30 October 2016


SUBJECT/S: Asylum seeker policy 

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good afternoon everybody, I’ve got one or two minutes to talk about this latest thought bubble from the Government. Happy to take one or two questions.

Labor will never allow the people smugglers to come back into business. And we will not allow people who come here via people smugglers to be settled permanently in Australia.

But this latest idea from the Government seems to be ridiculous. The idea that someone who may be a US or a Canadian citizen, because they were once a refugee, would not be allowed to visit Australia for tourism or business purposes for many decades to come – that idea seems ludicrous on face value.

We haven't seen the legislation. The Government said this is a most serious matter, but they refuse to provide Labor with the legislation, which therefore questions their real motivations. During the election Mr Turnbull told everybody that they had people smuggling under control. So why now have they come up with this latest ridiculous thought bubble, on first appearance.

I think the Government has got some explaining to do as to its motivations. I believe that Mr Turnbull is more motivated about keeping One Nation and the right-wing of the Liberal Party happy than he is about forming sensible policy. If it is not Tony Abbott pulling Malcolm Turnbull's strings, it's One Nation telling him what to do. Happy to take questions.

 So you're not ruling out supporting the policy?

SHORTEN: We haven't even seen the legislation. No, this is classic of the incompetent style of the Turnbull Government. They rush out with a big declaration, but they've got no detail to back it up.  

I have to say though, that Labor will never support the people smugglers coming back into business, but I think Mr Turnbull's latest ridiculous thought bubble is more about playing the politics of keeping One Nation happy – and I notice One Nation's come out and taken full credit for the policy already. If it's not Tony Abbott pulling Malcolm Turnbull's strings, it's clearly One Nation. 

We'll go through our processes when the Government can present the legislation. But they've said this is of earth-shattering importance but they don't even have it ready for you or I. 

JOURNALIST: You say you haven't seen the legislation but at this stage do you have fears that it could breach Australia's international treaty obligations? 

SHORTEN: I've got significant concerns that this idea is all about Mr Turnbull being desperate to hang on to his own job, to keep Tony Abbott and the divided Liberal Party from swallowing him up, and he's also very concerned to keep the One Nation Party happy. I mean, it's One Nation who has come out today and taken credit for Mr Turnbull's policies. 

Mr Turnbull really has to explain to Australians, is this why he went into politics? To come up with these sort of ideas which seem on their face ridiculous? The idea that someone who was once a genuine refugee, who becomes a Canadian or an American citizen, would never ever be allowed to visit Australia in any circumstances whatsoever for decades to come,

and now there is no detail to back it up. 

This is a government hopelessly divided. You've got a desperate Malcolm Turnbull saying and doing anything to appease the right wing of his party and the more right-wing Senators than thinking through good policy for Australia. 

JOURNALIST: If you think this policy is ridiculous, as you have said multiple times in the last two minutes, why don't you just rule out supporting the policy?  

SHORTEN: I have said it is ridiculous on its face. The Government won’t tell us what they're doing about getting people out off Manus and Nauru, and I think they need to explain that. The Government hasn't even got the detailed legislation. They summon the media breathlessly to listen to their latest pronouncement from Malcolm Turnbull. This smacks of a desperate Prime Minister whose strings, when they're not being pulled by Tony Abbott, he is receiving his marching orders from the One Nation Party.  

One more question, thank you.  

JOURNALIST: If this amendment cleared the way for third country resettlement for refugees, why wouldn't you support it to get them off those islands? 

SHORTEN: Why won't the Government tell us what they're doing? Why won't the Government actually tell us if this is about a plan to resettle people in New Zealand or elsewhere? On its face, this idea without any detail about whether or not it gets people out of the facilities, out of the camps, this idea on its face does seem ridiculous. 

We call upon the Government to stop playing political games, stop taking their orders from Tony Abbott or the One Nation Party. If there is some other plan as you intimate in your question, why won't the Government reveal the detail? 

The Labor Party will review the legislation when this hapless government can actually produce it and we will go through our processes. But I want to be very clear that absent any other information, or guesswork such as your question indicated, what is the plan of this government, and it is just an absurd and ridiculous proposition.

Thank you everybody.