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Morrison Says The Boats Are Stopping

The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Scott Morrison, claims the government’s policies are stopping the boats.

Speaking at his weekly briefing for Operation Sovereign Borders, Morrison said no boats had arrived this week.

He said: “I’m pleased to report that illegal boat arrivals are significantly below trends and expectations… Now while the Government is pleased with the significant decline in illegal boat arrivals we are not taking anything for granted. Nor are we making any claims about prospective activity remaining at these low levels. I can say though is that the consistent application across all our spheres of activity under Operation Sovereign Borders is now shifting the balance strongly in our favour, against the people smugglers… For the first time in five years, we are now getting the upper hand over the people smugglers and we do not intend to yield this ever again.”

  • Listen to the Operation Sovereign Borders press briefing (38m)
  • Watch an extract of Scott Morrison at the briefing (5m)

Transcript of Operation Sovereign Borders press conference with Scott Morrison and Lt. General Angus Campbell.

MORRISON: Well, welcome again for this week’s briefing for Operation Sovereign Borders. I’m pleased to report that illegal boat arrivals are significantly below trends and expectations. Commander Campbell as usual will outline recent activities as part of his regular report. Now while the Government is pleased with the significant decline in illegal boat arrivals we are not taking anything for granted. Nor are we making any claims about prospective activity remaining at these low levels.

I can say though is that the consistent application across all our spheres of activity under Operation Sovereign Borders is now shifting the balance strongly in our favour, against the people smugglers.

For the first time in five years, we are now getting the upper hand over the people smugglers and we do not intend to yield this ever again.

This is not due to any one measure or any one policy, but the combined effects of all measures, the professional and swift implementation of those measures and the strong resolve of this government on our borders that does what it says.

Unlike under the previous government, the new government’s strong position on our borders has become a constant on this issue, not a variable, or a vulnerability, as was previously the case. Critical in our implementation is our commitment to universal application of the measures. It does not matter if you’re an ethnic Hazara, a stateless Rohingyan, whether you have an education or not, whether you are male, female, accompanied, unaccompanied, child or adult, the policy is the same and it will not change.

Morrison

This week, Commander Campbell and I travelled to Jakarta to meet with the Minister for Law and Human Rights, Dr Amir Syamsuddin representing the Coordinating Minister Djoko Suyanto to follow up the leaders’ meeting between Prime Minister Abbott and President Yudhoyono in late September.

I had previously met with Bapak Amir in Sydney several weeks ago. The meeting followed a month of dialogue between our officials, led by the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy Major General Molan and our ambassador to Indonesia Greg Moriarty and I must commend the ambassador and his team for the great job they have done over the past month.

The meeting was attended by almost 40 senior officials from all key Indonesian agencies, including Mr Suyanto’s own Coordinating Ministry, the Foreign Ministry, the Justice and Human Rights Ministry, Immigrasi, the Indonesian armed forces headquarters, the Indonesian National police or POLRI, the Army, Navy, Air Force, marines, the national search and rescue agency Basarnas, the maritime security coordination board Bakorkamla, the state intelligence agency, also known as BIN. Now, while I do not intend to provide a commentary on the operational details of matters discussed at the meeting, I am pleased to report that Australia’s cooperation on people smuggling issues has never been better than it is today.

At the meeting I restated Australia’s appreciation for the commitment and cooperative efforts of Indonesia to stop people smuggling in our region, and emphasise – as the Prime Minister did at his meeting with President Yudhoyono – that Australia and Indonesia have a shared interest in resolving this problem, that is not of Indonesia’s making, yet whose cooperation together with our other regional partners is critical to resolving this problem. We have opened a new phase in our cooperation with Indonesia and I am extremely optimistic about what will be achieved in the weeks, months and years ahead.

Our cooperation will be characterised not only by its operational substance but our continued joint regional leadership of the Bali process, and the bilateral engagement agreed by our leaders at their meeting in September.

Now, this cooperation carries a very strong message all on its own. That smugglers and their passengers face a combined effort from the governments of Indonesia and Australia to prevent them entering and leaving Indonesia to get to Australia by boat. This cooperation is driven by our mutual respect for Indonesia and Australia’s sovereignty, our respective sovereign responsibilities, and reducing each other’s burden.

We are also committed to no-surprises communication and maintaining a direct and private dialogue at an operational level. Criminal people smuggling has significantly violated both Indonesia’s and Australia’s sovereignty for the past five years in particular. Tens of thousands of people have entered Indonesia, either illegally or by abusing Indonesia’s visa arrangements, for the purpose of engaging with criminal people smugglers to break Indonesia’s laws and embark on voyages to Australia.

These arrivals have created a residual and growing problem and population with Indonesia of around 10,000 people, with more than 4,000 who are now directly supported by the Australian Government through our regional cooperation arrangement with the International Organisation of Migration that this year will cost Australia $41 million, almost double last year’s allocation.

This residual population is causing increasing problems with Indonesia and Indonesian communities, while also attracting an unwelcome criminal element putting Indonesian nationals at risk.

It is important that we stop this flow of people into Indonesia, who do not have an honest purpose for being in that country. In Australia, more than 50,000 people illegally entered Australia under the previous government during the past five years. The majority coming through Indonesia after transiting through the region. We now currently have 33,000 illegal arrivals in detention and in the community on bridging visas. As well as a further 2,000 or thereabouts held offshore at Manus Island and Nauru. This is now costing Australia $3 billion every year.

Our early gains since establishing Operation Sovereign Borders combined with the strong cooperation from Indonesia means that the criminal people smuggling trade is currently highly vulnerable to further actions that are now taken by Indonesia and Australia. The period leading into the full onset of the monsoon is traditionally one the busiest and most dangerous periods for these journeys.

We do expect that smugglers will take the opportunity during this period to attempt to exploit this window of opportunity to clear remaining willing passengers who still number in the thousands in Indonesia and to test our cooperation. Based on our discussions that were held this week and have been held previously and the dialogue between our leaders, I have great confidence about the strong response, those seeking to break Indonesia’s and Australia’s laws will receive from Indonesia and Australia. We discussed the full range of areas where we propose to engage in further cooperative action, with particular focus on the immediate period. As the Prime Minister said about his meeting with the President, on this occasion, everything was once again on the table. The result of our discussion will be an uplift in our cooperative operations across maritime and land-based activities, as well as further cooperation to strengthen border controls, all designed to detect and prevent people smuggling ventures. Now a joint summary of that meeting was prepared and will be distributed to you now.

I’m happy to take further questions on these and other matters, relating to the meeting and other aspects of Operation Sovereign Borders but as usual I will ask Commander Campbell to provide his operational report. Thank You Commander Campbell.

ANGUS CAMPBELL: Thank you, Minister.

Welcome to the Operation Sovereign Borders weekly briefing for the period 9 o’clock Friday 5 October 2013 until 9 o’clock this morning. Again for those who have not previously attended, my comments will be confined to activities during the week ending 9 o’clock this morning, related to the off-water reception and processing of illegal maritime arrivals under the control of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. I will not discuss current or potential future on-water operations.

Campbell

During the reporting period there were no arrivals. Over the course of the month of October, there were a total of five suspected illegal entry vessels carrying 339 illegal maritime arrivals who were subject to offshore processing or enhanced screening, and none of whom will come to Australia.

Seven crew members were also transferred to immigration authorities in the month of October. Also during the reporting period of the last week, a total of 76 people were transferred to offshore processing centres, 44 people to Manus, and 32 to Nauru.

At 9 o’clock this morning there were a total of 1,137 people in Manus, 591 in Nauru and there are 2,184 people in Christmas Island facilities. We do continue to have sufficient capacity to meet current and potential future requirements.

For the reporting period 14 illegal maritime arrival transferees were returned to Iran after electing to go home voluntarily, six from Nauru and eight from Manus. Since the commencement of Operation Sovereign Borders, a total of 67 people have voluntarily returned to their country of origin from offshore processing centres. Also during the last week, Indonesian authorities led by the Indonesian national police and working with our Disruption and Deterrence Task Group have arrested three facilitators and disrupted two potential ventures. Efforts by both Indonesia and Australia to enhance the cooperation and mutual benefit both our nations gain from addressing this common problem of people smuggling through disruptions and prosecutions is greatly valued.

During the week, two Australian Federal Police federal agents travelled to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and extradited a man to Australia. He is expected to be formally charged with people smuggling offences in Perth today. The assistance of the Royal Malaysia Police and their justice system are greatly appreciated in this matter. Mr Sayed Omeid, an Iraqi national, was the alleged principal organiser of three vessels known as Flinders, Nullawarre and Conara, collectively carrying 763 people that arrived in Australian territory from Indonesia in 2001.

A few weeks ago, I spoke about the lies that people smugglers try and tell to manipulate vulnerable people out of their money and get them onto boats. Today, I’d like to speak about what Australia is doing to help people access accurate information about people smuggling and Australia’s current policy settings, strengthening the anti-people smuggling message.

This campaign is focused in people smuggling source and transit countries, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, India, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. The message it sends is clear, there is a new Government in place and if you come to Australia by boat without a visa, you won’t be settled here. It is that simple. In doing this we are seeking to inform people of the risks and reality of what it means to come to Australia by boat. We’re speaking to people in their own language, on television, radio, newspapers, billboards, brochures, story boards, posters, roadshow activities, and through social media platforms such as Google, Facebook, and YouTube.

In Iran, for example, a television advertisement outlining Australia’s policy on transferring illegal maritime arrivals for offshore processing and resettlement was broadcast six times a day on two television stations for a total of 360 broadcasts in the month of September. The next advertisement will air on Iranian television throughout the month of November.

A man in Sri Lanka recently asked our team there for leaflets and a poster that outlined Australia’s policy on maritime people smuggling. He told us that he had made the journey to Australia and had been sent home. He wanted these materials to ensure that his friends and family did not make the same mistake. Another example that our messaging is being received loud and clear is feedback from community liaison officers in Indonesia. A 30-year-old Afghan man offered his view that since hearing about the change in policy, he and others now know that, quote, getting to Australia is useless, unquote. In another example, police in India acting on a complaint they had received arrested a number of people smugglers to whom potential passengers had given money. We’re confident that our information campaign played a role in the arrest. The passengers had become convinced that the smugglers could not get them to Australia, but also knew they could not get their money back and so they went to the police.

The feedback I’ve received on this campaign is very positive. It is making people stop and think. Many are pausing to reconsider the value of working with people smugglers and attempting the dangerous and ultimately pointless journey to Australia. Thank you.

MORRISON: Well, thank you, commander and on behalf of the Government can I thank all of those involved on the ground working on Operation Sovereign Borders, whether at sea, whether on land, whether here in Australia. It has been, over these – some weeks, I think an extraordinary effort working together across government. And so please pass on our thanks to those working on the ground.

JOURNALIST: Minister, you said that this is the first time in five years that the Government’s now had the upper hand against people smugglers. How exactly are you measuring that?

MORRISON: Well, as I said, we’ve just been in Jakarta in the course of the last week. And when I move around the region, whether it’s there, or Malaysia and other places, the Government has access to a range of information which enables us to form a view about what is in the minds of the smugglers and their passengers. And the balance of these – this information is showing very clearly that there is a sea change. There is a shift. And the number of arrivals themselves, I think, demonstrate a very significant change in the level of activity coming to Australia.

So I have no doubt that after five years of having the smugglers directing operations, the Australian Government now, under the Abbott Government, is getting the upper hand.

JOURNALIST: So beyond the small decrease in the number of boats, other than your gut feelings on this, is there…

MORRISON: It’s interesting you describe a more than 70 per cent reduction in the number of illegal arrivals to Australia as a small decline, but you can explain that to your readers.

JOURNALIST: What’s the time frame for that 70 per cent decline?

MORRISON: That’s the exact period balanced between what has happened since the commencement of Operation Sovereign Borders and prior.

JOURNALIST: But is there a statistical significance in a month’s worth of boat arrivals, though?

MORRISON: Well, as I said, we’re not claiming anything based on arrivals, solely. And we’re not claiming anything about arrivals going forward, I was very clear about that. But based on our – based on the information we receive, and working through the region, and speaking to people who are doing this every day, there has been a shift, there has been a shift, and we believe we are now getting the upper hand against the people smugglers, which is in stark contrast to the last five years where arrivals topped out at over 4,000 people a month.

JOURNALIST: [Indistinct] mention of warning the people in the different countries before they leave, is there a deal now with Iran on repatriating people from there that have been rejected here?

MORRISON: Well the Foreign Minister, you know, has made a number of comments about that, and there are some discussions going on in the margins of the meetings currently being held over in Perth, I understand. It is always our intention and our effort to try and arrange for people’s return to whatever country they may have come from, and the experience is that particularly out of Iran, voluntary returns are proving the most effective pathway. We’re seeing that number increase going back to Iran, not just from Australia but from our meetings in Indonesia this week, there is an increasing number of people emptying out of Indonesia as well from Iran.

And so, whether people go back voluntarily or otherwise, the objective is that they go back and that’s what our policies are designed to address, and where we can achieve that cooperation, then good. But equally there is cooperation that is necessary for voluntary returns, in terms of access to documents, and for facilitation through airports and so on, and we find that we get that cooperation.

JOURNALIST: They’re being allowed back in there now, in Iran?

MORRISON: Yes.

JOURNALIST: Have any asylum seekers in detention here in Australia been sent offshore as an indirect result of talking to the media?

MORRISON: No.

JOURNALIST: So not at all?

MORRISON: No.

JOURNALIST: Does it have any impact on their visa applications?

MORRISON: No, it doesn’t. And, what the Australian Government has an obligation to do, though, is ensure that we take all steps necessary so as not to violate their identity. Now, it is important that people who are making claims about asylum can do so in a discrete way and a private way. And we need to take all reasonable steps under our duty of care to ensure that we don’t expose people to that situation.

JOURNALIST: So would you prefer that they don’t talk to the media?

MORRISON: Well, what they ultimately do is a matter for them. But our duty of care is to ensure that there are suitable protections in place to ensure that their identity is not exposed.

JOURNALIST: So you wouldn’t condone any warnings from, say, detention centre staff to – actually there’s asylum seekers in Darwin saying that they’re being told by detention centre staff not to speak to the media., do you…?

MORRISON: Well it’s our duty of care to ensure that people are aware of the risks that these things present, and that we exercise that duty of care in protecting their identity. Now, that’s what we do, and that has been the practice of governments of all persuasions for a very long period of time and there’s been no change to that arrangement.

JOURNALIST: [Indistinct] speaking to the media about revealing their identity, are they being prevented from doing that?

MORRISON: Well, as you can see, they weren’t prevented the other day.

JOURNALIST: Minister, the capacity of the Manus Island facility is now at almost 1,200 people. In the contract with G4S, it says that the facility has a permanent capacity of 600 people. How exactly are you facilitating more than double what the capacity of the facility…?

MORRISON: Well, we expanded the facility.

JOURNALIST: In what ways? Can you give details on how you expanded it?

MORRISON: Well, I mentioned last week – we’re in the process now as we speak of putting another 400, an extra 400 beds in and there is approval to put another 800 on Manus Island.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible questions]

MORRISON: Those 400 should be on-line by the end of this week and the week isn’t quite over.

JOURNALIST: So they’re not on-line now? [Indistinct]

MORRISON: No, you’re not listening to me. You’re asking lots of questions, but if you give me the opportunity to respond then I will. We have current physical capacity to deal with everybody who is there. We have the capacity to take every single person who is currently on Manus Island, and we are putting in place, and that should be occurring pretty much as we speak, an additional more than 400 beds. And in addition to that, there will be an additional 800 beds. Now that is what is in the works, but the currently capacity we have is capable of dealing with every single person we have on Manus Island.

JOURNALIST: Minister, I’m sorry but you simply can’t answer the question. You said a lot about what the capacity will be, but how has the facility gone from 600 to 1200?

MORRISON: Because it was expanded from when the 600 additional beds were put in place. There were contracts – well, the beds go in tents, beds go in permanent accommodation as well, but the majority of our offshore processing accommodation is in tents and that’s what people can expect to find.

JOURNALIST: Is it true that a couple of dozen Australian guards were sent to Nauru and then there wasn’t anywhere to accommodate them so they were flown back to Australia?

MORRISON: I’m not aware of that report. What I can tell you is just in the last couple of weeks we’ve just completed accommodation capacity for 300 staff on Nauru and I visited those facility myself as the first hundred or so beds were made available. And so the staff accommodation is also an important thing that you have to do when you’re upscaling your capacity, not just in Nauru but at Manus, and that’s what we’re doing.

JOURNALIST: Minister. Will the department continue with community detention and bridging visa releases?

MORRISON: Yes, for those who are part of the legacy caseload that was left behind by the previous government of some 33,000 people. Anyone who’s arrived after 19 July though faces the new policy and that is that they will be sent to Nauru and Manus Island, that’s where they will be processed. There are no exceptions to that. Our focus is obviously on those who have arrived on our watch and they’re the ones who are being sent there first, within 48 hours. Two working days is our target and that’s the policy that applies.

But for those who are part of the legacy caseload under Labor of 33,000 people that sit within the network, community detention, bridging visas, held detention and formal detention, all form part of the network that we use to deal with that caseload.

JOURNALIST: Will lack of work rights remain under those bridging visas?

MORRISON: Yes.

JOURNALIST: In the past week have there been any boats that have been intercepted on the way to Australia and then sent back to Indonesia?

CAMPBELL: As I indicated, I won’t discuss on-water operations at all.

JOURNALIST: Sorry, Minister, don’t you think it shows a weakness in your leadership that you’re constantly deferring to military officers to answer questions about your own portfolio?

CAMPBELL: I think I answered a question that is wholly within my responsibilities.

JOURNALIST: But it’s the minister that is responsible for the overall operation.

MORRISON: Well, let me answer it for you as well. We don’t comment on things that affect on-water operations.

JOURNALIST: As I’ve just put to you, that – don’t you think that, you know, it’s a problem that you’re the minister responsible for this entire operation…

MORRISON: Well, I don’t agree with the presumption of your question.

Next question.

JOURNALIST: In terms of accommodation on Nauru, some human rights lawyers are saying that they had to go through the Department of Immigration for virtually everything, when they got to Nauru, including accommodation. Do you feel that contradicts your talk that Nauru officials are in control of things there?

MORRISON: Everything that is done on Nauru is done under Nauruan law under the auspices of the Nauruan Government and there is a significant amount of support which is provided by the Australian Government to ensure the proper running of those facilities. There’s a joint management committee which deals with the operations of those facilities and that includes representatives, obviously, from both, and there are other measures we have in place to ensure the well running of those facilities.

For example, people like Paris Aristotle who formed part of that committee and assist with our efforts to make sure this is a well-run place.

JOURNALIST: How many asylum seekers on Nauru have their claims processed now?

MORRISON: Well, those who are now on Nauru are all post 19 July arrivals pretty much as I understand. And for those post 19 July arrivals, and they are now generating the process again, I made a comment earlier in the week that it is in the early preliminary phases. Now, that’s a matter for the Nauruan government and they will be working through that in due course. But similarly at the same time we’re working quickly to establish post-processing accommodation on Nauru as we are at the East Lorengau site on Manus Island. And that is an important part of the chain of accommodation that you need in place to run the system effectively.

Now, you may recall from some earlier briefings the previous government had not put in place arrangements for post-processing accommodation on Nauru, and Manus Island, so it is not clear to me at all where they intended people to go once that process had been completed, but similarly they had not funded the operations of offshore processing beyond 31 December. And both of these, I think, left the viability of those operations in a very poor state.

JOURNALIST: [Indistinct] Do you know how many – on Manus Island, how many have resettled in PNG?

MORRISON: There’s been no resettlements in PNG at this point, no. We’re still in the processing phase.

JOURNALIST: Is there a plan for the asylum seekers in the community whose bridging visas have expired or are soon to expire?

MORRISON: For those on bridging visas, well, they will be moved on to a renewal of a bridging visa until their processing has got to a point of completion.

JOURNALIST: And what about people who’s in the – who are in the community with expired visas?

MORRISON: Well, we would be looking to renew those visas at an early opportunity.

JOURNALIST: Would you consider using TPVs?

MORRISON: No. TPVs and bridging visas are completely different. Temporary protection visas are visas for that legacy caseload of around 33,000 who have been found to be refugees. People on bridging visas have not yet and may not be found to be refugees and so the conditions and the situations for both of those groups is completely different.

JOURNALIST: Would you consider at least looking at operating people on bridging visas the right to work so they lessen, you know, their reliance on welfare?

MORRISON: No, we won’t, and secondly, we’re putting in place a mutual obligation program to more effectively engage people who are on bridging visas and just not leave them effectively sitting around, as the previous government did, not engaged, because we don’t think that’s an appropriate way to assist and manage people in that situation. It was a key part of our election platform and we’re in the process of implementing that. It’s a significant programme. It requires a lot of careful mention are preparation and planning and that’s what we’re doing right now.

JOURNALIST: Minister, there was a report this week that children were having their lunchboxes searched to and from the Villawood detention facility. Will you confirm whether or not that’s happening and if so, explain why?

MORRISON: Well, contraband was found in a child’s school bag last week and when contraband is found, then you would you expect officers to take the appropriate steps to ensure there is not contraband in other places. Now, I stress no children are being searched but bags and other things have been to ensure that there’s no contraband. It’s regrettable that that’s necessary but when there is contraband found, then I expect my officers working within those centres and in other places to ensure that practice doesn’t continue.

JOURNALIST: And what was the contraband?

MORRISON: I said it’s contraband. I’m not about to go into the details of those things.

JOURNALIST: Oh, is that an operational [indistinct]?

MORRISON: It’s contraband.

JOURNALIST: In relation to the confrontation in Manus Island, has there been any results of the investigation into what happened?

MORRISON: This is the report that you’re referring to before, sorry, or are you – on the sexual assault or you’re referring to the incident?

JOURNALIST: [Indistinct]

MORRISON: No, I don’t have any further information from that that I previously provided, but we are working through those issues as we are on the very significant incident that occurred in Nauru and we’re in the sort of final phases of receiving a report on that matter as well and once that report’s available then you could expect us to release the contents of the report in an appropriate format.

JOURNALIST: Are staff in that centre on Manus Island at risk?

MORRISON: No.

JOURNALIST: [Indistinct]

MORRISON: As you know, the commander had a force protection team go through both Manus and Nauru recently and we’re working through the result of their assessments, but nothing has been recommended to me for immediate change that would relate to the security of people working in those centres.

JOURNALIST: What about in relation to the sexual assault report [indistinct]?

MORRISON: It’s on the website.

JOURNALIST: The report itself?

MORRISON: Yes.

JOURNALIST: Indonesia has summoned Australia’s ambassador in Jakarta to answer allegations that Australia used its embassy there as a spy base. Will that affect any of your negotiations over the border protection policy?

MORRISON: As I said, the cooperation between Indonesia and Australia on people smuggling is at the best it’s been. It is operational, it is forward focused, the relationships are incredibly strong, and there’s a very good reason for that, and that is it is in Indonesia’s and Australia’s interests, our own discrete interests, to do this and work together for that purpose. Now, that is not changed any by other events and we found on the ground, the Commander and I, as we’ve reported at these forums, particularly with the Australian Federal Police and others who are working there, an outstanding level of operational cooperation and understanding between these agencies, and the demonstration of having more than 35 – I think there were 37 officials and various representatives of the myriad agencies in Indonesia that attended our meeting in Jakarta this week demonstrates the level of commitment there is from Indonesia to work together on this issue.

People smuggling is affecting Indonesia, not just Australia. They’re not the cause of it. The policies of the previous government are the cause of it in terms of the massive traffic we saw come through Indonesia to Australia, but they’re very much part of the solution and I understand that.

JOURNALIST: [Indistinct]

MORRISON: Well, I’ll leave those matters to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Attorney-General and others who are more specifically tasked in these areas, but what I have found on the ground is that practically Australia and Indonesia have a mutual interest, a joint interest, in dealing with this problem. And that doesn’t change and we need to stop the people smugglers and Indonesia and Australia are committed to doing just that.

JOURNALIST: Minister asylum seekers in Darwin are saying that they have been told not to talk to the media but also not to attend vigils and talk to the community. Are you aware of that?

MORRISON: Well, as I said before, we have a duty to ensure that we discourage people from putting themselves in a situation where their identity can be compromised. I mean, that can have potential legal consequences for the Commonwealth. And so we exercise our duty of care and that’s what I can tell you our officers do.

JOURNALIST: So that is a directive from the Department to Serco?

MORRISON: It is our responsibility as a Commonwealth and my department, who then work with Serco, to ensure we exercise our duty of care in this area and that’s what we do.

JOURNALIST: Minister, I’m just reading the Cornell report now and it says [indistinct] detention centre at Manus [indistinct] self harming and guards being assaulted. Do you really think it’s appropriate to be expanding the capacity of the Manus facility and [indistinict] given what this report has [indistinct]?

MORRISON: Well, that report is based on an incident that took place some months ago and we’ve been taken necessary steps to ensure proper security arrangements within that facility, as well as Nauru, and that’s why we’re able to expand the capacity and expand its operations and the centre I think has been operating very functionally and serving the purpose for which it’s been tasked.

JOURNALIST: [Indistinct]

MORRISON: Well, I visited those centres and others have the opportunity to visit those centres who are from international organisations and other members of parliament and others can do all of these things, as was the case under the previous government, and the appropriate, I think, transparency arrangements are there and haven’t been changed from the previous government.

These centres, we should stress, are not designed as hotels or resorts, that’s not what they’re designed to do. They’re designed to be a processing facility for people to have their claims assessed and for people to be treated with dignity and respect, and that is what occurs at these places.

JOURNALIST: What steps have you actually taken to resolve some of the systemic problems that…

MORRISON: Well, again, I don’t jump to the conclusion of the presumption in your question. But all steps are taken to ensure people are treated with dignity and respect at both Nauru and Manus Island, and Christmas Island, and at Blaydin Point, and at Villawood, and at Yongah Hill in Perth, and any of the other centres that we have an involvement with.

JOURNALIST: I am talking about the Manus facility now. So has the Department given any official response to this report now as well?

MORRISON: Well, any advice that I might receive from my department is obviously a matter of advice, and neither the department or I would go into matters of advice.

JOURNALIST: Well, why not?

MORRISON: Because that is a standing practice that has occurred by governments for a very long time, which I would expect you to be familiar with. And it was practiced by the previous Government.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible question]

MORRISON: Well I said any advice I might have received from the department on those matters is a matter between myself and the department. But what I can tell you is that the arrangements at those centres are continually being reviewed, through the various management of those facilities, to ensure that people are treated with dignity and respect. I’ve got time for one last question.

JOURNALIST: So Minister, has the…

MORRISON: Maybe someone else would like to ask a question.

JOURNALIST: Is it true that 13,000 people on bridging visas are earmarked to be put back into detention?

MORRISON: Well there have been no decisions taken as yet as to who might go back in detention, but the Government, when in Opposition, had a clear policy to completely revise the assessment process, and to retask the way the detention network operated in relation to how that assessment process operated. Now, what I mean by that is the detention network will predominately be used once we get into our new assessment phase for those who have received a negative decision at some point. That should be its predominant purpose, that’s the onshore detention network I’m talking about.

And those who are yet to be assessed, and are already in the community, well there’s no suggestion that until their assessment might commence, that they would be brought back into detention, there’s no suggestion of that. But we’ll be making more announcements about those issues, they don’t go directly to Operation Sovereign Borders. Operation Sovereign Borders is about those vessels and those people who may seek to come here now, and since the commencement of that operation. What we do with the legacy caseload of 33,000 people and the $3 billion it was costing Australian taxpayers as a result of the previous Government’s border failures, well that’s a parallel action by the Government.

Thank you for your time.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible question]

MORRISON: I do have an answer for you. I can give that – I can arrange for my staff to give that to you after the briefing.

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