Subjects; Citizenship; Manus Island
DAVID SPEERS: Labor’s Anthony Albanese joining me this afternoon. Thank you for joining us from Melbourne after, I understand that you’ve been in Ballarat, today.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I have, David, good to be with you.
SPEERS: Let me get your thoughts on – good to see you there – the argument now between Bill Shorten and Malcolm Turnbull over exactly how this citizenship mess should be resolved. Tell me why Labor believes there needs to be a deadline of December 1, midday, December 1. For everyone that produced their documents.
ALBANESE: David, It’s not a matter of what Labor wants; it’s what the Australian public want. They want an end to this, they want an end to this sideshow. We have now, it’s November 8 I think today, and we have therefore three weeks for people to get their documentation in order.
Parliament will sit in that last week of November, it’s appropriate to then have, once the Parliament resolves, on a process of disclosure, why would you wait weeks for that to occur? It will overshadow, for goodness sake, it is in the Government’s interest as well to get this out of the way. Because this will overshadow all other issues.
It draws into question the legitimacy of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and I think that the Australian people want certainty. Providing that information by December 1, means that you could then have any subsequent action that Parliament might see fit to view, that is required, are done in the following sitting week. Apart from anything else, there is a cost factor.
Why would you bring Parliament back in late December? When it is sitting in the first week of December?
SPEERS: So, in that second sitting week in the first week of December, any problems would be referred to the High Court? Do you accept that it’s unlikely that the High Court would necessarily be able to deal with them in December? Would some possibly be dragging into the New Year anyway?
ALBANESE: I don’t think that the High Court is going to sit on Christmas Day, David. But obviously the earlier that any issues are received by it the earlier they will be resolved.
The Australian public are sick of this. The Australian public want government to get on with the business of governing, and I can’t see for the life of me why Malcolm Turnbull wants this to drag on and on and on. What we’re talking about here in terms of disclosure, is people producing their birth certificates and information that they have, the documentation. And surely if Members haven’t got that now, then they have been living under a rock because this has been an issue now for months.
Surely members have this information.
SPEERS: Look, you’re right; this has been on the radar since August. We’ve known the high court ruling, and a very strict ruling just some weeks ago, so yes.
ALBANESE: Some might argue that it’s been there since 1901.
SPEERS: Indeed. But there are going to be some complex cases and I’m thinking of the likes of Josh Frydenberg for example. Do they deserve the time to be able to get whatever they need to satisfy the Parliament?
ALBANESE: If there is a case, that there is for some reason an extra few weeks, then let that be put. But I haven’t heard that put. Josh Frydenberg has produced his evidence, I’ve seen it on Sky News, David. The copy of the documentation that suggests that, his mum I think it is, from memory, came here as a stateless person.
I think that information has been put out there and you know this whole exercise is …
SPEERS: So you don’t see any problem with Josh Frydenberg? Given his mum, as you say, arrived – there is a document that I have certainly seen and you have referred to there. It is stamped stateless, you don’t think there is a problem for Josh Frydenberg?
ALBANESE: I’m not a lawyer, I’m an economist. But the common sense test tells you, that someone who comes here with stateless on their Birth Certificate, to me very cleary, is stateless.
The idea that someone would be targeted, of that background, a refugee, escaping the Holocaust of the fascists in World War Two and the consequences that occurred there. I have every sympathy, let me say this, with Josh Frydenberg and his circumstances.
SPEERS: You’re right, I think many do, and it has come to this extreme situation. And John Alexander too, his dad I think arrived in Australia 110 years ago. But the issue is the High Court is taking a very strict interpretation of this.
You must renounce any entitlement to dual citizenship before, not only Election Day but nomination day, which was on June 9. Let me ask you about Labor’s Justine Keay, in that regard then. She received confirmation of renouncing British Citizenship on July 11 that’s after she nominated, that’s after the election date of last year.
ALBANESE: Let’s be clear, what the obligation is for Members to have made every effort. And there is no doubt that the people who’ve had a difficulty are people who haven’t made any effort prior to their election to Parliament. Justine Keay …
SPEERS: Yes that might have been the case, Anthony Albanese, on the (inaudible).
ALBANESE: There is nothing new in this David.
SPEERS: Well there is …
ALBANESE: There isn’t …
SPEERS: Because the High Court in their latest ruling, the unanimous ruling, says that Section 44 does not disqualify only those who have not made reasonable efforts to conform to requirements. So reasonable efforts may not be enough. If it’s a black letter interpretation, you’re in or you’re out.
ALBANESE: Justine Keay has legal advice that she satisfies the requirements, we have a rigorous process in place, Justine Keay’s information isn’t new, David, this is an attempt of the Government …
SPEERS: The High Court interpretation is new.
ALBANESE: Well, it’s not actually it wasn’t made today David, by the way.
SPEERS: Okay. October 27, when the High Court handed down its unanimous decision.
ALBANESE: We’re well into a by-election campaign, I’ll be up in New England next week. And so there is nothing new in this, Justine Keay has been very transparent, upfront, about her circumstances. I’m not a lawyer…
SPEERS: I appreciate that, but the High Court made it clear, only weeks ago, that its interpretation of this is now fairly strict, and that reasonable efforts to renounce may not have been enough.
ALBANESE: That’s your interpretation of the High Court decision, David. High Court Justice Speers. And with respect …
SPEERS: I’m just reading what the judges have said and one of them says in relation to Malcolm Roberts …
ALBANESE: With respect, you’re extrapolating – Malcolm Roberts, for goodness sake, Malcolm Roberts’ argument …
SPEERS: This is a High Court Judge. He says in relation to Senator Roberts, that he ceased to be a citizen on the registration of his declaration of renunciation.
ALBANESE: Malcolm Roberts went on Sky News, made a fool of himself – frankly Paul Murray said that there is nothing to see here, because he believed that he wasn’t a citizen of another country at the time of his election. He believed that to be the case. That was the Malcolm Roberts Defence.
SPEERS: What matters now, I’m not defending that, but what matters now is what the High Court found about him. The High Court found that he ceased to be a citizen …
ALBANESE: There is no parallel between Malcolm Roberts and Justine Keay. None.
SPEERS: Maybe not, but this is how the High Court interprets whether or not you’re a dual citizen. You cease to be a dual citizen on the registration of declaration of renunciation. So for Justine Keay …
ALBANESE: No, that was about the circumstances of Malcolm Roberts. I don’t believe there is a parallel. I’m not going to get into a quasi-judicial argument between two non-lawyers.
SPEERS: Fair enough. But there would be some doubt there …
ALBANESE: The fact is that Malcolm Roberts circumstances are very different from Justine Keay.
SPEERS: There is enough doubt there that you can’t sit here and say she is absolutely fine, based on what the High Court has now decided.
ALBANESE: The advice that Justine Keay has, is that there are no issues with regard to her citizenship and that she satisfied the requirements.
SPEERS: Let me move on, the Manus Island situation, Anthony Albanese. I’m keen for your thoughts on this. There are – some have apparently left today, more than 500 hundred men in what must be pretty appalling conditions now at that centre, where food, water, power has been shut off. They are being urged to move over to the new centre where food, water and power is available. What do you think needs to happen now for the sake of these men?
ALBANESE: Manus Island was supposed to be a processing centre not a centre of indefinite detention. The Government has failed on this.
When the Government looks at people on Manus Island they see a political opportunity, I see human beings who are deserving of respect and who have obligations from Australia to provide an appropriate level of protection.
Those people who have been found to be refugees can’t simply be left on Manus Island indefinitely. And that’s what we’re seeing here, and no wonder there is such frustration from these people on Manus. The Government has to provide a resolution and some certainty and security for these people.
It can’t just go on forever, with them being seen as essentially providing that political opportunity for the Government.
SPEERS: So should they, Anthony Albanese, be brought to Australia?
ALBANESE: The Government has a position, which is a shared by Labor; that we do not want to start the people smuggling business again. But what that doesn’t mean is that people should be kept in detention indefinitely.
What needs to happen, is that the work that has taken place for the US needs to be fast tracked. The other settlement countries. There are people who have been settled in Canada, New Zealand has an offer on the table. The Government has to come up with a plan that provides some sense of a future for these people on Manus.
Now the Government has a position of saying that these people won’t be settled in Australia, and that is because of the issue of providing, if you like, a signal that will start up the people smuggling trade.
SPEERS: And do you buy that? Do you think that would happen?
ALBANESE: There is no doubt that there are pull factors as well as push factors when it comes to the circumstances of Asylum Seekers, seeking to come to Australia.
There is no question that is the case, that Labor when we were in Government underestimated – and I certainly am one of the people who underestimated the extent of the pull factors that were present there.
But having said that, we’re dealing with the circumstances which are there now, and people have been in detention for four years in circumstances that have created a great deal of mental anguish for them, that are conditions that simply aren’t acceptable for Australia to be associated with.
SPEERS: So …
ALBANESE: That is why …
SPEERS: Is it possible to bring them, or some, to Australia without resuming the people smuggling trade?
ALBANESE: The Government circumstances are that they want, and Labor supports, settlement in third countries. That can be done.
The Government has done, it would appear, just sat back for now four years. I mean this is a Government that can’t continue to talk of the Labor Government.
So that Labor and the Coalition are as one with regard to people being brought to Australia, who have attempted to come to Australia by sea. But where the distinction is, is on the treatment of these people, is completely unacceptable, and the Government can’t leave them in this state of limbo, in circumstances whereby – they have known for example they announced very early on months ago that they were going to close, as a result of the court decision, they were going to close the detention centre. And it would appear that there has been very little effort done to organise for these people to have somewhere where they feel secure to go.
But more importantly, is that the longer term solutions, whether they be settled in the US or Canada or New Zealand or other options, the Government doesn’t seem to have put any effort into it.
They’ve been prepared to pay the enormous financial cost as well, that this exercise has cost over the last four years. But they continue to almost say, this has got nothing to do with us, and point towards circumstances that happened now half a decade ago.
It’s not good enough. The Government has a responsibility and they need to fulfil that responsibility including their international obligations.
SPEERS: Alright, Anthony Albanese, the Shadow Minister for Transport and Infrastructure thank you for joining us this afternoon
ALBANESE: Good to be with you David.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.