24 February 2014



SUBJECT/S: Manus Island.

CHARLIE PICKERING: Michelle Rowland is the Assistant Shadow Minister for Immigration. Michelle, isn’t he just implementing your policy?

MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CITIZENSHIP AND MULTICULTURALISM: I think we need to remember that a terrible tragedy occurred here, at least one person has died and there have been injuries. I would like to firstly go to the fact that this was a policy that was initiated by Labor on the basis that we would see a drop, a dramatic drop in the number of drownings at sea. And we have seen that. That was a direct result of that.

STEVE PRICE: It sounds like you’re trying to dodge the question. Charlie is right – you reopened Manus, you negotiated the deal with New Guinea, you put the company in charge and we have a man dead. You can’t have it both ways. Labor put Manus back on the program. That is where this man has died. If anything it’s Labor’s fault?

ROWLAND: And Scott Morrison is the responsible minister today. This is the person who is no longer in opposition and who talked tough when he was in opposition and is now the responsible minister. Even in Question Time today he could not have the buck stop with him. The key questions of what did you know, when did you know it, failed to be answered by this minister.

PICKERING: Over the weekend we saw thousands attend vigils looking for a more compassionate approach to asylum seekers. Is part of the problem is that both major parties have opted to pander to those who want cruelty over compassion?

ROWLAND: I think there are a couple of things. I know a number of people who went to the vigils, people who I’m close to and people who feel strongly about this issue. I can appreciate the strong feelings that they have about this situation. At the same time I think we need to recognise that the Australian people were sick and tired of seeing people dying at sea. It was a completely intolerable circumstance. That is why the arrangements were put in place under Labor and we saw an almost immediate drop in the number of people arriving by boat.

PRICE: You’re not seriously claiming Labor stopped the boats, are you?

ROWLAND: Look at the figures yourself.

PRICE: I have looked at the figures.

ROWLAND: There was an immediate drop, an almost immediate drop in the number of boat arrivals as a result of the July 2013 policy being put in place. That’s a fact.

PICKERING: I put it to both of you – is that just a reminder and perhaps a suggestion and a wake-up call for all of us that this whole situation is more complicated than saying, “stop the boats”. Let’s say you’ve stopped the boats, you stop the boats and now people are dying in camps. So I say to all of you, you can win an election on a slogan, but you haven’t solved the problem. I think all sides of politics need to say how do we solve the problem?

ROWLAND: I can fully appreciate why people are sick and tired of this being treated like a political football. One thing that we have under Australia’s control is the treatment of people in these detention centres. That is something that we need to get right. We can’t have this sort of intolerable situation occurring where people are dying, and where we don’t have full information from the government about what is happening.

PICKERING: Thank you for your time.

ROWLAND: My pleasure.