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BBC WORLD SERVICE – WORLD UPDATE WITH DAN DAMON
THURSDAY, 14 FEBRUARY 2019
SUBJECTS: Scott Morrison’s ridiculous decision to reopen Christmas Island detention centre; medical transfer legislation; Labor’s message to people smugglers in Indonesia; Labor’s strong position on border protection; migration.
DAN DAMON: Shayne Neumann is the Shadow Immigration Minister from the Labor Party, what’s wrong with reopening Christmas Island?
SHAYNE NEUMANN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND BORDER PROTECTION: Labor believes that the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has engaged in a ridiculous decision to reopen Christmas Island detention centre. It’s an hysterical and unhinged response from a desperate and dishonest Prime Minister who has lost control of the Parliament. It’s a blatant stunt. This is a government that actually has bought 900 people to Australia for medical reasons and at the same time closed Christmas Island. Now that he’s lost control of the floor of Parliament – and a very good bill has been passed by Labor, the crossbenchers and the Greens, to improve the medical outcomes for people on Manus and Nauru – he has decided on a whim to reopen Christmas Island. It really is a ridiculous decision.
DAMON: Well let’s talk about the medical evacuation policy – there have already been as you’ve said medical evacuations, what’s new in this policy?
NEUMANN: In this policy, Labor’s putting front and centre the need for urgent medical care for people who have been languishing in indefinite detention on Manus and Nauru for six years but at the same time not compromising our strong border protection provisions. We’re listening to treating clinicians – getting the best medical advice – and if people can’t get the care in Manus and Nauru they will come to Australia for temporary medical purposes. Secondly, it retains the Minister’s discretion to protect the Australian community in relation to people who may have engaged in criminal activities or indeed for security reasons but at the same time it ring-fences only those people on Manus and Nauru.
I want to say to this to those people in Indonesia or anyone who may consider getting on a boat – this legislation only applies to those people currently on Manus and Nauru in need of urgent medical care.
If you try and get on a boat to come to Australia – you will be turned around. You will never, ever be settled in Australia. Do not waste your money paying a people smuggler to try and get Australia by boat. You are risking your life and you’ll be turned back. There is no difference between Labor and Liberal when it comes to Australia’s strong border protection regime.
DAMON: Well that’s the fear isn’t it? That this will be an encouragement to people smugglers, the story will get around that all you need is two doctors and you’ll get into Australia.
NEUMANN: The concerns that Labor has is that the current Prime Minister and the Liberal National Party Government here in Australia are walking, talking billboards people smuggling billboards, encouraging the people smugglers. Labor will never let the people smugglers back into business. If Labor wins the next election in the next couple of months, we will make sure that we protect our borders but you can be strong on border protection and be decent and human in making sure people can get the medical treatment they need.
DAMON: What’s wrong with the Christmas Island reopening though? If you agree that there should be centres on Manus Island, Nauru, that there is a need for space and there are more people coming and you need to put them somewhere?
NEUMANN: Under Labor’s policy, and under the current policy, there will be turnbacks when safe to do, offshore processing and regional resettlement. It doesn’t matter whether there’s a Labor government or a Liberal and National Party government – that is the policy. This is a knee-jerk reaction – we’ve even heard from the authorities on Christmas Island that people often get evacuated from Christmas Island to the mainland for medical treatment anyway. So we think this is a stunt by a Government that has lost control of the House of Representatives, imminently facing an election, and are behind in the polls – this is a desperate dishonest Government.
DAMON: It’s a bind for Labor though isn’t it because at the election around two-thirds of your candidates wanted an increase in immigration because there are businesses who need more labour, but your voters only thirty percent thought immigration should be increased. It’s a dilemma…
NEUMANN: Labor believes in a non-discriminatory, humane immigration policy. Australia’s a country that’s been born upon immigration. We’ve had our Indigenous people living on this continent for 65,000 years but about 7.5 million people have come to this country and enriched the country. Nearly one in two people living on this continent are either born overseas or have at least one parent born overseas. Labor’s also had a long standing commitment to a humane refugee policy and to humanitarian positions.
DAMON: Shayne Neumann, Australia’s Shadow Immigration Minister.