Interview with Kieran Gilbert – Sky News AM Agenda – Wednesday 9 July 2014






SUBJECT/S: Asylum Seekers; Visit by Japanese Prime Minister.

KIERAN GILBERT: Thanks for your company on AM Agenda, with me now Labor frontbencher Jason Clare. Mr Clare thanks for your time.


GILBERT: I want to start by getting your reaction to these disturbing reports of mothers inflicting self-harm in the hope that their children might be resettled in Australia. The Prime Minister says the Government is not going to capitulate in the face of acts of self-harm like this. That is the only response a government can take, isn’t it?

CLARE: That is right. This is deeply worrying. I’d make three points. First, that people shouldn’t threaten self-harm. Second, that people certainly shouldn’t attempt self-harm. Thirdly and very importantly, the government has a responsibility to ensure the welfare and the safety of people in our care and it’s important that the resources are put in place to make sure that people can’t harm themselves or other people that are in the care of the Australian Government.

GILBERT: So would you call on the Government and Scott Morrison to step up the resources there to Christmas Island? What would you like to see happen?

CLARE: All I’m saying there is that it’s the responsibility of government to make sure that people in our care can’t hurt themselves or hurt other people. I’m sure that the Government is taking those steps, if they are not, they should.

GILBERT: In terms of the response in a policy sense, Sarah Hanson-Young says that it’s a symptom of a broken policy, of a policy that is too harsh. Tony Abbott is unrepentant, he is not going to change the policy one bit and certainly not in the face of what he’s described as moral blackmail.

CLARE: Kieran it’s a tough policy. It’s a tough policy for a reason and that is to stop people dying at sea. We put in place the agreement with Papua New Guinea to stop people risking their lives at sea. To send a clear message that if you come to Australia by boat then you will be transferred and settled in Papua New Guinea. The purpose of that is to stop people risking their lives and it has had a dramatic impact. But I stress the point again that the people in our care, whether they are on Christmas Island or on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, we have a responsibility to ensure their welfare and that must remain the Government’s priority.

GILBERT: Jason Clare you would empathise with the Government to the extent that Labor’s then Malaysia policy was scuttled by the High Court. At the moment the Government’s approach at least with the latest boat of 153 asylum seekers is in doubt. Uncertainty around what’s going to happen there, given the High Court injunction.

CLARE: Kieran, this is a shambles of the Government’s own making. First, we weren’t told what was going on. Now this has been extracted out of the Government by the High Court. We now know that there is a boat that’s in the contiguous zone, it was intercepted by Australian authorities 12 to 24 nautical miles off the Australian coast and they are now floating in legal limbo.

It could have easily been resolved by those people being transferred to Christmas Island. They could have been processed there and if found to be economic migrants, flown back to Sri Lanka. That’s what we did in Government, transferred more than a thousand people back to Sri Lanka who were found not to be refugees but to be economic migrants.

The Government could have adopted that course but they have chosen not to do that for this specific reason because they want to be able to stand up on TV every night and say no boats. If they did this processing on land they wouldn’t be able to say that anymore. So it’s all about politics.

GILBERT: I want to ask you about Shinz? Abe’s visit and his speech yesterday. It was widely applauded, the speech, but it’s not going to go down well in Beijing.

CLARE: Australia has a very strong and good relationship with China and as you saw yesterday Australia has a very good and strong relationship with Japan as well. Japanese – Sino relations aren’t as good as they could be and Prime Minister Abe made the point yesterday that he wants to improve those relations. I think that is critical. If we are to avoid a flash point or a crisis in the East China Sea of the sort that people talk about, then it’s critical that those two countries work together to make sure that their differences are resolved according to law rather than force. The relationship between Prime Minister Abe and his counterpart is going to be critical in that regard.

GILBERT: The risk though, just only 30 seconds left, but Australia will have to choose at some point, if those flash points do flare up.

CLARE: I don’t think it’s a question of choice. If we are going to make sure the Asian Century is everything that it must be then we need to make sure that we’ve got security in the region. So Chinese – US relations are critical, Chinese – Japanese relations are critical. Australia can play a limited but important role in organisations like the East Asian Summit to make sure that all the countries of the region resolve their differences according to law.

GILBERT: Mr Clare thanks for your time, appreciate it.

CLARE: Thanks very much Kieran.