Interview with Kier Shorey, ABC Far North Queensland radio, Cairns

27 Jul 2016
Prime Minister

KIER SHOREY: Good morning Prime Minister. Welcome back to Far North Queensland.

PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, it’s great to be here with my friend and colleague Warren Entsch the Member for Leichardt.

KIER SHOREY: Indeed. So let’s get our subject on which is the big one for today, the topic - that of course is the detention centre crisis in the Northern Territory. We have had calls now happening here in Queensland including from our own state MP Rob Pyne for it to be extended into Queensland, the royal commission. Now Prime Minister we have got four more workers from the Townsville youth detention centre claiming to have been sacked for speaking out about violence inside that institution as well. Do you think the Royal Commission should be extended?

PRIME MINISTER: No - royal commissions are successful and effective when they have focused terms of reference and can do the job quickly and report and then action can be taken. So this royal commission which will be done in collaboration with the Northern Territory Government will be focused on the youth detention centres and youth detention practises in the Northern Territory that were the subject of the Four Cornersprogram. My aim is to have a directions hearing next month, to have hearings over the following month and with a report early next year. I’ve also spoken directly with the Chief Minister Adam Giles and sought his assurance that the young people in detention in the Territory at the moment are in good care and these practises are not continuing or are not any longer present in the system and he’s given me those assurances.

We need to get this matter investigated quickly. If you spread it out to be an all Australia inquiry it would go on for years and you won’t get the answers you need in respect of the Northern Territory. Of course if the Queensland government - state governments are in a different position constitutionally in every other respect to the Northern Territory Government. So if the Palaszczuk Government wishes to hold its own inquiry into its own youth detention system then of course it is perfectly able to do so.

KIER SHOREY: There is a group of doctors Mr Turnbull who are launching a High Court challenge against the Border Force Act which prohibits workers in detention centres from describing the conditions they witness inside there. Considering the revelations that have come out of the youth detention centres in the NT do you agree that their concerns have been validated?

PRIME MINISTER: Well with the border protection system and immigration detention system,  there are obligations in fact on doctors to report any malpractice or any matters of concern of the type their talking about and to report that through to their superiors so that action can be taken. Can I just say though in terms of the issue of border protection, the reason I am in Cairns today, with the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection and we will with the Border Force at Cape St George, the border force here at the marina at the Norship shipyard in fact and what we will be doing is speaking at an event to mark two years of no successful people smuggling ventures coming to Australia. Operation Sovereign Borders has been successful for two years after all of the unauthorised arrivals, 50,000 unauthorised arrivals, 1,200 no doubt more deaths at sea under the mismanagement of the Labor Party when they overthrew the effective Howard Government policies. We reinstated the rule of law on the border, we stopped the boats and they have been stopped now for two years.

That’s an important milestone demonstrating that the rule of law has been restored at the border and the Australian people, through their Government, today determine who comes to Australia and how long they stay.

KIER SHOREY: Back on the subject of the juvenile detention commission, Nigel Scullion admitted yesterday the issue hadn’t piqued his interest until he saw the Four Cornersreport. Is that an appropriate response to such a serious issue?

PRIME MINISTER: Nigel Scullion is a very committed Minister for Indigenous Affairs. I know the media like to jump on one statement or another. Can I say to you, I spoke to Nigel Scullion on Monday evening, he was concerned about the reports. He viewed the program, I spoke with him and the Attorney General and the Chief Minister on Tuesday morning and then I announced that there would be a Royal Commission. So Nigel has been very much involved in the decision making - naturally I consulted him closely as I did the Attorney General of course in making the decision that I did.

KIER SHOREY: 12 Minutes past nine, we’re with the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on ABC Far North. As you said Prime Minister you’re with Warren Entsch and during the election campaign there were a number of promises including a $20 million Cairns specific grant to stimulate jobs, to build new infrastructure. What level of interest have you had from business, how long before we see some of that money spent?

PRIME MINISTER: Well as you know, the Government has been returned and we expect those applications to be coming in to the Department and we look forward to the funds being committed as soon as possible. We are absolutely committed to driving jobs and growth here in Cairns - and of course right across Australia – especially here in far north Queensland where I am today. We have made some very substantial investments in Cairns. You know about the $24 million we announced to go into the shipyard to ensure that it’s better able to deliver on all of the maintenance opportunities that are available here. Of course as the Pacific Patrol Boats are produced and delivered to our Pacific partners, they will be maintained in Cairns, this will be the maintenance centre and that together with the $420 million of investment and expansion of the Cairns naval facilities, really adds up to about a billion dollars over the decade of investment and opportunity for Cairns as a naval and commercial ship maintenance centre.

KIER SHOREY: It appears as though the Coalition, Malcolm Turnbull, has fallen short in Herbert, do you envisage a challenge in the Court of Disputed Returns?

PRIME MINISTER: I won’t comment on the Court of Disputed Returns possibilities. Let’s wait until the count is finalised. At this stage – I was there yesterday with Ewen Jones; he’s been a phenomenally good and committed, enthusiastic and capable Member for Herbert. We’re wishing him all the best and giving him every encouragement. It’s a pretty taxing time as you can imagine because the leads - he’s been ahead by a few votes and then Labor has been ahead by a few votes. We’ll see where it finishes and then any legal matters can be considered thereafter. Now I must leave you now and go down to meet the Minister for Immigration. So thank you very much for allowing me to join you this morning.

JOURNALIST: There he goes. It is a quarter past nine here on ABC Far North.