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Peter Reith MP Radio IV On Tampa Decision

Minister for Defence Media Mail List

11 September 2001


REITH: I think it's the most unfortunate decision in terms of Australia being able to decide who comes to Australia and who doesn't. But we will take the matter up on the appeal process and put our strong case on a full court appeal.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] that you couldn't legally detain the refugees or the asylum seekers on board the Tampa.

REITH: Well, I don't agree with that, with the conclusion that has been reached. But leave aside the court case. I mean, in the end in my view, we should be able to use the Australian Defence Force for stopping people coming into Australia who have no permission to come into Australia and who have breached a lawful direction given by Australia not to come into our territorial waters. And, I mean, he's happy to read out the pleas of the people on board the Tampa but we don't know whether or not some of those people are refugees and we do know that a lot of these people have paid very large money to people traffickers to buy their way into Australia and jump the queue and bypass Australian law.

JOURNALIST: His assertion that the asylum seekers were not even told of their fate in their own language. Did he have a point there?

REITH: Well, I'm not going to argue the toss about some of the claims that he has made. Obviously that's all a matter for the appeal but I certainly strongly disagree with this decision. I think it's a bad decision. We are going to appeal this decision and as a matter of policy I believe that the Australian Government should be able to determine who comes into Australia and I think it's a very poor decision to require an elected government of the day to bring people into Australia who have no right to be in Australia, who are queue jumpers and who have paid a lot of money to people smugglers to try and defeat Australian law. I think that's quite a wrong practical outcome and that's why we are going to be lodging the appeal.

JOURNALIST: Operationally, will the operation continue as you have designed it even though this order has been handed down by Justice North?

REITH: Well, he's upheld what we said in respect of the Migration Act. So everything that's done in relation to the Migration Act is okay and obviously that's the important part of the operation that we have got going to the north of Australia. We have also got people on board Manoora who are from the second boat and this decision has only affected the first so their destiny is still Nauru and obviously they are proceeding on that basis.

JOURNALIST: So the Manoora will continue to steam towards Papua New Guinea?

REITH: Well, look, the legal position is, you know, as at this very moment the Government complies with any lawful order of the Federal Court but we have a right to appeal. We will be appealing and the lawyers will be putting in place an application for [inaudible]...of the judgement so as Justice North himself recognises there will be an appeal and what happens in the meantime is going to be a matter for the full court to decide.

JOURNALIST: As the Minister, as the Defence Minister closely involved with the operation as it is, on the operational side, does the boat keep going in the direction that it's going or does it need to stop while this is sorted out among the lawyers?

REITH: Well, we have got to take some advice in respect of the application for [inaudible] proceedings but I don't want to get into the legal side of it.

JOURNALIST: Are you angry that this ever got to court?

REITH: Well, I mean, we put up some legislation which the Labor Party voted down and as far as I'm concerned if that legislation had gone through, if Kim Beazley had stood up strongly in Caucus and said you know what is the national interest here, we should support the Government's Bill, well this is not the problem that it is. But you know the fact is we have got a court decision. We don't agree with the court decision that we've had in the immigration area and we are trying to change the law but, of course, getting Kim Beazley to support changes to the law in this area is pretty difficult but you know we obviously apply with lawful decisions of course.

But I don't agree with them. I think they are wrong and as a Government we will continue to attempt to legislate so that we have a proper migration system in this country and we don't just, you know, allow people to walk up to our front door, knock on the door and come in just because they can buy their way in and beat the system.

JOURNALIST: I appreciate your time.

REITH: Okay. Thanks Steve.


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