PRIME MINISTER: Less than 24 hours ago, I warned Australia that Bill Shorten would make Australia weaker and the Labor Party would weaken our border protection. That they could not be trusted to do the right thing to secure Australia. Within 24 hours, Bill Shorten and the Labor Party have proved me absolutely right.
What happened in the Parliament tonight was proof positive that Bill Shorten and the Labor Party do not have the mettle, do not have what is required and do not understand what is necessary to ensure that Australia’s border protection framework and broader national security interests can be managed, by Labor.
The Labor Party have already said that if they were elected, that they will return to the policy of providing permanent visas, permanent visas that lead to citizenship for people who arrive or enter Australia illegally. That is the first tranche of the border protection framework that we put in place in 2013. They have said that they will abolish that and they will restore providing permanent visas to people who illegally enter Australia. Tonight and, I should say, last year, the Labor Party voted - on that occasion, in the Senate, without even taking any advice when it came to the national security implications - to abolish offshore processing as we know it.
This is the second tranche of the border protection regime that we have put in place. Now, the Labor Party may want to delude themselves that what they have done tonight doesn’t do that. But that would only further demonstrate their lack of understanding about these issues. The Labor Party have shown Australia tonight that they cannot be trusted on the second of those core planks of the border protection framework that have been so successful in stopping the deaths, getting the children off Nauru, getting children out of detention, ensuring that we can restore certainty and stability to our refugee and humanitarian intake.
So, when Bill Shorten tells you and the Labor Party tells you that they can be trusted to turn back boats where it's safe to do so, I think the Australian people got their answer tonight. He can't be trusted to do that either. The Labor Party and the Liberal and National parties are not on the same page when it comes to border protection. There is no bipartisanship on this issue. The Labor Party have now clearly demonstrated that under Bill Shorten's leadership, they want to go a different path. What we saw tonight was that yet again, the Labor Party have failed to learn their lessons of failure when they have had responsibility for border protection in this country. They have demonstrated yet again, that they just don't understand how to protect Australia's borders. The importance of the outcome of protecting those borders is to ensure we avoid the human carnage of what we saw last time Labor had this opportunity.
What is particularly amazing about this circumstance is Labor have not waited until they had the opportunity to be in government; they have demonstrated it even in Opposition.
So, it is a test that the Labor Party and Bill Shorten have failed tonight.
I made it very clear that the Liberal and Nationals parties would not be budging when it came to the issue of border protection in this country. We have had to clean up this mess twice. The Labor Party, when they have the opportunity, only break what has been fixed and they have been demonstrating that again tonight in the Parliament.
So, votes will come and votes will go, they do not trouble me. Where we will always stand and what the Australian people can always trust us to do, is to have the mettle to ensure the integrity of our border protection framework.
Bill Shorten and the Labor Party demonstrated tonight that they have no such mettle. That they will easily compromise these things and they will be blown about by the winds of whatever may push them one way or the other.
He cannot be trusted on our borders and Australia cannot trust Bill Shorten to make Australia stronger. He will make it weaker.
JOURNALIST: These amendments have been passed, assuming they get, well, assent from the Senate, will the Government [inaudible] Royal assent?
PRIME MINISTER: It will follow the normal process.
JOURNALIST: Is there any updated security advice on what the amended bill would mean?
PRIME MINISTER: My job now, as Prime Minister - my job up until now, I should say - is to do everything within my power to prevent these laws that weaken our border protection, that make all of us less safe when it comes to how our borders operate and now run the very real risk of seeing the boats run again and - and believe me, every arrival is on Bill Shorten and Labor's head, every arrival, every risk is on his head –
PRIME MINISTER: No, just to answer the question David has put to me - my job up until now has been to seek to prevent those bills passing. Those bills have gone through the House of Representatives, my job now is to work with our border protection and security agencies to do everything in my power to mitigate the damaging impact of what Labor have done tonight.
Now the Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs are meeting now with our Border Protection Command to work through the contingency planning that we have been putting in place for this outcome. This outcome was not unexpected to me and as a result, we have been putting contingency planning in place. I'll have more announcements to make about the actions and decisions the Government will be taking to address now the risk and the threat that Labor and Bill Shorten have created.
PRIME MINISTER: Can everyone stop shouting.
JOURNALIST: You're saying it’s a test for Labor but surely this is a control of you test, er, the control of the House of Reps which you have lost [sic]? Is this a no confidence motion in government?
PRIME MINISTER: No, of course it isn’t and I’d refer you to Kerryn Phelps herself. That was not what that vote was about this evening. If the Labor Party want to move such a motion, they should feel free to do so and it will fail. How do I know that? Because the independents have made that very clear. So, it cannot be contorted into that type of an outcome. Indeed, it was back in 2013 - I'll reference it specifically if you like - back in February of 2013, Opposition amendments were passed, so this is just back in 2013 - Opposition amendments were passed on a superannuation legislation bill, Service Providers and other Governments Measures Bill, in very similar, if not the exact same circumstances as these. The minority Government, which was a Labor Government at the time, was defeated. So as for the historical precedents, I think there has been a lot of hyperbole about these things.
JOURNALIST: But do you regard it –
PRIME MINISTER: I’ll just finish answering the question - the historical precedents need to be put into some context. So, when I made the remarks I did earlier in the week, this is not a matter that goes to the issues that you've raised. That's why it's not a matter I intend to act on with those types of consequences.
I'm going to get about the business that I'm about every day and that is to ensure we strengthen our economy, we make Australia more secure and we keep Australians together and we do the job we were elected to do.
JOURNALIST: Have you discussed this with General Cosgrove, you know, this scenario that this could occur?
PRIME MINISTER: No.
JOURNALIST: PM, under OSB, when boats come to Australia it usually takes us months, sometimes years to find out if they have arrived. Will you…
PRIME MINISTER: No, we know pretty much straightaway when they have arrived.
JOURNALIST: Well we don't sometimes find out how many boats have arrived because it has been a secret. So if a boat comes from tomorrow or the next day, will you tell the Australian people that one is on its way?
PRIME MINISTER: I'll tell the Australian people I'll do exactly what I told them I was going to do going into the 2013 election, and that is I will let Operation Sovereign Borders run the operations of that command. And they will do what is right and in Australia's interests and that's what I will do every single day.
JOURNALIST: Those contingency plans you talk about, does that include extra patrols? Is there specific intelligence out of Indonesia that the people smuggling...
PRIME MINISTER: You wouldn't expect me to comment on that. What I am telling you though is contingency plans have been put in place. The Ministers are now directly engaged with the operations side of OSB to be putting those in place and further decisions will be announced as and when that is deemed appropriate.
JOURNALIST: It’s not to frustrate the medical transfers from offshore detention, is it?
PRIME MINISTER: What I'm saying is that our operations will continue, as they always do and they'll be done in the way that they're always done. The Bill that is making its way to the Senate will follow its normal process and including through to Royal ascent. The Government will move to operate in accordance with the laws of the country. That's what governments must do. But what I will also do is make sure I take every action I can to ensure that Australia's border protection is not compromised.
JOURNALIST: If the Parliament's delivering laws that you don't agree with and you think create such a risk, then why not go to the polls and get a mandate to ensure that you can keep the policies that you think, and laws that should be in place, and call an election now.
PRIME MINISTER: There'll be the opportunity for that in May and the Australian people will have opportunity to decide on, not only these issues in May. Because Bill Shorten and the Labor Party have made it crystal clear that, at the next election, Australians will be deciding once again, once again, as they did in 2013, as they did in 2001, about whether they want the stronger border protection policies of the Liberal and National Parties or they want the weaker border protection policies of the Labor Party and in 2001 and in 2013, I thought they sent a very clear message.
JOURNALIST: Given the defeat in the House just earlier, do you now accept or prepare yourself for the possibility of extra sitting weeks before the election?
PRIME MINISTER: Those matters haven't been considered by the Parliament yet and we'll deal with those when they are.
JOURNALIST: Do you have a contingency plan for an early election?
PRIME MINISTER: The election will be in May after the Budget.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, do you regard the legislation of the amendments that passed the House of Representatives tonight as a matter of vital importance?
PRIME MINISTER: I've already said that these are not matters that go to issues of confidence and I don't consider them in those terms. The Government has never put them in those terms and the Independent members who voted on this Bill this evening did not consider them in those terms, which is related to the form of words that you've just put to me.
JOURNALIST: The changes that Labor agreed to will allow the Minister to reject people with serious criminal records. Can you just explain to us what is the main concern here now is?
PRIME MINISTER: Right now - I should say - still right now, the Bill has not gone through the Senate. The provisions that relate to character, the provisions that relate to criminal conduct and all of these are stronger than what has gone to the Parliament tonight. So it is, as I said, there was no form of this Bill that made our borders stronger and, frankly, there was no form of this Bill that made it more humane. There are more than 60 medical professionals and medical-related staff on Nauru. More than 60, per head of population, in terms of those they are treating, you will find that to be greater than any part of this country. There are no children on Nauru, other than the four that have their bags packed to go to the United States. So don't kid yourself out there, to the Labor Party and those who voted for this Bill today and those who will do it in the Senate. Don't kid yourself that somehow you have improved the situation - you've only made it weaker. And what you've done today is say to the Australian people, and Bill Shorten in particular and the Labor Party, that you're prepared to trade on these issues. Trade on these issues to compensate for your very real weakness and the Australian people have looked at Bill Shorten today and they have found him weak and he is. Thank you.