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Subjects: PNG Supreme Court decision; Manus Island; Federal Court decision; Labor divided on Border Protection; Nauru self-harm incident; 2016 Federal Election.

 

EO&E...

 

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

 

Peter Dutton is the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection.  Welcome back to RN Drive.

 

PETER DUTTON:

 

Thanks Patricia.

 

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

 

First on the future of Manus Island.  Have you made any progress since Australian officials were in Papua New Guinea last week?

 

PETER DUTTON:

 

Well the officials, as you say, were up there last week and the talks will continue for some time. I think that they will probably go on for the next couple of months and they can deal with some of the legal issues. But obviously the Supreme Court, as people now understand, hadn’t ruled that Manus needed to close, but they were worried about a particular cohort of people within the population within the Regional Processing Centre. 

 

That’s what the PNG authorities are working to address, but again, the Government’s position has been clear from day one and this is that we are not taking people into Australia from Manus.  We’ll help them find third country origins or settle in PNG otherwise.

 

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

 

So can you clarify to me how you might resolve it?  You say it’s a cohort of people. What would you do?  What are some of the options on the table?

 

PETER DUTTON:

 

Well, for example, those people would have been found to be refugees under the MOU signed between Mr Rudd and PNG, the arrangement was for those refugees to be settled in PNG. That’s the basis of the MOU that Labor signed and, as I say, we’ll work with the PNG Government because there are hundreds of people that have gone back to their countries of origin where they have not been able to make a claim for protection.

 

That’s part of the discussion and obviously PNG has been operating the RPC since Mr Rudd entered that agreement and we want some arrangement to continue, but it’s early days in those discussions.

 

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

 

So will your negotiations with PNG and the fate of these 850 men on Manus continue to be up in the air during the whole election campaign? Will you have a resolution by July 2 so we can know what ultimately the policy or the resolution is around this?

 

PETER DUTTON:

 

Well that will depend obviously Patricia on some of the questions that are being asked and for us to have a look at some of the proposals being put by PNG.  But, as I say, I think the discussions will be protracted and I think that the important point is that the Supreme Court hasn’t ruled that the centre should close. The PNG Government rightly wants to comply with the orders of the Court and we’ll work with the PNG Government to accommodate that. The starting point in the discussions for us is that people aren’t going to be settled in Australia and we’ve been upfront and very clear about that.

 

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

 

You say that the PNG Supreme Court decision didn’t mandate closing the centre, but the PNG Prime Minister has done that so you still need to act. The legal argument about the Court’s jurisdiction isn’t the most relevant issue in front of you is it?

 

PETER DUTTON:

 

Well we’ve obviously got a good working relationship with PNG.  As Labor worked out, at least when they believed in the policy of stopping the boats, regional processing does work.

 

We want to get people off Manus and off Nauru as quickly as possible, but at the same time the balance we have to strike is that we don’t allow people smugglers to get a message out that if you stay in PNG or stay in Nauru for a couple of years, ultimately you will settle in Australia and that’s the price you pay. 

 

People have paid thousands of dollars to people smugglers to make the journey and ultimately of course they want to settle in Australia and that’s why they pay people smugglers and why they have taken what is a very risky journey.  Of course 1200 people drowned at sea and never made it to land at all.

The policy that we’ve got at the moment does starve the people smuggler of the message that people will settle permanently in Australia. 

 

So we need to get that balance right, we need to make sure we send a clear message they we’re not going to allow people smugglers to get back into business and the difficulty that we’ve seen over the last couple of days is that Bill Shorten now has a massive breakout in his backbench and frontbench…

 

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

 

…I will ask you about that, but I just want to, before we get to Labor, and I will ask you about that, but would you consider moving these men on PNG to Nauru still?

 

PETER DUTTON:

 

No we’re not considering that at this point in time. 

 

We think it’s important for PNG to resolve the issues and obviously there is an MOU entered into by Mr Rudd with the PNG Government and our expectation is that that MOU will be honoured.

 

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

 

So you’re saying that you can guarantee that the men won’t be moved to Nauru?

 

PETER DUTTON:

 

Well I’m saying that they won’t come to Australia. We will work with the PNG Government to help settle people in…

 

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

 

…but will they go to Nauru?

 

PETER DUTTON:

 

Well that’s not something that we consider an appropriate outcome. We think that, particularly given the provisions of the MOU that Labor entered into, that if that is adhered to then there will be options for people to settle in PNG or to go back to their country of origin. 

 

There are some people who haven’t advanced their claims for protection because they don’t want them heard there, they want to come to Australia.  Again we have been very clear – I don’t want to provide false hope to people to make them think that there’s some chance of them coming to Australia. They are not coming to our country. 

 

We will settle refugees in record numbers, but not from those who come on boat. And we’ll continue that policy because it’s worked. It’s stopped deaths at sea, it’s got all of the kids out of detention and we’re not going to go back to those dysfunctional days.

 

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

 

Can I turn to the case of the asylum seeker known as S99 who was raped while having a seizure in Nauru? You sent her to PNG for an abortion despite it being illegal there. Is she still in PNG?

 

PETER DUTTON:

 

Well just to deal with a couple of issues there firstly Patricia. The first point is that there was an allegation of rape and we take that very seriously. I’ve been very definite from day one that I won’t tolerate any instances of sexual abuse, whether it’s within our detention network here or whether it’s in one of the Regional Processing Centres.

 

We’ll work with our partners in Nauru to make sure that whatever assistance is provided, needs to be provided, is provided and that’s the view of the Nauruan Government as well. 

 

So there’s an allegation. You’ll remember a previous case where somebody made an allegation of rape. There were no particulars provided in relation to the allegation.  Ultimately the person did come to Australia.  They were injuncted, or the Government was immediately, so they weren’t able to be…

 

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

 

…sure, but either way she was pregnant so dealing with that issue.

 

PETER DUTTON:

 

I’ll just finish this point because I think it’s an important point. Ultimately the lady decided to not have the abortion and she’s now had the baby. 

 

The same solicitor acted for that lady as is acting for the lady that you speak of. And we’ll work through, as we’ve always said, we’ll provide whatever medical assistance is required, is reasonably provided. 

 

In the first instance, people should receive medical assistance on Nauru. If it’s not available there then they can go to the international hospital where Australians are treated in PNG…

 

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

 

…but Peter Dutton, given that abortion is illegal in PNG, how could you of…

 

PETER DUTTON:

 

…well again it’s not Patricia.  Just to deal with that second element, there is a provision within the PNG law where the abortion is not illegal. 

 

Now there’s an issue around timing and the rest of it, and the lady ultimately decided that in PNG she didn’t want the abortion, even though it was available to her, and legally so. 

 

Now we’re happy to work, as I say, with each of these cases to provide reasonable support and proper medical assistance, but to suggest that there has been a rape that’s been proven or something beyond an allegation is not right.

 

So there are very vexed issues involved in all of these matters as you would appreciate. People want to come to Australia and I respect and appreciate that, but we have been very definite that they are not coming to Australia if they have arrived by boat.

 

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

 

Are you suggesting that that’s what she is trying to do? Trick the Government into coming to Australia?

 

PETER DUTTON:

 

I am just suggesting that these are very vexed issues. There are allegations about harm and self-harm….

 

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

 

…but are you suggesting that that’s what she was trying to do?

 

PETER DUTTON:

 

No. I am saying that there is an allegation of a rape and reports by some people that this is a proven outcome is just not accurately reflected in the allegation that’s been made. 

 

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

 

But S99 won her action against you in the Federal Court last week. The Court held that there was a reasonable apprehension that you will breach your duty of care for this woman by procuring an abortion in PNG where an abortion is not safe or lawful and that you have until 15 May to avoid breaching your duty of care. So what are you going to do about it?

 

PETER DUTTON:

 

Well we will work with the lady in question and provide the medical attention that is required and it is not something that I’m going to talk about publicly. With the previous case, as I said, it’s…

 

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

 

…but will you confirm that you won’t be appealing the Federal Court decision?

 

PETER DUTTON:

 

We are not going to appeal the decision and there is a very narrow judgement in relation to specific circumstances relating to this one case and that’s an important point to make.

 

As I say, there are all sorts of issues involved in these matters and this is a very complex case Patricia – there is no question about that.

 

As with all of these cases we will abide by the law, we will provide the necessary medical support and we will work in private because ultimately this is a choice by the individual person, the lady involved, and we will provide the support that is required both in terms of the medical needs, the mental health needs, whatever support is required as you would expect and has been the case in cases previously.

 

The only point that I would make is that there are sometimes other aspects to these cases that aren’t immediately publicly available and I just don’t intend to talk about the very personal medical needs or requirements of individuals that can be identified.

 

We will provide the support that’s required and I don’t have any further comment to make in relation to it.

 

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

 

Okay just one more question on it before we move onto one other issue. Do you accept the Federal Courts judgement in full? Do you accept that sending a woman to have an abortion where it’s not safe or lawful, and safe was in there too, is a breach of your duty of care?

 

PETER DUTTON:

 

Well Patricia I mean I’m just not going to get into our views about the judgement. We have accepted the judgement in relation to this particular matter. We will provide the support as we have in every other case.

 

Ultimately some people are very keen to get to Australia and I appreciate that. They have paid money to people smugglers to get here. We are not going to allow people smugglers to get back into business and for people to drown at sea. That is the last circumstance that I’m going to allow and as I have said to you before.

 

I think it’s been a very telling couple of days because the Labor Party has walked away essentially from their policy. Now some people would applaud that and say that that is a good thing that they’re not going to turn back boats, they are not going to operate Regional Processing Centres, but my view is that the majority of the Australian public strongly supports the stance that has been taken by the…

 

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

 

…I must correct the record because you say that the Labor Party has walked away from that agreement, but actually Bill Shorten hasn’t done that. He has rebuked the people, the candidates, you are right, who have spoken out against the policy….

 

PETER DUTTON:

 

…well not all of them. Well again that’s not true because there are 13 now that have spoken out against him. He has had no rebuke of Tanya Plibersek and Anthony Albanese. If you go to the interview last night Mr Albanese gave to Emma Alberici on Lateline it was a train wreck of an interview and he refused to back the position of Mr Shorten. Now Mr Shorten hasn’t rebuked Anthony Albanese and Anthony Albanese is obviously keen to keep his seat from the Greens and he didn’t vote, as is the case for Ms Plibersek and Ms Wong, they didn’t vote for Bill Shortens’ positon at conference and…

 

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

 

…no, but they have subsequently said that they accept, they have subsequently said that they accept that they lost the argument and that now there is a party line which is basically very similar to your line on asylum seekers.

 

PETER DUTTON:

 

Which is strangely enough what they said when Mr Rudd made the same proposal in 2007 Patricia. So I think what we need to do is look beyond the words and look to the actions and the actions of Mr Albanese and Ms Plibersek at the moment is completely at odds with the actions of Mr Shorten. I think, as I say, it’s quite telling, but that’s an issue for the Labor Party….

 

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

 

…but what about the open contradictions of the Prime Minister from your backbench on a range of issues? We have had lots of them on national security. Tony Abbott the former Prime Minister, we have had Eric Abetz, Cory Bernadi also providing alternative ideas in the last couple of months. You can’t condemn it on one side but say that you are a broad church on the other when it happens on your side.

 

PETER DUTTON:

 

Well the difference is that the Prime Minister has been able to lead on this issue and he’s been able to deal with any of the questions that you’ve just put that others have raised and he’s been able to deliver.

 

The difficult is that Mr Shorten hasn’t been able to deliver. He didn’t deliver when Mr Rudd was in government. He was part of the government that presided over a situation where 1200 people drowned at sea.

 

Now we can’t just brush over the fact that Labor says one thing in opposition and does a very different thing in Government. Particularly if they were in coalition with the Greens they would abandon this policy. There is no question.

 

It is a very difficult issue for the Labor party, I accept that, but let’s call it for what it is. There is great division within the Labor party and I don’t believe that they would continue the policies that we’ve had of turning back boats where it’s safe to do so. Their policy is only about an option to turn back boats.

 

I can tell you now that if you get one or two or three boats through you will get 300 through and there was no let off in the numbers that were coming through. Fifty thousand on 800 boats and the numbers had not plateaued and they were continuing to spiral up and up.

 

We’ve been able to deal with that issue successfully, we’ve got every child out of detention and I think people need to realise that there is a very big difference now between the opposition and the Government in the run up to this election on what is a very important national security issue.

 

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

 

Peter Dutton do you have an update on Hodan Yasin, the 21 year old Somali woman who set herself alight on 2 May? It was reported six days ago that her condition was critical.

 

PETER DUTTON:

 

There is no update to her condition. The latest update that I have is that she is still in a critical condition.

 

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

 

And just finally on politics, your Liberal colleague Russell Broadbent has told his local paper that the eight week election campaign is suicidal for the Government and will hurt it’s chance at re-election.

 

Do you wish it could have been different? Is he right? Is it suicidal for the Government?

 

PETER DUTTON:

 

Well I think the election campaign started pretty well for the Government because we’ve been able to outline our jobs and growth strategy, a plan for the economy, and I think that’s what matters to people…

 

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

 

…okay, but is it politically suicidal to have an eight week campaign?

 

PETER DUTTON:

 

Well, as I say, I mean clearly that’s not started that way and the Government will continue to talk about our record, but most importantly about our plan for the future and the fact that we are a united team and that we are able to present a coherent position on these policies. Not everybody has to agree with us, but I think people can see….

 

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

 

…well Russell Broadbent doesn’t agree with you.

 

PETER DUTTON:

 

We’ll we’re acting in the countries best interests and I think we are doing the right thing here by getting kids out of detention, closing 17 detention centres when Labor opened 17. We haven’t had any reported deaths at sea.

 

So I think there is a good reason for the Australian public to vote for us on July 2 and it is a long campaign, but I think Prime Minister Turnbull will show that we have a plan for the next three years and beyond and I think people will vote for that on July 2.

 

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

 

Minister, thanks very much for your time.

 

PETER DUTTON:

 

Thank you very much for having me on. Thank you.

 

[ends]

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