Subjects: Operation Sovereign Borders update; Federal Court decision, Manus Island; Sri Lankan boat.
PETER DUTTON: I just want to provide an update in relation to Operation Sovereign Borders.
I have just come from a briefing with Major General Andrew Bottrell who is the Commander of the Joint Agency Task Force Operation Sovereign Borders to provi de me with an update on a vessel that arrived near Cocos Keeling Islands last week.
I can advise that there were 12 people on that vessel and the vessel had departed from Sri Lanka and we were able to successfully return those 12 people, which included men, women and children, back safely to Sri Lanka on 6 May.
Now, that brings to three the number of vessels that have sought to arrive and have been turned back, the people returned back to their country of origin in this calendar year.
It underscores the fact that people smugglers are very desperate to try to get vessels away from Indonesia and from Sri Lanka with people on board to come to our country, because they see the arrival in Australia as an opportunity for a new life and all of us can understand that, but as we’ve pointed out before, there are 58 million people in the world that would seek to come to a country like Australia and we need to make sure that we can keep our borders safe and secure.
I was disappointed today to see that we now have two additional Labor candidates who’ve come out opposing Bill Shorten on their border protection policies.
Now this brings to seven the number of people that have come out in opposition to their leader that are opposed to Labor’s border protection policies.
Mr Shorten wants people to believe, as Kevin Rudd did, at the commencement of the 2007 campaign, that if elected, Labor would just continue the policies which had been successful in stopping the boats.
And what has been demonstrated both in terms of sitting members and Labor candidates, Labor is split and divided when it comes to border protection.
This is the problem that Labor’s got, because in opposition they promised they’ll stop the boats and in government, they undo the policies because of internal pressures.
And what happened under Mr Rudd will happen again under Mr Shorten if they’re elected at this upcoming election.
There were 50,000 people who arrived on 800 boats, and 1,200 people who drowned at sea when Labor was last in government.
Mr Shorten now has a test of his leadership on Day 1 of the campaign to come out and condemn the comments of these seven backbenchers and members of the Labor Party who are obviously opposed to the Labor Party policy when it comes to border protection.
This Government has stopped the boats and we’ve got every child out of detention.
That is a very significant outcome, and we have closed now 17 detention centres, when Labor opened 17 detention centres.
So we are not going to allow the boats to recommence and the Australian public can be absolutely reassured that if you elect a Turnbull Government at the next election, we will stare down the threat from people smugglers.
We will make sure that we don’t allow boats to arrive in this country and for people to drown at sea.
Labor can make no such claim.
Bill Shorten wants you to believe through some dodgy deal that he stitched up at the last conference with the CMFEU, that somehow, they would continue the policies of this Government that would stop the boats.
And the fact that now he has seven members of his own party who have broken out against his position on border protection and we’re only on Day 1 of the campaign shows that Bill Shorten doesn’t have the leadership ability to stare down the threats within his own party, to what has been a successful policy in relation to Operation Sovereign Borders.
I’m happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: Minister, your legal position was that you had no duty of care for the woman who sought an abortion after being raped on Nauru.
That’s been rejected by the Federal Court. Do you accept that you were wrong? An d that you did – that you do have a duty of care that you failed in that respect?
PETER DUTTON: No, again, I’d ask to you have a look at the judgement from the court as opposed to what’s being read on social media.
The Government has a position that people that need medical assistance, if they are on Nauru, they will receive that medical assistance on Nauru. We provide significant support to the Nauruan Government to provide that medical support.
If they can’t receive that medical support on Nauru, then they go to the international hospital in PNG in Port Moresby.
If the medical assistance is not able to be provided there, then they come to Australia, or indeed as the judgement provided the other day in relation to the specifics of this case, then there is the availability potentially of a third country option.
We saw a case not too long ago where a lady had alleged that she was raped on Nauru. No details were able to be provided. That lady eventually came to Australia and didn’t go ahead with the abortion that she had originally sought. And as I understand it, has now given birth to that child.
Of course, once people arrive in Australia there is an injunction taken out by their legal representatives to try to stop that person from going back to, in this case, Nauru.
So we’ll work through this, obviously, in accord with the law. There have been different interpretations of the judgement online which I reject.
The Government will provide the support that we need to in working with Nauru and in the case of Manus with the PNG Government and we’ll look at the case and we’ll respond accordingly.
JOURNALIST: Just to clarify Minister, in this case, you say you don’t have a duty of – you didn’t have a duty of care for the woman?
PETER DUTTON: Well, look, the matter’s been decided upon and the Common wealth has an appeal period to decide whether or not we appeal and there are other matters in relation to that case which are ongoing so I don’t have any further comment to make in relation to that matter.
JOURNALIST: Minister, have officials made any headway with negotiations with PNG officials about Manus Island and what to do with the detainees?
PETER DUTTON: Our officials were obviously in PNG last week and I think the talks were described as constructive.
Obviously the Supreme Court handed down a judgement which relates to the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre. I think it’s important to bear in mind there are no women or children within that centre and the judgement only applies to a number of people, a limited number of people, within the Regional Processing Centre.
The judgement did not provide that the Regional Processing Centre should be closed and we will have what I think will be detailed and long-run discussions with PNG to help them in relation to this particular issue.
I’ve been very clear, consistently, and I repeat it again today, that those people will not be settled in Australia and that’s the basis on which we enter into those discussions with PNG.
JOURNALIST: You’re spending a huge amount of money on Operation Sovereign Borders. How was this boat that arrived at Cocos Islands last week able to sail into Cocos Islands lagoon without being intercepted beforehand?
PETER DUTTON: If you a look at the thousands and thousands of square kilometres that we’re dealing with, obviously on our western and north-western coast, it is a large area to deal with.
Now, we have more assets at sea and we have more assets in the sky than we’ve ever had before under Operation Sovereign Borders.
So there is a lot of intelligence coming out of different parts about people hoping that the election is t he turning point for them, that that might be an opportunity for them after the election to restart their businesses, their people smuggling businesses, and we’ve been very clear that if this Government’s re-elected, we won’t allow these people smugglers to get back into business.
I don’t want men, women and children to go to the bottom of the ocean and I don’t want people to turn up unannounced to our country.
Our Government makes very deliberate decisions about the numbers of people that we bring in through the Refugee and Humanitarian Programme. It grows each year.
But we are not going to allow people smugglers to dictate to this Government how it is that people will come to our country.
JOURNALIST: If we hadn’t reported this last week on Triple J, we all saw the photos in The Australian at the weekend as well, would you be holding this conference right now?
PETER DUTTON: Yes and as we’ve done before, there is, at the appropriate time, a public announcement made, but bear in mind that there are, in some of these cases, particularly where there might be a sea state 4 or 5 or higher, there are difficult transfers and decisions and judgements that need to be made.
This is an operation that involves military personnel as well as our own Border Force staff. And we make an announcement in relation to these matters at an appropriate time when it’s operationally sensible to do so.
But again, people want to come to our country. They want to pay people smugglers. People smugglers couldn’t care less whether those people get to our country or end up on the bottom of the ocean. So we provide regular updates, as you would be aware.
JOURNALIST: What state were these people in at the time when they were intercepted, physically and mentally?
PETER DUTTON: As I’m advised, they were in a good state a nd obviously they’d made the journey down and they quickly made the journey back, because we’ve been clear that if you seek to come to our country by boat you won’t be settled here.
JOURNALIST: Moments ago, you said that you’d stopped the boats. How can you say with any conviction when a boat literally arrived a week ago?
PETER DUTTON: Well again I don’t know how long you’ve been following Operation Sovereign Borders for, but there have been a number of attempts and if we don’t have a successful attempt, that is, if the boat doesn’t arrive, then we do have success in turning those boats around, or sending people back to their country of origin.
That was the case in relation to latest venture. It’s been the case in relation to a number of boats before and it will be the case in the future.
If we get boat arrivals they will be turned around where it’s safe to do so.
Those people will not be settled in our country and people should hear this message very, very clearly. Please don’t accept the word of con agents that are masquerading as these people smugglers that if you pay your money you will come to Australia – you will not. That is the definite stance of this Government and it is not going to change.
JOURNALIST: Given the Government’s now in caretaker mode, has Labor been informed of this update prior to your announcement today?
PETER DUTTON: No and there’s no requirement to under the caretaker convention.
JOURNALIST: With regards to Manus Island you mentioned that negotiations are underway with the PNG government. Do you know how long, what’s a ballpark we’re talking about in terms of a timeframe, will it be in the next couple of months that it will be sorted?
PETER DUTTON: I think it will take a couple of months to sort through the legal issue.
JOURNALIST: Not before the election then?
PETER DUTTON: I wouldn’t expect so, but there are a number of issues raised out of the discussions last week and those discussions will continue.
JOURNALIST: Minister, you’ve said, just a clarification, that the legal decision wasn’t to shut the whole centre down?
PETER DUTTON: Correct. Thank you.
JOURNALIST: One final question. You mentioned before three boats in this calendar year. Do you include the vessel that arrived at Cocos Island as a turnback or an arrival?
PETER DUTTON: We count them as not a successful people smuggling venture. That’s accord with the way that Operation Sovereign Borders has operated from day one.
JOURNALIST: Reports another detainee on Nauru had tried to self-harm, I think it was last week, had been arrested for doing so. Do you have any update on that?
PETER DUT TON: I don’t have any update on that. You would have to refer it to Nauru. Alright, thanks very much.