The Immigration Minister's claims that he is being held to ransom and blackmailed by a one-year-old girl are inexcusable, the Australian Greens have said. Minister Dutton made these comments in response to a question from Greens Federal Member for Melbourne Adam Bandt in Question Time today.
"For Peter Dutton to claim that the government is being held to ransom by Baby Asha is appalling," the Greens' immigration spokesperson, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said.
"The Minister's claims are offensive and they're plainly ridiculous because everybody knows that the morally bankrupt cannot be blackmailed.
"Malcolm Turnbull needs to explain whether he backs his Minister's outrageous claims that children are self-harming on Nauru so that they can come to Australia.
"The person harming these children is Minister Dutton, who is responsible for keeping them locked up on Nauru."
Mr Bandt seconded a motion moved by Member for Denison Andrew Wilkie to censure Minister Dutton for his comments.
Mr Bandt said: "Peter Dutton outrageously and offensively implied babies and children may end up in hospital by deliberately 'self-harming' to gain citizenship."
"This is a disgusting and vile statement worthy of censure."
Sen. Hanson-Young: Noah Schultz-Byard 0427 604 760
Adam Bandt MP: Adam Pulford 0429 109 054
Full text of the question and answer are below.
"Doctors have said that returning Baby Asha to detention would harm her. Your Immigration Minister has decided not to deport her to Nauru for the time being, but said it will happen later. Prime Minister, do you now agree with the doctors and many others that detention harms children? Or are you just waiting until after the election to send babies and children to Nauru?"
I thank the member for his question. Last year, when the shadow immigration minister addressed the Labor Party conference and he said that Labor regretted the decisions that they made which resulted in children drowning at sea, I thought his words were profound, I thought they were genuine and I thought they were sincere. It is why the Labor Party decided to move away from the policy which had seen 50,000 people arrive on 800 boats, and at the same time 1,200 people were drowned at sea. Yet, since Operation Sovereign Borders has been implemented by this government, we have been able to stare down the threat from people smugglers. Not one death at sea has been reported over that period. We have the ability to turn back boats where it is safe to do so, and it is the policy of both government and opposition in this country to continue regional processing, because we know that it works in stopping the boats. We are working with third countries to try and provide alternative arrangements, but we have been very clear-and I repeat this today, because the people smugglers listen to every word spoken in this place and spoken by premiers and other leaders around the country.
Let me be very clear to these people: we will not be held to ransom. We will not be blackmailed into changing this policy, because this policy has resulted in lives being saved, and we are not going to retreat on what has been a very successful policy, because I am not going to preside over an arrangement-which the Greens presided over when they were in coalition with the Rudd and Gillard governments-which saw children drown at sea. I am not going to allow that to return.
We have said that we will look at each case compassionately, we will look at each case on its merits, and we will decide, in relation to those cases, what is in the best interests of those children or of those families. I am not going to preside over a situation where we have people self-harming to come to hospitals in this country because they believe that is the route out into the Australian community for Australian citizenship. We know that we will provide the medical assistance, including to this baby and including to other people that we have brought to this country, and when the medical assistance has been provided to that family and to that individual the policy of this government, and the policy of the opposition, is that that person will return to Nauru. We will provide support and assistance to return people back to their country of origin if they have been found not to be owed protection, and that is the policy that we will continue, because we are not going to allow the people smugglers to get back into business.