The 157 men, women and children had been detained on a customs ship after their boat was intercepted by Australian authorities a month ago.
It's all happening ahead of a High Court challenge to on-sea detention.
The High Court is due to sit again this week.
Interviewer: Chris Uhlmann
Speaker: Scott Morrison, Australia's Immigration Minister
SCOTT MORRISON: They've been in good care from the Australian Customs and Border Protection service while they've been on board the Ocean Protector, which is a well equipped vessel and there were no reports of any medical incidents during that time.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Now you say that Indian officials are going to be processing these people. Can you give us another precedent where foreign officials have processed asylum claims on Australian soil?
SCOTT MORRISON: Well this isn't about processing asylum claims, this is about determining a person's identity and residency and this occurred last year, as recently as that. Eighteen Indian citizens had arrived illegally by boat, went back to India after we provided access to consular officials from the Indian government to do just that. It's fairly standard practise.
I mean, I don't think anyone- well, I'd be surprised if anyone is seriously suggesting that people were being persecuted in India by the Indian government. Well I think- well, apart from Sarah Hanson-Young which is just an absurd and offensive claim.
CHRIS UHLMANN: People do claim to be oppressed by their governments quite regularly don't they?
SCOTT MORRISON: Well if we can't turn people back to India, what's next? New Zealand?
I mean, India is a vibrant democracy, they are a good partner and they are working together closely with us to fight against people smuggling. I mean the Indian government itself and India more generally have been praised by the UNHCR for the way that they've provided support for people who are from Sri Lanka living in India.
So the suggesting that people have left a safe country, are somehow fleeing persecution in India I think is absurd.
CHRIS UHLMANN: What did the Indian government want in return for doing you this favour?
SCOTT MORRISON: Nothing.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Nothing at all?
SCOTT MORRISON: Nothing.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Did the Indian government talk to you about their nuclear program and the fact that they'd like to be part of the suppliers group?
SCOTT MORRISON: No.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Nothing was raised with you at all about the sorts of things that India would want.
SCOTT MORRISON: No.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Why is it that the Australian Government needs to have the Indian government involved in this process? Why can't you assess whether or not they're Indian's yourself?
SCOTT MORRISON: Because that is something for any government to do who is the host government who is determining their citizenship or residency. I mean, it's not for Australia to do that. I mean, at the end of the day people will go back to India where India is prepared to accept them back in these circumstances, and that obviously requires co-operation and the involvement of their officials.
I mean, our purpose here Chris is this: in stopping the boats we seek first to disrupt any venture that may seek to come, whether it's from India, from Sri Lanka, from Indonesia or anywhere else. We've had considerable success on that front.
It is then our objective to ensure that such a vessel doesn't reach here. Now, if we're in circumstances where we're in now, then we would seek to have people sent back where that is possible to be done, and that's what we're doing.
The back stop to all of this is offshore processing and those measures remain available to us, but I think the fact that there has been so much interest in this one venture, the first venture since December 19 last year where this process has been undertaken, and the fact that this is such an uncommon and irregular event, I think demonstrates the success the Government has had on this. I mean, last July…
CHRIS UHLMANN: The only thing that we're trying to establish here, whether or not any of these people are making protection claims and have they made those claims to Australian officials?
SCOTT MORRISON: Well no, and the other issue here is, Chris, I mean, these people have come from the safe country of India. They haven't come from Sri Lanka, they haven't come from any of those other countries - Afghanistan or anything like that.
They have come from India. And as a result, where they're safe in India, a passage to Australia here is nothing more than an economic migration seeking to illegally enter Australia.
CHRIS UHLMANN: I'm just trying to work out whether or not any of them have made protection claims or whether or not they have the ability to make those claims to Australian officials.
SCOTT MORRISON: Well the process will be that we will seek to establish their residency and nationality or citizenship of India, and that's the process we're now engaged in.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Are you expecting to be defeated in the High Court and is that why 157 people have been bought to Australia?
SCOTT MORRISON: No these issues are completely separate matters, we've been fully compliant with the court on the process that they're undertaking. We will continue to do so, we've given various undertakings to the court which we have honoured in every aspect and we'll continue to do that.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Why have you broken your policy for off-shore processing and decided to sent them to Curtin?
SCOTT MORRISON: We haven't broken our promises for off-shore processing. Off-shore processing is the backstop measure. Where we can get people sent back to the country from which they've come from, then that's exactly what we'll do and that's the step we're now engaged in.
It's not the policy of this Government to send out the water taxi the second the whistle goes up, as was the practise of the previous government, that's not what we do. We seek to frustrate every aspect of this venture, and that includes having people sent back where we can do that. And now you'll know that he mainland of Australia is an excised off-shore place for the purposes of the migration act.
CHRIS UHLMANN: That's true, Australia is no longer part of Australia for the purposes of the Migration Act.
SCOTT MORRISON: And that was the legislation brought in by the previous government which we supported. Now that means the off-shore processing options remain open to the Government in relation to this caseload of people that have come by this method, and the Government reserves those options.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Did you contemplate sending these people to Christmas Island or processing them on board the boat?
SCOTT MORRISON: Well there… On processing on the boat, well we're not talking about processing again I should stress here Chris. We're talking about determining the identity…
CHRIS UHLMANN: Having their identities determined...
SCOTT MORRISON: … of people and that's a very, very different process. And we did discuss with the Indian government about where that could be done. They were happy to do it n the ship but the issue there was just how long that might take, and the overall welfare of the people on board.
Now, that's why I thought it was best in these circumstances to have that done separately at a facility and Curtin was the most convenient and I think the best place to do that. I mean, there's not many people at Curtin at the moment, we're in the process of closing that centre down.
I mean, we went through a similar process, as I said, last year with Indian citizens and it took about a month or so to get through that process and how long it will take on this occasion we'll see.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Alright what happens if these people all turn out to be Tamils from Sri Lanka and the Indians won't take them back?
SCOTT MORRISON: Well, we'll take this one step at a time, but the indications are that at the moment that there are a very large number of people on this ship that had been resident in India for a very long time. The ship was an Indian flagged vessel. It came out of the port of Pondicherry, it didn't pick up anyone along the way…from Sri Lanka...
CHRIS UHLMANN: Sure, but if you haven't talked to them you don't know who they are, though, do you?
SCOTT MORRISON: Well we have talked to them and we spent quite a bit of time talking to them when they were at sea to at least establish from our perspective what their likely residence and citizenship may have been…
CHRIS UHLMANN: And when you talked to them, did any of them make claims for protection?
SCOTT MORRISON: Well again, that is not something that is part of that process at that time.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Someone might sing out, though, and say I'd like to make a claim for detention- to be a refugee in Australia, though, they might have told you.
SCOTT MORRISON: People say they want to come and settle in Australia because that's what they've paid the people smugglers for but that's not what they'll be getting here under any set of circumstances.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Just finally and briefly what will happen to those people if India doesn't take them back?
SCOTT MORRISON: Well, again we'll work through that process when we come to it, but the Government has available to it all of the options. And what's disappointing here, Chris, is that the Labor Party now have adopted a policy that's even softer than what they had when they were in government. They are saying that if a country is prepared to take people back, such as India, then they're not even willing to have that conversation with them, and I just think this demonstrates again that the Labor party and the Greens on this, simply don't get it.
The fact that this is the first venture, Chris, the first venture where we've had to undertake this compared to over 200 over the same period last year, I think says volumes about the success of the Government's policies today.