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Bowen Calls On Abbott To Work With Government On Refugees

The Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, has attacked Tony Abbott for refusing to work with the government to resolve the refugee issue in the light of this week’s drownings off Indonesia.

Bowen said he believed “the Australian people have had a gutful of the politicking”. He said: “Now we have the frankly bizarre situation that Labor and Liberal, Government and Opposition, agree that we need offshore processing. And yet we have a political impasse. Legislation to authorise offshore processing would fail in the Senate because the Liberal Party would not support it.”

Bowen released an exchange of letters between the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and the Opposition Leader. In one of them, Abbott says: “I don’t see much point in further private discussions between Mr Morrison and Mr Bowen.”

  • Listen to Chris Bowen’s press conference – transcript below:
  • Listen to Scott Morrison’s media conference – transcript below:
  • Listen to Wayne Swan comment on Abbott’s reaction
  • Listen to Greens leader Bob Brown comment

Transcript of Immigration Minister Chris Bowen’s press conference.

Bowen: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

Well, Australians have witnessed another tragedy at sea. We’ve watched as men, women, children and babies have lost their life making the dangerous journey to Australia. The Government’s policy has been driven by the aim and the hope of avoiding these sorts of tragedies. We have been driven to pursue offshore processing to ensure that people don’t risk their life at sea.

And now we have the frankly bizarre situation that Labor and Liberal, Government and Opposition, agree that we need offshore processing. And yet we have a political impasse. Legislation to authorise offshore processing would fail in the Senate because the Liberal Party would not support it.

I don’t believe this situation is acceptable to the Australian people. In fact, I believe the Australian people have had a gutful of the politicking. They want Labor and Liberal politicians to work together to sort this out. They want Labor politicians who support offshore processing and Liberal politicians who support offshore processing to get in a room and to reach an agreement. We agree with them.

Today, in the interest of public transparency, I’m releasing a series of letters between the Prime Minister, Acting Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. Last Wednesday, the Prime Minister wrote to the Leader of the Opposition, saying that she would take steps to recall the Parliament to consider the migration legislation amendment if the Liberal Party would indicate its support. It would be pointless to recall Parliament simply to have a talkfest unless we would have some assurance that the legislation would pass. The Prime Minister made it clear she was more than willing to take the appropriate steps with the Speaker and the President of the Senate. The Prime Minister suggested to Mr Abbott that I meet with Mr Morrison to – and I quote from the letter – ‘attempt to identify a mutually satisfactory outcome’. That was an offer made by the Prime Minister last Wednesday to the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr Abbott wrote back on Friday and I’m releasing that letter today as well. Mr Abbott said in that letter, ‘I don’t see much point in further private discussions between Mr Morrison and Mr Bowen.’ Then of course we saw the tragic events of last weekend. Yesterday, the Acting Prime Minister wrote to the Leader of the Opposition again after consulting with the Prime Minister and other senior ministers. The Acting Prime Minister said in this letter, ‘I believe that it is our shared responsibility to move beyond business as usual politics and come together in good faith with a preparedness to genuinely try to find a mutually acceptable solution. To this end, I believe that it would be appropriate for private discussions to be held between Minister Bowen and Mr Morrison.’

Yesterday, the Leader of the Opposition replied to the Acting Prime Minister and said inter alia, ‘As I stated in my previous response, in the absence of a precise indication of the Government’s willingness to change its policy, further discussions on this topic would be pointless.’ Last night, the Acting Prime Minister replied to the Leader of the Opposition and said – and I quote – ‘I believe the offer of a meeting in good faith demonstrates the fact that the Government is willing to engage constructively and examine options for an outcome we could both support. Despite your initial refusals, the offer of a meeting remains open to you at any time should you choose to accept it.’ And I understand a short time ago the Leader of the Opposition again replied to the Acting Prime Minister, saying that further meetings would be – and I quote – ‘pointless’.

We have attempted in good faith to negotiate with the Liberal Party. We wrote privately because we thought that provided the best opportunity, away from the glare of day to day politics, to reach a sensible, common sense outcome between two parties that believe that offshore processing is important, between two parties that believe that offshore processing saves lives.

Mr Abbott has rebuffed this common sense approach, but the offer, as the Acting Prime Minister has said, remains open. And the Opposition knew that I was available to meet to discuss this matter last Thursday. I was available last Friday. I was available yesterday. I’m available today and I’ll be available tomorrow. We are prepared to talk about this to see if a common sense solution can be reached because we don’t think and I don’t believe there is anything that’s pointless about meeting to see if you can reach an agreement to save lives.

So the offer stands and it will continue to stand. We will continue to argue for offshore processing, we will continue to argue that we need to ensure a deterrent to getting on the boat and risking your life. But we recognise that to pass the Parliament this will need bipartisan support, hence our offer to the Opposition and that offer still stands.

Happy to take questions.

Journalist: It is clear the Government will not prepared to shift [inaudible] from, you know, the Malaysia solution [inaudible] –

Bowen: Let’s be very clear. We believe that the Malaysia agreement is absolutely essential to ensuring the deterrent to get on the boat. We believe it is an absolutely essential part of the policy. Now, we also recognise that the Liberal Party has views that we are happy to listen to.

I’m not going to conduct that negotiation through the media. I want to sit in a room with Mr Morrison and talk those issues through. I am not a scary man, I don’t see why Mr Abbott is so scared of letting Mr Morrison into a room with me to see if a mutually agreed outcome can be negotiated.

Journalist: Mr Morrison has said that the problems with the Malaysia ‘solution’ are insoluble from their point-of-view, so are you prepared to negotiate on other elements of your regional processing framework such as Manus Island as an interim step?

Bowen: Well look, as I say Kirsty, with due respect to you, I’m not going to negotiate through the Sydney Morning Herald. I want to sit in a room with Mr Morrison. Now Mr Morrison has made his statements on behalf of the Liberal Party about the Malaysia agreement, they’re well-known. Now, I would question their veracity given that he says you can’t send people to a country that is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention when his policy is to turn boats back to Indonesia, which is not a signatory.

But I am not particularly interested in prosecuting that argument today, what I am particularly interested in is sitting down with Mr Morrison to reach a common sense solution which I think the Australian people are crying out for the Government and the Liberal Party to do.

We’ve shown that we are prepared to do this, we’re prepared to do this in good faith, we’re prepared to do so out of the glare of politics, but we have been rebuffed. The offer remains to Mr Morrison and Mr Abbott that we are prepared to sit down and find a common sense solution.

Journalist: I can understand that you are reluctant to go into specifics on the negotiations, but if I could just ask you to address that larger point: is the Government prepared to compromise all options?

Bowen: Well I draw your attention to the Acting Prime Minister’s statement in the letter: ‘… demonstrates the Government is willing to engage constructively and examine options for an outcome we could both support’.

Now that would indicate, that would indicate – our position has been clear, their position has been clear. For us to sit down and reach an outcome we could both support would require both sides listening to each other and coming up with a mutually agreed solution. That would require the Liberal Party to recognise our point-of-view, and us to recognise theirs

Now we’re prepared to sit down and see if that is possible. It might not be possible, but we’re prepared to give it a go, we have been prepared to give it a go – it’s a simple appeal to Mr Abbott to stop saying ‘no’. I mean, Mr Abbott is saying ‘no’ to a meeting, he’s saying ‘no’ to engaging when people’s lives are at stake and I think that is deeply unfortunate and regrettable and not in the national interest.

Journalist: In the meantime, how are you going to handle the number of people that are arriving? There was 400 people within 48 hours, is it going to be a case that there is not enough space for them to be in detention or to be housed in the community?

Bowen: We do have some spare capacity in the detention network which has been driven by the substantial reduction in boat arrivals we’d seen up until now – 50 per cent lower this year than the year before, than last year – and faster processing. So we’ve seen some spare capacity.

As I’ve said, that is not to say that the detention network won’t come under increased pressure unless a solution – a common sense solution – is found, hence the Prime Minister’s offer to explore recalling Parliament with the Presiding Officers. Hence the Prime Minister’s offer to make me available to the Opposition to see if we can find a solution. That offer remains: I’m around today, I’m around tomorrow, happy to meet with them to pursue that.

Journalist: But while you’re still having negotiations and locked in discussions about these meetings, what solutions are there to deal with this increasing pressure?

Bowen: Look, the legal and practical reality is that we have onshore processing in Australia – that is the reality. That would be the case if Mr Morrison were minister tomorrow, it’s the case with me, that we have to comply with the law. The law says, as interpreted by the High Court, that we effectively have onshore processing. We want to change that, but that would take the legislation to pass. It would at least take an indication from the Opposition that they would support the legislation so that I could then recommence all the preparation and logistical work that had gone into preparing for offshore processing in Malaysia and Papua New Guinea.

Journalist: Have you sought further meetings with the Greens because they hold the balance of power in the Senate and that’s another way of getting this legislation through?

Bowen: Well let’s be clear about this: the Greens have a philosophical objection to offshore processing. I don’t agree with that, I think it’s fundamentally wrong and I think, with due respect, Senator Hanson-Young’s comments over the last 24 hours have shown great naivet? and a lack of recognition of the reality of irregular movements. But I respect their position, they oppose offshore processing. The Liberal Party doesn’t. The Labor Party doesn’t.

The Liberal Party and the Labor Party’s position on this is closer than the Labor Party and the Greens’. That’s why we want to sit down with the Liberal Party – the other party that believes in offshore processing – to negotiate offshore processing. It’s easier to negotiate an offshore processing outcome with a political party that says they believe it, as opposed to a political party, which says they fundamentally don’t believe in it.

Journalist: Has the Government thought of any other alternatives? The Malaysia solution has obviously been rejected by the High Court.

Bowen: The High Court has interpreted the law in such a way as would mean Malaysia can’t be implemented, Papua New Guinea can’t be implemented, and our advice is that Nauru would be very very difficult to implement. So that means that all offshore processing has a huge legal question mark over it and no responsible government could pursue offshore processing without a change to the legislation. Professor Rothwell and others have pointed out that New Zealand would be the only country in our region which would qualify for offshore processing under the High Court’s interpretation.

So we continue to work, obviously, with Malaysia and Indonesia on deterrence, on policing matters. Of course we continue to do that, but the practical and legal reality is that offshore processing in Australia is unlawful unless and until the Parliament changes the legislation.

Any more questions today?

Journalist: How long do you think this stalemate will continue?

Bowen: I’ve laid out the actions the Government has taken, that the Prime Minister has taken. The Prime Minister took the initiative here. The Prime Minister took the initiative of writing to the Leader of the Opposition last week – before this accident – because she wanted to show the leadership to get this job done.

How long this impasse continues is up to Mr Abbott, because Mr Abbott is stopping a meeting occurring. Mr Abbott is not letting Mr Morrison negotiate on behalf of the Opposition.

The situation is clear: Mr Abbott should allow Mr Morrison and I to meet. We could then, potentially, formulate a joint position which Mr Morrison can recommend to his leader and his shadow cabinet, and I can recommend to my leader and my cabinet. I’m not in a position to do that until Mr Morrison and I sit down in a room.

Journalist: But isn’t this the other way of doing it? The orthodox way of doing it would be for the Government to formulate some sort of revised position and then put it –

Bowen: – We know how Mr Abbott works. If we were to formulate a position in public and put it to him, he would reject it. We wouldn’t be getting anywhere. The answer here is a joint position, negotiated in good faith between us which, as I say, Mr Morrison can then recommend to Mr Abbott and I can recommend to the Prime Minister and our respective cabinets and shadow cabinet.

We’re not going to go through the charade of us putting an offer to Mr Abbott and Mr Abbott finding any excuse to reject it; and then another offer. This is best done through a cooperative good faith approach which would mean us meeting, discussing and finding areas of mutual agreement.

We agree on offshore processing. We agree it’s necessary. Surely, surely it shouldn’t be too hard for the Minister and the Shadow Minister to sit together and work the issues through.

Journalist: Have you taken any steps to prepare Manus Island while this is ongoing, because that’s one element that is of mutual agreement to both?

Bowen: Well Manus Island would be unlawful without the passing of the legislation. So, no we’ve told the Papua New Guinea Government that we are not in a position to pursue that. We’d made good progress in getting Manus Island ready and all the preparatory work was well underway for a detention facility at Manus Island when the High Court brought down its decision. That work was necessarily put on hold.

We could not in good faith be progressing this with the Papua New Guinea Government when the legislation, as it’s interpreted by the High Court, would not allow processing on Manus Island. It would be a futile exercise.

Journalist: What about Nauru? Is that something that could be included in your common-sense approach?

Bowen: Well, I want to sit down with Mr Morrison and talk the issues through.

Journalist: You wouldn’t rule it out?

Bowen: I want to negotiate with Mr Morrison, not through you – with all due respect to you good people – but with him. That means having the discussion about what might be acceptable to the Opposition. Now, Mr Abbott has previously said that Nauru plus Malaysia wouldn’t be acceptable to him. We need to sit down in a room and work out what might be acceptable to both sides.

Journalist: Have you previously pressed Nauru to the Cabinet?

Bowen: I don’t comment on Cabinet discussions. But internally and externally, privately and publicly, I have continually made the point that Nauru in and of itself – in the absence of the regional framework, in the absence of the agreement with Malaysia – would not provide a deterrent to people getting on a boat and coming to Australia. Because the majority of people processed on Nauru would end up in Australia if they’re found to be refugees, just as they did last time.

Unless Mr Abbott or Mr Morrison want to make an announcement today that they’ve negotiated a different outcome with a different country, that some other country is going to take the people processed on Nauru and found to be refugees – unless they’re prepared to do that, unless they’re in a position to say who they’ve negotiate with or who they’re proposing to negotiate with, that will remain the position.

Journalist: So Nauru plus Malaysia will work for you?

Bowen: Well look, our position is that we need the agreement with Malaysia. We’ve said we also think a detention facility on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea would be a useful complement, but that a detention centre – wherever it is around the world – would not be, just by itself, anywhere near a deterrent.

Now if Mr Morrison or Mr Abbott want to talk about a potentially common sense solution, I’m here waiting for the call. Thank you very much. Okay, a couple more questions.

Journalist: On onshore processing, the Coroner’s findings were very damning in relation to the suicides in detention centres, what practical steps will the Government be taking to improve those conditions.

Bowen: Obviously the Coroner’s report came out yesterday, I have had a look at it, I’ve asked my department to provide me with advice on its implementation. I want to show it due respect, I’m concerned to ensure that we have the best possible practices in place.

It’s a very difficult area of course, particularly when you’re looking at removals, removing people from Australia when they don’t want to be removed. It’s a very emotionally fraught area and is very difficult. It does happen regularly, Department of Immigration officials do regularly remove people form Australia, but these people work under very difficult circumstances.

But I want to pay the Coroner’s recommendations very serious respect and to do whatever it takes to ensure we have the best practice systems in place, and that means looking very closely at the Coroner’s recommendations.

Journalist: Will you implement all of them or just some of them?

Bowen: Well I want to pay them due respect. Obviously I think when a Coroner makes a recommendation you have to have a very good reason not to accept it, but I’m going through them very thoroughly.

Journalist: Just on the boat accident, is there any suggestion or possibility that that accident might serve as a deterrent for (inaudible) asylum boats?

Bowen: Look, I don’t haven any indications to that effect.

Journalist: But do you expect the traffic to continue?

Bowen: Well look, I don’t comment on intelligence but I don’t have any indications to show me that that would provide a deterrent. But we have seen accidents in the past provide, if you like, some short term impact. But I’m not in a position to comment on what impact this might have.

Thanks very much.

Transcript of Scott Morrison’s doorstop media conference.

Morrison: The Coalition has, always and remains, open to discussions with the government on the issue of border protection. At no stage, contrary to the suggestions made by the Minister, has the Coalition rejected any discussions. But there must be something to talk about. The Minister quoted earlier from letters but he wasn’t fulsome in his quotes of those letters and you all have copies of those letters I understand. But in three separate responses from Mr Abbott, he made it crystal clear – he said “if you do have a specific proposal to make and would care to do so in writing, my colleagues and I would be prepared to consider it. That was in response to the Prime Minister’s first letter. In response to the Deputy Prime Minister and Acting Prime Minister’s letter he said again “again I reiterate the Coalition’s readiness to consider a specific proposal in writing from the government” and again today Mr Abbott has said “the Opposition stands ready to meet with the government to consider a specific policy proposal provided in writing by the government”.

It took 24 boats and nine weeks for the government to even approach the Coalition on these matters and still they remain completely intransigent in considering any change or any alternative to the ultimatum they put to us when Parliament last sat. Over that period of time Parliament indeed rose, over that period of time the government also had the numbers in the House of Representatives to have their measures at least voted on and with the numbers after their arrangement with the Speaker. They chose not to do so. They chose instead to take the matter to their national conference rather than taking it to the national Parliament.

Our message to the government is simple. Put forward a proposal and we’ll sit down and talk. This is a very reasonable thing, I think, for the Coalition to put forward and it’s necessary because on previous occasions, this Minister has been unable to take positions to his own Cabinet and secure the support of his own Prime Minister. We know that this Minister suggested in the Cabinet meeting that took place nine weeks ago, that the government should be considering looking at the proposals that had been put forward by the Coalition. That was shouted down by the Prime Minister and at that time you’ll recall I suggested the Minister really should make a decision about whether he could continue in that role when clearly there was such a big gap between him and where the Prime Minister stood. So it’s important for the Coalition to have from the government a clear proposal that we can deal with. Talks will go nowhere unless this government can actually put forward a proposal. Now this government I think has some serious problems in putting forward a proposal. I think there are real divisions within this government and the Coalition is not prepared to let this government get away with an excuse for not forming a proposal simply because it can’t agree amongst itself. It is, I think, a very reasonable thing for the Coalition to expect the government who is seeking our support to give us something to consider rather than what sadly, unless the government is prepared to change its position, will likely be a photo opportunity of discussions which produce nothing. I think the Australian people clearly want some decisions, they clearly want some action and the way to achieve that for the government is to put forward, I think, a very clear proposal.

Let’s not forget this is a government that has said no to temporary protection visas. A government that has said no to restoring the Pacific Solution, a government that has said no to turning boats back where the circumstances permit. All of these things are critical elements of the policies that were successful under the Howard government. They’ve also said no to the amendments we put forward to their legislation that would allow offshore processing in 148 countries. They have said no to our request for a proposal. The only thing the government has said yes to is to agree with the policy of the Greens for onshore release which has seen more people arrive in the last three weeks than we’ve seen now for many, many years. This is a government whose onshore release policy was their decision when they were presented with a clear option for offshore processing. So this is a government that says they want offshore processing but when forced to a choice between the Coalition’s position on border protection and the Greens position on border protection, they opted for the Greens position of onshore release.

So it really is now for the government to put forward I think a clear proposal to the Coalition. Now the Coalition will accept any proposal from the government in strict confidence. This is not something we would be publicising if the government was prepared to give us a clear proposal. The Coalition for the past week has kept the discussions and the exchanges of letters between the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister and acting Prime Minister completely in confidence. It is the government who chose today to release those letters because of their refusal to provide us with a proposal. I think that was an unfortunate development but we are prepared to honour, in the same way we have in the past week, accepting a proposal in confidence that would enable some discussions to take place. Now whether the government chooses to do that or not is a matter for them and we remain very open to receiving that proposal but there is one thing the Prime Minister can and must do immediately before we break for Christmas and that is to restore temporary protection visas. I think that would send a very clear message that this government is prepared to look at different alternatives, that this government is prepared to acknowledge that the reason we are in this mess of their making in the first place is because of the abandonment and abolition of the Howard Government’s measures and it will send a very clear message to the people smugglers that change is on its way. In the absence of that, then we are left with this mess of the government’s own making and their refusal to engage policies that are proven.

Question: Mr Abbott has refused to let you meet with Mr Bowen to negotiate on a position. He wants a proposal in writing, presumably for him to look at that policy proposal. Why is Mr Abbott unwilling to let you negotiate in this policy area?

Morrison: Well there’s nothing to negotiate because the government has no mandate to negotiate with the Coalition. Mr Bowen has no authority from his own Prime Minister to consider any alternative. I mean, even today, I presume in this room, he was unable to commit to shifting the government’s ground one inch. Now you can’t have a negotiation or discussion with a party that is not prepared to make any changes. Those questions were put very directly to Mr Bowen today and he was unable to answer them. Now he has tried to make those changes possible before in Cabinet and it was refused by his own Prime Minister. It’s quite clear I think that the key obstacle here is Ms Gillard. She is the one refusing to put forward a proposal or countenance the restoration of any or all of the measures that previously worked.

Question: Have you expressed any reservations to Mr Abbott about his negativity on this issue and not letting you negotiate with Minister Bowen?

Morrison: No.

Question: Would the Coalition consider supporting Malaysia, the government’s preferred option, in exchange for some compromise measure like Nauru or TPVs or something like that?

Morrison: Well, Paul, we don’t have a proposal from the government and negotiating these things through hypotheticals put by journalists for proposals the government can’t even agree to make I don’t think is a reasonable expectation on the Coalition to respond to. The government has made no proposal and until we can look at a proposal, there is not much to talk about. I mean, all the expressions about working together and these things are fine in principle but they have to be backed up by something material, something of substance and this government has not put forward anything of substance.

Question: But in principle are you prepared to compromise in some way?

Morrison: Well what I’ve said clearly and what the Leader of the Opposition has said clearly is show us a proposal, put something on the table and we’ll sit down and talk.

Question: What’s the point of that when there’s no communication from the Coalition’s point of view that you are prepared to compromise?

Morrison: We’re not the government and I can’t sort of shadow box at proposals that haven’t been made and give a whole series of hypothetical responses. Once we have a proposal, we’re in a position to sit down with the government and provide a meaningful response and work through the issues. Until that happens, there is little the Coalition can proceed upon. Now I think we need to understand one clear point. There is a government and then there is an opposition. This is the government’s responsibility to initiate this process with a clear proposal. I think the government is trying to cut corners here, I think the government is trying to provide a smokescreen to avoid the need to actually deal with the hard discussions they have to have internally about how they fix this mess. Now the Coalition has had a clear view about how to fix this mess for ten years. We have held that position in season and out. It comes as no surprise to the government what our view is. But at the moment, they know what our view is, we know what their views is and the government’s made no indication they’re prepared to change their view.

Question: Mr Morrison I just wanted to clarify something Kirsty has asked, have you at any stage either verbally or in writing expressed any concern at all to Mr Abbott on the position the Coalition holds on this or the way the negotiations have taken place?

Morrison: Mr Abbott and I are one on these matters.

Question: (Inaudible)

Morrison: Again, that’s a matter for the government. They are the government; they are responsible for ensuring we can move forward in these matters. The government, if they wanted to, they could go to their alliance partners in the Greens immediately and seek their support. They have been unable to achieve that support. I mean, this is a government that has done contortions for the Greens and Independents, they have even gone to the point of going back on election commitments for things like the carbon tax and even more recently same sex marriage in order to bend their position to the will of the Greens and the Independents. Now the Coalition is asking for the government to agree with a position they took to the last election and that was that offshore processing should take place in a country that has signed the Refugee Convention. Now we have said that is necessary because of the High Court decision which said that a more – or the implication and outcome of that was, that a more objective test is required as to whether protections –humanitarian protections – are in place for offshore processing. Now we believe the best way to achieve that is to require a litmus test of whether someone’s signed the Convention. Now that was the government’s position before the last election. We are asking them to agree with themselves.

Question: But what are the Malaysia Solution and Manus Island if not proposals for how to deal with this problem?

Morrison: Well as I pointed out in The Australian today in a fairly detailed article, the Coalition has been very clear about what appears insoluble problems with the Malaysia proposal. I mean, the government is asking the Parliament to completely abolish all humanitarian protections in the Migration Act for offshore processing. That is their request. We should not lose sight of that. They are asking for a blank cheque on this issue. Now there are many governments I wouldn’t want to give a blank cheque to. I wouldn’t give a blank cheque to any government on these matters but certainly not this government. And certainly not, whether it’s a Gillard Government or a Rudd Government or whatever government it is, they should not get a blank cheque on these matters and that’s what they’re seeking. And that’s why the Coalition has expressed such strong reservations.

Question: But isn’t there a proposal that you can start negotiating from?

Morrison: Well we did and … we put a proposal back to the government nine weeks ago, in fact it was longer than that, when we put forward amendments in the Parliament. That was the last word on this matter. The last thing that was discussed on these matters between the Coalition and the government prior to this exchange of letters was our amendment to have the Migration Act allow offshore processing in 148 countries that had signed the Refugee Convention. The government rejected that and then 24 boats have arrived in nine weeks, they’ve moved to onshore release without any discussion with the Coalition, they’ve adopted the Greens policy and we now have the mayhem that’s before us.

Question: How does your concern about the human rights of asylum seekers in Malaysia gel with turning boats back at sea to Indonesia?

Morrison: Well that’s an interesting point. Intercepting vessels and retuning them to Indonesia is the same as trying to prevent their departing Indonesia. These two policy measures sit within the same space. That is ensuring boats don’t come to Australia. That is point one of our plan. Point two for those vessels that can’t be returned – we have offshore processing in Nauru to ensure that those who may come by that method do not have access to the onshore entitlements that this government is giving them and thirdly, for those who are found to be refugees, then we believe the answer should be temporary protection visas, which deny them access to family reunion which is the reason we have so many unaccompanied minors getting on boats these days. So we put those three measures forward. Obviously, there’s also a range of other matters from dealing with peoples’ lack of documentation to returning people who are found not to be refugees. I mean, 30 percent of those who went through the Pacific Solution went back to their country of origin; less than two percent under this government, under their policies, have been returned. So they’re our measures, everybody knows them. The government has refused all of them and refused to countenance even consideration of restoring them and so it’s not unreasonable for the Coalition to simply say; make us an offer, put something on the table and we’ll talk about it. But until then, this is a hollow gesture.

Question: The Indonesian government has said that they oppose Australia turning back the boats, isn’t that a national security issue to antagonise a large neighbour like that that Australia really relies on at the moment to try and track down and catch people smugglers?

Morrison: Well this government’s relationship with Indonesia I think is at a real low point. I mean, the fact that this government took a decision on the basis of a television programme to deny a food supply to Indonesia would hardly endear us to the Indonesians. The fact that this government abolished border protection policies that has led to thousands upon thousands of people coming through Indonesia’s borders and creating the issues on their sea line I think doesn’t endear a productive relationship that can deal with these matters. Now we believe we would be able to be far more successful in these way, as we were before. I mean, we can’t forget the fact; we implemented these policies before with an Indonesia that had similar views. So the government just rejects it out of hand. They have never even tried. We have confirmed that with officials. This government has never even countenanced the option.

Thank you.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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