Monday, 22 July 2013

Tony Abbott transcript - Kevin Rudd’s border protection failures

From: Liberal HQ
Sent: Sunday, July 21, 2013 10:07 PM
Subject: Why Mr Rudd's latest pre-election fix won't work

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Dear Geoff,

Kevin Rudd's latest attempt to stop the boats is not a deal - it's just more talk.

At a joint press conference today Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison set out in detail the gaping holes in the Government's flimsy two-page arrangement with Papua New Guinea and why Kevin Rudd's pre-election fix will not work.

Click here to read Tony Abbott's and Scott Morrison's devastating critique of Kevin Rudd's recent announcement.

Tony Abbott said:

"On Friday night, Mr Rudd said that everyone who came illegally by boat to Australia would go to PNG and that no one who went to PNG would ever be resettled in Australia. Now that we have seen the arrangement entered into between Australia and PNG, it’s clear that neither of Mr Rudd’s assertions are actually borne out by the document.

"The document does not say that everyone who comes to Australia will go to PNG. The document does not say that no one who goes to PNG will ever come to Australia. It simply doesn't say that."

Scott Morrison said:

"This arrangement does not provide that compulsion on Papua New Guinea that would require them to resettle every single person in Papua New Guinea. It just simply isn't there. This is Mr Rudd's promise. This is Rudd's talk. It's his assertion that he's asking the Australian people to take at face value."
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  • Tony Abbott transcript - Kevin Rudd’s border protection failures

    Subjects: Kevin Rudd’s border protection failures.



    I appreciate you all giving up some of your Sunday to come along to listen to Scott and myself. I want to thank Scott for coming down to Melbourne so that we can make these joint observations about the latest developments in respect of the Government’s arrangements with Papua New Guinea.

    I want to make just a couple of points before throwing to Scott, but my essential point is this. On Friday night, Mr Rudd said that everyone who came illegally by boat to Australia would go to PNG and that no one who went to PNG would ever be resettled in Australia. Now that we have seen the actual document, now that we have seen the arrangement that’s been entered into between Australia and PNG, it’s clear that neither of Mr Rudd’s assertions are actually borne out by the document. The document does not say that everyone who comes to Australia will go to PNG. The document does not say that no one who goes to PNG will ever come to Australia. It simply doesn’t say that.

    So, Mr Rudd is essentially misleading the Australian people. This is not a solution to our problem. This is not a policy to stop the boats. This is simply a pre-election fix. This is simply something that is held together with Blu-Tak and sticky tape to last until the election, if possible.

    The Prime Minister of PNG himself made very clear publicly and privately that the numbers that PNG would accept were strictly limited by the capacity on PNG and at the moment the capacity on PNG is about 300 persons only. Given the current rate of arrivals, this number, this capacity, would be swamped in just a couple of days.

    So we remain with a Prime Minister who started a terrible problem for our country and for our region with no plausible plan to deal with it. Let’s face it, this is the Prime Minister, in Mr Rudd, who found a solution and created a problem by closing down and stopping the policies that worked under the former Coalition government. Almost 50,000 illegal arrivals later, about 750 boats later, 1,000 plus deaths at sea later, $10 billion in border protection cost blowouts later, Mr Rudd says ‘problem solved, I have a plan’. Well, he doesn’t have a plan. He has a scant two pages which are not even legally binding. This isn’t even an agreement, as such. It’s simply an “arrangement”, in inverted commas, and it’s an arrangement that doesn’t actually say what Mr Rudd said it does.

    So, over to you, Scott.


    Thanks Tony and of course we continue to appreciate the contribution of Papua New Guinea to this issue but as we’ve always said, the problem here is with the person who’s going to have to implement it which is Kevin Rudd. We all know his form on implementing things. We all know Labor’s form when it comes to this issue and if you need any demonstration of Labor’s ability to implement offshore processing – upon which this arrangement so critically depends – then look at the fires on Nauru. It’s not the first detention centre Labor has run to burn to the ground and the fires on Nauru, we are every day now learning, have been a consequence of Labor’s failure to be able to get the processing arrangements in place in Nauru, almost a year after the announcement was first made.

    But to the matters here that Tony has specifically referred to – and if you bear with me as I run through these – first of all, this arrangement, as Tony said, is an arrangement. It’s not an agreement. It’s not even a deal. What it is is a document that doesn’t even have the legal standing of a memorandum of understanding, and remember, it was the memorandum of understanding that was found not to be legally binding enough to protect the Malaysian people-swap when that was struck down by the High Court.

    Secondly, this is an arrangement that can be struck down at any time by Papua New Guinea. They are not bound to stay in this agreement, I should arrangement, for any length of time. Sure, there might be 12-monthly reviews but it doesn’t even have to get to 12 months. They can walk away from this any day they choose.

    As Tony said, Mr Rudd says there is no chance they will never be settled in Australia. This arrangement does not provide that compulsion on Papua New Guinea that would require them to resettle every single person in Papua New Guinea. It just simply isn’t there. This is Mr Rudd’s promise. This is Rudd’s talk. It’s not a deal, it’s just more talk. It’s his assertion that he’s asking the Australian people to take at face value.

    I’m not surprised he didn’t want to release the details of this arrangement on the day because the details of this arrangement on the day destroy the very core promise and premise he was putting to the Australian people, and that’s everyone turns up and ends up in Papua New Guinea, which is not supported by this arrangement.

    The situation is even worse when it relates to people who are not found to be refugees. People who are not found to be refugees, this arrangement talks about how they could be returned home – and we know particularly in the case of Iranians and Afghans and others that that process has proved extremely difficult, if not impossible, and if it were able to be done, then more Iranians, I assume, would have been returned by our government, or to another country of which the Government cannot name one when it comes to sending people who have been found not to be refugees. And as was relayed to us by the Papua New Guinean Prime Minister and his Attorney-General and his Foreign Minister the other night, at the end of the day, those issues will remain Australia’s problem. So, those found not to be refugees will end up being Australia’s problem.

    The next thing is that the transfer arrangements require Australia to do the health and security checks first. So the processing that begins, not only processed immediately by Papua New Guinea, they’re actually being processed in Australia. Now, what legal issues that potentially raises, I am sure David Manne will give you an answer to at some point, but the processing that will first take place is on security issues, on health issues. This will effectively give Papua New Guinea a right of veto on who then goes to Papua New Guinea, just as was the case with the Malaysian people-swap. Once you got into the detail of the Malaysian people-swap, these things started to fall out and Malaysia clearly had a right of veto.

    So, the devil is always in the detail with Mr Rudd and Mr Rudd always proves to be the devil in that detail when it comes to these arrangements.

    So, in this detail I can only assume that if someone is a criminal threat, if someone is a terrorist threat, if someone has a communicable disease or anything of that nature, it won’t be PNG’s problem, it will be Australia’s problem and they will remain in Australia where under law we would have some obligations to them.

    Moving on, there is also the potential for the PNG Government to form policy that may seek to prevent particular cohorts of people being transferred from Australia to Papua New Guinea. Now, in particular, they could form the view that they don’t want people who don’t have documentation of which we know almost 90 per cent of people who turn up in Australia have no documentation. So, if you don’t have any documents, PNG may well say as a matter of policy, well we’re not going to take any people who don’t have any documents. I’m not suggesting they’ve said that, but it is possible that the Papua New Guinea Government could form policy which says we’re only going to take certain types of people.

    You may also be aware that in the Papua New Guinean Parliament at the moment there is a motion that is being debated that deals with the non-acceptance of non-Christian religions in that country. Now, it could be in the context of that debate a policy that is formed by the Papua New Guinean Government that they will only take people of Christian religion, for example.

    Now, again, these are things that are within the sovereign domain of Papua New Guinea to determine. It’s their country, they get to decide who gets visas in their country and Minister Burke’s suggestion this morning that that was somehow Australia’s decision is simply absurd. I mean, we get to decide what happens on our borders and this government wants to contract those decisions out to Indonesia, and now Minister Burke is saying he’s going to make decisions about what is the sovereign right of Papua New Guinea. Again, just more detail that is not covered off by these arrangements.
    Now, the number transferred to Papua New Guinea is not an open-ended arrangement. It’s not, as the Attorney-General said, an unlimited arrangement. The Prime Minister, Mr O’Neill, made this very clear, not only in the press conference but in our own discussions. It is limited by the capacity of Manus Island and other places to take people. Now, as Tony said, that capacity now is around about 300, just around 300. They would need to increase the capacity in Papua New Guinea ten-fold on what it currently is, to be anywhere the starting level of arrangement that would need to be in place for this arrangement to turn into an actual plan; an actual, implemented arrangement.

    Now, when you can’t keep the fires out of the detention centre in Nauru – that has a capacity of less than a third of what we’re talking here – and you’ve had almost a year to get permanent facilities up in Papua New Guinea and the best you can do is around 300 in tents, then what capacity can this arrangement really produce in any sort of meaningful time frame? And this is one of the other critical issues: the ability to deliver on the ground. There is no suggestion that any sites other than those currently available on Manus Island are being considered and as anyone who does anything in Papua New Guinea knows, dealing with land-owners on other sites is extremely problematic.

    So, they don’t have any other sites, they’ve only got the sites they’ve got. Those sites themselves have proved extremely challenging to get the facilities up and running on and this whole thing depends on around 3,000 beds being in place as soon as possible. So, what does that mean? That means people who are getting on boats and coming to Australia will come to Australia and they’ll stay here. They’ll stay here until something is provided up there, whenever that is, and as they come, the lawyers will circle and the challenges will come; the injunctions will appear and all of this can very much go the same way as the Malaysian people-swap did.

    There’s just a few more, if you’d just bear with me as I go through. So, the logistical challenges of getting this up and running in Papua New Guinea are extremely difficult.

    Then there’s the issue of families. Now, Minister Burke rightly points out his responsibilities as the legal guardian of unaccompanied minors but also there is I think an equally high duty of care that is applied to those who are the children of others when they’re here and family groups.

    You cannot send children aged under seven to Manus Island because of the issues of inoculation – you can’t do it – and there are no other sites. So, I have no knowledge of what fantasy site Minister Burke is talking about being able to send children and families to Papua New Guinea. At present, he has no site and if he has one, he should nominate what it is before the election and demonstrate how that’s actually going to happen because at present there is no such site and that means the perverse incentive for children and families to get on boats – and remember, we’ve had almost 3,000 children on boats this year – that perverse incentive will remain in place because the Government has no offshore processing facilities for children.

    There are also very significant issues when it comes to legal matters in not only Australia but in Papua New Guinea. Remember, the Malaysian people-swap fell over in the High Court and they had more than six months to get that right and they gave all sorts of guarantees about the water-tight nature of that arrangement. This mob have cobbled this thing together in less than three weeks and are standing up giving you a similar pledge. Now, if people want to believe that, well, they’ll believe anything, frankly. The legal potential for challenge here is obviously going to be there and I’m sure the lawyers are busily beavering away as we speak to find the loopholes.

    But in PNG there are also significant issues.  There was a High Court challenge that involved the transfer of people from Australia to Papua New Guinea under the current arrangements which will continue for the transfer. That High Court case was dismissed on just procedural grounds and the legal issues that are there, that relate to the non-visa entry of these transferees, remains a live one – a very live issue up in PNG – and so, the potential for David Manne to land a High Court challenge – don’t assume it will be in Australia, it could very well be in Papua New Guinea – that could see this whole thing come tumbling down.

    There are also the issues of Papua New Guinea’s reservations to the Refugee Convention. Now, that is a very cumbersome process to remove those reservations that they have. They can notify the Commissioner for Refugees but then they have to make those changes in their own law. Now, I’ve referred to some very serious political issues in PNG which will become very relevant in such a discussion. The changes they have to make, for example, include: they must give free public education to every asylum seeker and resettled refugee that goes within their territory.  Now, currently, PNG kids don’t get free public education right across PNG despite the fact that it’s even government policy. I know because I’ve been in the villages in PNG when I was last there just in April walking the Wau to Salamaua track and I was told that directly by the Principal of a school who runs such a school and the frustration local parents currently have.

    Now, that’s a difficult challenge for PNG and we respect that but what will happen here is, their government will have to give a guarantee to resettled refugees on public school education that would be arguably greater than the commitment they have to give their own kids and you can just imagine the difficulties of bringing those sorts of changes into the PNG Parliament.
    Now, there are many other issues there which relate to West Papuan refugees. There are quite a number of West Papuan refugees. They are given particular classes of visas that restrict their movement within Papua New Guinea. They can only be in particular places. What they have to do to remove their reservations in Papua New Guinea is remove the restriction of movement for those transferred from Australia. So, you’d then have the real prospect of Melanesian refugees who are restricted in movement and then you have those transferred from Australia – because the arrangement doesn’t talk about a general lifting, it talks about a lifting of these arrangements for those transferred from Australia.

    Now, I’m sorry to take you through so much detail on this, but this is the detail that the Government is not telling you about.

    Kevin Rudd is great at the big announcement but he never thinks past the announcement and he’s not thinking past this election. He never has, from the day he started to plot to bring Julia Gillard down. If he thought this was such a good idea, as the suggestion was, that he knew about this well before taking over the leadership, if he really wanted to stop those boats, why didn’t he raise that with Bob Carr? Why didn’t he raise it with the Prime Minister?

    This is a plan for Kevin Rudd’s election campaign and getting his colleagues on board to knock off Julia Gillard.

    We would seek to salvage as much of this arrangement as you possibly could, but as I’ve gone through these details, that will be a difficult task. It’s no substitute. It’s no excuse, not to do the things you need to do on your side of the border. It’s no substitute.

    So, if you want to stop the boats, by all means, salvage out of this what you can, but I wouldn’t be staking the Coalition’s credibility – I’m sure Tony wouldn’t either – on stopping the boats with this plan.

    Our plan, which involves turn-backs where it’s safe to do so, having the fall-back of temporary protection visas when everything else hasn’t been able to address the issue, having genuine offshore processing run by people who believe in it and are convicted in their commitment to it, rather than those who had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the table, those policies remain as essential today as the day when Kevin Rudd abolished all of them.

    So, that’s why we have outlined these issues here today, as matters that the Prime Minister must address because at the moment, these two pages look like nothing more than an election fix.

    Are there any questions?

    Are you saying that the Papua New Guinean solution will offer no deterrent at the moment, as it stands, or will it at the very least send a signal to people that want to get on boats and to people smugglers that they may not end up in Australia?

    We’re not saying that there is no merit in agreements with other countries. Obviously, the former Coalition government had agreements with other countries, including PNG, but this isn’t an agreement, this is an arrangement and the essential point I make is that Mr Rudd has been misleading to the point of dishonesty about this. He said that under the arrangement struck, that everyone who came illegally by boat to Australia would go to PNG and that no one who went to PNG would ever come to Australia. Neither of those assertions is borne out in the document. That’s why I say that Mr Rudd has been misleading to the point of dishonesty and why I say that it is simply an election fix; something that’s held together with Blu-Tak and sticky tape until polling day. It’s not something that will actually stop the boats.

    Can I say on that, also, the announcement in effect Kevin Rudd is looking for on this is the effect in the Australian electorate, not overseas. An announcement effect, if you want to stop boats with people smugglers, has to have an enduring impact and that’s what John Howard did. It wasn’t his announcements that stopped the boats, it was implementing the policies that stopped the boats. This thing has to work beyond an election and under Labor you always know it unravels after.


    You’ve suggested that the riots taking place on Nauru at the moment are a reflection of the Rudd Government’s ability to implement border protection policies. In a commensurate sense, were the riots that took place at the Woomera detention centre a reflection of the Howard Government’s ability to implement border protection policies?


    Well, riots are a problem when you can’t stop the boats. As long as you’ve got illegal arrivals by boat, as long as you’ve got people in immigration detention, you are at risk of riots. That’s why it’s so important to stop the boats. But if you want to stop the boats, you’ve got to have the will, you’ve got to have the resolve and all Mr Rudd has had is a series of announcements. All Labor have ever had is a series of announcements. None of them have ever stopped the boats. After five years of abject failure, Mr Rudd wants to be rewarded on the basis of yet another announcement. Well, I say the test of all of these announcements has got to be a practical one. From today, how many illegal arrivals by boat will actually be transferred to Manus and from today do we actually start to stop the boats? And there’s no evidence whatsoever – on the face of this, on the face of what’s been said, on the face of what we know – that there will be any real impact.

    Would you scrap this plan if you were to win power?

    As I said a moment ago, there is nothing wrong with having arrangements with other countries. Arrangements with other countries are a good thing, if we are trying to facilitate rigorous offshore processing. The former Coalition government put them in place. We would certainly want, should we form a government, to have arrangements in place. But they are no substitute for firm action by Australia. A deal with another country is no substitute for firm action by Australia. We cannot rely on other countries to solve our problems for us. We’ve got to be prepared to show the resolve, the will, the steel, if you like, to actually fix this problem ourselves and Labor has never shown that. We had the East Timor solution. We had Manus Mark One. We had Nauru. We had Malaysia. Now we’ve got Manus Mark Two. Always, always, Mr Rudd and the Labor Party are relying on someone else to solve our problems for us. Well, I’ve got news for Mr Rudd. We’ve got to do it ourselves and, sure, other countries can help but if we’re not prepared to implement temporary protection visas here for all of the people who, for whatever reason, don’t get to other countries, if we’re not prepared to be fair dinkum about actually getting them to other countries, as opposed to simply talking about getting them to other countries and if we’re not prepared to turn boats around where it’s safe to do so, we are not going to fix this problem.


    Mr Abbott, how concerned are you about the advertising campaign that the Government’s embarked upon to sell this policy?


    Well, if they were fair dinkum about stopping the boats, they wouldn’t just be talking about it, they’d be taking the action necessary in Indonesia, in cooperation with our Indonesian friends and partners and on the high seas to actually make a difference. This is a government which is great at advertising its success but when you actually look at the results on the ground, they never back up the claims and this government is great at spending taxpayers’ money to proclaim successes that haven’t actually happened but again, I think the public are getting pretty sick of political parties boasting with their money, particularly when there’s no performance to back up the boasting. Let’s face it, Mr Rudd said that political advertising was a cancer on the body politic. Now, of course, he can’t wait to boast with taxpayer funding about achievements that aren’t to his credit.


    Mr Abbott, if some details are filled in and the arrangement survives legally, your objections to this policy will fade away. Is that right?


    My fundamental points today are that Mr Rudd has made claims about this new arrangement which the document enshrining it do not back up. So, Mr Rudd has been misleading to the point of dishonesty. That’s the first point I make.

    The second point I make is if you really want to stop the boats, this isn’t enough. Yes, arrangements with other countries can help and, as Scott says, we’re grateful that PNG remains prepared to help as it was in the time of the Howard Government, but in the end the only way to solve problems in Australia and for Australia is with sufficient will, resolve, determination and steel by Australians and, in particular, by the Australian Government.


    Can I just add to that in reinforcing that point? Mr Rudd knows that most of the questions that I’ve posed to you today will never be resolved until the other side of an election. That’s why those details aren’t there. He’s hoping people will just scan over these things. And another one, frankly, that I didn’t mention before, down the track, someone is resettled in Papua New Guinea – if that ever happens after all those challenges that I mentioned – then what’s to stop them coming back to Australia once they are a settled resident in Papua New Guinea across the Torres Strait as Campbell Newman has said?


    This is simply another fake fix from someone who is the great pretender of Australian politics.


    Just to get that straight, how significant do you rate the risk of subsequent boat arrivals [inaudible]?


    Well, plainly there’s nothing in this document to justify Mr Rudd’s claims that it would never happen. Nothing. That’s why I say it’s another fake fix from the great pretender of Australian politics.


    What did the PNG Prime Minister say to you when you met with him on Friday? Did he clarify whether or not he would accept all of the asylum seekers arriving by boat?


    Well, I’m not going to go into chapter and verse of who said what to whom in what were lengthy, cordial and constructive discussions. That’s what you’d expect from the Prime Minister of PNG. What he said to us in private is entirely consistent with what he has said publicly said and nowhere has he said that everyone who comes to Australia illegally by boat is going to go to PNG and that no one who goes to PNG is ever going to come to Australia.


    Tony, just before we go, there was another one, I mean, there’s a long list here, a very long list. The cost. The cost of this is completely and utterly unknown. The Prime Minister can’t tell you what the cost is because they haven’t worked it out. This two page document has nothing in it about the resettlement arrangements whatsoever. Nothing. I mean, are they going to pay people pensions for the term of their natural life if they’re resettled in Papua New Guinea and how will other Papua New Guineans feel about that, getting Australian pensions? Those questions not even resolved. They’ve blown the budget by $10.3 billion and, at this stage, this arrangement is an open chequebook.


    Thank you so much.


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