Reconnaissance teams, boat arrivals, Houston Panel Report, Nauru, Papua New Guinea
Saturday, 18 August 2012
Doorstop interview, Sydney
Chris Bowen: Thanks for coming everybody. I thought I'd cover a few matters this afternoon. Firstly, obviously, our reconnaissance teams have arrived and are working in both Manus Island and Nauru. They have begun the considerable task of establishing the work that needs to be done for the detention facilities to be completed in both sites.
They have received, of course, very considerable assistance from the Governments of Papua New Guinea – the National Government of Papua New Guinea, the Provincial Government of Manus Island and the Government of Nauru, and I'd like to thank them for it.
Now of course you've seen the footage; there is a considerable amount of work to be done here, as we've said all along. Those who argued that there was a detention facility at Nauru, for example, ready to go, that could be rebuilt at no or minimal cost, are incorrect. We've previously released, of course, cost estimates for both and we will update those as the reconnaissance teams continue their work. We expect the reconnaissance teams to return to Australia early to mid-next week and then of course I've provide further updates as to the work; I'll provide further updates at that time. But there is considerable work occurring.
Now this morning, of course, I saw Mr Morrison questioning the government's resolve to implement these policies and questioning the effect of these policies. I just want to say a couple of things: nobody should estimate the government's resolve here; the government's resolve to implement the 22 recommendations of the Houston Panel Report; the government's resolve to use those recommendations to break the people smugglers' business model.
I've made it repeatedly clear since Monday, as to what people can expect if they arrive in Australia by boat after that date. But if you want to talk about resolve, let's talk about resolve to implement the recommendations, not to wish on people smugglers or to hope that somehow that the Nauru or Manus Island detention facilities won't work.
The government is resolved to implement all the recommendations of the Houston Panel – that's what we intend to get on and do. Of course, there is a considerable amount of detailed work occurring as we speak on all of those recommendations and I'll provide updates as and when appropriate.
Happy to take some questions.
Journalist: Were you shocked by the state of Manus Island?
Bowen: No. Of course, we were developing the Manus Island centre before the High Court ruling of last year, so I knew, the government was acutely aware of how much work needs to be done at both Manus Island and Nauru. And in fact we pointed that out repeatedly to those like Tony Abbott, who said that these detention facilities are both ready to go and could be up and running at no or minimal cost.
Journalist: So when you say you're going to have to revisit those costings, does that mean they're going to go up?
Bowen: Well I'm going to provide updates to the costings. I'm not going to speculate as to what they are until the reconnaissance teams give me further and more detailed updates.
Journalist: What about concerns for the capacity at both Nauru and Manus Island will be full? I mean we've had over 550 asylum seekers arrive just in the last week.
Bowen: Well I have made the point repeatedly there are capacity issues at both – there is capacity of 1500 at Nauru and 600 at Manus Island – that is accurate. The point is, to those who have said there is a cap in the Malaysian Arrangement, that there is of course a capacity at both centres.
Now of course you are going to find people smugglers and asylum seekers, firstly, trying it on, secondly, having already paid a people smuggler and saying, ‘We have nothing to lose by coming to Australia'. Others will make a different choice. Now people will try it on but we will continue our resolve and we will implement this policy and we will implement it effectively and clearly.
Journalist: Does it show though that even before the Pacific solution is brought in you need to look at another solution?
Bowen: We need to look at all the 22 recommendations of the Panel Report and implement all 22 that have been recommended to us.
Journalist: Craig Emerson has likened the rush of boats in the last week to a closing down sale. Is that really appropriate language to be using given it's a massive humanitarian crisis?
Bowen: I don't have a problem with Craig's language at all. People smugglers are trying to make money out of this; they are trying to maximise their profits before this new policy is fully implemented and they are trying to mislead asylum seekers about what awaits them in Australia. And that is what is completely inappropriate: the activities of people smugglers to make money out of the plight of asylum seekers and they have no regard for the welfare of asylum seekers, they only have regard to their own profits.
Journalist: But using language like that though doesn't sound like the Federal Government has any regard for the...
Bowen: I don't except your suggestion there. Of course, we are being driven here by saving lives. I don't accept the conclusion you are reaching there about Craig's comments.
Journalist: It must be a touchy topic given you have had to bring in police protection today?
Bowen: Well, Federal Ministers do have protection from time to time; I don't comment on those and I don't comment on the particularities of those.
Journalist: Are you expecting Nauru to be on line sooner than Manus? Do you have a timeline?
Bowen: I am going to provide updates as we go; I'm not going to provide a running commentary until I receive the further report from the reconnaissance teams.
Journalist: So no rough estimates of maybe a month or...?
Bowen: I have already outlined the timeline that we're looking at. I will provide further and better details as and when that occurs.
See: Index of Speeches
Last update: Monday, 20 August 2012 at 12:40 AEST