22 February, 2016
Subjects: Baby Asha; the Coalition Government’s border protection policy; Newspoll.
JOURNALIST: Minister welcome back to Breakfast.
PETER DUTTON: Thanks Fran.
JOURNALIST: You’ve agreed to let Asha and her family live in community detention. She’s now left the hospital this morning. Where has she gone?
PETER DUTTON: She has gone into community detention, as you point out, and that’s been the case for 83 other people, including women and children, families and when I’ve been in the show before Fran I’ve said that I want to be the Minister to get children out of detention, I want to make sure that we can stop the boats and for 83 people already who have come from Nauru to Australia, they are in community detention already….
JOURNALIST: What does that mean Minister? I think a lot of us listening have no idea really what that means, what kind of restrictions might apply.
PETER DUTTON: So it can mean a house or a unit where the family is present and there’ll be an officer that is present there with them. So there’s restrictions in terms of where people can go out into the community and obviously there is a structure in terms of doctors’ appointments and support that is required otherwise and that’s as I say the way that it’s operated for a lot of people.
I think frankly there’s a bit of propaganda around I’ve seen online and again this morning being repeated by some of the advocates. This family has been treated no differently to the families that we’ve treated before them and that’s why as I say 83 already are in the community, that have come from Nauru, into Australia and this family will be treated the same as the next family that we consider will be treated.
That’s what you would expect because we are not going to allow people smugglers to get out a message that if you seek assistance in an Australian hospital that somehow that is your formula to becoming an Australian citizen.
Now these are ruthless, organised criminals that we’re dealing with and I think people need to be realistic about the threat that faces us and as you point out, there were 1,200 people who went to the bottom of the ocean when Labor lost control of our borders – for which they have since apologised – and we’re not going to allow that to happen again because there were many children within the 1,200 whose faces we haven’t seen, whose names we don’t know and I’m not going to allow new families to be put in that perilous position.
JOURNALIST: So what does that mean? That baby Asha and her family will be allowed to settle in Australia or will not be allowed to settle in Australia?
PETER DUTTON: Again Fran, I think there’s a lot of propaganda around. I was very clear in my press conference yesterday – I’m sorry that some have sought for their own purposes to twist the words – but the same consistency applies. That is that once the medical situation has been resolved, so once the medical attention has been rendered and once the legal issues are resolved, people will go back to Nauru.
If we can make arrangements with people to go back to their country of origin, then we will make that arrangement and many hundreds of people have done that because they’ve been found not to be refugees and we’ve decided that we will assist record numbers of refugees, but we will do it through the UN programme and through the Special Humanitarian Programme.
That’s the way that we have consistently operated and nothing has changed in relation to this case. Nothing will change in relation to the next case and we need that consistency of approach because if not, our words are twisted and contorted by people smugglers – as we’ve seen reported through the intelligence reports over recent times.
JOURNALIST: So the doctors would not release baby Asha to go to Nauru because they said that wouldn’t be an appropriate level of care. By allowing the family to live in community detention, aren’t you conceding that Nauru is unsuitable for children? Or are you just waiting for the heat to die down?
PETER DUTTON: No I’m not Fran, no again, I mean this is part of the information that you’d read on some blogs by some of the advocates.
JOURNALIST: I haven’t read the blogs, I’m trying to work out what the Government’s policy is here.
PETER DUTTON: I couldn’t be any clearer and that is that once the medical assistance has been provided, once the legal issues are resolved, people will go back to Nauru. In the interim we will make an assessment case-by-case about whether or not it’s safe for the family to live in the community and we’ve made that decision in relation to 83 people already and baby Asha’s family are the next in that process.
If we make a decision that there are issues in relation to the father, security issues or there are domestic violence issues or there are claims of criminal activity, then in that case we will make a decision that the person does not leave the detention centre and we will provide for a more secure arrangement.
So that is as it has always has been. Nothing has changed in relation to this case and I think frankly some people are using this opportunity of this baby’s illness to promote their own media profiles – and I think that is absolutely disgraceful.
JOURNALIST: Well I think people are using it because they see it as a sign of hope because they don’t want the children to be sent back to Nauru. We heard earlier from AMA President Brian Owler, doctors are calling for a moratorium on all children being sent back to Nauru. He says sending children and keeping them on Nauru is akin to child abuse. So I don’t think people are using it for their own self-promotion. I think they’re concerned the thought of babies being sent back to Nauru.
PETER DUTTON: Well I think people will draw their own conclusions about what the motivations of some of these people might be.
JOURNALIST: What do you say to Brian Owler when he says it’s not a safe place for children, it’s akin to child abuse?
PETER DUTTON: What I’ve said in the past in relation to these matters is that we want to get children out of detention but the way to get children into detention is to dismantle the policies that we’ve got.
There were 8,000 children in detention when Labor lost control of our borders. The policy of both the Liberal Party and the Labor Party is to continue offshore processing and to make sure that we stare down the threat of people smugglers. There are 14,000 people in Indonesia now that would hop on a boat tomorrow if they had the green light.
JOURNALIST: How does it get baby Asha out of detention if you send her back to detention?
PETER DUTTON: Because we will work with families where they are found not to be owed protection to go back to their country of origin and we’ve been very clear…
JOURNALIST: Unless they’re persecuted in their country of origin, unless they’re genuine refugees?
PETER DUTTON: Of course and we have a look at each of the individual cases and the Nauruan Government does their assessments, all of that process, as I say, has not changed and what the advocates are really arguing for Fran is an opening of our borders and that’s their long held position. I respect it. I disagree with it vehemently but that is what they are trying to twist and contort this case into is a discussion about how we can open borders.
Now, we’ve got the number of children down to less than 80. As I said I am determined to get the numbers to zero. The reason that it is less than 80 is because I have released people that have been from Nauru in Australia for medical assistance out into the community [inaudible] the 83 that I’ve just spoken of, which has allowed us to reduce that number down below 80, less than 75, as I think the latest number is and we’ll look at each of the individual cases to see if more can come out into the community.
But this is the important point and I’ve made this consistently; once the medical and the legal matters are resolved people will then go back to Nauru or back to their country of origin.
JOURNALIST: And then what? So of the 269 people I think it is now, if we include Asha and her parents, in Australia facing deportation to Nauru, if some of those or most of those are found to be refugees, then what happens to them? What about this offer from New Zealand to take some of these refugees? Could some of those people who are currently here end up in New Zealand? Would that be an option for a third country?
PETER DUTTON: Not under the arrangement that….so you’re referring to the arrangement that was struck by Julia Gillard with Prime Minister Key…
JOURNALIST: Well I understand that John Key has said it again in the last week or so?
PETER DUTTON: But the way in which the deal was struck meant that people could go to New Zealand as a back door option to come to Australia and that’s why it was a failed proposal under Julia Gillard and that’s why it’s not acceptable to us in the form that Julia Gillard brokered it.
Now, I’ve been very upfront, again on your programme and elsewhere, to say that we have had discussions with third countries and those discussions continue with a number of countries to see whether or not there might be third country settlement options, but what we aren’t going to do is structure it in such a way that it would allow people smugglers to say, if you’ve paid your money, hoped onto the boat, come to Australia, you will end up in a third country, somewhere in the world that would be a legitimate outcome for the money that you paid.
We are just not going to allow these people smugglers to take control back and there are, as I say, intelligence reports out saying that the reports of Premier Andrews and Premier Palaszczuk, the other Premiers that have made public comment on this, is that the policy is going to change and that you will come to Australia and settle in Australia – and that is false hope and it’s going to result in deaths at sea and I’m not going to be a party to it.
JOURNALIST: Alright Minister. Can I just ask you finally, today’s Newspoll puts the Government and Labor level pegging, 50-50 two-party preferred. Could the Government’s hard line approach on asylum seekers have something to do with that collapse in voter support?
PETER DUTTON: Well Fran, as you would recall at the last election, one of the big issues was the issue around this very problem and people were very angry that Labor had lost control of our borders and 1,200 people had drowned. In this area we’ve restored integrity to the process. We’ve been able to offer new life to record numbers of refugees, including the 12,000 Syrians, the number of refugees grows from 13,750 this year to 18,750 within a couple of years – making this on a per capita basis the most generous nation in the world.
JOURNALIST: So you don’t think this concern about children in detention is feeding into this?
PETER DUTTON: I think people see that we are dealing with these issues in a firm but compassionate way. I think we were voted at the last election not to allow people smugglers to get back into business Fran and the Government’s got a lot of work to do because we’re 50-50, Australia faces a prospect of a union dominated government under Bill Shorten, so we need to make sure that we work harder to keep our country safe and out of the hands of these union bosses.
JOURNALIST: And 50-50, support falling, would it be wise to go to an election as soon as possible, perhaps a double dissolution election in July?
PETER DUTTON: Election timing is an issue for the Prime Minister. What we need to do is to make sure that we are acting in the best interests of families, of small businesses, making sure that we can keep our country safe. We face an unprecedented threat from terrorism and the people smugglers are still there, wanting people to pay cash to get onto boats and we’re not going to allow people to drown at sea.
So there are many reasons why people should vote for the Coalition but ultimately what’s of most interest to us is not polls, it’s how we can help families improve their lives, help their kids get a better education, make sure that people can live in a safe society and that’s part of what we’ll be saying at the next election.
JOURNALIST: Peter Dutton thank you very much for joining us.
PETER DUTTON: Thanks Fran. Thank you.