Transcript of interview with Lisa Wilkinson, Channel 9
WED 15 AUGUST 2012
Subject(s): London Olympics; Houston report on asylum seekers
E & O E – PROOF ONLY
HOST: Prime Minister Julia Gillard, good morning to you.
PM: Good morning Lisa.
HOST: You and I never were good at coordinating each other before you appeared on the show on a Friday so what’s changed?
PM: We should have texted this morning and said only one of us should wear the white coat, but here we are.
HOST: Indeed, good to see you.
PM: Nice to see you too.
HOST: What a very special morning. Of all the duties that you have to do as Prime Minister this must be one of the biggies that you really enjoy.
PM: This is right up there, there’s such a sense of excitement and I’m really going to enjoy the opportunity of saying ‘well done, we’re proud of you’ to every athlete that gets off the plane. We’ve had a fantastic games and I’m just so proud of our team.
HOST: What were the highlights for you?
PM: There are so many of them but certainly Anna and Sally just changed our mood and lifted our nation didn’t they. To see our young people like Brittany come through and know that she’s got so many more Olympic Games in her.
HOST: Sixteen years of age and she looked totally shocked when she won the diving.
PM: She did look shocked, but you’d have to say what a tremendous amount of poise to be able to go and do that at sixteen years old, and that just shows what a remarkable career she’s going to have in the future. Sixteen now, twenty next time, you know she’s going to be with us for a long, long time to come.
HOST: As we said before there’s going to be lots of hugs and tears as all of these families are reunited.
PM: There certainly are, I’ve wandered through and seen some of the family members, tiny little kids that are wearing t-shirts that say ‘welcome home, Uncle Dan’ and things like that.
HOST: And lots of beautiful homemade signs as well.
PM: Some very beautiful homemade signs, so lots of people here are going to be jumping for joy in just a few minutes time.
HOST: This must be a very welcome break for you because it has been a very intense time over the last couple of days over the whole asylum seeker issue. Living in tents on Nauru and Manus Island; is that acceptable to you, because that is the prediction.
PM: It’s a temporary measure as the permanent facilities are constructed, so Defence will get on with the job the way they do with all of their professionalism. There will be some temporary accommodation and then there will be permanent accommodation.
HOST: There’s many more to deal with than anybody could have anticipated. The numbers just keep on growing, so the chances of them being in those tents for a longer period of time than would be desirable seems to be the case. How long would you be happy to see asylum seekers in tents?
PM: All of these measures that Angus Houston and his team have recommended are about stopping people getting on boats, so we shouldn’t be saying ‘well the current rate of arrivals we’re seeing now will just be continued.’
We’re doing all of this, some of it very hard things. We’re doing it all so that we don’t see people risking their lives at sea. We’ve seen too many tragedies, too many losses.
HOST: We spoke to Tony Abbott earlier this morning and he says that of a three-pronged attack, there’s only one prong that’s been addressed. You still will not be happy with the idea of temporary protection visas, because that is what he says is going to take us back to what John Howard was doing when the boats really did stop coming.
PM: Tony Abbott is flying in the face of the expert recommendations we’ve got from three eminent Australians.
Angus Houston, former chief of the defence force; Paris Aristotle, a refugee policy expert; Michael L’Estrange, a foreign policy expert; they have not recommended temporary protection visas. They’ve said towbacks are not possible under current circumstances, they’ve given the nation a very good plan.
They’ve said you’ve got to do all of it, and the Government has said in principle we’re going to do the lot.
HOST: Well Fairfax is reporting this morning on an asylum seeker in West Java, Mohammed Khani; he says living in a tent is no deterrent to him. He’s coming anyway. This is somebody who’s planning on coming, even though he knows exactly what’s going on in Australian politics at the moment. Doesn’t that mean you’re back to square one?
PM: The aim of the Houston report, and it’s not just going to Nauru and PNG, this is a comprehensive report, and the aim of it is to say to people like him you’ve got no greater chance of getting into Australia if you get on a boat than if you stay where you are now.
The only thing you’ll do by getting on a boat is risk your life at sea and pay a people smuggler.
You won’t get to Australia any more quickly than if you stay put, went to UNHCR, had your claim processed and got dealt with where you are now, so don’t do it, don’t risk it, don’t lose your money, potentially lose your life.
HOST: Should our humanitarian intake increase to 20,000 and 27,000 in five years? Are you happy with that?
PM: In principle we’ve given that the tick, now we’ve got to work through all of the financial costs and they are considerable.
But the aim here is to be able to say to people like the asylum seeker you refer to, if you stay where you are and don’t move, get your claim processed, you’ve got a chance of coming to Australia because we’re a generous country and we’re prepared to make places available.
If you get on a boat, you won’t get here any more quickly. You’ll go to Nauru and PNG, not just to have your claim processed, but you will be kept there for the same amount of time that you would have waited had you stayed where you were.
HOST: Alright another intense day in Parliament today but in the meantime you’ve got duties to perform, so I will let you go Prime Minister. Thank you very much for joining us.
PM: Lovely to see you Lisa, thank you.