Subjects: Multiculturalism, asylum seekers, Emma Husar, Melbourne.
BEN FORDHAM: There’s a new push to have all migrants heading to Australia assessed for values and beliefs before they are granted permanent residency. The Government says there aren’t the same expectations on arrivals under the humanitarian scheme as under the migrant intake. For more we are joined by Christopher Pyne, from the Liberal Party, and Anthony Albanese, from the Labor Party. Good morning to you both.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning Ben. Good morning Anthony.
FORDHAM: Christopher, do we need tougher measures?
PYNE: Well we need to make sure that the people coming to Australia are integrated well into our community. Obviously we have the most successful multi-cultural country in the world and that is a tremendous achievement of our nation, particularly since the Second World War. But we want people to understand that we support the rule of law, that we encourage equality between the sexes, we respect people’s choices, support democracy. They are the kinds of values that we want to make sure that all of our new migrants also adhere to and I think that’s fair enough.
FORDHAM: Albo, do you support this kind of thing or not?
ALBANESE: I think it is pretty odd that an Australian Government Minister goes to the UK and talks our country down. I have always talked our country up. That is what ministers and shadow minsters do and the fact is we have an incredibly successful multi-cultural nation as Christopher has said. You only have to look towards just a week ago there Majak Daw and Aliir Aliir marking each other for North Melbourne and the Swans respectively in an Australian Rules football game. First generation African migrants. And what we have in Australia, I think, is a bit of a microcosm for what the world should be – people from different religions, races and backgrounds living together in overwhelmingly in harmony.
FORDHAM: Hear, hear! Powerful union bosses have declared a list of demands for the Labor Party including an end to offshore detention and turning back the boats. Now Albo, you have recently had a change of heart on this issue.
ALBANESE: No, not at all. We actually had a national conference in 2015 that set our policy down. But I will tell you what, you can be strong on border security without giving up our national soul and the fact is there is concern out there in the community because people have been on Nauru and Manus for five years. That’s too long.
FORDHAM: Did I miss something Albo? Didn’t you toughen up your own personal position on the issue of turnbacks and also offshore detention?
ALBANESE: I said what I have said a number of times Ben, which is to acknowledge that what we did in government didn’t work, that there were issues, which was why we changed our policy towards the end of our period in government. And I have said on a number of occasions we need to be tough on people smugglers without being weak on humanity and the fact is the Government needs to find settlement and certainty for those people who have been in Manus and Nauru for too long.
PYNE: As usual Ben, the union movement have let people know that Labor will be soft on border protection if they get elected. They will turn back the policy that has stopped the people smugglers. We have always known that with Labor. That’s what happened last time they were in office. The Howard Government stopped the boats. The Rudd Government restarted them. The Abbott Government stopped the boats again. And if Labor is re-elected again the unions have made it very clear they will demand that the people smugglers are put back in business.
FORDHAM: I know he is saying he hasn’t changed his position, Christopher. Is that true? Has Albo not changed his position, or has he toughed up his personal position recently?
PYNE: Well Labor would have us believe, including Anthony, that they have the same policy as the Government on border protection. They don’t. They have people in their ranks like Ged Kearney and others who want to start the people smuggling contests again by weakening our border protection and the unions have just confirmed that and unfortunately Bill Shorten is a cat’s paw of the union movement.
ALBANESE: Christopher, you know full well that Labor changed our policy in 2013.
PYNE: But nobody believes you.
ALBANESE: We re-introduced offshore detention but what we think is, and you know in your heart Christopher, that five years is too long. We determined that policy at our national conference in 2015.
PYNE: And you spoke against it. Remember? You spoke against it.
ALBANESE: I didn’t speak at all in the debate. I did not speak in that debate at the national conference in 2015.
PYNE: You said that you wouldn’t be able to turn back the boats.
ALBANESE: We determined our policy then. You can be strong on border protection without giving up our national soul.
FORDHAM: Let me jump in, the Labor Party has launched an investigation into rising star Emma Husar over allegations about her staff. Her staff have accused her Albo of bullying, intimidation and verbal abuse. Is Emma a bully Albo?
ALBANESE: What I know about Emma Husar is that she is a single mum, works incredibly heard, represents her electorate very strongly. I find her a terrific person to deal with. I hadn’t met her frankly before she ran for Lindsay, but I find her a very good member of Parliament.
FORDHAM: Have you come across Emma Christopher? Do you share Albo’s assessment on Emma?
PYNE: Well I don’t really know Emma Husar. She is a new member. But if there is an investigation that the Labor Party is conducting into her workplace practices, the investigation should be allowed to see its course and then I assume that they will make an assessment. I am not obviously privy to what these complaints are and I think you’d be unwise to comment on them unless you have all the facts.
FORDHAM: What a pleasure to see both of you this morning, Hopefully next time you can be face to face.
ALBANESE: Maybe we can have dinner in Melbourne.
PYNE: That would be great, especially if Ben is paying.
FORDHAM: Thank you Christopher Pyne and thank you Albo – a bit of a nod to another discussion point this week where the Prime Minister suggested that maybe not everyone feels safe going out in Melbourne because of African gangs. Anyway we will leave that for another day.