SUBJECT | Labor abolishing Temporary Protection Visas | 13 February 2023
PETE STEFANOVIC: Let's go back to Canberra now because joining us is the shadow immigration minister, Dan Tehan. Dan, good to see you. So our top story this morning is about those on Temporary Protection Visas; some 19,000 will be given a pathway to permit citizenship — well, that's the eventual goal anyway, I suppose, from the Government. This was coming; it was an election promise, but what is your reaction to those refugees who will be given permanent residency?
DAN TEHAN: Well, Pete, what the Australian people need to know, and they need assurance from the Prime Minister, is that this won't lead to the boats starting again. Temporary Protection Visas are a key pillar of Operation Sovereign Border, and brick-by-brick, the Government seems to be dismantling Operation Sovereign Border. So, the Prime Minister should come out today and give assurances to the Australian people that the boats won't start as a result of this decision. He should release the briefing that he has from his department and from the Immigration Department saying that the boats won't start. And he also should release those assurances that are talked about in the paper today, from Malaysia, from Indonesia, from Sri Lanka, that they have no concerns with this. We need the full information as to what the impacts of this decision will be. We must remember what we dealt with between 2007 and 2013, 1200 deaths at sea, 8000 children detained, and more than 50,000 people detained. We do not want to see that again, and we need assurance from the Prime Minister that that won't happen.
STEFANOVIC: The assurance, I suppose, comes in the form that this only applies to those who arrived pre-2013, Dan, and the Temporary Protection Visas will actually remain in the statute book. So do you think that's enough of a future deterrent?
TEHAN: Well, Pete, you've got to remember that Kevin Rudd, in 2013, with Anthony Albanese as his deputy Prime Minister, said that these people would never settle in Australia. Remember, they made a big, big thing of it just before the 2013 election that these people would never settle in Australia. Anthony Albanese was Deputy Prime Minister to Kevin Rudd. Now what the people smugglers will be thinking is that they've seen this all before. They've seen these statements, and then, all of a sudden, when you test the will of Anthony Albanese and remember he was Deputy Prime Minister, in the end, that will, will bend, and what we will see is the boats starting again. So that's why we need these assurances from the Prime Minister. He needs to come out today and say that he has received all the briefings that are necessary or has all the intelligence, all the information that's necessary for him to be able to guarantee to the Australian people, as a result of this decision, the boats won't start.
STEFANOVIC: Do you think it matters that the Temporary Protection Visas will remain in the statute book?
TEHAN: Well, of course, we need Temporary Protection Visas as part of the pillars that we need to keep our borders secure and to keep integrity in our immigration system. So, we need temporary protection visas. What the worry is about this decision is that they’re sitting on the statute books, but they will be needed again. And that's what we need to hear from the Prime Minister loud and clear this morning that he has all the information available to him to be able to say categorically — and look the Australian people in the eye — that the boats won't start again as a result of this decision.
STEFANOVIC: What's your hunch? Will the boat start again?
TEHAN: Well, the sad reality is that people smugglers will look at any opportunity available to them to start their evil trade again. We've been down this track before, and we know that they will test the will of a weak government. Now my deep, deep concern is that they will see the Albanese Government as weak on borders, and they will try to test them, and that is deeply concerning.
STEFANOVIC: What about as for the actual 19,000 people who will now have a pathway to permanent residency, and presumably they will then be sponsors for their own family members to come — so it'll be a higher figure than that. Is it fair enough that has been in limbo for so long where they haven't been able to access payments, they haven't been able to get their life on track or businesses on track? Is it fair enough that they are now given some clarity?
TEHAN: Well, we were doing everything we could to resettle those refugees, and the new government should be doing exactly the same.
STEFANOVIC: But they were still in limbo?
TEHAN: Pete, but they were going to be resettled. What we also have to think about is those refugees currently in Iraq, in Syria, in Africa who also would love the opportunity to be able to come to Australia. That is why we need proper processes in place as to how we run our immigration system. It has to be done with integrity. It has to be done in a way where it is the government who is deciding who will come to Australia and who won't. As soon as you give an opportunity for people to break down that system and bend those rules, then the people smugglers will seize that opportunity. That's why it is so important that you do your refugee intake with integrity and you have clear rules by which everyone needs to abide by. There are probably 60 million people globally who would love the opportunity to come to Australia. We have a very, very good humanitarian intake in this country, but we have to do it in a way where we give those in the greatest need that opportunity.
STEFANOVIC: Okay. Just a final one here, on the seat of Aston, it's up for grabs now, a marginal seat. Just looking at Victoria Dan, is there anybody that you would prefer to run for the Liberal Party in the seat of Aston? And how much of a fight do you have on your hands to hold onto it?
TEHAN: Well, we want to preselect the best candidate to win that seat. I obviously would have a strong preference that that candidate is a female because we want to make sure that we continue to build female ranks within our parliamentary party. But the key thing about this byelection will be is that it's going to be a test on the cost of living. It's going to be a real test on what Anthony Albanese, as Prime Minister, said before the last election, that he put downward pressure on interest rates, downward pressure on energy prices, he’d cut your energy bill by $275 and that life would be cheaper at the supermarket under an Albanese Labor government. That's what this byelection is going to be all about, and it's going to be a key test of Anthony Albanese and the cost of living.