We shouldn't trash our multicultural success story - Transcript, Sky News Agenda




MONDAY, 12 JUNE 2017

Subjects: Counterterrorism, internment of Muslims, citizenship changes, Finkel Report.

KIERAN GILBERT: With me now Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh. Let's look at the internment debate first of all. Ken Wyatt, a Liberal Minister, says he's open to the idea as a last resort. What do you make of where this argument is at, given the community concerns about safety and the terrorist threat?

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: I thought that internment was a shorthand way of referring to the problems of the past. Don't forget that after the United States interned more than 100,000 people, it paid reparations and issued an apology. And I don’t think people look back to our internment of Japanese Australians in the 1940s as the way forward. What is critical, in countering Islamic extremism, that we recognise the vast majority of Australian Muslims are of good faith. There's half a million Muslims in Australia, contributing strongly to our multiethnic, multiracial society  and, as David Irvine pointed out in his outgoing address as head of ASIO, they shouldn't be made to pay for the sins of a couple of hundred of aberrant souls.

GILBERT: But you can understand why people are very worried right now, given the events around the world and even in our own city, in Melbourne. You can understand why people are very worried that a mass scale attack is possible, if not likely?

LEIGH: Absolutely, Kieran. But -

GILBERT: But further to that, in terms of internment, the debate, while that might not be the language to use, is it possible to go further in monitoring individuals who are under watch?

LEIGH: We have given our support to changes in bail laws and parole laws which have been pushed forward at COAG. But we also need to recognise that a great strength of Australia is our moderate Muslim community, who are the eyes and ears of countering violent extremism. We need to work with them, not turn them away. For that's exactly what groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS want to do, is to turn against moderate Muslims and that makes Australia not only a less tolerant place but also a more dangerous place.

GILBERT: Is there scope, though, for greater use of control orders and that sort of thing, where bail and parole and keeping people detained beyond a sentence where there’s evidence to suggest they might breach the law again, that’s one thing, but individuals yet to be charged but ASIO and the agencies are worried about them - is there scope within the law to do something in terms of monitoring them?

LEIGH: They are absolutely reasonable discussions to have, Kieran. But the last thing we should be doing is trashing our extraordinary Australian success story of building a multiracial, multiethnic democracy in which we don't just tolerate difference, we embrace it. It's a great strength of Australia, and to take it away from that, makes us a less safe nation, and less interesting, less engaged, less productive nation.

GILBERT: Will Labor back the Dutton changes to the citizenship legislation?

LEIGH: We’ll take them through our usual processes. Peter Dutton announced these in April but is yet to put forward in the public domain the legislation.

GILBERT: Are you comfortable with what you have heard so far?

LEIGH: Improving the English language standards for migrants is unexceptional. I don’t mind the idea that the typical new citizen should have to speak English better than Barnaby Joyce. But let’s not pretend that that best way of fighting violent extremism is through good grammar.

GILBERT: But there's also a broader issue, these changes to citizenship laws and included in them the appeal of the citizenship process that Mr Dutton is going to align that to the treatment of visas. This all seems quite appropriate, doesn't it?

LEIGH: When we see the detail of this, we'll work it through. But I think Peter Dutton is largely interested in his own power plays and less interested in details of legislation. If he wasn’t, he’d be public about the consultations and he would have given Labor a copy of the legislation weeks ago.

GILBERT: Isn’t it fair to say that he would have just assumed the other major party would be on board, given you’ve said a lot of it is unexceptional?

LEIGH: If he wants our support, he needs to work with us. We're up for a constructive discussion about improving laws. But the document in April almost contained more photos than it did words. There's very little detail out there on the public domain about issues that really matter.

GILBERT: On the Finkel report, the hope is there will be some bipartisanship on the issue, but on the fringes of the debate, there’s criticism from the Greens, elements of the Coalition also raising concern. Is it a line that Labor won't cross, that there needs to be coal ruled out as part of the any Clean Energy Target?

LEIGH: Let's just look at what we’ve had over the past few years, Kieran. We’ve had electricity emissions going up, total emissions going up. We’ve had power prices going up, and renewables jobs falling. In the environment, we need to go back to a market-based mechanism. That’s what Ross Garnaut, who just got his AC today, has been pointing out. It's what Malcolm Turnbull has been pointing out for years. You can do that through a range of forms of carbon pricing. The one that business supports and Labor supports is an emission intensity scheme-

GILBERT: Business actually supports a low emissions target now. There's been a statement from various business groups, the Farmers’ Federation, even the ACTU in this joint statement calling for a full and fair consideration of the Finkel Report.

LEIGH: You’ve got to distinguish between what people will settle for and their first-best preference. The Business Council of Australia and a range of important business groups have backed an emissions intensity scheme. You and I have spoken about this before. But an environment where the Prime Minister is captive to the right wing of his party, then we can have a sensible discussion about other mechanisms, Clean Energy Targets and the like. They’re again market-based mechanisms, they use different forms of carbon pricing. To the extent that they can get us to the internationally agreed climate targets that the world agreed on in Paris –

GILBERT: Is coal a deal breaker, though, if there’s any prospect of coal? It seems odd, given Labor supported carbon capture storage in the past, that now anything to do with coal has got to be knocked on the head.

LEIGH: Well, let’s go back to what the Finkel Review said. It said that most of our coal generation capacity is reaching the end of its natural life and it said that there’s very little appetite among investors to put new money into coal-powered fire stations.

GILBERT: Andrew Leigh, we’re out of time. Thanks for that.


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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.