JOURNALIST: For more I’m joined now by the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. Julie Bishop, good morning.
JULIE BISHOP: Good morning Michael.
JOURNALIST: Firstly, can you clear it up? Is there any intention to use this to cancel bridging visas of people who are in the country now?
JULIE BISHOP: My understanding is that this legislation applies to those in offshore processing centres. including those who may have sought, for example, medical treatment in Australia at some time, but are part of the cohort whose claim for asylum is being processed in a regional offshore processing centre. And my understanding is also that claims for asylum that have been processed in Australia, as was done under Labor, are not affected so their TPV, their Temporary Protection Visa,or their Bridging Visa, will continue to operate.
JOURNALIST: Right so those who have concerns here about the future of their visas don’t need to worry?
JULIE BISHOP: That is my understanding, that this applies to those in offshore processing centres, the cohort whose claims for asylum are being processed in a regional offshore processing centre, but those who have already had their claims for asylum processed in Australia under the previous Labor government are not affected.
JOURNALIST: Ok one of the suggestions for the reason for doing this is that obviously you’re looking at other countries to move these people to and you don’t want them to have a signal that that would allow them to get into Australia. Now you’ve seen that some countries like New Zealand wouldn’t be too happy having two classes of citizens, as John Key said yesterday. Would other countries be more compliant?
JULIE BISHOP: Well in fact Michael, the reason for this legislation is to send a message to the criminal people smuggling syndicates that they cannot market an illegal pathway to Australia. So the purpose of the legislation is to amend the Migration Act to prevent those who paid these criminals and are then taken to a regional processing country from obtaining a visa to come to Australia. We must never allow these criminal syndicates to be reinvigorated as they were under Labor because of course we recall that there were 1200 deaths at sea, that we know of, because of these criminal syndicates, 50,000 people seeking to come to Australia, and under Labor 8000 children were in detention and 2000 children in detention when we came into office. So we must never allow criminal people smuggling syndicates to get back into business. That's what the legislation is aimed to prevent. So what that means is that if you are resettled in a regional resettlement country then you cannot obtain a visa to come to Australia.
JOURNALIST: And it seems that some of those countries, like New Zealand in particular, are not particularly happy with the idea of having two classes of citizens, as John Key said yesterday.
JULIE BISHOP: Well that’s on the assumption that they are resettled in New Zealand, we have been…
JOURNALIST: Sure but do other countries have those concerns as well?
JULIE BISHOP: …we have been working with around 50 countries in the Bali Process. This is a framework agreement that 50 countries have joined up to – it’s co-hosted by Australia and Indonesia – and it deals with a whole range of regional issues including the question of what to do with those who are subject to human trafficking or people smuggling. And we are working with countries for resettlement options, particularly for those who are currently on Manus Island or in Nauru, because we want those processing centres to be closed as well. We have closed 17 of the detention centres that were opened under Labor and there are now two to go – one on Manus and one on Nauru. And those who are there, if they are found to be refugees they can resettle in Papua New Guinea if they are on Manus, if they are on Nauru they can be resettled on Nauru or in Cambodia. Those who are not found to be owed protection, who are not refugees, should depart for home and then there are others who we will seek to resettle in one of a number of countries that we are currently negotiating with.
JOURNALIST: And how many of those 50 countries would accept the conditions, these conditions?
JULIE BISHOP: Well we are in the process of negotiating with countries and we have made it clear that this is legislation that we’ll be seeking to get through our parliament in the next sitting.
JOURNALIST: And some of them have indicated to you that they would accept this?
JULIE BISHOP: We are continuing with our negotiations.
JOURNALIST: Pauline Hanson, as we heard yesterday, welcomed it and said it shows that refugees are not welcome here. Is this designed to appeal to her in any way? Are there domestic political considerations in this?
JULIE BISHOP: Not at all. This is the last piece of the work that we have had to do to clean up the chaos after Labor’s failed border protection policies, which I suggest would be one of the worst policy failures in living memory. When there were 1200 deaths at sea, 50,000 people coming on 800 boats we had to act. So we introduced Temporary Protection Visas, we turned back boats where it was safe to do so, we supported offshore processing for applications, and now as we are working towards resettling some in other countries, this final piece of legislation is necessary to send this vital message to people smugglers that they cannot get back into business under a Coalition Government.
JOURNALIST: Sure but a permanent entry ban, as you’re proposing, is an unprecedented step isn’t it? UNHCR says it is deeply concern about this. Does that trouble you?
JULIE BISHOP: There are already provisions in the Migration Act for bans. Consistent with other bans in the Migration Act that prevent a person from being able to apply for a visa, there will also be a provision that relates to those who have paid people smugglers to attempt to come to Australia.
JOURNALIST: So have you had any contact with UNHCR? Are you engaging in a discussion with them or not?
JULIE BISHOP: The Government is constantly in contact. I’m not the Immigration Minister, I’m the Minister for Foreign Affairs so personally this is not in my area of responsibility, but I know that our Immigration Department and our Immigration Minister are constantly in contact with international agencies.
JOURNALIST: Alright. Directly in your portfolio, Indonesia today says it is, according to some reports, it has proposed joint patrols with Australia in the South China Sea. Have you agreed to this and what would a so-called ‘peace patrol’ like this achieve?
JULIE BISHOP: We certainly were asked this last week in Indonesia. It was raised by the Indonesian Defence Minister during our annual Foreign and Defence Ministers’ meeting with Indonesia, and we are currently deeply engaged with Indonesia on a whole range of maritime issues including our respective navies carrying out joint exercises, training exchanges, their personnel train in our colleges and ours train in theirs. So there is already a much perhaps deeper level of engagement than many would appreciate. And Defence Minister Ryacudu talked about increasing our maritime exercises and both Senator Payne and I said that we would certainly take that on board. And of course the Chief of the Defence Mark Binskin was present at that meeting and…
JOURNALIST: And does that include the South China Sea?
JULIE BISHOP: Yes it would. We have agreed to explore options to increase maritime cooperation and of course that would include coordinated activities in the South China Sea and the Sulu Sea, and this is all consistent with our policy of exercising our right of freedom of navigation. And that’s in accordance with international law and our support for peace and stability and security in the region.
JOURNALIST: And how would this be viewed by China, do you think?
JULIE BISHOP: We currently carry out exercises. We would of course notify others in the region, we carry out joint exercises with the United States, with India, we’ve carried out joint exercises with China. So this is a regular part of what our Navy does and it is also part of our engagement in the region. But of course this is in accordance with Australia’s right to freedom of navigation, including through the South China Sea.
JOURNALIST: Ok Julie Bishop, we’ll leave it there. Thanks very much for joining us.
JULIE BISHOP: My pleasure.
JOURNALIST: That’s the Foreign Minister and Deputy Liberal Leader Julie Bishop.
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