14 February 2019
SUBJECTS: Medivac Bill
FRAN KELLY: …Full volume yesterday with the Prime Minister accused of sending a megaphone message to people smugglers that Australia’s borders are open for business again. The Government is accusing Labor of weakening our borders. Labor says Scott Morrison is talking down Australia’s border protection regime by deliberately misrepresenting new Medivac laws. Those are the laws that will make it easier for refugees on Manus and Nauru to be transferred to Australia for medical treatment. The Opposition Immigration spokesman, Shayne Neumann says that the PM has become quote “a walking, talking billboard for the boat trade.”
SHAYNE NEUMANN: They are the marketing tool, currently for people smugglers. I think this Government should hang their head in shame, it’s a disgrace the way that the Prime Minister and the Minister for Home Affairs are actually encouraging people smugglers. If you put people on boats, those people will never settle. They will never come to Australia under a Labor Government. Our position is really clear.
FRAN KELLY: That’s Shayne Neumann speaking on 7:30 last night as preparations are made for up to 300 refugees and asylum seekers to come to Australia under the first wave of Labor medical transfers under the new law. Christopher Pyne is the Defence Minister and Leader of the House. Minister, welcome back to Breakfast.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning, Fran, and it’s nice to back with you again.
FRAN KELLY: Minister, the Prime Minister wouldn’t concede yesterday that the new medical transfer laws only apply to one thousand people currently on Manus and Nauru. Will you acknowledge that basic fact?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well this is one of the ludicrous parts of Labor’s policy what they’ve done here. Labor is saying that they wanted to get people off Nauru who weren’t getting medical treatment. Of course, there are 64 doctors on Nauru.
FRAN KELLY: Not 64 doctors, 64 medical personnel, many of them are nurses and others.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: And they’re servicing several hundred asylum seekers who haven’t been given refugee status in Australia, so they are obviously getting medical attention. The idea that we would put people on Nauru and not give them medical attention is quite frankly deeply offensive. So Labor says that we need to get those people off and get them to Australia, that’s what they want to do. But if you are a new asylum seeker, apparently you don’t need to get medical attention, under the Labor Party’s policy. They say it doesn’t apply to new asylum seekers.
FRAN KELLY: That’s what the law says. That’s what the law does.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: What’s the principle here? What does Labor – if Labor thinks that asylum seekers need to get medical attention in Australia for say, mental illness, why wouldn’t that apply to everyone coming to Australia?
FRAN KELLY: But do you accept that that’s what the law says? The law says that only the cohort that are currently on Manus and Nauru will be able to come to the mainland if doctors refer them.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I think it’s an irrelevant point.
FRAN KELLY: But it’s the law. Hang on, why is the law irrelevant?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I think it’s irrelevant because what’s actually happened here is thatLabor wants to escape the fact that they have weakened our border protection regime. But- by trying to create these red herrings that make people focus on something than the other than the central fact, which is Labor’s changed our border protection laws to weaken them, and that was the advice from ASIO, ASD, from ASIS, that this change will weaken our laws and they ignored that security advice, and now they’re trying to create some red herring.
FRAN KELLY: Let’s get the facts here, that advice from ASIO was before this change, this amendment was put in. Bill Shorten came up with this amendment after he had the briefing arrangements and the law that is passed is that these transfers only apply to the people currently on Manus Island and Nauru. Do you accept that is the law?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: It is a mere technicality –
FRAN KELLY: It’s not a red herring it’s the law-
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: It’s a mere technicality.
FRAN KELLY: Why?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Because what Labor is trying to do is pretend that they can have- be half pregnant. Apparently they were so concerned about people on Nauru and their medical attention. They had to change the law and vote against the Government, but apparently that’s not good enough for new asylum seekers. Now what’s the principle there? Labor’s either principled they’re not.
FRAN KELLY: Why isn’t the Government, if they want to discourage the votes, why isn’t the Government trumpeting this and saying-
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: The boats.
FRAN KELLY: The boats sorry, why isn’t the Government trumpeting this to the region and saying that if you come here, these laws don’t apply to you. Why are you doing the opposite?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: We’re not doing anything apart from pointing out the fact that Labor, if they become the Government will weaken our border protection laws. They’ve already done it yesterday, two days ago. That’s what they want to do, and if they get elected, that’s the future, is weak border protection. Whereas under the Liberal Party, we stopped the boats, under Labor, they want to bring them back again.
FRAN KELLY: I just had to say this to another Minister yesterday, saying it doesn’t make it true. Isn’t the Government itself that is encouraging the boats to set off again?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: It is true! Oh for goodness sake Fran, you can’t possibly be now trying to argue, not you, the Labor Party can’t possibly argue that it’s actually the Coalition that’s weakening our border protections. We didn’t bring in legislation to weaken the border protections. The Labor Party, and Kerryn Phelps and the crossbenchers did, and now they, I mean it’s the most remarkable twist that they want to pretend that somehow it’s the government that is hanging out the welcome sign to the people smugglers. We’ve stopped the boats. We’ve closed 19 detention centres, we’ve got 18,000 children out of detention. Labor is starting that up again, and now try to somehow blame the Morrison Government. It’s farcical.
FRAN KELLY: We should be clear, nothing has started up again yet, but why are you reopening Christmas Island? Who will be sent there?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well possibly some of the people that will be medivaced out of Nauru.
FRAN KELLY: Why would they be in Christmas Island if they’re coming for medical treatment?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Because some of them are very dangerous.
FRAN KELLY: So they’ll be in Christmas Island, and then get their medical treatment, where, Perth?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: We’ll have to supply the medical treatment in Christmas Island. It will be very, very expensive. That’s why the security agencies said it would cost 1.4 billion dollars. So Labor-
FRAN KELLY: Why wouldn’t you put them in detention centres in the mainland?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: We’re all going back to the horror of the Labor Party Government, when they started up the people smuggling trade again, costing billions and billions of dollars. We’re opening up Christmas Island again because there are very dangerous people on Nauru who have not been able to get to Australia, and if they can get themselves here, and there’s some of those amongst the 300 that activists are already saying need to come here, they’ll be going Christmas Island. Some will come to Australia, some will come to Christmas Island. What we’re heralding here again is the horror of Labor on border protection.
FRAN KELLY: But what you’re saying again by saying these are very dangerous people are coming in, there’s a specific part of this Bill that the Minister has discretion to stop quote “very dangerous people”.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: And that will be justiciable. So if that goes to the –
FRAN KELLY: But it’s justiciable now. There are already people coming in because they’re challenging the Government’s decision not to let them have them access to treatment through the courts.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Under the IHAP, the Independent Health Panel, they would be able to say that they disagree with the Minister’s discretion, and that would become a court matter, and we will be paying tens of millions of Australian taxpayer’s money in the court system for those people. But we’re opening up a new front, Fran. Why is it good to open up a new front? I mean, we’ve actually stopped the –
FRAN KELLY: The law says that the Minister has the power to stop people coming in if they are of bad character, or if they are a threat or if they have a criminal, a serious criminal charge.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: And now there is a new front open that will make that justiciable and tie us up in the courts for years, I mean- that’s why the security agencies advised it was weakening the border protection regime. Now I don’t really want – I’m the Minister Defence. I don’t want defence platforms in Northern Australia fishing people out of the water again, who are dead, because of Labor reopening the boats. I want them to be focussing on protecting Australia from other challenges.
FRAN KELLY: On that, is there going to be increased border patrols, intelligence gathering – have the patrol boats been set out, have the Orion aircraft been sent up. Do these patrols ever stop? That’s the ring of steel we already have out there, isn’t it on turn backs?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Obviously, with the threat diminishing of the Government’s strong Government protection regime, we have been able to do less of the ISR, Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance collection, less of placing platforms in our northern reaches, against people smugglers, and obviously because of Labor weakening our border protection regime, we will have to do more. It’s axiomatic.
FRAN KELLY: If the government is so alarmed about the impact of this law, which passed this week on border security, why aren’t we having a snap election, so a re-elected Coalition government could overturn these laws as soon as possible? Because that’s the promise from the PM.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well the election’s in May because Labor and the crossbenches are naïve and dangerous enough to change the laws –
FRAN KELLY: It is, isn’t it? You’re saying it’s urgent.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: So you think because Labor and the crossbenchers are either naïve or reckless, we should have an election?
FRAN KELLY: What about our national security?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: We have an election in May. We’re taking the necessary actions to protect our borders because of Labor’s recklessness, and what Labor has highlighted is that they are not ready or fit for Government. They’ve learnt nothing from the time they were in Government before.
FRAN KELLY: You’re listening to RN Breakfast, it is quarter to eight, my guest is the Manager of Government Business, Manager of the Government in the House, Christopher Pyne. He’s also Australia’s Defence Minister. Christopher Pyne, in a sense, this Bill is a by-product of the Coalition’s decision to dump Malcolm Turnbull as PM, isn’t it? If that hadn’t happened, there wouldn’t have been a Wentworth by-election, there’d be no Kerryn Phelps with this medical transfer Bill, it was her initiative, there wouldn’t be Julia Banks moving to the crossbench which delivered the final vote needed to pass the Bill. The Government brought this policy change on itself didn’t it?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well that’s democracy and the reality is that the voters of Wentworth and Chisholm, or Flinders now in the case of Julia Banks, who’s running for Flinders, and Indi, quite frankly which is also a Coalition seat, they sat there, voting with Labor, to undermine border protection. Labor did it because they wanted to have a political win, and I hope the voters in those seats will not reward Kerryn Phelps, Julia Banks and re-elect a Coalition member in Indi.
FRAN KELLY: Christopher Pyne, thank you very much for joining us.