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.

KIERAN GILBERT: With me now the Shadow Immigration Minister Shayne Neumann. You heard the comments there from Father Frank Brennan and it’s a fair assessment isn’t it of Labor’s approach of being very wary when it comes to any difference with the Government on these matters but you are willing to differ when it comes to the New Zealand deal.

SHAYNE NEUMANN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND BORDER PROTECTION: Yeah we are. We don’t the people smugglers back in business. We believe in turn backs when safe to do so, offshore processing and regional resettlement but the Government really has let this circumstance unfold knowing full well what’s going to happen. They’ve known about the closure for more than six months pursuant to an agreement with the Papua New Guinean Government. They’ve known about the Supreme Court decision in PNG and they’ve been woefully inadequate and incompetent in this arrangement to find third party countries to resettle these people. We do accept and we thank New Zealand for their generosity. They should be asking the asking the Americans to be expediting the US resettlement arrangement and they should be accepting this offer from New Zealand.

GILBERT: Okay you’ve come to that conclusion now. Why has it taken Labor so long to be so definitive on it?

NEUMANN: Well we’ve been saying for a long time that they should be considering the offer, generous offer, from New Zealand. I have been say that in many interviews, so has Bill Shorten. Labor’s position back in 2013 when Julia Gillard was the Prime Minister was to – and she came to an agreement with John Key in relation to this issue – to accept New Zealand’s offer of 150 refugees into New Zealand but when the Abbott Government came to power they scotched that approach. That would have started in 2014. We’ve been urging the Government to do this for a considerable period of time.

GILBERT: So Bill Shorten’s been saying definitively the Government needs to take up the New Zealand offer? Because I don’t recall that sort of language coming from the Opposition Leader, maybe I’ve missed it?

NEUMANN: We’ve been saying they should consider the offer from New Zealand. New Zealand’s been offering this for a while. They should be negotiating the terms and conditions as they did in relation to the Americans. We’ve been saying for a long time they should be considering that offer.

GILBERT: And in relation to that, the Government’s concern is the individuals who would be accepted potentially could come to Australia – what’s the way around that in your view?

NEUMANN: Well they’ve negotiated the arrangement with the Americans in such a way in terms and conditions that there’s no pull factor there. They should be negotiating with the New Zealand Government on similar terms and conditions to prevent any pull factor as well. So if they can do that with the Americans, there’s no reason they can’t do it with the New Zealand Government and we thank the New Zealanders for their offer.

GILBERT: You still support offshore processing and the position that none of these asylum seekers and refugees should end up in Australia. Where should the rest of them go? Because 1250 best case scenario to the US, 150 potentially to New Zealand; there’s still hundreds left of genuine refugees.

NEUMANN: Let’s be clear – these offshore detention centres were set up as regional processing centres; we set them up in the last days of the former Labor Government. They were not meant to be places of indefinite detention; they were meant to be reviewed annually in relation to these issues. We’ve been urging the Government to look at third country arrangements for a long time and the Government was very tardy in relation to the US offer and, in fact New Zealand, they have rejected it now. So we think the Government has been inadequate, incompetent, in relation to these issues and they should get on with looking for other third country arrangements. They’ve known about this arrangement; this has unfolded on their watch – they’re in their fifth year of Government.

GILBERT: What third countries would you look at though if you do win the next election? What’s Labor’s position? Where do you go to here?

NEUMANN: Well we’ll get briefed, of course, by the Department as to where that’s up to if and when we come to office after the next election. But the Government should be looking at other countries. They’ve mooted countries in the media from time to time – they’ve mentioned countries like Malaysia, the Philippines and other countries; they’ve mentioned countries in Europe. The Government should get on with looking at other third country arrangements. New Zealand’s had an offer of 150 per annum on the table for a long time but the Government’s refused to engage this. I mean, Minister Dutton and Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister, have showed inadequate and woefully incompetent leadership in this area and they should get on with the job of looking at that and providing for these people currently in Manus Island with the security, welfare and health services – the necessities of life, the essentials of life. They’ve said in Senate Estimates recently that…

GILBERT: Well they’ve provided those alternative places of accommodation. Haven’t they done that?

NEUMANN: Well they said in Senate Estimates they’re going to spend $150 million to $250 million. They haven’t been transparent and accountable in how they’re going to do that. They didn’t even have, on the best evidence we have, the accommodation available until the dying days of the RPC in Manus Island. This is hopeless in terms of their administration of offshore processing both in Manus as well as Nauru.

GILBERT: Shadow Immigration Minister Shayne Neumann appreciate your time.