Interview with Kieran Gilbert, AM Agenda Sky News Programme
Kieran Gilbert: Minister Morrison thanks for your time. I thought you would be welcoming the fact that Labor is now supporting this key plank of your border protection policies.
Minister Morrison: I welcome the fact that they have admitted they got it wrong but I think it’s pathetic that they now can’t commit to getting it right on border protection. They say turn backs work but then won’t commit to do them. They will use any excuse under the sun not to actually proceed and commit to this policy. Richard Marles has already been smacked down by Jill Hall and others and Labor for Refugees and all the rest of it. That is the problem Labor has they are just completely divided on border protection. Kevin Rudd said he was going to turn back boats back before the 2007 election and we all know what happened after that 800 boats, none of them turned back.
Gilbert: Mr Marles says as the Immigration spokesman he has made it pretty clear that Labor would support it. Isn’t it just common sense to say they want Indonesia to cooperate?
Minister Morrison: What we have seen are two reasons that the shadow Minister has put up. On the issue of safety he has had every briefing on the issue of turn backs and the lived experience since the 19th of December when the policy was introduced, not a life lost at sea. If he is not convinced about turn backs by now where he can say he would implement them if he were the Minister and Bill Shorten would implement them as Prime Minister then they will never ever be convinced. We need to do what we need to do on our side of the border when it comes to border protection and those decisions are sovereign judgements of the Australian government and we have certainly shown our preparedness to do that. I want to be clear – he has not said that they will support doing turn backs. He has admitted that turn backs work but he will not commit to actually doing them. He is voting against turn backs in the legislation I currently have before Parliament, they voted against it last week.
Gilbert: He conceded as you say they work but he has also just said that he wants Indonesia to cooperate as part of this process. Isn’t that the better way to go about it though that would be ideal wouldn’t it?
Minister Morrison: The policy is being implemented, our level of cooperation with Indonesia on broader issues of on land disruption is once again getting underway and we are very pleased about that. We need to work with Indonesia, where we work with Indonesia and where we have those interests. But Australia will always need to do what it needs to do on its side of the border to ensure that this doesn’t take place. The previous government under Labor were not prepared to do that, we have been and Labor is still making excuses for not supporting policies that work.
Gilbert: So turn backs have to happen in a context where Indonesia is just going to have to basically cop it? Is that the situation here, is that the only way that this policy works?
Minister Morrison: I don’t think that is the way to characterise it. We have a very good relationship with Indonesia and I think that is already proving itself under the new government even though the cabinet has just been selected. The meetings between the Prime Minister and the President I think were very positive and for once this wasn’t the big elephant in the room when the Prime Minister and the President met. Why? Because the boats have been stopped and are stopping under the policies that we have had in place. That is in the region’s interest, it is in our interests and those policies need to keep going.
Gilbert: But Labor has denied asylum seekers to Australia under their policy they did deny them permanent visas so that is one plank and the other plank is now supporting or indicating support for turn backs.
Minister Morrison: No, that is not true. There are 30,000 people who arrived here illegally by boat under Labor who Labor would have given permanent visas to and still want to give a permanent visa to and that is how they voted in the parliament last week. They voted against turn backs…
Gilbert: Bridging visas.
Minister Morrison: No bridging visas are not asylum visas, after they have been found to be refugees Labor was going to give them permanent protection visas.
Minister Morrison: No, the 30,000 people they already let in they are going to give permanent protection visas to and they are trying to force us to do the same and we have said no. We have a mandate with the Australian people. So they voted against TPVs, temporary visas, voted to give people permanent visas who arrived by boat, they have voted against turn backs on offshore processing you and I both know they had to be dragged kicking and screaming to that with an election just over the horizon for them. So Labor always has to be dragged to these things, they say turn backs work but are not prepared to put them in place.
Gilbert: But you say that they wanted to give them permanent visas, they wanted a regional solution to send the people to PNG, to Nauru.
Minister Morrison: But they were only for people who arrived after July 19. The 30,000 that are already here, they voted last week to give them a permanent passport to welfare.
Gilbert: But isn’t it relevant in terms of sending a message to people smugglers and the trade what happens now, not so much the history?
Minister Morrison: No I disagree. Yes that is part of it but you have to be consistent across your whole policy space and Labor is conflicted and compromised and frankly just doesn’t have the conviction to deal with the problem end to end.
Gilbert: Mr Shorten says you should be looking to put the 4,400 asylum seekers from Syria and Iraq that you have set aside exclusively for those individuals, he wants that on top of the yearly humanitarian intake of 13,700 [sic]. Why won’t you consider that?
Minister Morrison: There are two reasons. First of all I have freed up 4,400 places within the refugee and humanitarian programme because we are no longer handing out permanent visas to people who came by boat so I have already created those places in the programme so we can do this within the programme. The second thing is if that is Mr Shorten’s view he has to say how he is going to pay for it. That is a bill in the hundreds of millions of dollars and he needs to set out how he would pay for that.
Gilbert: But the government is already spending hundreds of millions in terms of the military intervention. If we can find money for that why not find it for this humanitarian side?
Minister Morrison: I have already found the places within the programme without taking one visa away from someone who would have otherwise got it because I have denied permanent visas to people who came illegally by boat. There are 30,000 Labor left behind, 30,000 and Labor says they must get permanent visas if they are found to be refugees and I think that is the wrong message.
Gilbert: A couple of issues to conclude – the National Security Committee of which you are a member has decided to continue the process of removing passports from likely foreign fighters, locals who want to go to fight for Islamic state or other like-minded groups. You have decided to continue with that despite the risk I guess of having this local threat then of individuals carrying out attacks here as a result.
Minister Morrison: The matter was never up for review more broadly but the point is this – these are young Australians and when they leave Australia they are at one level of influence from this barbaric death cult. When they are over there it is all over – they may well be killed there, they will likely commit barbarous acts themselves and on their return from Australia they will obviously be put with law enforcement authorities. These are young Australians. I think we have an opportunity and responsibility to ensure they don’t realise that level of radicalisation and that we work with the community to ensure that we can turn them back, not just from going overseas but turn them back from that path of radicalisation and that corrupted version of their religion. It is an insult to their religion that they would seek to do that in the name of it.
Gilbert: You saw the attack in Ottawa. That was by an individual whose passport had been cancelled.
Minister Morrison: But that is why the government has a whole series of arrangements in place to deal with those who are persons of interest and I would just leave it at that. The government has an end to end arrangement here dealing with this. Cancelling passports and preventing people from going and joining that horrible event where they will only be further radicalised – and don’t think once they go there that is the last we hear from them – they end up seeking to radicalise people from over there through social media and other things back here in Australia so the reason we are there in Iraq and Syria is first and foremost about Australia’s national security interests and ensuring that Australians do not join that fight is an important part of protecting that interest.
Gilbert: One final question, you attended the open Mosque day at Lakemba Mosque on Saturday. How did you find it?
Minister Morrison: I found it a very, very open exercise. I thought it was great to see Australians of all walks of life asking honest, genuine questions they have and I think demystifying a lot of the things about Islamic communities in Australia is a very positive thing and it is as important in ensuring social cohesion as anything. Social cohesion is our resilience. It is our best form of defence against the radicalism and the conflict that we can sometimes see in our communities.
Gilbert: Well you attended, should the Prime Minister and others?
Minister Morrison: He was in Tenterfield on that day at another commitment. I represented on his behalf and other government members – David Coleman – was there with me at Lakemba Mosque and I was joined by other members later at the day. I was at a Shia Mosque in Kingsgrove. So I think it was a very positive day. The government has funded that programme, that event, and I think it has been a good success. To Samier Dandan whose brainchild it was and is, congratulations.
Gilbert: Mr Morrison thanks for your time.
Minister Morrison: Thanks a lot.
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