Bill's Transcripts

Television - Sunrise - Boat turn back policy






SUBJECT: Boat turn back policy
DAVID KOCH, HOST: Now to Bill Shorten’s change of heart, the Labor leader wants his party to turn around its policy on asylum seeker boats. Mr Shorten is urging Labor's National Conference this weekend to adopt the Abbott Government's controversial turn back policy if it wins office.

I think it's clear that the combination of regional resettlement with offshore processing and also the turn back policy is defeating people smugglers.
KOCH: Mr Shorten admits Labor made mistakes on immigration policy when last in government and the Opposition Leader joins me now from Melbourne. Bill Shorten, thanks for your time. Now you have previously said quote, “There's no doubt in my mind that the Coalition's boat person policy is absolutely not working.” What's changed your mind?


SHORTEN: Well, nearly two years on, you’d have to say that the combination of regional resettlement and, indeed, in part, boat turn backs is defeating people smugglers, which is part of our goal and also it's preventing drowning at sea. So what's motivating me is, how do we stop people smugglers and how do we prevent the drowning at sea? And I think it's important to be honest with my party and the nation and, if I was to form a government, I would want the option of boat turn backs where safe to do so on the table.


KOCH: But since that quote two years ago, you’ve stuck to your guns - the party has stuck to their guns, saying this is the wrong policy. Does your turnaround undermine your credibility?


SHORTEN: Well, I think what would be a more difficult situation is having a policy which would – which I believe – would incentivise people smugglers, criminals to exploit vulnerable people – to entice people on to unsafe boats and then they drown at sea. We’re all familiar –


KOCH: So you are admitting Labor's policy in the past – and as it currently stands – is an incentive to people smugglers?


SHORTEN: Well, I believe a policy which says that, allows people smugglers to exploit vulnerable people, refugees, asylum seekers, to try and chance their hand on unsafe boats at sea has led to drownings.


KOCH: And your current policy has done that?


SHORTEN: Well I believe that the Labor Government before the last election was getting things back on track, with promoting regional resettlement. I think that has been a big part of defeating the people smugglers. But what I also recognise is that the failure of the Parliament, including the Liberals and the Greens, to support the Malaysia solution which would have seen regional resettlement, that failure, after that, we saw hundreds of people drown at sea. So yes, I do accept that mistakes were made.


Also, but more recently, Kochie, and you've covered this matter, or the TVs have covered it, you look at some of the dreadful scenes in the Mediterranean where there are people smuggling syndicates taking advantage of the biggest number of displaced peoples in the world, over 60 million refugees, seeing hundreds of people drown between Africa and Italy – I think we've all got an obligation to look at our own preconceptions and our own previous views and tackle them.


KOCH: Do you reckon you will be able to get this through your Labor Party Conference, this turnaround, because a lot of your colleagues have come out in the last 12 hours, 24 hours, and said, ‘over my dead body’.


SHORTEN: Well, I think that all of the people in this debate in the Labor party are motivated by wanting to see fair treatment of refugees. I want to see us do our fair share to help the problem of refugees and help the challenges people face when displaced from their own countries. But I also think we have an obligation to make sure that people are safe -


KOCH: Have you always thought this? Did you tell Kevin Rudd this years ago, when he brought in the Labor policy?


SHORTEN: Well, I don't think that when the previous policy was brought in, people foresaw the extent to which the people smugglers would exploit the system and I do know that previous Labor Governments worked hard with the Malaysia solution, remember that was when we were going to resettle people and the High Court said no. Then when we went to Mr Abbott when he was Leader of the Opposition, he and the Greens conspired to defeat that measure. So I think that when we pushed along the path of regional resettlement, that Labor’s recognised we need a stronger approach to turn-back in terms of people smugglers to prevent drownings at sea.


KOCH: Not to turn back the boats, though?


SHORTEN: To be fair to the previous Labor Government, at some points in the previous Labor Government -


KOCH: Which was you. You were in the previous Labor Government.


SHORTEN: Indeed, the proposition of turn backs wasn't put as being possible. But clearly it is. And what I will do, if I get the privilege of forming a government, is I'll act in what I believe to be the best interests of Australia and that is to have policies which don't lead to criminals encouraging people to get on unsafe boats and drown at sea.


In good conscience, if you know that that's the risk of your policy, which I do have that view, well then I think I've got to stand up.


KOCH: Bill Shorten, thanks for your time.


SHORTEN: Thanks Kochie.