Subjects: Citizenship tests; CFMEU.
PRESENTER: Good morning to Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning.
PRESENTER: Now we’re going to change the batting order today. We normally start with Chris because we always defer to him as the Minister of the Government of the day, but we’re going to reverse the order.
ALBANESE: It’s pathetic isn’t it?
PRESENTER: Well it’s your turn today Albo.
ALBANESE: It’s about time you evened-up. You must have something difficult to ask.
PRESENTER: Well we want to talk about the citizenship test, because when the Government flagged the changes a few weeks ago, Labor seemed to be offering broad, sort of, philosophical support for it, but yesterday came out and said that the English language tests for people who are permanent residents are too onerous. Has Bill Shorten been rolled by you and the Left on this?
ALBANESE: No, absolutely not. This is a unanimous position of our caucus. We think that what has actually been proposed goes too far, and perhaps it is the case that because Labor said we would be prepared to look at something constructively, they worked to find something that was completely indefensible and unsupportable. Some of the Cabinet wouldn’t pass this English test. I mean Barnaby Joyce would be deported. This is…
PRESENTER: You can’t say that.
ALBANESE: Of course you can. Have you heard him in Question Time? I don’t know what language it is, but it isn’t English. This is university level English. We support, as current requirements are, for people to be proficient in English. That is a common sense idea that has support from across the Parliament so that people can participate with appropriate levels of conversational English. The Adult Migrant English Service provides those services up to basically level four. This is asking for level six – basically a university sort of test. We don’t expect that people will be able to do a PhD in English in order to be citizens and we think this is frankly just snobbery on behalf of the Government. The other thing is, delaying the eligibility of citizens will create, potentially, the two measures together, will create this almost permanent class of people who aren’t able to vote in elections. I’m pretty suspicious about what the aim of this is. Why would you delay it further? Don’t you want people to participate in Australian society as citizens?
PRESENTER: To you Christopher Pyne, do you think that there is a risk that by putting the high-jump bar so high, you can think of a number of great Australians, I’m thinking of someone like our Governor Hieu Van Le who came here from Vietnam and spoke limited English. There is a whole bunch of people who we might miss out on getting by putting the test too high?
PYNE: Well the problem for the Labor Party is that they don’t understand it. They are pretending that it is university-level English when in fact it isn’t. There are two kinds of IELT tests (International English Language Testing System Tests) IELTS Six Tests; one is for university, one is for competence in the general community and the one that we have introduced is for the competence in the general community. It isn’t university-level English and Labor just doesn’t understand it. Amazingly Tony Burke in 2006, the Shadow Minister for this in Labor, twice wrote columns for the Daily Telegraph calling for it in Sydney and is now opposing it, because I don’t think he understands what he is doing. Two months ago Bill Shorten said that this was fair enough, to quote him, it was fair enough, and now he is opposing it. The reality is that the Left have always been soft on these kinds of issues and they have rolled Bill Shorten. All we want people to do is …
ALBANESE: You just quoted Tony Burke and Bill Shorten …
PYNE: All we want people to do is to take the citizen – yes in, in fact I quoted them supporting these measures and now having changed their mind…
ALBANESE: The Left, they’re not in the Left.
PYNE: They’ve been rolled by you and the Left Anthony, that’s the point. So don’t try and confuse people. Obviously we know Burke and Shorten aren’t in the Left. They have been rolled by the Left and changed their positions from the past. All we want people to do is to take their citizenship seriously and being required to be able to speak competent English is the least people could need to do to become an Australian citizen, which is a really serious and important right to be gained in Australia. We also want those people who are being blocked out in the community, and they are out there now and not being allowed to learn proper English, in order to be able to control those people in the community, we want those people to have the right to become Australian citizens, to speak English, to be able to report domestic violence easily, to be able to traverse government websites easily, to be able to be full members of the community, not people who can’t actually take part fully in the community because that is what citizenship should require.
PRESENTER: Changing tack Albo, I want to get your thoughts on the comments made by CFMEU boss John Setka at a rally in Melbourne. It’s been covered extensively in the Herald Sun this morning in which he has threatened to expose the personal details of Australian Building Construction Commission inspectors. I will read a couple of quotes. He says: “When we come after you better be careful. We will lobby their neighbourhoods. We will tell them who lives in that house. They won’t be able to show their face anywhere. Their kids will be ashamed of who their parents are when we expose all these ABCC inspectors’’.
ALBANESE: Well, completely unacceptable comments. I find it extraordinary that any Australian would raise kids in particular. That just made me very just, just shocked that anyone would raise people’s families for goodness sake, of people who are employed in work. I just think the idea that people should be targeted is completely reprehensible. It has been reported to the police, my understanding is, and that is appropriate.
PRESENTER: Why does Labor continue to have a relationship with the CFMEU though, Albo? I mean, it’s not the first time things like this have happened in that union?
ALBANESE: Well there are some nutters in the Liberal Party too. You know, there’s people, there are individuals …
PRESENTER: I don’t know. I can’t recall an instance like this with Libs saying … I can’t remember, say the Chamber of Commerce and Industry saying it is going to release the names of union leaders and their home addresses so that blokes in cufflinks can hide in the alley way waiting to beat them up at night.
ALBANESE: Well no. Well, they didn’t say that, so let’s not extrapolate David. The comments are bad enough in themselves without putting words into people’s mouths. The comments are offensive.
PRESENTER: But clearly the purpose of releasing the names is to identify the people?
ALBANESE: The comments are offensive. I completely repudiate them. I can’t do more than that. I don’t know the bloke.
PYNE: Well I hope that Bill Shorten will repudiate them and what I wanted to know is why does the Labor Party keep taking donations from the CFMEU? Why are they still part of the ALP conference in Victoria and nationally and why does Bill Shorten allow the CFMEU to be part of the policy-making process of the Labor Party when they are a lawless organisation. The Heydon Royal Commission should have been enough for the Labor Party to distance themselves from the CMFEU and this latest outrage … what is required for Labor to give up on their umbilical cord-like relationship with this organisation?
ALBANESE: Well, let me tell you this, the average CFMEU member in the construction branch, which is what we are talking about here – there’s a range of branches of the union – is someone goes to work, someone who cares about occupational health and safety for themselves and their fellow workers; someone who wants to earn a decent day’s pay to put food on the table of their families; someone who cares about issues such as the shonky building practices that are now being examined as a result of the tragic fire that occurred in London. You know the average construction worker is a good man or woman.
ALBANESE: … contributing to the nation and they’re people who are represented in the Labor Party and participate in the Labor Party.
PRESENTER: Christopher Pyne, Anthony Albanese, always a rollicking conversation, thanks very much for Two Tribes again today.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.