Immigration and Border Protection

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November 06, 2017


SUBJECTS: New Zealand refugee resettlement offer, Manus Island closure, Turnbull’s failure to negotiate third country resettlement options, Turnbull Government’s citizenship crisis.

ALICIA LOXLEY: Alicia Loxley sitting in the chair for Jon Faine. This morning now the Manus Island standoff has entered day six today and you may have seen yesterday the PM reiterated his stance against a deal with New Zealand to take 150 refugees. It was a deal was first offered of course to Julia Gillard when she was Prime Minister and Labor has opposed it until now. But Bill Shorten said at the weekend that he would support looking at it. Joining me now on the line is Shayne Neumann, who is Federal Opposition Immigration spokesperson, Shayne Neumann thanks for your time.

SHAYNE NEUMANN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND BORDER PROTECTION: Good morning to you and good morning to all of your listeners.

LOXLEY: You would support the consideration of such a deal with New Zealand?

NEUMANN: Yes and we have been saying that for a considerable period of time. I’ve done lots of interviews that said that Labor would consider this. We’ve been saying this for quite some time and so has Bill Shorten.

LOXLEY: So what’s changed your mind?

NEUMANN: Well we’ve taken the view that  these people need to get off Manus and Nauru and the Government in their fifth year has taken what were to be regional processing centres and created them into places of indefinite detention. We thank the New Zealand Government for their generous offer. Julia Gillard did, back in February 2013, come to an agreement with then New Zealand Prime Minister John Key that New Zealand would take 150 of the people in offshore processing or indeed people that are coming here by boat but that was scotched by Tony Abbott when he got into power. We’ve been saying for a considerable period of time that the Turnbull Government should not just put all their eggs in one basket with the US resettlement arrangement but also should be considering New Zealand and sitting down with the New Zealand Government to work out the terms and conditions.

LOXLEY: This is your party’s doing, however, it’s a result of you border protection policy. Is it not just opportunistic to take a softer approach now?

NEUMANN: Well we set up these RPCs in the last days of the Rudd and Gillard Governments. The Government has been in power for over four years; they’re now in their fifth year. They should take responsibility for the education system, the health system, infrastructure spending, the economy; they should also take responsibility for what’s been happening in offshore processing and their woeful incompetence in failing to secure third country arrangements. The Government’s got to take responsibility and step up and this is an absence of leadership and a failure by both the Prime Minister and his Minister for Immigration.

LOXLEY: It’s a deal for 150 people – what would your plan be for the remaining men on Manus Island?

NEUMANN: The Americans have offered up to 1250. The New Zealand Government has offered 150. We don’t know the precise numbers; they change from time to time. Some people have gone back to their country of origin; other people have resettled in PNG – we know that there’s a few dozen that have done that. We don’t know the precise numbers but the Government should be looking at other third country arrangements. They should have been negotiating that. If they can negotiate that with the US they certainly, with the offer on the table, pick it up from New Zealand and looking at other third country arrangements.

LOXLEY: The vetting is taking a long time with the US however. I think there has only been 54 people settled so far out of that agreed 1250. That could take years it appears on the way it’s currently going.

NEUMANN: We thank the American Government and Labor supports the US refugee resettlement arrangement. The Government should be calling on the Americans to expedite these arrangements to de-escalate the tension there. They should be guaranteeing with the PNG Government the security of services, security of persons, health services and also the necessities of life. We know from Senate Estimates that the Australian Government’s going to spend $150 million to $250 million in the next year in relation to what’s happening on Manus Island. They should be being transparent and accountable to the Australian public and provide those guarantees not just to the PNG Government but also to those people on Manus Island RPC.

LOXLEY: Are you worried about the safety of those men on Manus Island currently?

NEUMANN: We’ve got skin in the game there and we’ve got a moral obligation. We should be working with the PNG authorities to de-escalate the tension there and to guarantee essential services of life, health, security, welfare services. We’ve got an obligation, a moral obligation, in relation to this issue and they should be working with the PNG authorities.

LOXLEY: Let’s talk about the citizenship debacle and we saw reports at the weekend that secret audits are being done already by each of the parties. How confident are you in Labor’s vetting process under the scrutiny of a public audit?

NEUMANN: I’ve been a candidate for the Labor Party since 2004 and I know what we go through to vet. It’s seems like a burdensome, onerous thing at the time but I’m very glad we go through it. I am very confident that the Labor MPs and Senators have gone through a really, rigorous process. What the Prime Minister needs to do is lead, I think, in these circumstances in what I call a “citizenship crisis”. Government MPs clearly knew what was happening with the President of the Senate. We can’t take the Prime Minister at his word; he told us that the High Court would hold all these people not be dual-nationals. I think the Prime Minister really needs to accept Labor’s proposal for a universal disclosure in Parliament or he should refer MPs in doubt – including for example Alex Hawke, Julia Banks, Josh Frydenberg, whoever – to the High Court for judicial determination.

LOXLEY: He’s got a point though doesn’t he that really at the end of the day it is only the High Court that can determine this, so therefore a way that an audit would be conducted, it’s difficult to see how it would not be a political process?

NEUMANN: Well everything in Parliament is political process. We want a process where all members can make the necessary disclosures to ensure to the Parliament their eligibility. But he’s right at this level, it’s ultimately, in the country like ours with a constitution, the High Court that makes these determinations but we’re not wedded to the specifics of this. We are prepared to sit down with the Government to resolve this issue. We want a bipartisan approach in relation to the implementation of this proposal, but what I know, what I really know, as a local MP that the people are sick of this and they are blaming Malcolm Turnbull, rightly, so for this crisis.

LOXLEY: The Greens have proposed a model for an audit. Have you had a look at that and what do you think of that?

NEUMANN: We’re not going to take any advice from the Greens who have lost two of their Senators by their own failure to undertake proper vetting process. I don’t think the Greens have got any credibility on this process at all. We’ve got a proposal on the table, we should be considering it, the Prime Minister should look at our idea of universal disclosure to Parliament.

LOXLEY: Shayne Neumann thanks for your time.

NEUMANN: Good to talk to you.