. It was very definite, specific and it was based on a number of consultations the woman had had.
That’s the advice that I’ve received and that’s what we acted upon.
JOURNALIST: At that point there was no consideration of waiting a few more days or another week just to make sure?
PETER DUTTON: So bearing in mind that the woman didn’t come on the Monday and sent back on the Monday afternoon. We’re talking about four of five days of medical consultations and all through that period we had interpreters present, we had the mental health nurses, GPs, doctors, all of these people involved in discussions.
At the end of it the advice to us was that she had decided against the abortion and that she didn’t want to maintain the appointment which was scheduled for next week.
Once that became clear and she was adamant in her advice…
JOURNALIST: …so there was an appointment scheduled for next week?
PETER DUTTON: That’s right.
JOURNALIST: And she said she didn’t want that appointment?
PETER DUTTON: That’s exactly right.
JOURNALIST: And what day this week was it meant to happen?
PETER DUTTON: I’ll have to…
PETER DUTTON: …I would have to clarify for you.
JOURNALIST: She didn’t want the appointment?
PETER DUTTON: Exactly. I can’t be any clearer than that.
JOURNALIST: So, well, how then do you explain this letter from her where she’s still saying ‘I was raped on Nauru. I’ve been very sick. I never said I didn’t want a termination.’
I mean, what’s going on? She said she didn’t see a doctor. Could she have been confused about who she was seeing?
PETER DUTTON: Ah, look, David, I don’t have any comment or any criticism to make of the lady whatsoever.
I think she’s alleging a very serious crime that’s taken place and that she’s been violated in that way.
A long time ago I was a police officer involved in taking witness statements from women who claimed to have been sexually assaulted. I’ve charged people with rape and convicted them in the courts so I personally find the thought of a woman or a child being sexually violated completely abhorrent and I put additional AFP resources on the island.
We took a decision to bring this woman to Australia when she determined that she wanted a termination. Going through a series of medical consultations she’s decided that she doesn’t want it. She’s now gone back.
Now, in terms of her statement that’s been put out with the inconsistencies of her advocates and her legal advisers to the extent that those inconsistencies have been made public, I think Mr Newhouse and others – they should explain why their story has shifted and I think that might cast some light on the circumstance, but I’ve been transparent and clear about our approach and will continue to be so.
JOURNALIST: What happens now if she still wants to have an abortion or changes her mind and wants an abortion? What will Australia do?
PETER DUTTON: We’ll have a look at the individual case and the suggestion that’s being made.
We’ll have the doctors and the specialist staff continue those consultations and discussions.
There’s obviously a tipping point where she’s too far in the pregnancy…
JOURNALIST: …she’s 14 weeks now
PETER DUTTON: As I understand. I haven’t got the exact date with me, but 14 or 15 weeks so there will become a point obviously where she can’t have a termination legally in Australia so that’s situation and the facts as I can best explain them in relation to this case.
JOURNALIST: Can you tell me, for the record, what it cost – the exercise last week?
PETER DUTTON: I can’t tell you what it cost but there are flights from Nauru, both commercial and chartered flights, on a regular basis.
We’ve spent $11 million providing a new health facility within the Regional Processing Centre. We’ve spent $26 million on the Nauruan hospital upgrade.
There are 325 births in Nauru each year.
Where we can’t provide medical support to expectant mothers – they go to the international hospital in PNG or they come to Australia and we make a determination based on the medical advice.
One of the problems that we have got is when people come to Australia for medical assistance, or indeed when their children if they’re coming down with mum who needs a medical procedure, in many cases the lawyers will proceed straight to the High Court to injunct to stop people from going back to Nauru…
JOURNALIST: …and was that on your mind last week in this case?
PETER DUTTON: Well we are not in the business, David, and we’ve been very clear about this, of providing permanent migration outcomes to Australia.
We’ve been very clear that we’ll provide medical assistance, but people are not coming from Nauru to Australia if it is to seek a permanent migration outcome.
JOURNALIST: But was that one of the factors behind not giving this any further time? Were you worried about an injunction from George Newhouse?
PETER DUTTON: I was of the view, as I am with many of these cases, that lawyers will try. And some lawyers who are dressed up as advocates on occasion – they swap hats. Some people will try whatever they can within the book because people are desperate to come to our country.
We can’t resile from that and we accept that, but we’ve been very clear that people on Nauru are not going to be settled in Australia.
If they need medical attention they can come to our country if that’s appropriate, but they are not coming here at our taxpayer’s expense to be granted a migration outcome.
We’ve been very clear about trying to provide them with a third country outcome, so to Cambodia or bilaterally we’re having discussions elsewhere so that we can get people out of Nauru if that’s their want.
But we’ve been very clear about the fact that they’re not going to come to Australia and we’re reasonably, at the same time we’re absolutely determined, to provide people with the medical assistance that they require.
JOURNALIST: And final one, Minister, separate to this whole matter - the Philippines.
How are things progressing in terms of a resettlement arrangement for those in Nauru and Manus Island?
PETER DUTTON: Ah, well, we haven’t publicly discussed, I certainly haven’t publicly discussed, too much about the negotiations.
But these issues are always difficult and we’ve been negotiating with a number of countries for a long period of time and it is very hard to land one of these deals.
So negotiations are ongoing with a number of countries
JOURNALIST: So not… [inaudible]
PETER DUTTON: Yeah and I’ve said that publicly, but I just don’t have any comment to make in relation to the Philippines at the moment.
JOURNALIST: Alright. Watch this space perhaps.
PETER DUTTON: Thanks, David.
JOURNALIST: Peter Dutton, thank you very much for that.
PETER DUTTON: Thank you.