SUBJECT: Biloela family.
HOST: Let’s talk to the Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese, who’s been in the Queensland town of Biloela today. He’s advocating for these families to stay. Thank you for coming on ‘Hack’, you’ve just landed from Biloela; are people there still hopeful that this family will be released?
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: They are and they’re very determined. Quite clearly this family have had a real impact in Biloela. Today I met with people including a woman who worked at the hospital where the two young girls were born. I’ve met with people who’ve worked with Nades; met with people who had seen the volunteer work that Priya has made. And this is a small town of 5000 people who are very clear – from the Mayor through to the people I’ve met with at the Civic Centre; through to the people at the RSL; the people I chatted to at the local bakery – they all were united in saying they want this family to be returned to Biloela, and be able to contribute as they were.
HOST: Anthony Albanese I want to know, though, Labor’s immigration policy is to stop the boats. Your party doesn’t usually support individual cases like this. Does your support of this family show you do support asylum seekers coming here?
ALBANESE: We support the existing migration arrangements which are there. We don’t support people coming by boat. What we do, though …
HOST: So, why do you support this family?
ALBANESE: What we support is that the Migration Act allows for ministerial intervention where there are circumstances that warrant that intervention. You can’t draw legislation that takes into account every single case. And we say that you can have strong borders without being weak on humanity. These are two young girls who’ve been born here. Who the local community wants to see them go to school here. You’ve got Nades who works at the local meatworks, it’s a tough job, he works hard, he makes a contribution.
HOST: But in light of all those contributions that this family has clearly made to the community, and you’re showing compassion by supporting them. They’ve applied all the way to the High Court to be allowed to stay here. So, should we be changing the goalposts to …
ALBANESE: They haven’t met the requirements for refugee status. We understand that, we respect the legal processes and the courts. But there’s another process as well that’s allowed for under the law, which is ministerial intervention. Peter Dutton has intervened since he’s been the minister on more than 4000 occasions. He has intervened on average over three times each and every single day that he has been the Minister for Immigration. And we know that at times that’s been for example, because people picked up the phone and told him that they wanted a couple of au pairs who weren’t eligible.
ALBANESE: And the Minister signed off on that. What we say is that this is a far more serious task, and the minister at that time said that he was making that decision based upon compassionate grounds, well he should show some compassion here.
HOST: You don’t usually support ministerial discretion, as you just said. So, why in this case in particular?
ALBANESE: I don’t know on what basis you say that. I have indeed made representations to Minister Dutton and other immigration ministers, based upon what I believe to be cases of people in my electorate where it is warranted. Quite clearly here – the Government itself says they want people to settle in regional communities – the meatworks is full of workers from overseas on temporary migration visas, on 457 visas from other countries who are working there. This is someone who is also from overseas, but wants to settle there permanently and to make a contribution to this regional country town.
HOST: I do have one last question before we let you go. I mean, supporters of this family say this shows that our immigration system is cruel, because it essentially comes down to luck and the right people backing you as to whether you can stay in Australia and be saved by ministerial discretion. What do you say to that?
ALBANESE: Ministerial discretion has been in the Act for a very long time. And it should be there, because it’s important to recognise the fact that you can’t write legislation that will take into account every case. And in part here, what also should be taken into account; is the fact that the Government has essentially got a number of the moves that they’ve made wrong. I think it’s wrong that you needed over half a dozen people arrive, without notice, in Biloela to take off this family. The children were separated from the parents. There is no need for that sort of behaviour to have occurred, just as there was no need to transfer this family to Darwin in the middle of the night, and then to transfer them to Christmas Island. This must be incredibly distressing, particularly for the two children who are involved in this.
HOST: Anthony Albanese, Opposition Leader, thank you for coming on Hack.
ALBANESE: Thanks for talking with me.