Subjects: Manus Island Regional Processing Centre, self-harm incident on Nauru, federal election.
JOURNALIST: Mr Dutton good morning to you.
PETER DUTTON: Good morning Ray.
JOURNALIST: Just a little bit of history on this. This island detention centre was opened originally by a John Howard Government; I think in 2001 and then was closed in 2004 with only one detainee inside the centre when he stopped the boats, the first time…
PETER DUTTON: That’s the history and then there was obviously a negotiat ion between Julia Gillard and then Kevin Rudd and the MOU that was settled under Kevin Rudd, provided for yearly reviews and for the ability for people to go there and ultimately for PNG to have responsibility for those people.
JOURNALIST: Now, we go from there to where we are now. In 2001 John Howard sent SAS troops to intercept the Norwegian Freighter Tampa, to stop it bringing boat people to Australia.
The Pacific Solution – and the political fallout – was central to the Coalition’s election victory, less than three months later.
People have written to me this morning; I mean you’ve obviously been very solid on it, they are a bit concerned that the Prime Minister doesn’t have the stomach for what you are talking about and it’s a real battle to keep these people out of our country. Where does he stand?
PETER DUTTON: Ray, he’s rock solid and I spoke to him a couple of times this m orning on the phone, he’s down in Tasmania. He’s as adamant as I am that these people will not be coming to our country and we’ve said that from day one.
The Prime Minister privately and publicly has repeated that and the position of this Government is not going to change. We aren’t going to be dictated to by people smugglers or other countries.
We are going to make a decision about who comes to our country. We’ve been very clear that these men off Manus Island will not be settled in Australia.
JOURNALIST: Where do they go?
PETER DUTTON: Well they can go back to their country of origin. Hundreds of people from Manus Island from the Regional Processing Centre have returned to Iran and to other countries.
But look, these people have paid thousands of dollars to people smugglers and they want to come to Australia, but that’s not the outcome they’re going to get. So they can ei ther go back to their country of origin, they can settle in PNG or they can go to a third country and we’re obviously in discussions with a number of countries across the region that might accommodate people.
But the bottom line is; they are not coming to Australia.
JOURNALIST: And that won’t change?
PETER DUTTON: That is not going to change and there’s no question about that whatsoever.
I know the Labor Party have been talking about walking away from Regional Processing Centres which would be a green light for people smugglers to get back into business.
We have stopped these boats. We’ve closed 13 of 17 detention centres down on the mainland. We’ve got all of the kids out of detention and we are not going to allow people to get back on boats, either to drown at sea or to turn-up believing that they can get a migration outcome in our country.
JOURNALIST: I know that th is morning when you spoke to Sky News you were talking about the fact that you would talk to other nations, you wouldn’t identify what other nations you would be talking to. But you do have an arrangement with Cambodia to resettle refugees. Is that one of the nation’s you’re currently talking to?
PETER DUTTON: No. The arrangement with Cambodia relates to people coming off Nauru – so we are still keen for people to come off Nauru and to go to Cambodia.
Look Ray, I am like everybody else, I want to see people off Manus and I want to see them off Nauru, but the bottom line is – they are not coming to Australia.
We will work with other countries that might be minded to take them. PNG has said those that have been found to be refugees can settle in PNG and that number…..
JOURNALIST: …that’s even despite the Supreme Court decision, they’re entitled to stay there?< br />
PETER DUTTON: Yes they are and just to deal with the Supreme Court decision. First point is that it doesn’t bind Australia.
JOURNALIST: You made that point this morning – this is a decision that impacts on the PNG Government not the Australian Government.
PETER DUTTON: Correct. The same as a court decision of say the High Court in Australia doesn’t bind the PNG Government.
Now, it doesn’t require Manus to close immediately. It does mean that we can talk with the PNG Government about some of the measures that they have already put in place, which includes an open centre style arrangement, which may deal with some of the concerns that the judges had and they may well be able to continue operating a facility of some description – so the thoughts that people have to leave today or in the next month or two months, frankly is a nonsense – and we’ll work very closely with PNG to s ee what options are available to them but with the starting point and the finishing point being this – these people will not be settled in Australia.
JOURNALIST: Now we’ve got 400 who have been deemed to be refugees, who are quite able to settle in PNG.
PETER DUTTON: Yes.
JOURNALIST: And be part of that process. That would mean, roughly, we have what another 450 who are deemed not to be refugees. So are they the major problem?
For instance, would it be beyond the realms of fair dinkum to say those 400 people will integrate into PNG society or not?
PETER DUTTON: That’s what the PNG Government has on offer and they’ve said that they are happy to take those people and have them live in the PNG community if that’s what they want.
The difficulty with a lot of the Iranians is, that Iran won’t take forced returns, they will only take voluntary returns.
So th ere are a number of people, as I say, many hundreds over the last few years that have gone back to Iran voluntarily or other places.
But you can’t put people on a plane and bundle them back to Iran because they won’t take them, they won’t issue travel documents.
So the PNG Government will have to sort that out and this is an issue for them.
JOURNALIST: So in other words…let’s deal with the 400 who have been deemed to be refugees. If they’re refugees they can either stay in PNG or they can voluntarily return to Iran, they can’t be forced to return but they’ve got the choice; they’ve got two choices: PNG or their native Iran….
PETER DUTTON: …or a third country otherwise if you could broker a deal somewhere, but the choice that they don’t have is coming to Australia and that’s what they want. They have paid money, they’re not coming.
JOURNALIST: What about Nauru?
PETER DUTTON: That would be an issue for the Nauru Government.
JOURNALIST: Have you spoken to them?
PETER DUTTON: We have had discussions with Nauru…..
JOURNALIST: ….can they accommodate 850 more people?
PETER DUTTON: There’s obviously capacity across the network because, including on Nauru, because we have stopped the boats.
We are in a situation that the Labor Party didn’t find themselves in, we’ve actually got this situation under control, we’ve stopped these boats and we’ll deal with this latest issue.
We’ve been planning for this for a long period of time, but the PNG Government needs to contemplate exactly what it is that’s been handed down in the judgement and out of respect for them, we should wait for further advice from PNG.
JOURNALIST: Okay. Wh at about Christmas Island? A possibility considering it’s not considered part of Australia’s migration zone? Could it be another alternative?
PETER DUTTON: Ray, I just don’t think we need to be talking about Christmas Island or Nauru or anywhere else. This is an issue that PNG needs to resolve. We will help them resolve this issue.
JOURNALIST: So are you saying the 850 people are basically not our problem, they are their problem?
PETER DUTTON: The 850 people under the MOU are the responsibility of the PNG Government. Now we’ll, as I say, we will work with…..
JOURNALIST: Will that include placing them elsewhere?
PETER DUTTON: Yes, we could provide financial support and we do already provide settlement packages to return people back to their countries of origin.
The biggest problem we’ve got at the moment is we’ve got the Greens and some o f the advocates here who think they’re doing the right thing in telling these people not to accept packages, don’t go home, eventually you will come to Australia.
Well, I can’t be any clearer and I’ve been clear from day one….
JOURNALIST: …and the Prime Minister is one hundred per cent behind you?
PETER DUTTON: One hundred per cent and I spoke to him as I say half an hour ago and he’s, like me, absolutely determined to make sure these boats aren’t going to recommence and make sure that we can work with PNG and provide them with assistance, including financial assistance, to help these people settle elsewhere if they’re not going to settle in PNG.
JOURNALIST: We have paid the PNG Government a lot of money….
PETER DUTTON: ….a lot of money….
JOURNALIST: …for Manus Island, can we quantify how much money is a lot of money?
PETER DUTTON: We’ve paid billions of dollars as a result of the 50,000 who came on 800 boats and we’re still dealing, as we discussed the week before last, with 30,000 of those people and we are dealing with a significant legacy of the failed years.
There are three things that have worked here Ray. One is that we are turning back boats where it is safe to do so and the second is that we’ve got Regional Processing Centres in place, including as we say in Manus and Nauru and we want those to continue, we want to make sure that Labor doesn’t undo those because as we say on Channel Seven last week, the people smugglers up there believe that if there is a change of government the boats will restart and the people smugglers will be back into business – they are not saying that about this Government because we will not allow that to happen.
JOURNALIST: Okay. Now, in relation to this; would you get on a plane and travel to PNG to sort it out with the PNG Government, just to you know be on the ground and say, well this is what we’re doing and this is what we won’t do?
PETER DUTTON: Ray, this is a call from the Labor Party that they put out yesterday, this desperate press release.
You know yesterday reminded me of what the Labor Party calls the good old days, I mean Labor running around talking about introducing a new carbon tax, a new electricity tax and at the same time running around like headless chooks on the issue of immigration and border protection because they don’t know what to say – they created this mess and we’re certainly not going to take advice from them as to how we clear it up.
We have been dealing with this issue from day one. We’ve stopped boats. We’ve got kids out of detention. We’ve closed detention centres. We’ll deal with this issue now and it will be dealt w ith in the best interests of our country and we are not going to allow people to come to our country by boat.
JOURNALIST: I know you said there’s no specific timeline on it in relation to closing it down, the Supreme Court probably wants it closed down sooner rather than later and the PNG Government would like it to disappear, but you could be in caretaker mode very, very shortly – in terms of a Government with a double dissolution coming up in July. I mean obviously the matter needs to be sorted I would imagine in the next week or two?
PETER DUTTON: It needs to be sorted over a period of time and it will take longer than a couple of weeks.
It will take in my judgement a couple of months to sort through and that will give us time.
Obviously in a caretaker arrangement I can issue instructions before we go into caretaker mode for the Secretary of the Department and the officials to conduct negotiations and provide assistance and that would be the normal….
JOURNALIST: ….have you indicated that timeframe to the PNG Government, are they happy with that, a couple of months?
PETER DUTTON: Well we are having those discussions. The other ridiculous part about suggesting people should just jump on planes immediately and go to PNG, is that my counterpart is actually in Africa at the moment, so Richard Marles who says that he would be straight to the airport, on the plane, would get there and have no one to talk to – that’s how stupid the Labor Party’s approach is. So I’ve spoken to him on the phone…..
JOURNALIST: …well he was like a headless chook about policy in recent interviews about this and other matters, he just doesn’t know…..
PETER DUTTON: They created this problem Ray. I mean they have created drownings at sea, they’ve created a market for these people smugglers and frankly, they’ve already said they’ll undo Temporary Protection Visas and when he was asked on Lateline this week, the Labor spokesperson said that they may reconsider Regional Processing Centres.
So I mean if they do that, then let me tell you, these boats will start within weeks of a Labor Government being elected and that’s why I think at the next election on national security, people now have a very, very stark difference between the approach of this Government and the repeat of the mistakes that Labor made when they were last in government.
Shorten is essentially sounding like Rudd in the run-up to the 2007 election where he’s promising that look, ‘we’ll do what the Liberal Party does, we’ll have a tough policy’ – the problem for them is when they get into government they get monstered by the Left, they trash all of the policies that work, the boats start, the deaths commen ce at sea again and the detention centres refill – and that’s the difference between the two parties and I think people should be mindful of that in the run-up to the next election.
JOURNALIST: Now, just away from that to Nauru. We had the situation where a 23 year old Iranian on Nauru set himself alight after a visit from the UN, what’s the latest on this man’s condition, where is he at?
PETER DUTTON: Firstly, it is a terrible situation, nobody wants to see anybody self-harm.
There have been incidents in the past when oversight bodies, including the UN, have visited where people self-harm.
Now, we have sympathy for that man who is in a very, very dire situation and for his family, obviously, but again the Government is not going to change our policy; people will come from Nauru for medical assistance if required and they will go back.
I sent three people back to Nauru this week and that ne eds to be a very clear message that people aren’t going to stay permanently in our country, even if they come here temporarily for medical assistance.
Our policy is not going to change. We will provide medical assistance. We will deal with people humanely, but there is no pressure that’s going to apply to the Government to change our policy; if they come by boat they won’t be settling here.
JOURNALIST: A couple of listeners have made this suggestion, in light of…back to PNG….the amount of money we have poured into Manus Island, what about foreign aid to PNG? We’re a fairly generous benefactor are we not, in general terms?
PETER DUTTON: We provide a lot of aid, but Ray the relationship with PNG over the Manus detention centre is a good one. I mean they have been a good regional partner, they’ve provided support….
JOURNALIST: …but can’t we use it as a little bit of a carrot at the end of a stick…. ‘now listen fellas, I know the Supreme Court has made this decision, but there are more things at play here than Manus Island, we supply you with a lot, a lot of aid on a yearly basis and we’ll continue to do so because you are our nearest neighbour, however it is quick pro quo’, I mean we can’t just stick money into your joint if you’re not going to support us, you know, in joint initiatives?
PETER DUTTON: Ray look, I think you’ll see in the discussions and the negotiations that we have with PNG, firstly that we will make our position very clear and that is that people aren’t coming here and we’ll work through the situation with them.
I think there is an opportunity for the detention centre to remain in place, in a different form perhaps, perhaps a more open centre arrangement – that is an issue for the PNG Government to contemplate – they can do a ll of that and still be completely insync with the requirements of their judicial system.
But they’ve got a court decision, they need to abide by it, we respect that, but we will work with them to work through this issue.
They have responsibility for the people and we’ll help them place them elsewhere.
But as I say, the bottom line remains, and will continue to remain under this Government, that those people will not be coming to Australia.
JOURNALIST: A couple of other things in relation to yourself; Labor said they are going to target your seat in Queensland of Dickson, they’ve got what they call a star candidate taking you on, that’s the former Queensland Attorney-General Linda Lavarch who spoke publicly about her battle with depression back in 2006.
Labor claims you lost touch with your electorate because you are too busy with your ministerial duties. Your reply?
PETER DUTTON: The only thing I can say Ray is that I’ve always run a positive campaign locally and for the first comment to be a negative one from my opponent I think it actually makes me think back to when the Labor Party ran a different candidate against me in 2001, a person by the name of Cheryl Kernot and that was a negative campaign.
If the Labor Party and Ms Lavarch believe they want to run a Kernot type campaign, that’s an issue for them.
I’ve delivered a lot locally. Obviously as a Cabinet Minister – as was Ms Lavarch’s husband when he was the Attorney-General in the Keating Government and the then Member for Dickson – he had to spend time away because that’s the reality of being a Minister, but it means that I have good access to the Prime Minister, good access to the Cabinet and other Ministers and I can lobby pretty effectively for outcomes in my electorate.
JOURNALIST: And for your state of course.
PETER DUTTON: Yes of course and if they want to run a negative campaign, look, people saw through it with Kernot, I think they’ll see through it with this candidate.
I had a pretty good relationship I must say with Ms Lavarch, there was only one issue that we fell out over and that was her refusal to do what I thought was the right thing by the family in Queensland affected by the double-jeopardy laws where we had campaigned really hard for the Kennedy family to be given justice and Minister Lavarch, then the Attorney-General in the Queensland Bligh Government, refused to give justice to the Kennedy family – that’s the only issue that I’ve really fallen out with Linda Lavarch over.
So hopefully it’s a positive campaign. We’ll see how that goes.
JOURNALIST: As always, thanks for your time, we’ll look forward to talking to you soon.
PETER DUTTON: Thanks Ray.