Sky New AM Agenda, Perth - Interview with Kieran Gilbert
JOURNALIST: Before the details emerged in thenature of this attack and the number of victims and so on, I spoke to theActing Prime Minister Julie Bishop on a range of other matters as well,including the citizenship crisis that has hit the Government again - this time,the Senate President Stephen Parry. Here was my interview with the ForeignMinister and Acting Prime Minister Julie Bishop earlier today.
JULIEBISHOP: Clearly we would rather not be in this position, but we'redealing with it. We retained 75 out of the 149 seats in the Parliament. We havesufficient support from the crossbenchers on supply and confidence to ensurethat the Parliament continues to work. Barnaby Joyce is facing a by-election inNew England, and we hope that the people of New England will support him andthat he'll be able to return to Parliament as soon as possible. So in the LowerHouse, the parliamentary composition will resume as it was after the lastelection. In the Senate, those found to be ineligible will be replaced throughan established mechanism, and those that are not eligible to sit will leave andnew senators will come in through casual vacancies or through a recount fromthe last election. So the business of Parliament will continue. Of course we'drather not be in this position, but we'll deal with it.
JOURNALIST: The drip feed, though, ofindividuals gradually realising their citizenship status is quiteextraordinary. It just creates a sense of chaos.
JULIEBISHOP: Well, the High Court have handed down a decision onSection 44 last Friday, that gave Stephen Parry cause to read the judgment verycarefully. There have been many changes to our citizenship laws since the Constitutionwas adopted in 1901, it's a very complex area. Section 44 has now beenclarified by the High Court, and Stephen Parry had believed that he was anAustralian citizen, that his father was an Australian citizen, but the HighCourt decision clarified that. He's seeking advice and he's yet to receive thatadvice, but we just deal with the situation as it presents, and as things standnow, the Parliament can continue to work and will continue to work.
JOURNALIST: Can it be cleared up by legislation?There was something that I think the Attorney alluded to yesterday. Is thatsomething that can happen in your view? Is that the advice the Government'sreceived? Is a legislative option here possible, not necessarily a referendum?
JULIEBISHOP: We have referred the High Court judgment – it's about 67 pageslong, it's a detailed judgment – we have referred the judgment to the JointStanding Committee on Electoral Matters. They will consider the judgment andits implications, and make recommendations to the Government. So we will awaitthe outcome of that Joint Standing Committee inquiry.
JOURNALIST: Did Stephen Parry act appropriately,or should he have been a bit more upfront about his status?
JULIEBISHOP: Well my understanding is that he read the judgment, herealised that it could have implications for him, and then he quite properlysought advice and he's come forward with his concerns. He's admitted that he'ssought advice and he's still awaiting that advice. So we'll just deal with thesituation as it presents itself over the next few days.
JOURNALIST: Let's change our focus now to thisflash point on Manus Island. Can the Government guarantee the safety of thoserefugees and others that are refusing to leave the detention centre? They'reworried they won't be safe in this alternative accommodation.
JULIEBISHOP: The PNG Government is in charge of security matters. Thealternative accommodation for refugees and also accommodation for those foundnot to be refugees is providing all the essential services including food andwater and electricity and medical supplies, so they have access to essentialservices. Those who are found not to be refugees, to be owed no protection atall, should return home.
JOURNALIST: But in relation to the safetyquestion, can our Government say to these individuals – hundreds of themgenuine refugees – that they'll be safe?
JULIEBISHOP: The PNG Government is in charge of law and order andsecurity, and I understand that they have this matter in hand. We're workingclosely with the PNG Government. I would urge those who remain on Manus Islandto go to the alternative accommodation that has been provided by the PNGGovernment. The point that we must make is that those who have been found to berefugees can be resettled in PNG, or they can apply to be resettled elsewhere.They will not be resettled in Australia, and we have made it very clear thatthose who pay people smugglers to try to come to Australia will not beresettled here, so they have other options available to them. As I've pointedout earlier, those who are found to be not refugees, who are not owed anyprotection by PNG or anyone else, should return to their home.
JOURNALIST: Well, obviously it's part of theGovernment's policy. It is a tough deterrence, we know that, and it's stoppedthe boats – that's the fact. But do you reflect, and other senior members ofthe Government reflect, on the fact that hundreds of these people are genuinerefugees and they're still stranded in Manus many years after their asylum wasgranted?
JULIEBISHOP: When we became the Government we faced a situation where50,000 people had tried to come to Australia via the people smuggling trade,1200 people had drowned at sea, and we've put in place very tough measures tosmash the people smuggling trade – which we have done, so far. We have stoppedthe deaths at sea and we're dealing with the caseload of people who came hereunder the weaker Labor Government laws. Now, this is not an easy policy toimplement but we are determined to ensure that the people smuggling trade doesnot start up again, as it would inevitably start under a Labor Governmentbecause of their weaker border protection policies. So we're now dealing with acaseload that we inherited, we have resettlement options – the United States,for example – but others can be resettled in Papua New Guinea. There are aboutseven or eight million who live in PNG, they can be resettled in PNG, and thosefound not to be refugees should return home.
JOURNALIST: It's got to come to a point thoughwhen if you haven't got a third party settlement option like – we know thatthere will be a cohort going to the US –but there's got to come a point,doesn't there, where you say, enough's enough and you just bring them toAustralia. Surely there's been enough deterrence already with five years onManus?
JULIEBISHOP: No, they can be resettled in Papua New Guinea and thatwas always part of the original arrangement that the Labor Party entered intowith Papua New Guinea, that those found to be refugees can be resettled in PNG.That remains an option for them. There are other options, but at this stage Iwould urge them to leave Manus Island because there will not be essentialservices there. The PNG Government is providing alternative accommodation forthose found to be refugees who are waiting resettlement or can be resettled inPNG, and those who are found not to be refugees – and there are hundreds ofthem as well – should return home.
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