Immigration and Border Protection

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February 12, 2019


SUBJECTS: Medical transfer legislation and ensuring sick people get the help they require; Labor’s strong position on border protection; extra parliamentary sitting weeks to address the Banking Royal Commission.

SHAYNE NEUMANN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND BORDER PROTECTION: For the past six years, the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government have left asylum seekers and refugees languishing in indefinite detention on Manus Island and Nauru. They have failed to provide timely and adequate medical care for people who need it. Labor has always had two objectives in relation to the Phelps/Storer Bill; we’ve always had two objectives. They are to make sure that these people get the medical attention and help that they need, while not compromising our strong border protection arrangements. Labor has listened to the security agencies and we’ve taken our briefing. We respect them, we listen to their professional advice, and as a result of that, Labor wants to strengthen the Bill that will be before the House of Representatives today in three ways. First, to broaden the definition of security in relation to ministerial discretion. Secondly, to make the timeframes more workable and appropriate. And thirdly, to limit the application of the Bill to those people on Manus and Nauru currently – just as the current Government has done in relation to the US refugee resettlement arrangement – to make sure, that however small, the marketing opportunities are not there for people smugglers to re-open their vile trade and to make sure that people who are vulnerable don’t put their lives at risk on the high sea. The current Government is simply panicking and shrill; they have lied repeatedly about Labor’s strong position on border protection. They’re completely and utterly desperate. They leak classified information to the national media. We respect, Labor respects the expertise, and respects classified information and briefings. The current Government has lots of questions to answer in relation to how that took place and Labor’s pleased that the Australian Federal Police are undertaking an investigation in relation to these matters. Labor has always had two objectives – making sure that people get the kind of care that they need in terms of medical help without compromising our strong border protection arrangements. Happy to answer any questions.

JOURNALIST: Mr Neumann have you spoken to the crossbench about these proposed amendments? Will they support them?

NEUMANN: We’ve been happy with our discussions with the crossbench. They have come with goodwill in relation to this matter. We are pleased that we’re working constructively in relation to these matters and we’ll have further discussions today. This is about making sure that people get the medical care they need and the Government’s lies in relation to this matter are impalpable.

JOURNALIST: The Government’s still concerned that this isn’t strong enough to address national security concerns. After your briefing this week, are you convinced these amendments will do enough?

NEUMANN: I think Labor’s proposals will strengthen the Bill – we want to make sure that this Bill as amended gets passed. We’re working constructively with the crossbench. The Government’s simply telling untruths about the matter. Labor’s always been motivated about keeping strong border protection but making sure people get the help they need.

JOURNALIST: How do you think Labor’s placed to fight an election on the issue of border security?

NEUMANN: Labor’s got a strong record. Our position is that we believe in Operation Sovereign Borders, we won’t even change the name. We believe in keeping strong border protection, but you can do that without being cruel to people, without being cruel in failing to provide the medical care they need. The Government lacks compassion and decency across this space.

JOURNALIST: Will Labor move this week to bring on extra siting weeks to deal with the Banking Royal Commission recommendations?

NEUMANN: Labor wants the Government to have extra sitting weeks in relation to the banking recommendations. As a Federal Member of Parliament, and I’m sure other Federal Members of Parliament have received the same type of feedback – the Government can’t be trusted to implement to recommendations of the Royal Commission. Only Labor can be trusted. Why? Because the Government voted 26 times against having this Royal Commission. This is the Royal Commission they didn’t want to have; only Labor can be trusted to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission. There should be more parliamentary sitting days in relation to this matter and the Government should be held to account. Thank you.