ABC RN Breakfast - Interview with Fran Kelly

  • Transcript, E&OE

JOURNALIST: JulieBishop is Australia's Foreign Minister and she's currently Acting PrimeMinister. She joins up very early from Perth. Julie Bishop thank you very muchfor joining us.

JULIE BISHOP: Goodmorning Fran.

JOURNALIST: Beforewe go to the issue of citizenship can we ask you first about the unfoldingevents in Manhattan in New York. Police have confirmed several fatalities aftera truck rammed pedestrians and cyclists and they're labelling it a terroristevent. Is that the advice you've received?

JULIE BISHOP: Thesituation is still unfolding and at this stage the New York Police Departmenthaven't verified the detail of these reports but clearly there's been a tragedyin New York. I have spoken to our Consul General Alistair Walton who was in thevicinity when the shooting occurred. He has been making urgent enquiries to seeif any Australians have been affected, our Embassy and Consulate staff havebeen accounted for. The State Department has informed us that at this stagethey do not believe that any Australians are affected but the situation isstill unfolding. We are deeply concerned because it's Halloween - AlistairWalton told me that there were children everywhere, in fact there was a paradefor Halloween planned down Sixth Avenue shortly. So obviously it's a verydifficult and complex situation that the local authorities are dealing with. Myadvice to any Australians who are in New York is to follow the direction oflocal authorities and if you are back here in Australia and worried about anyfamily or friends or loved ones in New York then please try to make contactwith them or ring our Consular Hotline on 1300 555 135.

JOURNALIST: 1300555 135. And I'm not sure if you know this, the reports I've seen say that atleast six people have been killed, others injured in lower Manhattan – is thatthe advice you've received? Any more specifically, the location?

JULIE BISHOP: No,that's precisely what we've been informed although the New York PoliceDepartment is still to verify the number of deaths and the number injured, butour Consul General was in the vicinity when the shooting occurred and hisconcern was for the number of children. He said there were children everywherein New York because of course its Halloween and it's an enormous celebration. Sowe think of those who have been affected by this, particularly those who havebeen killed, their families and friends must be devastated, but as thesituation is still unfolding we'll almost certainly keep the media up-to-dateand any people affected will be contacted as soon as possible.

JOURNALIST: We'llbring you some more news on this throughout the program but the latest news isthe Police say that they have one person in custody. Julie Bishop if I can goto other issues now here in Australia, Richard Di Natale says we're in aconstitutional crisis territory. Why should Australians continue to respect ourParliament and its ability to function if a person no less than the Presidentof the Senate might not even be entitled to be there?

JULIE BISHOP: Fran,obviously the Government didn't plan to be in this situation and we'd prefernot to be, but it's important to note that the Government retains 75 of the 149seats in the House of Representatives. The cross bench members, particularlyCathy McGowan and Rebekha Sharkie have committed to supporting the Governmenton supply and confidence. So the work of the Parliament goes on. Barnaby Joyceis seeking to be returned to Parliament through by-election and we're hopefulhe'll receive strong support from the people of New England, so the compositionof the Parliament will be back with what we won at the last election.

JOURNALIST: Butfor how long Minister? I mean it was only on Sunday the Attorney General saidhe had absolutely no reason to believe there were any other Government MPswho'd be caught out by Section 44 of the Constitution – well he was wrong onthat. For a start, shouldn't the Government have taken steps to check all Members,if there is any chance there are others? And the thing is we just don't knowhow many more there might be.

JULIE BISHOP: Everymember of the House of Representatives and every Senator has a responsibilityto ensure that they are eligible. In the case of Stephen Parry, I spoke to him,it was not until the High Court decision was handed down on Friday clarifyingSection 44 that he sought advice which he did at the earliest opportunity onMonday.

JOURNALIST: Shouldhe have done that earlier?

JULIE BISHOP: Hebelieved he was an Australian citizen and believed his father was an Australiancitizen. He told the Attorney General about his concerns on Monday and theninformed me on Tuesday. There have been numerous changes to our citizenshiplaws since the Constitution was adopted in 1901 and the matters are far morecomplex today including our dual citizenship. Section 44 has now been clarifiedand Members and Senators current and prospect must comply with them.

JOURNALIST: Wellone unnamed Nationalist quoted in the Fairfax press saying "There's more comingmark my words" another is quoted in the Fin Review saying "so much for theirbullshit about rigorous checking procedures" – he's referring to the LiberalParty there. Can you be sure there aren't more Liberals who'll be revealed asdual nationals?

JULIE BISHOP: FranI'm not aware of any. They haven't raised it with me, but each one of them inthe House of Representatives and the Senate, whether they're Liberal, Labor,National, Greens, Independent, they all have a personal responsibility toensure they are eligible.

JOURNALIST: Butthat hasn't worked, that's where it's fallen down. Isn't it time now for anaudit so we do know and get it dealt with once and for all?

JULIE BISHOP: Wellthose Senators who are found to be ineligible will be replaced through anestablished mechanism. It doesn't require another vote, it's through a casualvacancy or through recounts of votes at the last election. Senator Parryunderstood he was an Australian citizen as was his father. When he read theHigh Court decision he sought advice to clarify his position and he's stillwaiting for that advice.

JOURNALIST: Idon't want to be unduly alarmist here but what if there are others and theycome out? They may be in the lower house, we may be in the situation wherewe're having by-election after by-election. Should we just have an audit andsort this out?

JULIE BISHOP: It'simportant to remember we retain a majority in the House of Representatives andthe work of the Parliament goes on. We retain 75 of the 149 seats, we havesufficient crossbench support to guarantee supply, and that's the funds thatsupport the functioning of government, and we have sufficient support forconfidence. We deal with these issues on a case-by-case basis. I'm not aware ofany other concerns. No one has raised it with me.

JOURNALIST:Is it time for the Government andthe Labor Party, for all parties really, to support a referendum to addressSection 44 of the Constitution which seems to leave us at the mercy of othergovernment's decisions about the sovereignty about a citizenship of people. Canwe only fix that through the constitutional change? What is there, is there apossible legislative fix that might head this off? Have you heard of one?

JULIE BISHOP: Therehave been numerous changes to our citizenship laws since 1901. Section 44 hasnow been clarified by the High Court and we have referred the High Court'sdecision, the judgement, to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters.They will consider the implications of the judgement, the implications of theclarification around Section 44 and will make recommendations to theGovernment.

JOURNALIST: Butdo you think there's something that can be done in a legislative way less thana referendum to change the Constitution?

JULIE BISHOP: Ican understand people's concerns about a referendum. The vast majority of proposalsfor constitutional change have been rejected by the Australian people over theyears, but I'll await the outcome of the Joint Standing Committee on ElectoralAffairs, they will go into this matter in detail. They will consider theimplications of the High Court judgment, it's about a 67 page judgment. Section44 has now been clarified in the context of all of the changes to ourcitizenship laws that have occurred since 1901 and the Standing Committee willmake recommendations to the Government.

JOURNALIST: You'relistening to RN Breakfast. It's quarter-past eight. Our guest is the ActingPrime Minister and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. Julie Bishop on Manus Islandthere are 600 refugees and asylum seekers refusing to leave a detention centrewhich has now been abandoned by staff. There's no food, there's no water, thepower is off in part of the compound, it's been described as a humanitariandisgrace and it's all of our making. How long will the Government allow this todrag on?

JULIE BISHOP: Theregional processing centre was closed yesterday. There was a great deal ofinformation about that, the fact that the PNG Government was closing it down onthe 31st of October. The PNG Government provided alternativeaccommodation, some have already moved to this alternative accommodation. Thereare two alternatives, one for refugees and one for those who are not refugeesand are not owed protection. The essential services are available at the alternativeaccommodation – food, water, electricity and medical support, so the people whoare still on Manus have had months of notice that it would be closed and thatalternative accommodation is available with all of the essential services. Itmakes no sense for them to stay where they are and they will not be resettledin Australia, so they have a number of options available to them.

JOURNALIST: Thepeople inside those detention centres have been telling the AustralianGovernment for months that they do not feel safe outside of the detentioncentre, they do not feel safe moving to the other side of the Island because aswe've heard repeatedly again as just this morning the people do not want themand they do not feel safe there. Can I just play you a little of an interviewearlier this morning with Imran Mohammad who is a 22 year old Rohingya on ManusIsland who says he will not leave the centre because he fears for his safety,he's been repeatedly harassed and attacked by locals. Let's listen.


Imran Mohammad: We left (inaudible) we want asafe country and we want our freedoms. We spoke to them we told them that ifthey can guarantee our safety and if they can guarantee our future, we wouldmove immediately. If you can't guarantee our safety we can't move. TheAustralians are trying to say that they are not responsible for this man butthey are the ones who brought us here and they are the ones who are responsiblefor our safety.

[End of Excerpt]

JOURNALIST: That'sImran Mohammad who we spoke to earlier. He's saying if you can't guarantee oursafety we can't move. Can you guarantee their safety?

JULIE BISHOP: PapuaNew Guinea is a sovereign government of a population of over eight millionpeople. They're responsible for law and order and for security. We inheritedthis case load of people claiming asylum status. Some of them have been foundto not be refugees and some have been found to be genuine refugees. We'reworking on resettlement options for those who are found to be genuine refugeesand that includes resettlement on Papua New Guinea but there's also otheralternatives like the United States. Those who have been found not to berefugees should go home. There are resettlement options available. Fran this isa tough policy and we're sending a very strong message that we will nottolerate people smugglers trying to get people into Australia illegally.

JOURNALIST: Thisis not about people smugglers. This is about people who have been stuck onManus Island for four years or more now and who are fearful of their safety.Now you say this is a law and order issue for Papua New Guinea, the Papua NewGuinean Government says asylum seekers and refugees are Australia'sresponsibility, says PNG has no obligation to deal with them.

JULIE BISHOP: Fran,there are alternatives available for them. They will not be resettled inAustralia and we will send a message to the people smuggling trade that theycan't get back into business. We have stopped –

JOURNALIST: Canyou guarantee these men's safety?

JULIE BISHOP: Wehave stopped 1200 deaths at sea from occurring as occurred under the previousgovernment. We have stopped the thousands and thousands of people coming byboat, putting their lives at risk by coming by boat. So they will not beresettled in Australia but there are options available for them. They can beresettled in Papua New Guinea or they can be resettled in a third country.

JOURNALIST: Canyou guarantee these men's safety?

JULIE BISHOP: ThePapua New Guinea Government is a sovereign government and it is responsible forlaw and order and security on their Island, in their nation.

JOURNALIST: Thedetention centre where these men remain now is actually military installation,it's a naval base – will Australia support the forced removal of these men?

JULIE BISHOP: Itmakes no sense for these people to remain on Manus Island because the essentialservices have been transferred to alternative accommodation, so I urge them togo to the alternative accommodation where there will be food, water,electricity and medical services.

JOURNALIST: JulieBishop thank you very much for joining us.

JULIE BISHOP: Mypleasure.

- Ends -

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