Mr Peter Dutton: I didn’t put people on Manus Island; my job is to get them off it. I intend to get them off as quickly as possible, but I need to do it in a way where we don’t see new boat arrivals commencing. All of the intelligence available to me from across the region indicates that we have 14,000 people in Indonesia ready to hop on boats now. We have credible information out of other markets that says people smugglers are putting this proposition to vulnerable men, women and children to pay money: ‘Ultimately, you’ll stay in Manus for a couple years and then come to Australia.’ The latest, of course, is, ‘You can go to New Zealand, become a New Zealand citizen and then come to Australia shortly thereafter.’ We are not going to allow that to happen.

The Greens can wax all they want. They can move their position around. They can offer sanctimonious advice to the government. They can offer false hope to people in Manus. But they are not going to change the will of this government to see people smugglers put out of business. The success that we’ve achieved in relation to this area of public policy has resulted in the largest number of offshore entrants into our country since 1983: over 20,000 people arrived under the humanitarian refugee program last year alone. Going to the member for Kennedy’s proposition about those being persecuted in the Middle East at the moment, we’ve been able to help some 12,000 people under the Syrian and Iraqi intake, including women from the Yazidi community—one of the most persecuted minorities in the world—and we should be very proud of the success we’ve had in settling those people in our country. But that would not be possible if the boats were still turning up, if a thousand people per week were still being pulled off boats on Christmas Island, as was the case under the Labor government.

I was astounded by the contribution from the member for Blair during the course of this debate. It showed to me that he either doesn’t have a grasp of the basics of the issue that we’re dealing with or has not taken the time to properly consider what it is that we have contemplated and what it would be for him to contemplate if he were to be successful at the next election. Let me be very clear: if we send people to New Zealand today, then, based on the intelligence that I have received, including out of Manus Island in recent weeks, the boats would restart. There is no question in my mind. We have people in Manus at the moment who were on a pathway to the United States and who have said, in light of the announcement by the New Zealand government, that they are now reconsidering their option to go to the United States because they’d prefer to go to New Zealand. That is a terrible situation and one that the government is not going to allow to continue in the minds of those on Manus Island.

We have 1,250 places that are available for people to go from Nauru and Manus to the United States. The first 54 have gone. The United States has made announcements in recent days, both negative and positive hand-downs on Nauru and Manus, and we will see a further uplift of people go in the not-too-distant future. There is no pushback from the United States at all, and we thank them very much for the support that they have provided to us in helping to clean up Labor’s mess. As I said, I did not put people on Manus Island. I’ve not had a death at sea, and it’s been more than 1,200 days since we’ve had a successful people smuggling venture; however, we are seeing efforts in this regard by the people smugglers.

We haven’t ruled out the option of sending people to New Zealand at some point, but we would have to, firstly, reassure ourselves that people weren’t going to use New Zealand as a backdoor entry to come into Australia. It’s a fact that, of the 31 boats we’ve stopped and turned back in recent times, four were on their way to New Zealand. So New Zealand is marketed as a destination as well, because they have a generous welfare system, health system, education system and housing system like we do in Australia. So we haven’t ruled it out, and suggestions by the Greens and others that we haven’t properly contemplated that option are a complete nonsense. Frankly, that they would put it forward for their own political gain at the expense of those people on Manus Island says more about the Greens than it does about anybody else in this debate.

But the Greens are here today having this debate because they were supported by the Labor Party in the Senate and here on the floor today. In fact, the very words of the member for Blair in this debate were that he congratulated the member for Melbourne. The disaster that the Labor Party and the Greens presided over during the Rudd-Gillard years would be replicated by a Shorten government if they were to be elected at the next election. It’s clear that many on the frontbench of the Labor Party, and on the backbench, would revert to the old policy—that is, they would allow people come to Australia from the regional processing centres.

We’ve seen Kristina Keneally out in Bennelong in recent weeks. We’ve seen her public utterances as far back as 2011 that people should come to Australia, which is a green light for people smugglers. If people believe that Kristina Keneally is not representative of the majority view, I think, within the Labor Party caucus—and certainly in left wing of the Labor Party—then they’re kidding themselves. The fact is that Labor would bring people from regional processing centres to Australia. The fact is that they have already declared that they would reintroduce permanent protection visas. Part of our success has been the introduction of temporary protection visas. It is abundantly clear to all of us who deal with these matters each day that Labor in government would again not have the mettle to deal with turning back boats where it’s safe to do so. There is no question in my mind whatsoever that Labor would return to the failed policies that saw 1,200 people drown at sea.

We have been compassionate in the numbers of refugees that we’ve brought to our country. We have been strong and determined in saying that we are not going to allow those deaths at sea to recommence. And yet Labor stands here today, complicit with the Greens, reminding all Australians that it has learnt nothing. To those Australians in Bennelong who I know are concerned about this issue at the moment, please be assured that Labor has learnt nothing from the past failures. The Labor Party under Bill Shorten has learnt nothing from the Rudd-Gillard years. The fact is that human lives were lost and they would be lost at sea again.

We have considered every option on the table. There is no easy option in this regard. There’s no easy option that I have before me that can just allow people to come here or allow them all to go to New Zealand, and the matter will be resolved and we’ll never hear from the people smugglers again. As the United Nations points out, there are 65 million people in the world today who are displaced. On top of the disaster that we’ve seen in the Mediterranean, we would see those pathways open up again between Jakarta and Christmas Island, and I am not going to allow it to happen.

We need to work with people to provide settlement support. We provide settlement packages, paid for by the Australian taxpayer, for people to go back to their countries if they’ve been found not to be refugees. We’ve provided support to the Papua New Guinean government—and I praise the work of the PNG government and thank them for their partnership, and also the government of Nauru. We have provided support to open three new centres. The East Lorengau centre has been open for something like three years. It can accommodate 440 people. There are 305 refugees there in there at the moment, and Labor and the Greens try to tell us that the centre is not open—that it’s not finished and not completed. It’s a complete and utter nonsense.

For the Labor Party, the Greens and the advocates to hold out false hope to those people on Manus, that the policy of the government will change and that someday they’ll come to Australia, is a disgrace. They have for years offered false hope to people who have doubled down on their efforts to stay there, in situ, and not to remove themselves from the RPC, and say that the conditions are squalid and that they won’t move, because they thought that would provide leverage and an outcome in coming to Australia. It is not going to happen. We will provide support to those people to move to the United States or to move to third countries or to move back to their country of origin if they’ve been determined not to be refugees. But we are not going to allow the Labor Party, in concert with the Greens again, to dismantle those policies which meant—and I’m very proud of this fact—that we got every child out of detention and closed 17 detention centres. If another boat turns up tomorrow under this government, or if the Labor Party is successful at the next election, those people are going into detention Regardless of whether they are women, children or men, they will go into detention on Nauru. That’s the reality of the circumstance we face.

The people smugglers have not gone out of business. They are there and they treat people with the same disdain that they do any other commodity. They see money in moving people; they couldn’t care whether they go to the bottom of the ocean or whether they end up in Australia, New Zealand, Manus Island or anywhere else. We are not going to allow those people to get back in control of the situation.

Chamber House of Representatives on 12/2017, Item RESOLUTIONS OF THE SENATE – Asylum Seekers – Consideration of Senate Message Speaker: Dutton, Peter, MP/ Source: Parliament of Australia Website 2017 Transcript and Photo used for reporting News (CC Copyright Information) 

Dutton and the Greens Photo Special effects by Scorching Hot News