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Subjects: PNG Supreme Court judgement; self-harm incident on Nauru; returns to Nauru.


PETER DUTTON:  Well everyone thank you very much for being here today.

I wanted to give an update on the Manus Island situation and some advice that I have received off the back of the Supreme Court decision in Papua New Guinea yesterday, but before I go to that I wanted to provide you with an update in relation to an incident that occurred earlier today on Nauru.

I can inform you that there was a 23-year-old male who had originally come from Iran by boat, was on Nauru and outside of the detention centre in fact in one of the settlement areas had set himself alight, had self-immolated this morning. He is in a very serious condition and the plan is to provide an air lift for him later tonight, but he is in a very, very serious condition and his outlook is not good at all.

So I send our best wishes and condolences in the circumstances to his wife as I understand it, to family otherwise.

Obviously this is a very confronting situation for those people who were present. I understand that there were representatives from the UNHCR on island as part of a regular visit and this is a circumstance which is very unfortunate and we hope that whatever medical assistance can be provided to that individual is provided.

The situation in relation to Manus Island, as I've repeated today, the Government's position is very clear and that is that we are not going to accept people who have sought to come to our country illegally by boat. They will not settle permanently in our country.

The Supreme Court decision obviously is an issue for the PNG Government and there are discussions including again this afternoon between legal representatives from my Department and from the immigration department of PNG. The court decision is binding of course on the PNG Government but not on the Australian Government. 

We will work with the PNG Government to look at the situation, to provide what assistance we can, but we are not going to allow people smugglers to get back into business.

There were 50,000 people who arrived on 800 boats when Labor lost control of our borders and 1,200 people drowned at sea.

We have had no reported deaths at sea since the commencement of Operation Sovereign Borders. We have been able to reduce the number of children in detention down to zero and we have reduced the number of people in detention overall, including adults off boats, from 10,200 now down to close to 500 people with the determination to get that to zero.

Like everybody I want to see people off Manus and off Nauru, out of the Regional Processing Centres and back to their countries of origin or back to third countries.

I want to put out a special plea today to those advocates particularly those from Australia who are messaging to people on Nauru, Manus and elsewhere. The constant messaging from advocates, even if it’s well intentioned, to say don't accept settlement packages, don't return back to your country of origin is not helpful and it provides lots of fa lse hope to these people who are in a very desperate situation.

The Government's policy remains absolute and that is that we are not going to allow people to settle in our country if they've sought to come here illegally by boat.

We don't want advocates saying to people who are on Nauru or Manus that there will be a different outcome, that if you don't engage somehow you'll come to Australia – that is not going to happen and we have been absolutely consistent in our messaging to that effect.

I ask particularly given the circumstances in Nauru that people however well-intentioned they may be, reconsider some of the messages that they're sending to people in Nauru and on Manus because hundreds of people both from Nauru and from Manus have returned back to their countries of origin, they have accep ted assistance to return back to their home country and we continue negotiations and  discussions with third countries to provide support to people, to return either to their country of origin or to a third country and those negotiations are ongoing.

I'm happy to take any questions.

JOURNALIST: Can I just confirm that airlift. Where will that be going to?

PETER DUTTON: We'll wait and see and we'll take the medical advice in relation to what's most appropriate in the circumstances.

JOURNALIST: Do you guys believe that self-immolation was deliberately to coincide with the UNHCR visit?

PETER DUTTON: Well look those investigations no doubt are underway.

We do have a number of incidences that take place when people visit including the UNHCR and other observers and that has been the history. So we need to be mindful of that. Whether or not there's a link between the visit and this action no doubt the investigations will discover whether or not that is the case, but I don't have that advice at this point in time.

JOURNALIST: Refugee groups claim the four other people tried to self-harm by drinking washing powder is that true?

PETER DUTTON: My advice is that there have been other incidents where people have self-harmed or sought to self-harm.

What we've been very clear about is that if people come to Australia for medical assistance they'll be returning back to Nauru once that medical assistance has been provided.

I can update you today on the fact that we have returned three people back to Nauru from Australia and they have returned because the medical assistance that they sought in Austra lia has been provided and they were given medical clearance to return to Nauru.

So if people think that through actions of self-harm or harming a member of their family that that is going to result in them coming to Australia and staying here permanently then again I repeat this message that that is not going to be the outcome.

We will provide medical support. We've provided millions of dollars of enhancements to medical support services on Nauru and people can receive medical assistance there, or at the international hospital in Papua New Guinea, or otherwise in Australia if that's deemed appropriate.

But once that medical assistance has been provided, people will be returning to Nauru and people will not be settling permanently in Australia.

I don't care what advocates are saying to you, if I can appeal now to tho se people who are on Nauru or on Manus Island, it doesn't matter what others are saying to you, it doesn't matter what people from Australia who are sending you social media messages are saying, you will not ever settle in Australia.

That has been the absolute determination of this Government from day one and we are not going to deviate from that course.

We'll provide support to return people home and, as I say, many people in the hundreds have returned back to their place of origin and we are working on arrangements to send people to third countries.

But self-harming or seeking medical assistance in Australia is not a permanent outcome. Once the medical assistance has been provided, people will return back to Nauru because otherwise we will have people who will follow in the footsteps if they believe that self-harm is go ing to provide a positive immigration outcome for them in Australia.

That is not the case and the Government has been perfectly consistent from day one and we will not deviate from that policy.

JOURNALIST: On the PNG court ruling. If the PNG Government requests some of these detainees to be sent to Australia, how will the Government respond?

PETER DUTTON: The Government's position is very clear and that is that that's people will not be permanently settled in Australia. We have been very clear about that and that position won't change.

JOURNALIST: Refugee groups are also reporting that two Iranian women are missing on the island and that no attempt has been made to find them?

PETER DUTTON: Again, my advice is that there are two women who are missing. There's a police investigation that&# 39;s under way. There's some suggestion that people may have departed by boat, but I don't have any confirmation of that, but there is some initial reporting of that and I've had some early advice in relation to it.

The latest advice I have is that the police are investigating that matter and I'll wait until I can get something definitive before I have anything further to say.

JOURNALIST: Will you be travelling to PNG?

PETER DUTTON: No, and again this comes from this silly suggestion from Richard Marles.

My counterpart isn't even in Papua New Guinea at the moment. He's travelling elsewhere in the world and I've had a long term dialogue with Minister Pato and obviously our High Commission is engaged from the High Commissioner down in PNG, with ICSA and other officials in PNG.

We have befo re Christmas contemplated what the outcome might be in this court case and we have looked at those possible outcomes.

So I've had a number of discussions over a period of time with my counterpart, but Richard Marles’ suggestion that I should go to PNG at a time when my counterpart is not even there demonstrates how hopeless they are in opposition and how impossibly hopeless they were in government.  

This arrangement was arrived at by Mr Rudd and there is an eerie similarity between the words now uttered by Mr Marles and Mr Shorten to those that were uttered by Mr Rudd in the run-up to the 2007 election.

Remember in the run-up to the ‘07 election Mr Rudd promised that there are only four people in detention. John Howard had got all these people out of detention, he had stopped the boats, nothing would change under a Labor Government, that we would see a continuation of Coalition policies under a Labor Administration.

They completely undid all of that and 50,000 people arrived on 800 boats. 

Now in the run-up to this election Mr Marles and Mr Shorten are out there wanting people to believe that somehow if they got into Government that they wouldn't again be monstered by the left. They would. They would undo these policies which would see boats start up again.

Twelve-hundred people drowned at sea when they last lost control of our borders and we've had no reported loss of life since the commencement of Operation Sovereign Borders and we are not about to change this policy.

It was very interesting I might say on Lateline last night where Mr Marles was asked on two separate occasions, on two separate occasions, whether or not a Labor Government would continu e with Regional Processing Centres and he did not answer the question given two opportunities.

I think this demonstrates that Labor can't even hold their policy during an election campaign let alone in Government and I think Mr Shorten is sounding a lot like Mr Rudd in the run-up to this election.

But from four people in detention including no children which is what Mr Rudd inherited they put 10,200 people into detention including 8,500 children that went through detention.

We have got the number of children in detention down to zero and we have closed 13 of 17 detention centres that Labor reopened.

I'm hardly going to take advice from Richard Marles and Bill Shorten.

JOURNALIST: With the self-immolation and the other incidents of reported self-harm, obviously resettlement is taking a long time. Do you feel responsi bility that there are obviously people that are in this desperate situation?

PETER DUTTON: I feel terribly for people that have been conned by people smugglers to pay thousands of dollars believing that were coming to Australia.

This Government has been very clear from day one, from the first day of the election, in fact well and truly clear while we were still in opposition, that is that we would stop boats and people who sought to come by boat would never settle in Australia.

We have worked with Nauru and we have worked with PNG as well to provide support for their Regional Processing Centres, to help people go back home as quickly as possible.

It is hard when there are well intentioned advocates here in Australia who are messaging saying, ‘don't go back, you'll eventually get to Australia, hold out, and eventually you'll arrive in our country.’ That makes it very difficult and it makes it even more difficult for the people involved because they're confused about the messages that they're receiving from these advocates.

I can't be any clearer and I have not deviated from this message at all since becoming Minister and neither has Minister Morrison and that is that people on Nauru, those people on Manus, who have come by boat, will not settle permanently in Australia. I can't be any clearer than that and I want people to hear that very clear message.

That message has allowed to us stop the deaths at sea, the women, children and men who drowned, 1,200 of them, also need to be recognised as part of this discussion and we're not going to allow that to reoccur.

People are seeing on their television sets people drowning in the Mediterranean, the crossing of borders where countries have lost control of their borders.

This election will be very much fought on the grounds of national security and not ever before have we had an election which is so important in terms of national security.

The threats that we're seeing across Europe, including in Brussels and manifesting in Paris and elsewhere, these are the threats that we need to deal with border crossings every day.

We know that we need to make sure that we have strong secure borders and if we do that we can have a safer community and that is the very stark difference between what the Turnbull Government stands for and the wishy washy approach that Bill Shorten stands for.

JOURNALIST: Is the level of mental health care on these offshore centres adequate?

PETE R DUTTON: There's significant support provided for a range of medical conditions including mental health needs.

We've provided considerable assistance through IHMS and other medical services including in PNG for the medical needs that people have. So there is a lot of support that's been provided on a daily basis. 

Ultimately though, people want to come to Australia. That's what they've paid their money for, that's the outcome they want, but we need to work with them to demonstrate that they are not coming to Australia, but that we will help them restart their lives again back in their country of origin or in a third country. 

Alright, thanks very much.


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The Hon Peter Dutton MP, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection
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