How Labor has weakened our borders

How Labor has weakened our borders

The message out of today is that the Labor Party can’t be trusted to keep our country safe, it can’t be trusted to protect our borders and when it comes to border protection, Labor is bad but the independents are worse.

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MP,  
INTERVIEW WITH BEN FORDHAM, 2GB  

E&OE


BEN FORDHAM 

Tony Abbott is on the line. Mr Abbott, good afternoon. 

TONY ABBOTT 

G’day Ben and the message out of today is that the Labor Party can’t be trusted to keep our country safe, it can’t be trusted to protect our borders and when it comes to border protection, Labor is bad but the independents are worse because Labor were only able to do this because they had the support of six of seven independents, including three independents who are sitting in what would normally be Liberal seats, pretending to be Liberal-lite. Well they’re not Liberal-lite, they’re worse than Labor. 

BEN FORDHAM 

The Prime Minister Scott Morrison is going to be joining us shortly. He has approved the reopening of detention centres on Christmas Island. He says that you need to prepare for an influx of asylum seeker boats that could come in response to this medivac bill. Is it necessary? Do we need to reopen Christmas Island? 

TONY ABBOTT 

My understanding is that this is on security agency advice. My understanding is that the security agencies have detected additional chatter from the people smugglers and their clients, that’s certainly the message from senior ministers and that’s my understanding as to why this has been done. But, again, let’s look at the record: back in 2007, Labor said that they would be just as tough on people smugglers as the Howard government, they said they would turn boats around, they didn’t, they closed down the offshore processing centres, they abolished temporary protection visas, they never turned around a single boat, 50,000+ illegal arrivals by sea on almost a thousand boats and, sadly, more than a thousand deaths and the only way to stop the deaths and keep them stopped is to keep strong border protection in place and that’s why this message from Labor about being compassionate is just so wrong. People are already getting, both on Manus and Nauru and in other places including Australia, the best possible medical treatment. They’re getting much better medical treatment on Manus and Nauru than is available in the average Australian country town and they’re running around saying that somehow the government and Australian officials are being cruel to these boat people. That is just an absolute calumny against the decent Australian officials and the health staff that are operating in these places to do their best by everyone, including the boat people. 

BEN FORDHAM 

So under the bill that’s now passed, fast-tracked medical transfers will only be available to asylum seekers who are currently on Manus Island or Nauru. 

TONY ABBOTT 

That’s not the message that will be going out to people smugglers. 

BEN FORDHAM 

That’s what I want to touch on because Labor says that means that there’s no incentive. We used to talk about the sugar on the table, they say there won’t be any sugar on table because this doesn’t mean that new arrivals will be able to come here under the medical transfers but is that the way these things work? As I remember it last time, people smugglers weren’t studying the detail of the policy and telling the truth to their potential clients, they were lying through their teeth and bullying people to get on boats right? 

TONY ABBOTT 

Exactly right. All they want is the money. They only want the money and they will be saying to their potential customers in Indonesia and elsewhere look, look what Labor have been able to do in opposition, just think how much better for you they’re going to be in government. And this is the point, if Labor are doing this kind of damage from opposition, just think what kind of damage they’d do if they ever got in to government. But again, Ben, don’t let these so-called independents fool you – when it comes to border protection, and many other topics, they are worse than Labor, they’re not Liberal-lite, they are Labor in disguise only in many instances they’re worse than Labor. 

BEN FORDHAM 

Derryn Hinch said that he was persuaded by the fact that this is not going to apply any new arrivals but I just think back to what happened, and I recalled yesterday to my listeners some of the conversations I had with residents of Christmas Island when that boat was smashing up against the rocks and everyone will remember I think the images of the poor people on those boats and they lost their lives. You wouldn’t risk it would you? Why would Bill Shorten and so many other people in parliament risk it when you’re talking about hundreds, in some cases thousands, of people risking their lives and losing their lives? Why would you risk it? 

TONY ABBOTT 

That’s a very fair point but let me tell you the reality: the reality is that lots of people on the Green-left, that’s including lots of people in the Labor Party, think that anyone from a poor country has a right to come and live in Australia. I think that’s dead wrong, I think we have a right to control who comes to our country and the circumstances under which they come, to echo the famous phrase of John Howard’s. But Labor thinks, basically, if you can get here, you can stay here. The message to the people smugglers in the old days was to get on a boat, get to Australia, stay in Australia; now it’s going to be get on a boat, get to Nauru, get sick, get to Australia automatically and stay in Australia. Sure, Labor will say that’s not what the fine print says but the people smugglers aren’t going to be drawing the fine print to the attention of their customers, the people smuggler is just going to say hey, have we got a deal for you. 

BEN FORDHAM 

When it comes to people wanting to come to Australia, we know how attractive this place is as a destination and as a homeland, but we are pretty compassionate as it is and I was listening last night to my colleague Ross Greenwood and he interviewed Philip Ruddock who as you know is our second longest serving MP, a former Immigration Minister and Attorney General, and someone who I think people on both sides of parliament would recognise is not a man who is hard of heart. 

TONY ABBOTT 

He’s a decent human being. 

BEN FORDHAM 

And he spoke about his visits to refugee camps around the world and he says they are 22 million people who are in these refugee camps around the world and he said I feel for the people who are stuck in these camps and I don’t feel the same sympathy for those who have sought to bypass other safe places to come here ahead of the queue. 

TONY ABBOTT 

And we know that often enough the people who do pay the people smugglers are paying them US$10,000 or more, which is very much a middle class amount of money if you’re an Iranian or an Iraqi or something like that. So they are jumping the queue, they are having a lend of us, many of these people, because they are economic migrants, by and large, and we have a right to say that we will control our borders and you just can’t land on Australia or even land in Nauru and places like that and claim a right to come here because if you lose control of your borders, ultimately sooner or later you lose control of the country and that’s the last thing that anyone whose running to be Australian Prime Minister could ever permit and I heard Peter Dutton in the parliament and I’m reluctant to say,  of someone who is the leader of a major political party that they’re not fit to be prime minister, but this is the judgement that will be pronounced against Bill Shorten if he persists in this kind of conduct. 

BEN FORDHAM 

Just very briefly, does this put the Coalition back in the game as far as the next election is concerned? 

TONY ABBOTT 

It’s not about winning an election so much as it’s about doing the right thing by our country and our first duty is to Australia and Australians. And yes, we have certain obligations to others and we fully discharge those obligations by treating them decently and giving them decent health services in places like Nauru and Manus if that’s where they are. This is about doing the right thing by Australia. But certainly, what I think Bill Shorten has done, he’s put party politics, he’s put conciliating the Green-left inside his own party ahead of the national interest. He’s put party unity ahead of national security and I think this is a dereliction of duty and, if persisted in, it does become a very serious character fault and a potential disqualification from the office of Prime Minister. 

BEN FORDHAM 

Mr Abbott, thanks for your time. 

TONY ABBOTT 

Thanks so much. 

  

[ENDS]