WEDNESDAY, 15 AUGUST 2018
SUBJECTS: The need for Malcolm Turnbull to take action on racist hate speech, Territory rights, Renewables and taxpayer-funded coal power.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Good morning everyone. We saw statements in the Senate last night that were hateful, hurtful and harmful. They were ignorant and mean spirited and which suggested that Australia should go back to the discredited White Australia Policy. My parents campaigned against the White Australia Policy, advocating its abolition as young students. Australia is better off for the abolition of the White Australia Policy – not just for the flow of migrants that came in, but for what it said to the world for our self-confidence as a nation that we no longer needed to discriminate based on race or religion.
Since then we've had migrants come into Australia who have enriched the nation. Australia is better off for the migration of Gustav Nossal, Les Murray, Frank Lowy, Anh Do and millions of other migrants who have brought innovation and ideas to Australia. Migrants are more likely to patent, they're more likely to start new businesses. Migrants are more likely to export, they bring a sense of entrepreneurialism and vigour to our economy.
We know that diversity is an economic driver. Diverse companies are more productive. Diverse cities are more productive. Diverse nations produce more. Yet what we've seen from Senator Anning's comments are a suggestion that we should go back to the past by reinstating discrimination.
Let's be clear, this man is only in Parliament as a result of Malcolm Turnbull's double dissolution. These statements are being made in a context in which the Coalition has denigrated migration. The Coalition needs to speak more strongly and forcefully for a value of a multicultural Australia and for the benefits that migrants bring to Australia.
We know from OECD research that there's little impact on migration on house prices or on dampening wages. The benefits of migration strongly outweigh the costs.
I'd also like to say on the National Energy Guarantee that Malcolm Turnbull should not take for granted Labor's support. The only thing the National Energy Guarantee does in its current form is to guarantee higher prices for Australia. Power prices that have gone up under Malcolm Turnbull just as emissions have risen. The last time Malcolm Turnbull took credit for a narrow victory on energy in the Liberal party room, he was rolled as leader the next day. So the idea that you ought to be claiming a great victory when only ten members of your own party have opposed you is frankly ludicrous.
Labor believes that we need an energy policy that puts renewables at the heart of the system. We don't agree with the faction of Malcolm Turnbull's party that thinks we should be spending taxpayer money on new coal-fired power stations. We do believe that if Malcolm Turnbull wants our support he needs to work with us to build a 21st century energy system.
JOURNALIST: Senator Anning's comments are perhaps a symptom of economic anxieties and you listed the many facts that would discredit that theory that migrants are taking jobs or that migrants are damaging the economy. But clearly that message is not cutting through. One Nation continues to enjoy strong support and growing support in some jurisdictions. Why isn't the message cutting through?
LEIGH: You can have your own opinion, but you can't have your own facts. The responsibility of all Parliamentarians is to speak clearly to the facts about migration. Leadership is about ensuring that we chart a path forward, that we're honest with the Australian people about the great benefits of migration and that we remember as David Irvine, the former head of ASIO has said, that a few hundred thousand Australian Muslims shouldn't be held responsible for the acts for a couple of hundred aberrant souls. The best defence against extremism in the Muslim community is working constructively with moderate Muslims. That's the strong message that's come from our national security agencies. So frankly, Senator Anning’s comments around terrorism make Australia a more dangerous place, not a safer place. We need to address fear, but we need to address it with facts and reason and optimism rather than a throwback to our discriminatory past.
JOURNALIST: Obviously facts and fake news is an international discussion right now. What can politicians and in particular Labor politicians where you actually have some say do about it?
LEIGH: We need to speak clearly and honestly to our community about the great benefits that migrants have brought. You’ve heard my colleague Tim Watts speaking articulately about his community and what he’s doing in Melbourne. In my own community, the Multicultural Festival is Canberra’s biggest festival each year and celebrates the successes that diversity brings. But for the Liberals, the choice is simple. Are they going to put One Nation last, as John Howard once did, or are they going to continue to tolerate this sort of divisive hate speech coming not just from current and former One Nation Senators, but also from members of their own party? Are they going to firmly stamp down on extremism and racism within the Liberal Party and create an environment of tolerance and multiculturalism rather than one of ignorance and fear?
JOURNALIST: We’ll come to the NEG in a moment, but just briefly, why was it that you introduced a bill yesterday on assisted dying when there was already one in front of the Senate, Leyonhjelm’s bill?
LEIGH: Thanks for that question. We need to be pushing on all fronts in order to repeal the Andrews’ bill. This is simply a matter of territory rights. In the ACT and the Northern Territory in the early 1990s, those Parliaments could legislate on euthanasia and then that right was taken away. Territory members and senators from the Labor Party uniformly believe that the territories should have the same right as the states to legislate on these matters. The ACT has a larger population than Tasmania, we’re unicameral like Queensland. The ACT Assembly should be able to make responsible decisions on euthanasia, and that’s a position supported by people who oppose euthanasia itself. You’re looking at people like Luke Gosling and Dave Smith, who on the substantive issue of euthanasia are yet to be persuaded that the laws should be passed, but who support territory rights. If only Zed Seselja could stand up and take the same view.
JOURNALIST: Obviously, this is very closely tied to the issue of euthanasia. Is it not a fair point that Zed Seselja makes that that decision is being made by 13 people in a local assembly?
LEIGH: Senator Seselja should stop denigrating the ACT Assembly, of which he used to be a part. He should recognise that that Assembly ought to have the same democratic rights it had in the early 1990s, the same democratic rights that the Tasmanian Parliament and other state parliaments enjoy. To be talking down the ACT shows again that Senator Seselja simply isn’t standing up for Canberra in the moments where it counts.
JOURNALIST: You say Labor isn’t guaranteeing support for the NEG. Why not end a decade of instability and take a compromise?
LEIGH: Because we need to drive down power prices, invest in renewables and ensure we do our part to meet our emissions targets.
JOURNALIST: Won’t stability do that?
LEIGH: In its current form, all this bill is going to do is to lock in higher power prices. Malcolm Turnbull needs to work with Labor to end this uncertainty. We said we’d come to the table when he spruiked his Emission Intensity Scheme, and then he dropped it. We said we’d work with him on his Clean Energy Target, and then he dropped it. The only constant over the past decade of the climate wars has been Malcolm Turnbull’s flip-flopping. He once accused Tony Abbott of being a weathervane on climate, but Malcolm Turnbull is spinning in the breeze like a weathervane when it comes to sensible climate policy. Rather than working with the faction in his party room which wants to spend taxpayer dollars on new coal fired plants, he should work with Labor’s sensible team on a long term target that drives down prices and drives down our emissions. Thanks everyone.
Authorised by Noah Carroll ALP Canberra