Q&A 26 November, 2012 – Happy Endings
Monday 26 November, 2012
QUESTION FROM NAURU – 00:47:23
TONY JONES: Okay. So I’m going to interrupt you because on the question we’ve actually got a Facebook question that’s come in. It’s from Mahdi Vakilli. He is an Iranian asylum seeker who arrived in August by boat last August who’s now being held in detention on Nauru. The question is: what is the difference between me and others who came after me. Now they are getting a bridging visa and going to live in the cities of Australia while I and 399 more must stay here on Nauru in a very bad situation? So, I mean, why are one group being singled out, the people who come afterwards they can come and live in Australia. Why is it happening like this?
PENNY WONG: Because this is a very difficult area and if you say we are going to implement a system where we don’t give an advantage to people coming by boat, at the same time as, remember, we are increasing our humanitarian refugee intake, something we had bipartisan support on until earlier this week, so we are taking more people as refugees into this country but if you have a system where you say we don’t want to give people an advantage for coming by boat because we know boat journeys cost lives, if you have that position then, regrettably, and, you know, this is a very difficult set of policy questions, but regrettably you do end up in the position…
TONY JONES: Evidently this gentleman and a number of others in Nauru are on hunger strikes at the moment. I mean, would it take one of them actually dying of starvation to actually change your position?
PENNY WONG: You know, the difficulty in this area is that your ethical choices are so complex. Is it the gentleman here? Is it the people who might get on a boat tomorrow and who might suffer a disaster at sea? Is it the people who are waiting in refugee camps around the world? I mean there are a whole range of ethical choices here and I don’t pretend any of them are simple nor easy. I would like a situation I was elected in 2001 in the Tampa election and I would love a time in the time I’m in politics where we don’t have…
BARNABY JOYCE: Tony, can I…
PENNY WONG: …the debate the way we are currently having it.
BARNABY JOYCE: (Indistinct)
TONY JONES: Okay. All right. Let’s hear from rest of the panel. Barnaby Joyce, and then briefly hear from the other panellists.
BARNABY JOYCE: I think in its simplest form this was an extremely difficult issue at the start, okay, and we both acknowledge that now. But the problem was that the difficult situation was being dealt with and, I hate to use the term, the boats had stopped, right? But then we had this absolute denigration of a policy structure, the absolute carpeting of any person who believed in it and now we’ve had 30,000 people have arrived, over 30,000, about 30,300, through the Labor term. We don’t know how many people have died. We really don’t. We haven’t got a clue and we’re sort of heading back to the position that we started with. Now, if we’d kept the policy we had the start, how many lives would we have saved? How much of the problem would have actually have been fixed?
MULTIPLE SPEAKERS TALK AT ONCE
PENNY WONG: Barnaby, you talk about denigration and you are the people that use the term “illegals” and “invasion”, when it comes to the debate, so don’t talk to us about denigration.
BARNABY JOYCE: Hang on, Penny. No…
TONY JONES: Jonathan Biggins.
JONATHAN BIGGINS: While I think you have – while there is genuine concern for people drowning at sea, I think that’s now a convenient smokescreen myself personally. Could be cynical. Anyway. I don’t think it’s our problem. I think the people who have got the problem are the poor bastards on the boats or the guy stuck in Nauru. I think we can accommodate those people. That’s my personal opinion but I think the really sad fact is that the polls would suggest that not enough Australians genuinely care about the lives of these people to make a difference. Devolve the responsibility from the politicians, go back to us. Go back to the marginal seats. This is where the push for these sorts of policies are coming from. It’s our apathy towards people who are now numbers, not names, we rarely see their photos. The media give the same clip of the same boat arriving every time they announce new arrivals. It is not as if they are different people.
TONY JONES: Okay. I want to hear from the rest of the…
BARNABY JOYCE: I think…
TONY JONES: We’re actually running out of time. We’ve got a few people with their hands up too so we’ll get the gentleman up the back and there’s one down the front here. So we’ll quickly get your question or comment.
26 November 2012 | Q&A | ABC TV