Subjects; Pauline Hanson, the burqa, welfare drug-testing
LISA WILKINSON: A new poll reveals more than half of all Australians support Pauline Hanson’s call to ban the wearing of burqas in public. For more on this and a whole lot more joining me now is Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne and Shadow Infrastructure and Transport Minister, here in the studio, Anthony Albanese. Good morning to both of you.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning Lisa.
WILKINSON: Christopher, I’m going to start with you. Now Pauline Hanson created headlines with her burqa stunt in Parliament. Does this poll suggest to you that she was right?
PYNE: No, she was wrong to do what she did. She was wrong to try and turn the Senate into a circus, but that’s a different issue really to the issues around banning the burqa. Now the concern that I have about the burqa is that it isolates women from society in general and I think that is a dangerous thing. It’s nothing to do with it being Muslim, or any other kind of religion for that matter and that’s why I think the debate needs to be parsed if you like, to be separated out.
Now Pauline Hanson and the One Nation crowd wanted to make it about Muslim women. I think it’s really more an issue about isolating any kind of woman from the rest of society and that’s why I guess the French Government they banned the burqa because they said it was a way of controlling women.
WILKINSON: Anthony, can you understand why people are uncomfortable when the burqa is worn in public?
ALBANESE: Of course I can understand it. I’m uncomfortable and I think people who aren’t from that culture are uncomfortable with it. That’s not surprising. There’s a big step though towards banning things. Banning things does not work. I think that’s why George Brandis made the comment that he did. There’s a whole range of behaviour from people of different cultures, different ethnicities, different religions that people mightn’t be comfortable with, but that doesn’t mean you go about banning it.
WILKINSON: All right, well let’s move on. Welfare recipients will be randomly tested for drugs from next year but the experts and the Government are divided on whether it could do more harm than good. Christopher, there are concerns that those who are most likely to fail these tests will turn to crime to feed their addiction. How is the Government going to monitor this?
PYNE: Well Lisa, there are a whole lot of steps before we get to the point of taking a person off welfare and the first step that this trial is designed to discover is if you are on ice or some other kind of addictive drug, we want to find out and then we want to get those people the help that they need. This is not about punishing people; this is about trying to get people off drugs and into work so they can become a full member of society again. Too many people have jumped to the conclusion at the end that this is a way of punishing people. It’s actually a way of trying to get help to people who can’t get work because they’re on drugs.
WILKINSON: Anthony, Labor wasn’t supporting this a couple of weeks ago. Is that still the case or are you just waiting for the results of these trials?
ALBANESE: All of the experts say that this punitive measure will not work. If they were serious about getting people off drugs, and everyone can agree that that’s a good thing, then what you’d be doing is putting money into rehabilitation, putting money into supporting people through that process of getting off drugs, not stigmatising particular communities including Canterbury-Bankstown, some of which I happen to represent in the national parliament. People are quite resentful with the singling out of particular communities to say that’s where the dole bludgers are, that’s where the drug addicts are. That’s what’s going on here.
PYNE: It’s a trial.
ALBANESE: Well, a trial happens to be – go have a trial in the eastern suburbs and see how you go in Woollahra or what have you. Just pick people up at random there. That of course won’t happen, because that’s Malcolm Turnbull’s electorate.
WILKINSON: But are there as many welfare recipients in those suburbs?
ALBANESE: No, but there’s certainly at least as many cocaine people, people who are taking various drugs in the eastern suburbs as there are in the electorate that I represent.
WILKINSON: I think you’re probably right.
ALBANESE: I am right.
WILKINSON: But are they using the public purse to feed their cocaine habit?
ALBANESE: The surveys show that that’s the case in terms of the analysis that has taken place.
WILKINSON: But are they using public funds, taxpayers’ money, to feed their cocaine habit?
ALBANESE: No, they’re not by and large because of the nature of the addictions that are in the eastern suburbs are different. But why are these communities being singled out?
PYNE: It’s a pilot program.
ALBANESE: All of the experts, not one expert has come out in support of the government’s position on this. We should be listening to the experts in the health area when it comes to policies to achieve outcomes, we can agree on the outcome of getting people off drugs as a good thing, but go about it the right way.
WILKINSON: There we go. We didn’t mention citizenship once. I think that’s a win.
ALBANESE: I think Australians are probably over it.
WILKINSON: They probably are. But they’ve got until October for this to keep running, unfortunately.
ALBANESE: We might get one or two mentions between now and October.
PYNE: He’s still going.
PYNE: Turn him off!
SYLVIA JEFFREYS: You’re out of time, you two.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.