Subjects: Australian Trusted Trader funding announcement; self-harm incident on Nauru; Nauru & Manus Island Regional Processing Centre; Labor’s split on Border Protection; Tony Abbott's comments.
PETER DUTTON: Thank you for being here this morning.
I'm very pleased to be in Sydney to make an announcement of $70 million for a four year period to extend what has been a very successful pilot programme so far of Australian Trusted Trader, which essentially is about growing jobs and about using technology and about making sure that we can concentrate our efforts within Australian Border Force on the risks, particularly in terms of cargo that's coming across our shores, that may if not intercepted, result in guns and illicit substances coming into the country otherwise.
So I want to thank very much the partners that have been identified here today. This has been a great working relationship between industry and Government and I pay tribute to the Commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg and to the staff that have got this pilot up and running.
Thirty five companies have been involved in this pilot over the course of the last 12 months. It means that we can have a trusted relationship with industry players with whom we have an established relationship and if we do that it means that, as I say, we can then concentrate our effort on our borders where we see the highest risk.
This Government has been very genuine in our attempts from day one to make sure that we can secure our borders – both in terms of people movements and cargo movements – because as we're seeing internationally, countries face greater risks across their borders than they ever have in years passed.
I'm very pleased to be here to announce, as I say, an investment of $70 million which will be announced in the Budget next week and it will extend for these four providers to enrol in the programme initially but many more will follow.
It is about embracing innovation, making sure that we've got jobs and growth in our economy and that will be the focus of the Budget importantly next week as well.
I'm happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: Minister on another issue. What is the condition of the Nauruan refugee who was transferred to Brisbane?
PETER DUTTON: I'm advised his condition is still critical and I don't have any further advice beyond that, but he's not in a good way at all and that's the advice that I have.
JOURNALIST: Doctors have been critical for the delay in removing him from the island. It was more than 24 hours before he could be medevac’d. What was the cause of that delay?
PETER DUTTON: The advice that I've received is that there was no delay.
Obviously people realise that Nauru is 4,500km or so from Australia. It is not as if we're heading out to Bondi or out to Beenleigh to try and pick up somebody by air and bring them back to a major hospital here in Australia.
There is a long distance involved and there were other medical issues that I'm advised presented as well which made the decision difficult about the time to airlift this person.
So I think people should rely on the facts as opposed to those who jump to conclusions without the facts.
The decision was made immediately, as I'm advised, to evacuate by air this particular man and those arrangements were put in place.
But again, there are obligations that need to be met in terms of the requirements around pilots and air crew, as I'm advised, particularly given the long distance there and the long distance back to Australia.
JOURNALIST: What were the other medical issues you mention?
PETER DUTTON: I don't have anything further to say in relation to that matter.
JOURNALIST: Was it the case that there was no pilot on the island?
PETER DUTTON: As I say, I just don’t have any comment…
The only other thing I'd say is that you're talking about an air ambulance. This is not a plane that is sitting on the runway at Nauru or many other destinations for that matter. It's a contracted arrangement where you need an air ambulance so that you can provide stability and assistance to the patient in flight and obviously all of that was put in place to contract those services.
The decision, as I say, was made very quickly once the condition of the patient was understood and the medical assistance was provided.
JOURNALIST: Two men were arrested and jailed overnight on Nauru for attempting to commit suicide. Do you believe that's an appropriate response?
PETER DUTTON: Well that's a question for the Nauruan Police or the Nauruan Government.
JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister this morning said discussions had been held with New Zealand. Is that an option for the relocation of men from Manus?
PETER DUTTON: Well look, what we know of Julia Gillard's deal with New Zealand was that it was a back-door way to get into Australia and it would have been a green light for people smugglers because what Labor had proposed was to allow people to go to New Zealand, gain New Zealand citizenship and then, as of right under the visa arrangements with New Zealand, then settle in Australia.
So the way that Labor had constructed this, frankly in a similar way to the way in which they'd constructed the failed Malaysia deal, meant that it was going do nothing other than encourage people smugglers to get back into business.
We have been very mindful of all of the complexities involved in securing our borders but we have stopped boats. We have closed 13 of 17 detention centres that Labor opened on the mainland. There have been no reported deaths at sea under Operation Sovereign Borders and we want to continue that success.
Now what it is interesting to note is that Labor is splitting from the top down when it comes to border protection policy. There are now five Labor MPs who have openly defied their leader and this is now a test of leadership for Bill Shorten. Does he have the ability to hold his team together? Well clearly not.
It seems to me that Labor is demonstrating what happened when they were in government. That is that they want you to believe they will adopt policies which work and stop boats, which have been demonstrated by Coalition Governments to work, but really, when they're under pressure, as they are now – and Bill Shorten's had a revolt on his backbench, five members, and there will be more, have openly spoken in defiance of their leader – Bill Shorten needs to pull them into line.
We're now seeing Anthony Albanese, who is part of the leadership group within the ALP, who is out condoning the words of those that have revolted on the backbench.
This is a very serious issue for Mr Shorten because he wanted people to believe
that he could hold this policy position together until the election and hopefully for them, into government, but he's demonstrated he can't hold his team together, even up to the point where the election has been called and this is a very significant leadership test for Bill Shorten and so far he's failed it.
JOURNALIST: In any relocation of detainees from Manus, would that include the 400 or so who have been deemed to be refugees?
PETER DUTTON: Just to deal again with the facts in relation to the Supreme Court findings, the judgement in relation to Manus, the Supreme Court in PNG didn't order for the Regional Processing Centre to be closed.
There is a different arrangement in relation to those people that have had their claims assessed up there and, as you point out, there are over 400 people that have had their claims assessed and they are owed protection – they under the MoU have the ability to go into society within PNG.
The others that haven't had their claims processed – and there are a number of reasons for that: one is, that some people haven't engaged in the interview process or provided documents because they believe that that will prejudice their ultimate outcome, desired outcome, that is to come to Australia.
So the court case applies to a limited number of people and as I've said in previous days, the PNG Government has already put in place some mitigating arrangements in anticipation of the Supreme Court judgement.
We will continue to work with PNG and we’ll continue to help neighbours, including PNG, deal with what is a regional problem in people smuggling, but as I've said before, the starting point for our Government is that these people will not be coming to Australia and we've been clear on that from day one.
The Prime Minister has reiterated that again today, and yesterday obviously, and that is the remaining position and it will not change.
It may change if there's a change of government at the election because Bill Shorten doesn't have the ability to hold his team together – but it will not change under this Government.
JOURNALIST: An application will be heard on Monday in the PNG Supreme Court, a new application, seeking compensation for the men detained and the courts ruled that their detention was and remains illegal. Under the terms of the MoU with PNG all costs will be borne by Australia.
Does Australia have a contingency if that compensation is awarded to those men?
PETER DUTTON: I'm not commenting on hypothetical court cases...
JOURNALIST: …no it’s a real court case, it’s happening on Monday.
PETER DUTTON: We'll wait and see what it has to provide but I don't have any comment to make in relation to possible prospective cases.
JOURNALIST: Do you welcome Tony Abbott's comments that he doesn't harbour any ambitions to return to the leadership?
PETER DUTTON: I think Tony Abbott is genuine when he says he wants to see the Turnbull Government elected and he thinks it would be a disaster for Bill Shorten to become Prime Minister of this country.
The Shorten government would introduce an electricity tax. They would introduce a housing tax. They would introduce significant debt which would put at risk our credit rating in this country. They are a very serious threat because they're dominated by the CFMEU, by the AWU and others and those people will not act in the best interests of small business – we saw that with the truckies – Bill Shorten was happy to see thousands of owner operators, small business operators and their families go broke to try and boost the membership of the TWU.
Well, I think people will see through that and I think Tony Abbott is right in pointing out that he wants, like all of us, for the Turnbull Government to be elected in July and to make sure that we work together to make sure that Bill Shorten is not elected.
JOURNALIST: Can you ever see Tony Abbott returning to the leadership?
PETER DUTTON: No and I think that's been dealt with.
JOURNALIST: So you're confident there will be no sniping throughout the election campaign?
PETER DUTTON: Yes.
JOURNALIST: Just back on Nauru. Do you know if the search has been undertaken for the two refugee women who have been missing since Sunday?
PETER DUTTON: I understand there is a police investigation underway in relation to it, but I don't have any further information and no doubt the Nauruan authorities are the best people to direct those inquiries to.
Thank you very much.