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Press Statement with the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, The Hon Peter Dutton MP

30th January 2017  |  Comments  |  Transcripts

SUBJECTS: Phone call with President Trump, border security, refugee resettlement, Anthony Mundine, South China Sea, RET.

E&OE…

PRIME MINISTER:

Good afternoon.

I am here with the Minister and I can confirm that I had a constructive call with President Trump yesterday, in which I congratulated him and Vice-President Pence on their inauguration.

The President and I acknowledged the already strong and deep relationship between the United States and Australia and committed to making it stronger still.

We also recommitted our common determination, our united purpose in defeating ISIL which continues to have an impact -  a dangerous, terrorist impact - not just in the Middle East but right around the world, including in our own countries.

We discussed the importance of border security and the threat of illegal and irregular migration, and recognised that it is vital that every nation is able to control who comes across its borders.

We discussed the very principles that I raised at the United Nations last year when I made the point there that our strong border protection - which the Coalition Government, under the leadership of PM Abbott in 2013, continued under my Government and enhanced under my Government - our strong border protection gives Australians confidence in the immigration system, gives them confidence in our humanitarian programs, underpins the commitment in our - the most successful multicultural society in the world.

We also discussed the resettlement arrangement of refugees from Nauru and Manus, which had been entered into with the previous administration, and I thank President Trump for his commitment to honour that existing agreement.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, are you able to give us any more details on the nature of the agreement now under President Trump? How many will go and when they will go?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, the agreement - we are not providing any more details about the agreement than we have to date, but you would understand that, and Peter can say some more about this - but the US officials have been on Nauru. The acceptance of any individual by the United States officials into their refugee program is a matter for the Government of the United States and for their own security screening, which is very rigorous, just as our screening is very rigorous for refugees that we accept into Australia. So this is a matter that is entirely in the hands of United States Government's agencies.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, part of Mr Trump’s changes were a suspension on any refugee intake into the US for a few months, so at the very least, does that mean that the Australian agreement is on hold for those months while that suspension is in place?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, the President has committed to honour the existing arrangement but the screening processes – again Peter may elaborate – are very thorough and take some time.

MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND BORDER PROTECTION:

I'll just add to that. So there have been people, obviously US officials, up on Nauru and there have been conversations, exchange of information otherwise, between those officials and officials within my Department. So that will take some time because obviously the US, rightly under the existing arrangement, both signed off on by President Obama and now adopted by President Trump, under that arrangement there is the ability for the US to conduct those rigorous tests and then ultimately to have the final say, as is obviously appropriately the case, as to who will eventually end up in the US.

So that will take some time. We predicted that at the time. I want to be very clear though today to people smugglers and people who would seek to exploit this announcement into an opportunity to put more people onto boats; that the Government's resolve remains as strong as it's ever been. We have had a tougher stance through additional assets at sea and in the air over recent months since the original announcement. That posture has continued.  We are aware of people smugglers trying to pitch to people to pay money to hop onto boats so that they can eventually end up in the US.

So the very strong message today to people smugglers, to advocates here that would be telling people not to take up this deal, is that the resolve of this Government has not diminished at all and in fact the resolve of both the Prime Minister and myself, to make sure we can get people off Manus and Nauru – that Labor put onto those islands – we want to do that as quickly as possible. We have been able to close detention centres and get all the children out of detention and we are not going to allow that success to be undermined by ruthless people smugglers.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, will you be undertaking an assessment of the Trump Executive Order, particularly in regard to Australians who are dual nationals, going to the US for business or for tourism, or students? Is there a need for an assessment of how that policy may impact on Australians?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, as the Foreign Minister's spokesman said this morning, our Embassy is engaging with US officials on this subject but at this stage, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has not received any requests for consular assistance from Australians unable to board transport to the United States.

JOURNALIST:

Do you agree with the terms of that Executive Order? As it affects dual citizens?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, Michelle, as I said, we have not seen any cases of it so doing. If cases do arise, then we will take them up with the government. The Foreign Minister's spokesman has said that already.

Can I just say to you though, it is not my job, as Prime Minister of Australia, to run a commentary on the domestic policies of other countries.

We have, here, in Australia, border security arrangements which are the envy of the world. I know this from when I was at the UN in September. I can tell you, leader after leader spoke to me about how much they admired the security, the intelligence-based security systems we have on our border to keep Australians safe and to keep terrorists out of Australia.

We've got very strong systems. That is a fact. So we're proud of those and we'll maintain them, and where we can, we will enhance them. If others wish to emulate what we're doing, they're welcome to do so but I am not about to run a commentary on other countries’ practices.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Turnbull, other leaders, western leaders, have taken issue with the Executive Order. You don't find it discriminatory? Secondly, in your conversation with President Trump, did you mention the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

PRIME MINISTER:

Our rules, our laws, our values are very well known. Our commitment to multiculturalism, our commitment to a non-discriminatory immigration program is well known. I spoke about it at some length just last week on Australia Day. So that's where we stand. That's our policy. But our borders are secure. That is the bottom line. Our borders are secure. We are not complacent. Peter Dutton is constantly looking at how we can enhance our security. We recognise there are real threats and we are determined to keep Australians safe.

JOURNALIST:

Did the TPP come up in the phone call?

PRIME MINISTER:

The TPP was not discussed yesterday. I've discussed that with Mr Trump earlier.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, Anthony Mundine says he won't be standing for the Australian national anthem because it is racist. What do you say to Anthony Mundine?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I don't agree with him. Our national anthem unites all Australians - from our First Australians, to the newest baby in the arms of a migrant mother. It unites all Australians. So, I disagree with Mr Mundine.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, you say you don't want to comment on US domestic policy, but this policy is affecting Australians born from those seven countries, who don't know what to do, who don't know what would happen if they travelled to the United States. As law-abiding Australian citizens, what is your message to them?

PRIME MINISTER:

Our message is, as I said earlier, if those issues arise in respect of Australian citizens, we will and we are, taking up that issue with the administration. Can I just say to you, we have a very close relationship with the United States, and when we want to engage in discussions of this kind, we do so privately and frankly.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, did you discuss the South China Sea at all with the President and some of the things that were said during the [inaudible] that might suggest that they might blockade the South China Sea? Did the South China Sea come up at all and what was said on that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Regional security was discussed and all of the issues relating to regional security have been discussed between myself and the President either on this occasion or on the previous occasion we spoke. The engagement between my Government, my ministers and the new administration is very extensive. It goes well beyond the discussions between the two leaders.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, is the Renewable Energy Target safe for governments?

PRIME MINISTER:

The Renewable Energy Target is about 18 months old. It was restructured under the government of my predecessor, Mr Abbott, and as a consequence of that, as he said at the time, it created certainty for investment in the renewables energy space. We're committed to the Renewable Energy Target, as restructured at the time. And it will not be changed.

As Mr Abbott said at the time, it was a great effort by the ministers, the Minister for Industry and Minister for the Environment at the time. Much of it received bipartisan support. But the important thing was, that it restored certainty to the industry. It was very important that that certainty be maintained, and there are many other issues relating to renewables, but the Renewable Energy Target, as restructured under my predecessor, is, in effect, only 18 months old.

Thank you.

[ENDS]

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