E&OE TRANSCRIPT DOORSTOP MELBOURNE WEDNESDAY, 22 FEBUARY 2017 SUBJECTS: Australia-United States refugee resettlement agreements
SHAYNE NEUMANN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND BORDER PROTECTION: Thanks for being here. Overnight we saw Peter Dutton really bell the cat with the respect to the dysfunction, disunity and division in this Government on the area of refugee and migration policy. For months now the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and Immigration Minister have not categorised Australia taking refugees from Costa Rica at the Americans request, and in fact the Americans taking refugees off Manus and Nauru in offshore processing where Australia has an interest, as a people swap.
But last night being interviewed by Andrew Bolt, the Minister accepted the categorisation of the arrangements as a people swap and then said to the Americans in a dangerous and reckless way, that he wouldn’t take refugees from Costa Rica until he received assurances from the Trump Administration that people would come off Manus and Nauru who were assessed as refugees. Today, we’ve seen a situation where the Foreign Minister who met with the US Vice President Mike Pence actually contradict the Minister for Immigration.
Now, either the Minister for Immigration was telling the truth last night, and if he was then in fact, the Prime Minister, the Minister previously and indeed the Foreign Minister have potentially misled the Australian public in relation to Costa Rica and the US refugee deal.
We have always accepted in the Labor Party, that people have been on Manus and Nauru for far too long. What started out as a transit regional processing arrangement has become a place of indefinite detention and it shouldn’t have been, but is because of the failure of the Abbott and Turnbull Government to find third party arrangements to take these people.
We have supported Costa Rica as part of our good will with the United States. They are a trusted ally as Peter Dutton said last night, but to treat the Americans in this way and to actually reveal the dysfunction, disunity and disagreement at the heart of the Turnbull Government. It goes to show they are failing, incompetent and ineffective in the area of refugee and immigration policy.
Now the Minister needs to clarify the true situation. Was the Prime Minister telling the truth in September last year, when he said Australia would take these people from Costa Rica as part of our arrangements with the United States? Was the Prime Minister telling the truth in November last year when he said the Americans would take up to 1,250 genuinely assessed refugees off Manus and Nauru? We don’t know because the Minister for Immigration last night said things which were contrary to what he said previously and contrary to what the Prime Minister had said in his previous statements.
The Minister for Immigration needs to clarify the situation today, get these people off Manus and Nauru and explain to the Australian public what’s actually happening. This is a Government that is failing in the area of accountability, transparency and openness on refugee and migration policy but is full of dysfunction, disunity and division in the same space.