Subject: Nauru detention centre, regional resettlement options
E & EO Transcript
JOURNALIST: Well as you've heard this morning, Nauru is hailing a landmark change to asylum seeker policy. Mandatory detention on the island has effectively ended, that's what the Government's declared and the 600 detainees are now able to roam the island at will 24 hours a day.
The Nauru Government has committed to processing all claims for asylum within a week.
Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young told us earlier that asylum seekers will still be marooned on what she's called a prison island and following a recent spate of violent attacks she says women in particular will still fear for their safety.
SARAH HANSON-YOUNG: I challenge the Minister this morning Fran, let's get on a plane Minister, let's go to Nauru, and I will show you; I will show you where women stay hidden at night because they are afraid of what will happen to them if they leave their doors at these new open refugee camps.
JOURNALIST: That's Sarah Hanson-Young speaking to us earlier on the program. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton joins us now.
Minister good morning, welcome to Breakfast.
PETER DUTTON: Thanks very much, Fran.
JOURNALIST: You heard that challenge from Sarah Hanson-Young, would you be prepared to visit Nauru to look at the security arrangements for refugees who are living independently on the island now, because particularly over the last week there have been some horrendous reports of violence against women, rape of women, will you go look for yourself? With or without Sarah Hanson-Young.
PETER DUTTON: Well, Fran, I've been up to Nauru and to Manus Island.
I've been responsible for putting additional Federal Police onto the island so that we can provide support to the Nauruan Police Force.
We put a lot of money and financial support into the arrangement in Nauru and we provide support on an ongoing basis through the RPC and for health services, for educational services, and the like.
So Senator Hanson-Young's stunt of the week is all nice and grabs a headline, but in the end I want practical outcomes and I want to provide support to a safe environment, as safe as it can possibly be.
But in the end the Government's message remains absolutely resolute and that is that we're not going to allow the people smugglers to get back into business.
We're not going to allow people who seek to come to Australia by boat to settle on the mainland.
We're working very hard to stare down the continuing threat of people who want to put innocent people onto boats and we know that 1200 people drowned at sea when Labor was in government and lost control of the borders and I'm not going to allow us to return to that situation.
JOURNALIST: And the boats have stopped and the Government says that that's the success of this policy, but what now with these people?
You say Nauru is as safe as it can be, but is near enough good enough?
I mean we heard on 7.30 last week that harrowing story of a woman being raped, that's the allegation, that she was raped.
She was living as a refugee in Nauru, not in the detention centre and she was raped and then police didn't come.
We heard from a former Chief Magistrate in Australia, Peter Law, who used to live there, that the police are politicised.
He said the police and the politicians and the community, there's many - quite a high level of xenophobia on Nauru.
He just says that the justice system and political system really can't cope.
PETER DUTTON: Well, Fran, from our perspective we're working with people on Nauru to provide support to them to go to a third country.
We've been very clear and, as I said before, as it is the case with Labor, we're not going to allow people to settle in Australia.
So we're working with third parties, for example Cambodia …
JOURNALIST: …Is Cambodia the only one you're working with?
PETER DUTTON: Well we're working and have been for a long period of time, working on other bilateral options and options otherwise …
JOURNALIST: …Can you tell us what?
PETER DUTTON: Well, no, we're discussing that and having those negotiations obviously with a number of partners at the moment.
I mean I've commented publicly on that many times before and that is ongoing.
We want to make sure that we can assist people in finding an arrangement if they don't want to return to their country of origin.
We're working through individual cases. But it is difficult I must say …
JOURNALIST: …But Minister can I just interrupt you there, because you say …
PETER DUTTON: Sure.
JOURNALIST: … if they don't want to return to their country of origin, as if it's an option.
Many of these people - I think there's 400 now living in the community who've been found to be refugees - they don't have the option of returning to country of origin.
That's why they've been found refugees, because it's a genuine fear of persecution.
It's not an option.
PETER DUTTON: Well, Fran, as I say, we've got Cambodia available as an option and it is difficult - the point I was going to make a second ago - it is difficult when we've got probably well-intentioned, but nonetheless, refugee advocates back here who are messaging up to these people on Nauru saying don't accept any offer, don't leave the island, you'll come to Australia.
We've been very clear about the fact that people are not going to come to settle permanently in our country.
The difficulty is that I think the process is being undermined by these well intentioned advocates and it's not in the best interests of the people on Nauru or for our country otherwise.
JOURNALIST: Four people have chosen to move to Cambodia, it might be because they don't think Cambodia is much of an option in terms of being a functioning community that can really cope with resettling up to potentially 1000 refugees.
It was only in August where a senior Cambodian official said the country had no plans to take any more than the four they've taken so far.
So, you know, perhaps Cambodia is not a great option and that's what people are seeing.
PETER DUTTON: Well, Fran, I was speaking with and had a meeting with the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister in Cambodia only a couple of weeks ago.
They are committed to the MOU that was negotiated by Scott Morrison.
We're working with the Nauruan authorities, with people on Nauru, to take up the Cambodian option.
As I say, it's difficult when you have people undermining that process from Australia.
Nonetheless, we'll continue that work and if we can do that then we can provide people with an opportunity to restart.
We provide support around settlement services, accommodation, jobs, education, all of that.
But I want to be very clear. The people smugglers are determined to get back into business.
They are lying dormant at the moment and they are trying to put ventures together.
We'll turn-back boats where it's safe to do so, but we are not going to allow the deaths at sea to recommence.
The dividend of all of this is that we are able to maintain, on a per capita basis, the highest number of people being settled in our country under the refugee and humanitarian programs …
JOURNALIST: …Nevertheless, there's these thousand people …
PETER DUTTON: …That's the human dividend and it's something we should be very proud of.
JOURNALIST: There's a thousand people stuck on Nauru, there's about a thousand people on Manus.
Is the Government talking to any other countries beyond small, developing, poor Pacific nations that we would have to subsidise to take these people?
Are we talking to Norway, New Zealand, Sweden?
Are we going around the world looking for support here and what happens - importantly too - to those who are found not to be refugees?
Are they - can they just stay on Nauru, in the detention centre? What happens to them?
PETER DUTTON: Fran, we're, as I say, we're having discussions with a number of third countries and I don't have any public comment to make in relation to that.
We have the option of Cambodia available at the moment and we have a number of people who, over a period of time, have decided to return to their country of origin.
For many people they're seeking an economic outcome, which you can understand, because they want a better outcome for their family.
But we are facing, as we're seeing on our television screens every night, a desperate situation coming out Syria, out of parts of Africa otherwise and we are, in addition to the record number of people …
JOURNALIST: …And we've got some Syrian refugees on Nauru.
PETER DUTTON: Well Fran I …
JOURNALIST: …Of course they are. Of course they're there.
PETER DUTTON: I head you speak to Sarah before and without interruption you let her speak, so if I could just finish.
We are able to settle people who are most desperately in need.
We've said 12,000 people who come out of Syria, we're going to provide support and a new home, a new life, new opportunity to those people.
But there are millions of people who would seek to come to our country, by boat or otherwise, to seek an economic outcome, as people in Labor Party have noted themselves.
Now we're not going to allow that trade to restart.
Regional processing is an important part of that policy. It's adopted by Labor in government, it's been adopted by our Government and we have in addition to that the turn-backs and settlement services otherwise.
We are not going to allow our migration policy in this country to descend into something which is disorderly as we saw during the six years of Labor.
We've got the formula right and we'll work with Nauru and the PNG authorities to find an outcome for these people.
We need to be very careful about the messages that are sent back from Australia telling these people not to negotiate, not to deal, that they are coming to Australia, because they are not.
JOURNALIST: They are not coming to Australia. Was this Australia's idea or Nauru's idea, to give people better mobility and flexibility, basically to fling open the doors of the detention centre?
PETER DUTTON: Well the - I know there's been some comment in relation to that, including by the ABC, but the arrangements in relation to the open centre have been in place for some period of time, so…
JOURNALIST: …Yes but not for 24 hours.
Not completely open, I mean to the point where the Government of Nauru is saying offshore detention is ended.
Is this your idea or theirs?
PETER DUTTON: Well the point is this has been a progressive arrangement.
Up until now, the centre was open between the hours of 9a.m. and 5p.m. - 9a.m. and 9p.m.
Prior to that it was open 9am and 5pm, so they've been working up to this 24 hour open arrangement.
That's an issue for Nauru because they run the regional processing centre and they have made decisions around the open centre arrangement.
They have also made announcements about the final stages of the 600 or so applications that they're processing, that they will come to a conclusion as well.
So they’re issues for Nauru and we support them and welcome the announcement, but to suggest that somehow this has just appeared overnight, this has been a long time in the planning and we have been very supportive of it.
JOURNALIST: Do you think it will help with the Government's case in the High Court tomorrow?
PETER DUTTON: Well I think the High Court issue is best contested by the lawyers.
The Commonwealth obviously has a position and the advocates, the plaintiffs, have a position.
That will be argued out in the High Court and I'm better to leave that to the lawyers.
JOURNALIST: And just finally, if the detention centre is now open, it's no longer a detention centre in a sense, that's what the Government has said.
What happens to Transfield, do they get another five year contract to run it or is it a very diminished contract because you won't need all those guards?
PETER DUTTON: Well I guess that's a question that's not able to be answered at the moment, Fran, but Transfield is a company that is employing Australians.
They are paying taxes, they are involved in a legitimate business and they provide services under Liberal and Labor Governments.
Some of the activist activity and lies being spread at the moment I think are best left in the political arena as opposed to the business arena…
JOURNALIST: …I'm more interested in a business case though, will our government still be funding a company - Transfield or whoever it is giving a five year contract to run that detention centre if it's no longer a detention centre?
PETER DUTTON: We have a tender process that’s underway at the moment and I don't believe the Department's made a final decision in relation to that tender process.
JOURNALIST: Peter Dutton, thank you very much for joining us.
PETER DUTTON: Thanks very much, Fran.
JOURNALIST: Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.