Australian Government - Department of Immigration and Border Protection

The Hon. Scott Morrison MP

Minister for Immigration and Border Protection

Freedom of information disclosure log

Operation Sovereign Borders update

Friday, 08 November 2013

Press Conference, Sydney

Scott Morrison: Well, welcome to our eighth weekly briefing on Operation Sovereign Borders. As usual, I will ask Commander Campbell to update you on key activity during the past reporting period and I will begin, as usual, with some opening remarks.

Last week I stated that under Operation Sovereign Borders, we are finally getting the upper hand over the people smugglers. And today, we can report that trend continues. Not only are illegal maritime arrivals significantly down on the levels experienced under the previous

government, but our disruption efforts undertaken in close cooperation with our regional partners continue, and are outstripping arrivals to Australia. This is being supported by our government's increased focus on returns as part of Operation Sovereign Borders, 79 of 79 recent Sri Lankan illegal arrivals were screened out by the government, and 73 have been removed, with the balance also soon to be departing. Under the same screening process, just around one in six Sri Lankan arrivals were returned under the previous government this year.

A further 77 voluntary returns of IMAs have been achieved from Manus Island and Nauru, and further are in the pipeline. There has been an increase in the number of potential illegal entrants to Australia resident in Indonesia, who are also choosing to return. In recent weeks, we have been stepping up our cooperation and support for the work of the IOM in all of these locations, and this is critical to a successful return policy as was previously practised by the Howard Government.

What this means is that under Operation Sovereign Borders, the odds for the people smugglers and their business is getting worse every single day. As always, we will remain on high alert, especially as we are in the pre–monsoon period that is traditionally one of the busiest, and as we move into December it is also the most dangerous time of year for people to get on boats.

This week, Commander Campbell and I travelled to Christmas Island to assess the status of our operations there. This follows my earlier visits to both Manus Island and Nauru, where Commander Campbell will also travel in the weeks ahead. I have been visiting Christmas Island now for several years, I have a keen understanding of the backgrounds of many of the challenges that present there, and the incidents that have taken place there in the past. I was very pleased to see that there has been a significant improvement in the operational performance on Christmas Island, particularly in relation to the handling of security matters in those facilities.

Commander Campbell and I were taken through the transfer procedure in place to implement the new government's rapid transfer policy, and we received good feedback on its implementation from those involved in its implementation. I remain more than satisfied about the way our rapid transfer policy is being implemented. I want to commend all those involved in what can be a high tempo activity at times in difficult circumstances to complete this transfer process in such a professional, safe and effective manner. So to our Customs and Border Protection officers on Christmas Island, to our immigration officials, to our health services contracting staff at IHMS, and of course our centre operator Serco, you are doing an excellent job in managing a difficult task.

Operations on Christmas Island are also being assisted by the government's success in reducing the detention population on Christmas Island. At the commencement of Operation Sovereign Borders there were 2,592 IMAs on the island, today that number is 2,158 detainees. I am also pleased to report that all detainees are accommodated now on CI in permanent facilities. There is no current requirement for tented accommodation on CI, except in the potential circumstance of overnight accommodation for a recent arrival and transfer process.

I want to stress all those on Christmas Island who are there now – those who arrived after July 19 will be going to Nauru or Manus Island. There will be no exceptions, whether you're Syrian, Iranian, single, married, adult, child, they will all be going to Nauru or Manus Island and will not return to live in Australia. These transfers will take place once further progress on processing is achieved on both Nauru and Manus, which I have been advised has now commenced at a very preliminary level, and the additional expansion works already underway are completed in the months ahead.

The previous government left more than 2000 people on Christmas Island. We are better placed to support these people on Christmas Island at the present time than offshore, and that is where they will remain until they are transferred for processing to those centres at Manus and Nauru, or they will be processed by the respective host governments.

The focus of our offshore operations remains on ensuring that anyone who does enter Australia illegally by boat is sent promptly to Nauru or Manus island under our last on, first off approach. Now, this requires us to run what Commander Campbell, I think, will describe when we're there as the three island, one system approach, and in the weeks ahead we will be working to better integrate operations across that network.

One of the issues that will need to be managed at CI is how we continue to provide access to school, and I had the opportunity to meet with the local principal and teachers at the Christmas Island district high school, who gave valuable feedback about how this issue can be addressed while not impacting on the quality of the education services provided to Australian residents and citizens on the island. Now, these issues are not insurmountable and I am sure with continued consultation, that we will be able to put in place appropriate arrangements to meet all of our obligations. And I should stress that no final decisions have been taken on how that matter will be addressed.

The meeting with local residents also provided the opportunity to get feedback on a range of other issues including local infrastructure pressures and tourism impacts. And I will be taking those matters up with the ministers responsible, Minister Truss and Minister Briggs. I was also able to allay any concerns on the island that the new government may be seeking to close down the centre. The government has no such plans, never has. Our CI operations are central to our plans for managing our detention operations well into the future, beyond when the boats are stopped and beyond the clearance of the existing post 19 July detainee population currently on the island.

On one further matter, since our last briefing, I have now received a confidential report on the force protection assessment undertaken by the joint agency task force on Manus Island, and we are proceeding to implement all of the recommendations of that assessment. These recommendations and their implementation will further increase the security and operational effectiveness of facilities on Manus. Similar assessments are now pending for both Nauru and Christmas Island, and I expect to receive those reports in the weeks ahead.

I will now hand over to Commander Campbell to provide his weekly report.

Angus Campbell: Thank you Minister. Welcome to the Operation Sovereign Borders weekly briefing for the period nine o'clock Friday, 1 November until nine o'clock this morning.

For those who haven't attended previously, my comments will be confined to activities during the week ending nine o'clock this morning, relating to the off–water reception and processing of illegal maritime arrivals under the control of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. I will not discuss current or potential future on–water operations.

During the reporting period there were no arrivals. I can confirm, however, media reporting that Australia has coordinated its efforts with Indonesian authorities in relation to a vessel that first requested assistance approximately 43 nautical miles south of Java, in Indonesia's search and rescue region. I am advised that all people have been accounted for and in line with standard practice, I will not comment further on this or any other on–water issues.

While numbers are down since Operation Sovereign Borders commenced, I would note that the reduction in boat arrivals is not due to poor weather. That said, in regard to the long term, it is early days and much remains to be done to address this complex regional problem. For the reporting period, a total of 17 people were transferred to an offshore processing centre or to Nauru. At nine o'clock this morning, there were a total of 1128 people on Manus, 606 people on Nauru and 2158 people in the Christmas Island facilities.

We do continue to have sufficient offshore processing capacity to meet current and potential future requirements.

For the reporting period, ten illegal maritime arrival transferees were returned to Iran after electing to go home voluntarily, one from Nauru and nine from Manus Island. Since the commencement of the operation, approximately seven and a half weeks ago, a total of 77 people have voluntarily returned to their country of origin from offshore processing centres.

By comparison, over the same period immediately preceding the commencement of this operation, there were 34 voluntary returns.

The disruption and deterrence task group continues to work very closely with regional partners, including Indonesia, Malaysia and Sri Lanka on a coordinated approach to countering people smuggling in our region. Since the commencement of our operation, this task group has supported local authorities undertaking 27 disruptions in total of planned people smuggling ventures or illegal maritime arrival groups across Indonesia, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. This effort has halved the number of persons who might otherwise have arrived attempting to enter Australia. I will provide further updates about specific arrests and disruptions as information becomes available. This work is ongoing.

Last week, I spoke to you about the communication campaigns that we are running overseas to help people access accurate information about people smuggling and Australia's current policy settings, strengthening the anti–people smuggling message. This week I would just like to talk to you about how this is affecting those contemplating travel by boat. In short, people are becoming more informed and many are making smarter, safer choices. An Iranian man who was interviewed on Christmas Island recently told his brother and friends in Iran of the policy changes in Australia. They opted to stay in Iran. Another Iranian man has told us, quote, before everyone in Iran was saying it is easy to go by boat to Australia. Now, since they have changed immigration policy, people in Iran think differently, unquote.

More people are becoming aware of the reality that there are two choices. First, be sent to Papua New Guinea or Nauru for processing or, second, return home. Coming to Australia is not an option. Since the commencement of Operation Sovereign Borders, in increasing numbers, potential illegal immigrants are staying informed of Australia's migration policies through the media and in particular social media. From September through to the end of October, we saw a substantial increase in the number of hits to our campaign website from transit countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia.

This campaign, in combination with a range of other initiatives, may have also contributed to the reduction for the first time in almost a year of the UNHCR/IOM–assessed transit population numbers in Indonesia. This is a welcome step for benefit to both Indonesia and Australia and the people who might otherwise be listening to people smugglers.

We're also seeing a similar increase in interaction with our offshore online communication campaigns currently being developed and delivered for source and transit countries. As this graph shows, there has been a significant increase in the click through rates to the website.

For example, YouTube shows an increase by 55 per cent from the month of September to October. As I noted earlier, since Operation Sovereign Borders began, there has been 77 people voluntarily return home from offshore processing centres. These people have opted to return home because they have realised they were sold a lie. People smugglers promised them a ticket to Australia, knowing they would never reach that destination.

These campaigns are helping people to make informed decisions and informed choices; people who would otherwise be duped by people smugglers.

Thank you.

Scott Morrison: Thank you, Commander.

Journalist: [Indistinct] …the overnight incident, what's become of that boat of asylum seekers?

Angus Campbell: I will not comment further in relation to on water matters. Thank you.

Journalist: General, this is of great public interest [indistinct]…

Angus Campbell: [Interrupts] I will not comment further in relation to on water matters.

Journalist: Have they been…

Angus Campbell: I will not comment further in relation to on water matters.

Journalist: Minister…

Angus Campbell: I think we dealt with that question.

Scott Morrison: Well, to just repeat what the commander has said, he has made it very clear that Australia was involved in liaising with Indonesian authorities on this matter and that all the persons on the vessel have been accounted for.

Journalist: Is there a stand–off?

Scott Morrison: No, that's...

Journalist: Are they on their way to Christmas island now?

Scott Morrison: These matters continue to be dealt with in the practice we have been adopting for the last eight weeks under Operation Sovereign Borders and we'll continue to do it the way we have been doing it.

Journalist: Do you not classify it as a matter of public interest to the Australian public then?

Scott Morrison: What is important is that the people who were the subject of our assistance are all accounted for and I'm sure all Australians will be pleased to know that is the case. The Australian border protection officers have been able to render that assistance and make sure that those people are accounted for.

Journalist: But in terms of making a judgement, if those asylum seekers do come to Australia, doesn't that mean that your turn back the boats policy is [indistinct]…

Scott Morrison: [Interrupts] You've made a whole bunch of presumptions there which I'm not about to speculate on.

Journalist: Maybe you can clear them up for us?

Scott Morrison: Well, you're the one making the presumptions, not me.

Journalist: Was the Australian vessel the first one to engage with the asylum seekers then – first to respond to the asylum seekers?

Scott Morrison: What occurs in these situations is where we get a request for assistance and if we're in a position to do so, we do.

Journalist: What's Australia's obligations…

Journalist: Have you spoken to the Indonesian authorities about the incident?

Scott Morrison: Pardon?

Journalist: Have you spoken to Indonesian authorities about this incident?

Scott Morrison: Well, it's our regular practice to be in constant communications with the Indonesian authorities about all such instances, and that is a very standard practise and the same thing has occurred on this occasion.

Journalist: Can you comment on reports that the boat is still in trouble, though?

Scott Morrison: Sorry?

Journalist: Can you…

Scott Morrison: Well, I just said all the people that were assisted have been accounted for.

Journalist: Isn't it the case that in recent situations the Indonesians have taken back these people. If that hasn't happened in this case, would that suggest that Indonesia is playing politics given the recent warnings on spying allegations?

Scott Morrison: We are proceeding on the normal operational basis we have been under Operation Sovereign Borders and there has been no departure from that from that both from the Indonesian side or from the Australian side. This matter is being dealt with operationally and it's – the engagement is between operational agencies, and that's quite separate from any other matters that others may be speculating upon or commenting upon.

Journalist: On that front, however, the Defence Minister's in Indonesia for negotiations in defence.

Scott Morrison: Yes, he is.

Journalist: Are any asylum seeker policies being brought up in those negotiations?

Scott Morrison: Well, if they were then it would be the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection involved in those discussions and I held those discussions last week in Indonesia and that's where I was pleased to be able to make it clear that the operational – operation that is occurring between Indonesia and Australia is first rate, and that continues.

I mean, last week we issued a joint statement of that meeting which said we agreed to boost operational activities between key agencies to detect and prevent people smuggling ventures and to arrest and prosecute people smugglers in accordance with their respective national laws and regulations and there would be further work to develop stronger border regimes to address the irregular movements of persons.

Now, that's what we came to last week, that is an ongoing operational level of cooperation, and I'm pleased to say it continues.

Journalist: In that meeting, did your counterpart voice any ongoing concerns about the ongoing surveillance scandals between Australia and Indonesia?

Scott Morrison: That wasn't the subject of those meetings.

Journalist: Is it the case that the overnight incident is not resolved and that's why more information is not forthcoming?

Scott Morrison: It is an ongoing operational matter and the persons that were at risk have all – have been accounted for. I think that's a matter of…

Journalist: You've got headcount of the people. What sort of assistance did you give them? The reports coming out of Indonesia are that you have a boat alongside them, they're still on the wood boat [indistinct]…

Scott Morrison: [Interrupts] Well, again, we're not going to go into the micro detail of these operational matters.

Journalist: Well, I don't think that is micro detail. Did you help them?

Scott Morrison: What we are saying is that we rendered assistance…

Journalist: What assistance was that?

Scott Morrison: …and all the people have been accounted for.

Journalist: Can you tell us what assistance that was?

Scott Morrison: So we can go around this for a lot longer, but that is the position.

Journalist: [Indistinct]

Scott Morrison: [Interrupts] And so I'm pleased that those people are all accounted for.

Journalist: Were the Australians the first to arrive on the scene, the Australian authorities?

Scott Morrison: Well, again, I'm not going to go into on water operations of what other potential partners have been engaged with. We were asked to render assistance and we rendered assistance.

Journalist: Minister, you mentioned that it was in Indonesia's search and rescue zone. Are you suggesting that the vessel is in fact Indonesia's responsibility because of that?

Scott Morrison: Well, it's a statement of fact that the incident and the assistance was rendered within Indonesia's search and rescue region. That's just a statement of fact.

Journalist: And what are you saying, that the implication of saying that?

Scott Morrison: Well, I'm just stating it as a fact.

Journalist: So is the boat heading in any particular direction or is it still sitting there?

Scott Morrison: Well, again, that would go to on–water operations, which we're not providing any further detail on.

Journalist: So we'd have to go to Indonesian officials to get more information than we get from our own government about this?

Scott Morrison: This incident was first brought to our attention yesterday. I issued a statement late last night and here we are doing a press conference on it today.

Journalist: You're not answering any questions.

Journalist: Yeah, [indistinct].

Scott Morrison: Well, I've told you that the individuals who are the subject of the assistance have all been accounted for and the Australian Government provided the response that you would expect to provide in those situations, as we have been doing not just over Operation Sovereign Borders, but the Australian Government has provided over a long period of time.

Journalist: Minister, this is an issue of great public interest, and where the boat goes – the plight of these people is part of that. Why can't you be more forthcoming?

Scott Morrison: Because that would go to our conduct of on–water operations, and I, and the Commander, are not going to put our operations at risk through a public commentary on those operations.

Now, when we announced before the election – let's go back to then – and I announced with the leader of the then–Opposition, now the Prime Minister, and Major General–retired Molan, that we were going to put in place Operation Sovereign Borders. It would be a military–led, border security operation. That has significant implications for how matters under such an operation are handled in the public sphere.

Now, I was quizzed during the election campaign about these sorts of communication issues, and I was very up–front about it. So Operation Sovereign Borders, and the way information is being managed under Operation Sovereign Borders is as the Coalition represented it to the Australian people during the last election. And I have been pleased with the reaction I have had from people as I have moved around Australia, about the effectiveness of this operation, and the fact that we are just getting on with the job.

Journalist: [indistinct] The Indonesian authorities may not want to cooperate with Australia following the spying allegations though.

Scott Morrison: Well, again, I said before, we are dealing with this as an operational issue and the engagement is between operational agencies on this matter. So that is completely separate to any other matters that might be the subject of discussion between our two countries.

Journalist: When this particular operation as…

Scott Morrison: Sorry?

Journalist: Does Indonesia feel the same way though?

Scott Morrison: Well that is how it is occurring. I mean we are engaging with them operationally on this issue. And they are engaging with us operationally on this issue. As is the common practice.

Journalist: So when this particular overnight operation is over, will you explain the full story to us?

Scott Morrison: Well again, I will go into as much detail as would not compromise any of our on–water and ongoing operations.

We have been crystal clear about that in all of our eight briefings. So you've have had eight briefings on this issue, and we have made the rules about how we convey information on these operational matters, I think, crystal clear. And we will continue to conduct ourselves that way.

Journalist: So you will tell us where the boat goes?

Scott Morrison: Well I have given my answer to that question.

QUESTION: Minister, there are currently two unaccompanied minors being held on Manus Island detention centre in a small room. They were transferred there a number of months ago, and you visited Manus Island a number of weeks ago. Were you aware of their presence at the time of your visit?

Scott Morrison: All – there are no exceptions to offshore processing under the Coalition Government, for people who arrived after the 19th of July. And so that applies to all persons who were there. There are no changes to that policy.

Journalist: They were transferred as the result of an administrative error though, they were transferred under the ALP in July…

Scott Morrison: Anyone who arrived after the 19th of July, under the Coalition Government's policy, is subject to the offshore processing policy, and that applies equally across the board.

Journalist: So you're not going to comment on whether you were made aware of their presence at the time of your visit to Manus?

Scott Morrison: Well I am telling you that there are no exceptions to the policy.

Journalist: So we can take that as a yes?

Scott Morrison: You can make whatever interpretation that you might want to leap to, as you occasionally do, I have noticed. But I would simply say that there are no exceptions to the policy.

Journalist: You are on the record Minister, as saying that Manus Island is not an appropriate place for family or children. So, by your own record, surely you'd be trying to act to get them off there?

Scott Morrison: There are no exceptions to the policy.

Journalist: So we now – so you're now…

Scott Morrison: Offshore processing occurs at Nauru and at Manus Island. My comments were about Manus Island.

Journalist: Minister, on that matter, on AM this morning on ABC there was a Rohingya woman who has just had a baby in Brisbane, and she says that she is very afraid about going home – sorry, returning back to Nauru, because she is afraid of the conditions for herself and her children. Would you comment on – would you respond to her comments? It was a…

Scott Morrison: All appropriate care is provided for people who are located in the offshore processing facilities. She was brought to Australia to give birth to a child and she had other health complications that also necessitated her being brought to Australia for that purpose.

Now, that is the process we follow. Now, if and when she is in a fit state to return to Nauru or Manus Island, and that will be assessed by doctors, then that is what will occur.

Journalist: Sorry, on this matter, there was actually – this was the subject of a previous briefing that you gave on the 18th of October.

Scott Morrison: That's right.

Journalist: About whether this woman in question actually was pregnant with twins. Now, she claims that she was transferred off Nauru on the 17th, the day before. On the day of the briefing you said that it was not true that there was a woman pregnant on…

Scott Morrison: My information was she was transferred from Nauru to Australia on the 11th of October.

Journalist: Why [indistinct] Why not just tell us?

Scott Morrison: Well I answered your question at the time.

Journalist: Minister, my question at the time, Minister – and I said that I got the information from the United Nations, and you said that they were wrong.

Scott Morrison: No, I said – your assertion was that there was a woman on Nauru who was pregnant with twins. And on the 18th of October, that was wrong.

Journalist: That is a bit of a slippery response though, isn't it?

Scott Morrison: Well, look… I will ignore that.

Journalist: Minister, an interim audit from your own department the day before that, during 2013, flags significant risks

Scott Morrison: Sorry, can you start again?

Journalist: An internal audit from your own department, from 2013, flags significant health risks for the transfer of individuals into the offshore detention network, and to regional detention centres. It also flagged significant risks of drug–resistant TB. Given what that audit shows, why are you persisting to transfer men, women and children to these offshore detention centres?

Scott Morrison: Well that report was from earlier this year, and there have been a number of actions that have been taken by department since that report was undertaken. The Commander and I had the opportunity…

Journalist: Has the Department cured drug–resistant TB?

Scott Morrison: If people would like to ask questions, then that is great. And if they would like hear the answer, then you might give me the courtesy of being able to complete the answer.

The Commander and I were in Christmas Island this week, and we were able to be taken through the entire process. We saw the new X–ray machine that was put in the expanded facility that manages the transfer of people under this new 48 hour process.

We were able to see the imaging that is done in that place, and the way that these were able to be not only checked by those who were there, but also to consult with people back on the mainland as well. Now, this process is working very, very well. Improvements have been made to the system since the report which you referred to, and I am very confident about the way the policy continues to be implemented.

One of the pleasing things on Christmas Island that was relayed to us by many who were there, is the fact that they haven't actually had an arrival of a boat in the past fortnight, has very helpful for them to be further improving their processes, and further tightening how they conduct this new policy. And they remain very professional in the way it's implemented.

Journalist: Minister, how many asylum seekers on Manus Island have caught tuberculosis?

Scott Morrison: Those sorts of details are things that we will consider and come back to you on.

Journalist: Minister, can I just ask one more question about this Rohingya woman. Does it concern you that she was…

Scott Morrison: I should stress though that anyone who would arguably be in that situation, would be in quarantine facilities.

Journalist: Does it concern you that this woman was told on a number of occasions that she was pregnant with twins, and she gave birth to only one baby. Does it concern you that there is a potential that the conditions that she was kept in at Nauru were not…?

Scott Morrison: No, she was first advised that she had twins in Indonesia, not on Nauru. And my report is that it was determined that it was probably twins, it was not a definitive report that she received on Nauru. She was transferred from Nauru to Australia, not only because of the fact she was pregnant, which is not necessarily a reason for transfer. but there were also other health complications that had to be addressed.

So at all times, this woman's health was paramount in the minds of those who were providing her care, both the doctors and those working on behalf of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. And the fact that there has been a successful birth here in Australia I think demonstrates that the matter has been handled appropriately. And I commend those for the way they handled it.

Journalist: Do you think the conditions are appropriate for pregnant women, on Nauru?

Scott Morrison: Well there are facilities available to support people in that situation.

Journalist: Minister, with regards to the two unaccompanied minor children being held on Manus Island, are you aware of who their legal guardian is?

Scott Morrison: Again, you're suggesting someone who's on Manus Island.

Journalist: Regional processing centre on Manus Island.

Scott Morrison: No, so you're suggesting they are on Manus Island?

Journalist: Well Minister, can you tell us are the unaccompanied minors?

Scott Morrison: Well I can't confirm they are on Manus Island.

Journalist: Minister, are there unaccompanied minors on Manus Island or Nauru?

Scott Morrison: My understanding – there are no unaccompanied minors on Manus Island. [clarified in statement issued 8 November 2013]

Journalist: Nauru?

Scott Morrison: There are no exceptions to the policy on Nauru. Nauru is a family facility. It is designed to be able to take people that aren't able to be taken at Manus Island. That is it's purpose. That is why I can say that there are no exceptions to our policy of offshore processing – none.

Journalist: So are there unaccompanied minors on Nauru?

Scott Morrison: All of that information, in terms of the ages of people, you will see start to appear in the monthly breakdown of the detention statistics that are provided right across the network.

Scott Morrison: Now, the next update of that is scheduled to go up next week so I will refer you to that and I am sure we will be able to deal with some issues that arise…

Journalist: So you're saying that there…

Scott Morrison: I am saying that the break down of the age details – children, women, et cetera – will be in the monthly summary of detention statistics that will be posted on the website. And we've already implemented our promise to ensure that the mainland detention network has been put up on a monthly basis in a much more timely fashion than was provided under the previous government and I have made the decision to include the offshore processing profiles within that update as well and that will be on the we site.

Journalist: Children [indistinct]…

Scott Morrison: So you can look at the website…

Journalist: [Indistinct] legacy caseload of 33 000 people. How many of them will be processed by the end of the year?

Scott Morrison: Well, at this stage we're still working through the revisions to the assessment process itself. You will be aware of the changes we flagged when we were in opposition coming into government and we are working through those issues now.

Journalist: When can we expect those?

Scott Morrison: Well, when we announce them. It is a sensitive process that has to be done carefully with the right advice and that's what we're doing. We are taking our time to get that right because if you don't get that right, then that obviously is going to provide further difficulties for people down the track and we want to make sure that process works well for everybody involved, both those who are subject to it and those implementing it.

Journalist: General, can you confirm it was HMAS Ballarat that took part in the overnight operation?

Angus Campbell: As I've indicated earlier, I will not discuss further on–water operations.

Journalist: Minister, given the [indistinct] nature of the briefings so far, how can you expect the public to judge you against…

Scott Morrison: Well, I don't agree with the presumption of your question.

Journalist: Well, I'm asking you how do you expect the public of Australia to judge you on the promises during your campaign?

Scott Morrison: Every week we come here and we give you a fairly extensive overview of the level of arrivals, how many people have been transferred. We go into matters, whether it's – today I briefed you on the education arrangements on Christmas Island and we report on the various assessments that have been taken from time to time, and we respond to any number of questions you present and there are occasions where the information that you seek is not appropriate because of the operational detail that that requires, but eight press conferences we have held.

Eight press conferences were held by the previous government under the immigration portfolio under three ministers from 1 January to the commencement of the caretaker period. They held eight in that entire period of time. We have held eight in the last eight weeks. So…

Journalist: [Inaudible question]

Scott Morrison: Well, we're here every week providing the detail that we believe is appropriate to provide the flavour of the progress that we're making, and the ultimate test of that is whether the boats are coming and whether the initiatives that we're putting initiatives that we're putting in place is ensuring that disruption is effective, that people smugglers and the job that they're trying to do is getting harder and less successful every day, and I would suggest that that is the case, by the information we've presented to you, and that's certainly the feedback I get when I move around the country.

Journalist: When this overnight operation is over, can you give us an undertaking that we'll know exactly what happened and the fate of these people aboard this boat? [Indistinct]

Scott Morrison: I answered the question earlier, and that is we are not in the business of providing information that compromises current or future operational arrangements.

Journalist: But it goes to the heart of whether your policy is successful.

Scott Morrison: No. What goes to the heart of our whether our policies are successful or not is whether the boats stop.

Journalist: But you also had a policy of turn back the boats, and if there's some drama in this particular case where these asylum seekers end up in Australia, doesn't that go to the refusal of the Indonesian authorities to take those asylum seekers, isn't that reflective of whether your promise was correct?

Scott Morrison: Again, your questions are based are myriad assumptions.

Journalist: Because I have to make assumptions, Minister. You're not answering the question.

Scott Morrison: Well, tell me which question are you seeking me to respond to?

Journalist: Will the asylum seekers in the boat you [indistinct] at the moment [indistinct] accountable, will they end up in Australia or Indonesia?

Scott Morrison: Well, that's not a matter that has been finally determined.

Journalist: Minister…

Journalist: So it's a stand–off then?

Scott Morrison: No, it's not. It's an operational matter that continues to be handled in the way that all these matters have been since the commencement of Operation Sovereign Borders. So there is no real difference in the way that this matter has been handled to any other matters have been handled over the past eight weeks, and I'm sure how they will continue to be handled in the way we go forward. Everything that presents at sea presents differently, every time. Now, there is no doubt that this government is doing things very differently at sea. We are.

Journalist: Sounds like it's going to be Tampa all over again.

Scott Morrison: And we are seeing that the results of our efforts in the reduction of the arrivals that have taken place to date, combined with the myriad other things that have been put in place. I mean, the proof of our policy is in its results, and the results we will continue to report to you on every week.

Journalist: Minister who is the legal guardian for the children in immigration detention on Nauru?

Scott Morrison: It's me.

Journalist: Minister, what's the rationale…

Scott Morrison: Until that process is transferred to the Nauru Government.

Journalist: Sorry, Minister, you meant the Nauru Justice Minister?

Scott Morrison: That's what I just said. I said it's me until it's transferred to the Nauruan Government.

Journalist: When will that be?

Scott Morrison: I will come back to you.

Journalist: And who is the legal guardian for the unaccompanied minors or any unaccompanied minors who will be transferred to Manus Island?

Scott Morrison: Well, when they're in Australia they're under our guardinaship.

Journalist: And what about on Manus Island?

Scott Morrison: No, well it's the same arrangements.

Journalist: Minister, what's the rationale [indistinct]…

Scott Morrison: But we don't have a policy…

Journalist: Are you saying [indistinct]…

Scott Morrison: No, no, you're misunderstanding the operations of Manus Island. Manus Island is used for SAMs, for single adult males.

Journalist: You're saying there will never be any unaccompanied minors transferred to Manus Island?

Scott Morrison: We don't provide those facilities on Manus Island. We provide those facilities on Nauru.

Journalist: So no unaccompanied minors, you're saying, have been or will be transferred?

Scott Morrison: Well, I can't speak for the actions of the previous government.

Journalist: When you say you will come back to me, do you mean that that's still a work in progress or...?

Scott Morrison: No, it's not a work in progress. I'll just come back to you and confirm the details through my office.

Journalist: Minister, what's the rationale for making temporary protection visas retrospective?

Scott Morrison: Because it was always our view that people who'd arrived illegally to Australia by boat should not be provided permanent residency, and that those places shut not take up the places of those who have sought to come to Australia the right way or made an offshore application for our protection, and we have been crystal clear about that policy since it was first introduced by the Howard Government. And to be faithful to that view and ensure the integrity of our position, then it applies. People who come to Australia illegally by boat will not get a permanent visa under a Coalition Government, whether they turned up before or they turned up after. That is our policy. That is our stance, and it should be no surprise to anybody.

Journalist: But if your policy is one of deterrence, what does it matter now? I mean, these people who turn up now will be sent offshore anyway. They won't have a chance for TPVs.

Scott Morrison: It goes to the integrity of our entire immigration system. Temporary protection visas play a role, in our view, beyond deterrence. It goes to how people arrive in Australia and what people's expectations should be, and the Coalition does not believe that people who have turned up the wrong way should get permanent residency in Australia.

Now, it'd be quite hypocritical of us if we were then to hand out permanent visas to people who arrived illegally by boat. I think people may well doubt our conviction or resolve about our policies if we did that, and I don't think anybody anywhere is doubting the Coalition's conviction or resolve when it comes to this issue.

Journalist: Minister, Villawood Detention Centre is the most recent centre to enact a policy of 24 hours' notice for visitors. What's the rationale behind?

Scott Morrison: Well, that matter goes outside Operation Sovereign Borders but we're happy to give you a response outside the briefing.

Journalist: Yeah, but can answer that question? I mean, no one in the Parliament [indistinct]…

Scott Morrison: I'm not saying I'm not, I'm just saying that we will get back to you.

Journalist: But will you get back?

Scott Morrison: Yes, I just said we would.

Journalist: Having trouble believing you.

Scott Morrison: Well, you will see it when you get your response.

Journalist: When does the incident overnight cease to become an operational matter?

Scott Morrison: Sorry?

Journalist: When does the incident overnight cease to become an operational matter? So at which point will you brief us on what happened?

Scott Morrison: Well, it goes to the answer I gave to the gentleman earlier. Any detail that is provided that potentially compromises current or future operations is not detail we will be providing in a public forum.

Journalist: [Inaudible question]

Scott Morrison: So if any of that detail potentially compromises those operations, then it would be reckless to me to put people who are involved in those operations at risk, and I'm not going to put the Australians who are on those boats or working in our facilities or centres or in other places at risk. I'm just not going to do it. That is the responsibility I hold.

Journalist: How long does it normally take from rendering assistance to a vessel to deciding where the people on board that will go?

Scott Morrison: Every situation that presents is different.

Journalist: Is this one taking longer than usual?

Scott Morrison: Every situation that presents is different, and to go into that matter again goes past the – I doesn't think pass the test of what the Commander outlined earlier.

Thanks for your time.


See: Index of Speeches

URL:http://www.minister.immi.gov.au/media/sm/2013/sm209431.htm
Last update: Friday, 08 November 2013 at 17:45 AEST