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tv   Conflict Zone - Alexander Downer Australian High Commissioner to the UK  Deutsche Welle  December 7, 2017 1:30pm-2:01pm CET

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yes. i'm a mother like two million other mothers around the world i have one wish the best for my child. but in a society in which breastfeeding is often frowned upon and as for formula abound with profit is more important than my baby's well being how do i know how to make the right decision. no starting december ninth d.w. . for years now australia has faced the barriers of criticism over its treatment of refugees and asylum seekers now it has a seat on the un human rights council and the pressure is intensifying my guest this week is alexander downer former australian foreign minister and now the country's high commissioner here in london how does he justify
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a policy so widely condemned around the world. alexander downer welcome to convince thank you two months ago australia got what it lobbied so long and hard for a seat on the un human rights council and after years of sustained pressure over your own human rights record but you continue to brush off all criticism that you. well we're quite happy to answer any allegations that are made just that we're very happy to stand up for ourselves but the record is i mean we have the last prime minister tony abbott saying we sure are strains were sick of being lectured by the us where the current immigration minister peter dutton is on record is calling the whole periodic review process fast you don't take kindly to criticism well i think
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if people dish it out to you they've got to expect to generate a debate they can't expect us just compliantly to agree with every allegation that's made if we don't regard the allegations as allegations of substance now sometimes allegations of substance have been made and we've investigated and sometimes we even set up role commissions and they have often borne fruit but it varies a lot i mean we we basically accept the process though i mean why bother to get a seat on the human rights council if you if you call the process a farce well we accept the process the existence of the process i mean we wouldn't go into the human rights council it's a different thing but we wouldn't go into the human rights council if we didn't think that it had some value and we do think it has some good you turned eighteen you reject the human rights committee's views well these are subcommittees and this isn't a human rights council you can meet you can be set of experts while they make
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it they may they you know that they are entitled to make whatever claims they like about a stroller and we are of course quite happy to respond either way but sometimes we don't accept them that's true routinely they say in october you've shown you the vice chair of the u.n. human rights committee said well let me ask you if you routinely reject the can be . yes i think this is probably on the one issue with and this is on. this the issue of irregular migration and we do you have a very tough approach to that i mean i think you'll find. that a lot of people in the u.n. system think that anyone who comes to your shores should be accepted and i they believe that to be. a fundamental right that anybody who comes to strangers shores should be taken into a straight we don't except i mean we have an immigration policy we take migrants we have a border protection policy we have a refugee policy where we resettle refugees in australia but we don't take people
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who try to get to australia by paying people smugglers and i think we should i suppose but we're not your foreign ministers as you see membership of the human rights council is an opportunity to scrutinize the record of other countries with appalling records and put them subject to greater scrutiny but what right do you have to give it out if you're not prepared to take it you probably take it i mean it's you know it's not a criminal offense in this trailer to criticise the australian government obvious trillion people here that people are welcome to criticize us when we don't shy away from criticism but as you know with the strains if you want to dish it out you know that's fine but we will we will vigorously defend ourselves if we think the defense is worthwhile sometimes we do sometimes we die and the controversy over the regional processing centers for refugees and asylum centers this is where you've tracked it the largest amount of criticism you intercept the refugees and sometimes you can see the tow them back to where they came from or have them process mainly
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on the pacific island of narrow or papua new guinea. the guiding principle being that people who try to arrive by boat should never ever set foot in australia . if you pay a people smuggler and you try to get to a. that way and you can only get to australia by boat if you do that if you pay a people smuggler try to get to australia that way we will try to discourage that process we want to stop it we do resettle refugees we're one of very few countries that has a refugee resettlement program but we don't think it's appropriate for people to pay people smugglers and try and get to australia you're going was accused of paying people smugglers itself two years. handing over words of cash and telling the people smugglers to take the. people back to try try to understand what we are trying to do here so you don't we knowing this well i'm not sure of the
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reference by the way i'm just the high commissioner amnesty international while i'm doing very make it out. i have no idea but but what i can say to you is try to understand what we're trying to do we have been. quite traumatized as a country by seeing scenes on television of folks being wrecked on islands off the stroller particular christmas island off the northwest coast of australia and many people drowned hundred and hundreds of people have drowned we want to stop this produce talk about being traumatized by it all but you know you have to understand it see you might have been a little more traumatized if people in australia and seen the kinds of conditions in your processing center i'm we definitely wouldn't win which which the office of the u.n. human rights commission has called unsustainable inhumane and contrary to your human rights obligation and we absolutely reject that we absolutely reject that has
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being untrue you didn't read it or i don't know why they i don't know it's been too personal that i'm not going to say why they made these allegations but i told her you know you were right so i just want to make a lot of around the world let me make this clear these people oppose our policy so that every turn they. tried to force us to change our policy and so of course have a lot of these asylum seekers who have been sent to pop or new guinea or new road now what we don't do with these people is send them back rafal if they're found to be refugees we don't send them back to the countries they come from we make sure they have a place of safety to reside and that's our obligations over a very being beaten by the purpura new guinea policeman that deal bars in the services and the conditions in five of the new arguments from papua new guinea i just griped as severely and while that's completely wrong as well it's kind of you only wrong you know this well because the australian government has has built these
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buildings i mean i personally haven't been to a root personally by the way and the allegations made about nuru bore no relationship to what i saw when i went in the room no relationship at all so we would have drained the access of the miners if you're not mind of the hide that when you strip that access to the letter letter let me explain what's going on here there is a huge campaign to break our policy a huge campaign by people who don't approve of our policy who say we should let all these people in well let me make this clear no matter what i like ations they make and we are not inhumane we provide humane conditions no matter what allegations they make we are not going to bow to their demands and we're not going to become the victims of people smugglers they're not all pushing you to the moon they're pushing you to treat them humanely no they are none of that that you'd see with the greatest of respect i'm quite an expert on this topic the more they can make claims
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about inhumane treatment the more they then can put pressure on the australian government to change its policy which is the object of what they're trying to do so they make all these claims about inhumane treatment you know their imprisonment in a australian medical association or a paper all over the place who support the scum wanting to make you. yes i mean they demanded access last week to go in and just said well the health of these side because if we're not going refugee when i'm not that's three doctors is there in pup or new guinea and there are doctors there already we don't need it and then what i would say was what would satisfy some of you want to try this drug don't let dr you're not a stroke there is no vehicle hiding is it it's not hiding there are doctors and there are doctors who look after people who need medical assistance but why why would a group of other people want to go and try to look at what's already being done to
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know what the ancillary interest no because the argument is they don't trust that's their argument but the real argument is they want to break the back of our policy and we're not going to allow that to happen and we've seen what's happened in europe we are not going to have our politics thrown into turmoil on the back of young page just an international conspiracy to change your views it's not i mean the national center disappear your own senate your own senate has reported several times on what they call serious allegations of abuse self harm and the asylum seashells on narrow amount of this is your own son we're in a democratic country so so you reject that absolutely where a democratic country people in the senate a lot of people in the senate whether it's a good thing or a bad thing and i think it's probably a good thing that there are mixed views in the senate but a lot of people in the senate oppose the australian government and oppose this trial in government policy what's more the government doesn't have a majority in the senate so all sorts of resolutions
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a pass through this trial and senate criticizing me it's going to become more about the treatment of these of these asylum seekers and refugees going back years in twenty fourteen senate reports of the australian government had failed in its duty to protect asylum seekers from arm the government did nothing to rectify that a year later they're going to go down. the government is the government well you're being very very general in these claims you're not being specific about where this was but so for example if you take in power point you can take up when you're getting in manners holland a whole new body of accommodation has been built there recently and the accommodation that people were in in twenty fourteen has been closed all together it doesn't exist anymore between june twenty fourth july twenty fifteen the senate committee discovered cases thirty four instances of serious assault seventy five instances of force used against asylum seekers the report noted evidence from
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submitters who believe that harsh and indefinite conditions in the centers represent a policy on the part of the australian government to deter people from coming forward definitely deterring people from coming and i don't see him harshly and when not actually using harsh and inhumane conditions and we would completely reject that but by the way some pretty right away groups tell you you don't like like like opponents of the government in the australian senate not just oh maybe very very special to us spectate human rights organized most of the night over the i'm not denying i mean look the thing to understand is there is a campaign by all sorts of organizations including members of the australian senate what you think you're missing a government campaign i do dismiss it as a kid just a campaign where you're citing things training in very high dose and making claims they're making claims and if you drill into all those statistics and we haven't got time to do that but if you. if you drill into all of those statistics you'll find that these are over a long period of time there are all sorts of explanations behind these so-called
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incidents some of them major which are being investigated by the police you know where there's a criminal offense it's obviously been dealt with by the proper new guinea police and where they really are is just running per family and where there are minor most french minutes they're often based. up out of all proportion in order to try to put pressure on the government to change its policy mr downer one of the i mean worst one of the worst claims one of the worst indictments of your system came from uncle peter young psychiatry's who had ultimate responsibility for mental health services in immigration detention and he likened the government's treatment of asylum seekers in the processing centers to torture he said the whole set up was deliberately designed to tell people to go back where they came from if we take the definition of torture he said to be the deliberate harming of people in order to coerce them into a desired outcome i think those fulfil that definition not well if he writes
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something that. if he makes his own definition of torture then then he will always win the argument but of course very good definition in any course where not torturing coercing buy into a desire to live under stand no we do not want people to pay people smugglers and try to come to the stranger that way and no matter how fierce what you try man. go they said that the most dangerous mistruth in current australian politics who said this human rights watch the most dangerous mr trevanion high results trail in politics is that in order for lives to be saved at sea other people accused of no crime must be indefinitely and arbitrarily punished of shore and not being punished offshore they're being they're being placed in processing centers and if they've been found not to be refugees they're asked around in the zone to say been placed in process they're not mistreated in these centers they're
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placed in processing centers they're not jails they're able to walk out often go to the village and go shopping or go to the page whatever they want to do in in man asylum the ones who are in man and silent on in a room to have freedom to move around the island they're not prisons they don't like their bedroom they can ask be asked to to move. another bedroom i mean it's not as your leader not somebody for a long term fix carry cross. to him well use wells find wells sexual abuse other these things are fine if there is assault that's a criminal offense or if there's sexual abuse that's a criminal offense they'll be investigated by the police but if they are very committed well in any country you can make that you can say that's not much of a papua new guinea very serious investment you know knowing proper new guinea police presumably if somebody is assaulted pup when you get a police board investigate it what's a suggestion for you to do what's a suggestion here you slip up
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a new guinea police don't investigate result that's also up when you get in i didn't that's a pretty tough thing to say about your story and everything in papua new guinea doesn't use the word everything i said these are matters for the police to investigate and there have been incidents that have been investigated by the police and have been dealt with in the normal way where they are a criminal offenses but you know this sort of painting a picture that this whole operation is somehow beyond the law these operations are entirely within the law within the law rapoport new guinea your within the lore of the road people are free to move about those countries if they wish to when by the way when the proper new guinea government decided to close the processing center at manor solomon there were huge protests about the closing of this processing center with people in the processing center saying they didn't want to move because i want to name all facilities which weren't ready and have been there is what i value and exactly are as severely you know i did and they're not severe and they're not how
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do you know they are not severely because he is trying government has built them or had them but mr downer if if everything was falling why did the government agree to pay seventy million dollars to settle a class action lawsuit by almost two thousand refugees and asylum seekers from an asylum a lawsuit that a lot. they had been detained illegally and mistreated you paid up your government paid up without admitting liability. to avoid going to trial where it would have had to listen in open court to some pretty damaging claims well i don't know the details of that the government didn't. know and not admitting liability doesn't something that you just yourself said didn't go to court doesn't constitute damning evidence in law that's not and that's that's not what damning evidence is and there were claims made that these claims were settled out of court and i don't know the details of the settlement and i don't know that the details of the settlement are
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widely known and even if you but i don't know if you'd lost in court you might well have been late while it's hot a whole string of other lawsuits well but it didn't happen so nobody knows the answer the immigration minister claimed the trial would have cost tens of millions of dollars which you ended up paying compensation so a settlement was in the best interests of the australian taxpayer believe well it certainly would have been a lot cheaper if these. litigation had gone on for years on end for sure anyway it was settled so they were seventy million you paid it well and the immigration minister you said paid for nothing if it was just a campaign way to install some way may have been devalued by paying hundreds of millions in legal fees if it had gone on for a very long time it may have been by far the cheaper solution for us what's become clear through all this is that taking a tough line with the asylum seekers coming by it's
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a vote when there isn't that successive politicians. stereotype not to show you tried to reach you sure so i'm sure that characterization is exactly right by the way. no i don't know that it's particularly it's a more complex question and i think prime a face it's. not much of a vote with that however there's a different point we have a very big immigration program in australia we take about two hundred thousand migrants a year that's as people permanently settling we take another hundred or so thousand people over and above that as temporary workers and so on and we have broad public support for our immigration program and the reason we do is because we decide who comes to our country in the circumstances within which they come and you think that's right let's stand tall as that and that and that what i know about stigmatize but i think that's the right policy i think that's the right policy because i think the alternative the policy of chaos you know and i'm sorry to say
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you've seen a bit of that in europe and germany and instantly and so on this causes a couple of things one is i'm not sure how humane that is but secondly it does cause huge political reaction and you've seen the rise of alternative for deutschland and all sorts of other political no interest in europe to this stigmatizes so far and i'm just arguing with percent in night you make you make the point we do this for political reasons or that it's popular i don't think wrestling with you know these campaigns that are run against us over the processing centers and so on is easy or it's particularly popular i think it's we've done the right thing but i think overall where we have yielded some political dividends is that the public respect the fact that we have an organized and principled immigration policy and refugees routinely described as education. illiterate
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not christian enough and a bunch of queue jumpers below is why to come by boat is not only are you not angry over everything everybody says but you know you'll find in a country of tens of millions of people it will say all sorts of things that these are my savior a politician is i mean your former prime minister tony abbott i don't think it's a very. christian thing to come in by the back door rather than the front door he said i think the people we should accept should become in the right way not the wrong way now and i think he's right that people should come in the right way not the wrong way that's good point and the immigration work somehow you're going to vet who's more christian than somebody else in here is that that's taking the his use of the word so much and now it's a very christian thing that i mean by the back door well i don't know about christian or not but i do know that coming in the front door right rather than the back door is a much more appropriate way to come to australia and the immigration minister peter dutton there's so many people won't be numerate or literate in their own language let alone english they'd languish in unemployment queues no medicare so they'll be
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huge cos there's no sense in sugarcoating. so they will figure out that. he wants to give well i don't know about thick if you're a numerous an illiterate it doesn't mean you're thick it means you haven't had the opportunity to learn it's really. well you haven't had the opportunity to be educated your energy crisis smear isn't that well if people are don't haven't had education that that's a fact of life i mean we we think it's a spirit some knobs of asian we in our country choose who comes to our country understand that but we do take this next year will be taking about eighteen thousand refugees from refugee camps we resettle refugees into israel. so obviously we vet these people before we take them but we don't take people who pay people smugglers and try to get to australia that way whatever they are i don't know about their education qualifications at all which it doesn't matter what their education
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qualifications are we're not going to take them if they try to get to australia that way is extraordinary mr is that you. characterize all the criticism as a campaign so either a campaign by people in the senate campaign by people on the phone against the government to show yeah you're right when we buy the human rights even know is ations by international margaret it suggests a remarkable degree of coordination among hundreds of this war those are cold and i can talk to attack you with no evidence whatsoever stretching credibility i don't credit let me make two points first of all i don't. claim that they're coordinated sometimes they are and sometimes sample the world is organized sessions and people are not particularly coordinated as they come up with the same conclusion they make the same sort of allegations because they are all in a different ways no doubt trying to get us to change our policy i mean we put up
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with this for. seventeen or eighteen years we're pretty experienced there has been a huge attempt to change our policy so once we did. at one stage in two thousand and eight the government decided to change the policy then thousands of people started coming to australia. through paying people smugglers and hundreds of them were drowned on the way and the public really rebelled against this and the government came to the conclusion that it done the wrong thing and it reversed the policy back to the previous policy that we've had and so we're not going nobody living these immense well i don't know who don't know but it's not about where the you want isn't growing well the un is a big organization spirulina video coming out in the un time on the forty seven numbers on the human rights car i know you will be buying one i think that's right
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by the way and by the way i also would like to make this point thinking of western countries i think the public. throughout the western world would have a fair bit of sympathy for what we're doing i don't think everybody would i don't think a lot of the sort of people who you've been quoting in this interview would but i do think the mainstream of the community in germany or in britain or the united states and the stranger itself i do think the mainstream of the international least western oriented international community would understand the virtue of having a managed immigration program and a managed immigration policy not contracting some of it out to people smugglers most people would think that made good sense not everybody some people think we should take anybody who wants to come to australia no matter how they try to get out or not you know we are absolutely not going to do that not effort alexander the good stuff i think.
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be counteract that though a large degree at people who are they healthy for a long a period in their life. this is the w. news live from berlin and hamas calls for a new end to fatah uprising after u.s. president donald trump's decision to recognize de veau slum as the capital of israel. palestinians have.


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