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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript - 23136

Joint Press Conference, Parliament House, Canberra

Photo of Abbott, Tony

Abbott, Tony

Period of Service: 18/09/2013 to 15/09/2015

More information about Abbott, Tony on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 03/12/2013

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 23136

Subject(s): Operation Sovereign Borders

Location: Canberra

PRIME MINISTER:

Welcome back. Last night the Labor Party and the Greens voted in the Senate to disallow temporary protection visas. The Government could hardly have a clearer mandate than it does for temporary protection visas.  For the last four years we have made it clear over and over and over again that temporary protection visas are an essential part of any effective plan to stop the boats and for 10 years before that temporary protection visas were an important part of the policies that did stop the boats.

So, I want to make it absolutely crystal clear today that this Government will never allow people who come here illegally by boat to gain permanent residency in Australia and my message to the people smugglers is: you should not come because you will not stay. I want to repeat that so that the message is loud and clear for the people smugglers and their potential clients: you should not come because you will not stay and the Government will be making further announcements shortly on additional measures that will ensure that this is the case.

As for the Labor Party, well, what can we say? The Labor Party is basically giving the thumbs up to the voters of Australia, giving the two fingers to the voters of Australia. What the Labor Party has said is that it doesn't matter what you vote for, we'll vote against it. It doesn't matter what you want, we're against it. Having damaged our country in Government, Labor and the Greens are now trying to continue the damage from Opposition. It doesn't matter what Mr Shorten says, when it comes to actually voting, when it comes to acting, he always votes for higher taxes and for more boats.

I want to compliment Scott Morrison, the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection on his work since the election, notwithstanding the obstruction of the Labor Party, notwithstanding what really amounts to attempts by the Labor Party to sabotage the Government's policy. Illegal arrivals by boat are down almost 90 per cent, so it is a very significant record of achievement and I'm very proud of the work that Minister Morrison has done and I think the Australian people ought to be very grateful for the work that Minister Morrison has done.

MINISTER MORRISON:

Thank you Prime Minister.

Any Government that is serious about border protection never honours the promise of a people smuggler. Temporary protection visas would deny the promise of permanent residency that were made to the 33,000 people that are already onshore, that turned up on Labor's watch, and are part of that appalling legacy case load that has been left behind for this Government to clean up.

What the Opposition did last night, teaming up with the Greens, is to effectively try and complete the contract if you like for the promise that was made to people who came on those boats to get permanent residency. At the election, they were hoping that Minister Burke would have been returned and given them that permanent visa. The Australian people decided not to go down that path and put in place the Coalition Government that would deny that promise made by the people smugglers to those individuals to be delivered upon.

There are two things that we're doing here very clearly. If you turn up illegally on a boat you'll go quickly and promptly, if you manage to get that far, to Nauru or Manus Island. That was what will happen with people who continue to seek to come here and as the Prime Minister said, the number of people attempting to do that is down more than 80 per cent. Those who are already here though, they will not get the promise that the people smugglers made them either and that message shows the consistency of the resolve of the Government across all measures.

A Government that doesn't believe in its policies can't be taken seriously and that was the problem the previous government had on border protection, they were divided, they were double minded and they deferred to the Greens. This Government will not make that mistake. We resolved about these measures and we will ensure through the things we announce over the next little while that no-one who comes illegally by boat, whether it was three weeks ago or three years ago, will get a permanent visa from this Government.

QUESTION:

The Joint Party Room has approved the legislation, why can't you explain it now?

MINISTER MORRISON:

That's separate legislation.

QUESTION:

If you know what you're going to do then why can't you announce it now or is this something you're not sure how to do?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, David. Let's make it absolutely crystal clear. The legislation that went through the Party Room this morning was about complementary protection visas, that's entirely different from the temporary protection visas that we want to put in place for the 30,000 or so people who arrived under Labor's watch and still haven't been dealt with.

QUESTION:

Have you worked out what to do about those yet?

PRIME MINISTER:

We'll be making announcements shortly but the message that I want to go to the people smugglers and their clients right now and always is; don't come because you won't stay.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott it was briefed out of the Party Room meeting this morning that you said you're prepared to extend the sittings of the Parliament through Christmas if necessary until the carbon tax, the mining tax, TPVs and something else is….debt ceiling is resolved. Could you elaborate on that and has it occurred to you that the Senate votes for its own sitting schedule, so they may not show up even if you want them to?

PRIME MINISTER:

The public voted for a change of Government. The public voted for a change of policy and the public expect the policies they voted for to be put in place. Now the Labor Party is doing its best to sabotage those policies. The Labor Party is doing its best to give the two fingered salute to the Australian people.

As far as I'm concerned, the Parliament should sit and do its job and doing its job means supporting the policies and the legislation that the people voted for and I want to ramp up the pressure on the Labor Party. I don't think the Labor Party should get a free pass at Christmas time if it's not prepared to accept that the people voted a certain way and they really should be listening to the people of Australia not to the Greens.

We'll go around this way today. Hugh?

QUESTION:

Thank you very much. Prime Minister, are you going to do anything about the ABC?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I won't always watch it, Hugh. I might watch Channel Ten instead. I'm going to say right here and now that I think the ABC were guilty of poor judgment in broadcasting that material which was obviously difficult for Australia's national security and long-term best interests – even Tanya Plibersek says that that material would have been better not broadcast – so, I think the ABC was guilty of very, very poor judgment. I think they were also guilty of poor judgment in acting as an advertising agent for The Guardian. I mean why would Australia's national broadcaster be in the business of touting for a left wing British newspaper?

QUESTION:

Beyond rhetoric, beyond speeches like the one you have just given then, would you, is it your intention to do anything at all about the ABC?

PRIME MINISTER:

…and I see Sabra grinning over there…my intention is to speak plainly and candidly with the Australian people in the hope that ABC management will see sense. Why should the ABC be acting as an advertising agent for a left wing British newspaper? Let's face it, the ABC under its charter is not supposed to carry advertising. So, why should it be advertising a left wing British newspaper?

QUESTION:

One of the comments made by the Opposition today, in respect of the TPVs, was that the existing policies were working in so far as the boats slowing, and as you’ve said 90 [inaudible] and 80 per cent. But why is it you want TPVs back above and beyond the fact that this is the policy that you wanted? Is it because of the family reunion element to it or is it the fact that you can extend work rights to people on TPVs, unlike the Labor alternative?

PRIME MINISTER:

Andrew, it's true that the Coalition's policies have not quite stopped the boats – but certainly are proving very effective in stopping the boats – but we've got a terrible legacy from the Labor Party to deal with. Some 55,000 people arrived illegally by boat under the Labor Party, some 33,000 of those arrivals have yet to be dealt with and we want to ensure that they do not get the prize that put the people smugglers back into business, because if the 33,000 who are already here get permanent residency – which is what the Labor Party wants to give them – the people smugglers will always be able to say, ‘well, don't worry, because eventually policy will change and you will get the big prize.’ If that happens, the boats will keep coming, the Budget will continue to blowout and the deaths at sea will keep happening.

QUESTION:

On asking Parliament to keep sitting to consider the issues that you want to, really isn't that just, they’re empty words, empty rhetoric because the Senate is their own master, they'll sit for as long as they want and in any case Labor and the Greens will continue to vote the way they have been?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I'm not sure about that Sabra because there are a lot of people in the Labor Party who think that the position that the Coalition has taken is the right position. The former foreign minister, Senator Carr's parting advice for his colleagues was “don't let a cigarette paper of difference appear between yourself and the Coalition on border protection." So, there are sensible people in the Labor Party who think that basically Bill Shorten is doing the wrong thing; selling out to the Greens like this. I find it hard to imagine why Mr Shorten has sold out to the Greens – let's face it, Kevin Rudd's deal means that his job should be secure, at least for this term of Parliament. I think what we're seeing here is a Labor Party which is just not managing the transition to Opposition and senior frontbenchers who are proving to be just not up to the responsibilities of participation, effectively in our national life.

QUESTION:

Presuming your legislation was knocked back in votes in the Senate, as seems likely with Labor and the Greens at the moment, when would it be your intention to reintroduce that legislation?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, we'll have more to say shortly about measures that will ensure that Labor's attempt to sabotage temporary protection visas is not effective. Obviously, in the long run we will seek legislative outcomes here, but it seems that we've got to deal with the short-term issue and we'll have more to say on that shortly.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, if you now need to legislate to cover those 33,000 people who are already here, isn't that going to have to be retrospective legislation and how can you do without it automatically being subject to legal challenge?

PRIME MINISTER:

Karen, I just want to stress, that this is a Government which is simply not going to allow itself to be thwarted by the people smugglers and their allies in the Australian Parliament. There are a whole range of measures that are available to us and we'll be announcing some of them shortly because we are absolutely determined to ensure, as I say, that no-one who has come illegally to Australia by boat will get permanent residency, because every person who comes illegally to this country by boat and who gets permanent residency, is a person who vindicates the people smugglers' promises and our job is to thwart and frustrate the people smugglers' promises. And, it really is odd that a Labor Party, which so badly damaged our country from government, is now trying to continue the damage in Opposition.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible] this thing you’re about to announce, like the Refugee Convention?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, we respect the Refugee Convention; we do respect the Refugee Convention, but we think it’s important that it be dealt with properly and we'll have more to say on this in the days and weeks ahead. Now, who hasn't asked a question?

QUESTION:

Do the South Australian education cuts prove there's absolutely no impediment to reduction in education funding overall?

PRIME MINISTER:

The South Australian school education cuts demonstrate that Bill Shorten was making a fool of himself in the Parliament yesterday, because despite South Australia signing up to the Shorten-Gillard school funding model, South Australia went off and sought to cut $200 million, I think, out of school funding.

Now, our position is that we will honour our commitments. Indeed, we will ‘over keep’ our commitments if you like; that's why we announced yesterday that we'll put an extra $1.2 billion over and above that which Labor had committed into school funding, over the next four years. That's what we'll do. We will keep our commitments. In the end what the states do is a matter for them. We hope that the states will act in the right spirit and will maintain their school funding, but for all of Mr Shorten's huffing and puffing in the Parliament yesterday, it seems that the deal he did with the South Australian Labor Government, has not stopped the South Australian Labor Government from ripping $200 odd million out of schools.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, what impediment did Labor put there? I mean truly, what impediment did Labor put there? Labor's agreement has not stopped the South Australian Labor Government from ripping $200 million out of school funding, which just goes to show that Bill Shorten was completely…well, he was making a fool of himself, to put it at its kindest in the Parliament yesterday. Katherine?

QUESTION:

Can I just get to the specifics of why you think the ABC made a poor judgment in terms of its co-operation with Guardian Australia? Mr Scott said on television today that the ABC has co-operated with Fairfax Media on publications and it intended to co-operate with The Australian on a forthcoming project. So is that advertising amplification for other media outlets or only for The Guardian, first question. And in terms of in your Party Room meeting today, I gather a number of colleagues expressed concerns about the role of the ABC more generally and whether or not they were acting beyond their charter. Do you have any concerns that the ABC's online publishing operations are beyond the ABC's charter, and would you seek to wind them back in any way?

PRIME MINISTER:

Katharine, even Tanya Plibersek, even Tanya Plibersek who isn't exactly someone who is normally out there defending Australian security and intelligence gathering, even Tanya Plibersek said that the material that the ABC and The Guardian broadcast should not have been published. So, if even Tanya Plibersek thinks that the ABC was guilty of poor judgment, I think it's pretty obvious that they were guilty of poor judgment. As for the ABC's other activities, well look, I can understand why a lot of people in the media think that it's not a level playing field when it comes to competition, given that the ABC is funded to the tune of a billion dollars or so a year by the taxpayer, but it's been thus for many a long year and this Government has no plans to change that.

QUESTION:

On same-sex marriage, Prime Minister, there may be an order handed down as early as tomorrow. If the court finds in favour of the ACT, what's the Federal Government's next step?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, let's wait and see what the Court decides. Jonathan?

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, a left-wing radical and economic fringe dweller, Adam Bandt, was seen in your office this morning…

PRIME MINISTER?

In my office? Well…

QUESTION:

Yeah… would you tell us about that?

PRIME MINISTER:

I didn't see him in my office, so I can't say anything!

QUESTION:

He was in a meeting with one of your staffers…

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, as I said, I didn't see him and not seeing him, I can't really comment on this sighting. Dennis?

QUESTION:

I was wondering, do you have any response to the comment from the State Department about the blocking of the ADM bid for GrainCorp, and are you confident that what the Treasurer did conforms fully with our free trade agreement with the United States?

PRIME MINISTER:

The free trade agreement with the United States does not impact upon our sovereignty when it comes to these matters and what is always clear from the Coalition, is that while we absolutely welcome foreign investment and we regard continued foreign investment as vital for our future prosperity, it's got to be the right foreign investment and the problem with the ADM bid was that it would’ve given a very, very large overseas-based company a virtual monopoly over grain handling in the eastern states of Australia and much as I respect all large overseas companies, this is a business which is very much subject to the toings and froings of American agri-politics, and on balance we took the view that it wasn't in the best interests of Australia for this bid to proceed at this time and I fully support Minister Hockey's action. Dennis?

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, on illegal boat arrivals from Indonesia, Mr Morrison and yourself have estimated a reduction of between 80 and 90 per cent. Do you expect that reduction to hold, and how would you characterise the relationship of the co-operation between the Indonesian Government and Australian authorities at this stage?

PRIME MINISTER:

Dennis, most of you would have seen or read the statement of President Yudhoyono last week. It was a warm statement; it was the statement of someone who is very much a friend of Australia, it was the statement of someone who very much wants the cooperation with Australia to return to its usual strength, as soon as possible – as I do.

So, the position is: we've had very strong co-operation with Indonesia in the past. I expect us to have very strong cooperation with Indonesia in the future. As for the moment, well, the boats are not stopped, but they are certainly stopping and they are stopping because an absolutely unambiguous signal, backed by rigorous practice, has gone from this new Government to the people smugglers and their customers – don't come because you won't stay, don't come because you won't stay – that's the message that we've given to people, and obviously it's having a pretty strong impact right throughout the Indonesian archipelago, right throughout the countries which have been the source countries for illegal boat people over the last four or five years.

Thank you.

[ends]

Transcript - 23136