31 Jan 2017

SUBJECTS: Trump immigration ban; Labor’s focus on jobs.

KIERAN GILBERT: Labor frontbencher Brendan O’Connor joins me live from Adelaide. Mr O’Connor thanks for your time, first time for 2017. What’s your response to that criticism from Peter Dutton that this is just opportunism from Bill Shorten, this response to Donald Trump?
BRENDAN O’CONNOR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS: Well it’s a typical response from the Minister, but it really doesn’t answer the more important questions, Kieran. That is firstly, what is going to be this country’s response to those blanket bans. I think we need to know for example the implications for Australian dual citizens, we don’t know that yet. And it would be far better for the Minister for Immigration to be providing clear information to Australian dual citizens about the impact of that ban upon them, than attacking the leader of the Opposition.
I think we also need to know, Kieran, more of the details on the refugee plan as well. If indeed the agreement is to go ahead that’s a good thing so that people can be processed properly, but we need to know more about that as well. And that’s the sort of thing that Minister Dutton should be focusing on rather than taking cheap shots at the Opposition.
GILBERT: Well as I understand, the Prime Minister is going to provide us some information in that regard. Mr Turnbull joining us on AM Agenda in about 10 minutes from now, so stay tuned for our interview this morning with Mr Turnbull in relation to this issue and other matters of the day. Specifically on the migration ban from Donald Trump I want to put to you, Brendan O’Connor, that isn’t Mr Shorten picking and choosing in terms of discriminating against refugees here? Some would argue, including the Greens have argued overnight, that Labor in its support of offshore processing and the tough border protection regime when it comes to people that arrive by boat discriminating against refugees that arrive by that particular course of transport?
O’CONNOR: What Labor supports is preventing people dying needlessly at sea and moving from second countries – countries of transition. Labor will never support, for example, returning refugees back to countries where they have been seeking refuge from persecution, so we’re not inconsistent with the refugee convention. But we do, of course, want to see the end – and to that extent we support the Government – we want to see the end of the hundreds of people that have perished at sea, seeking to travel to this country in that manner. And I don’t see in any way that’s a comparison with blanket bans from countries to come to Australia.
GILBERT: Well, Mr Turnbull and the Immigration Minister both saying that if they’ve got criticisms or contributions to make to the US administration they’ll do it privately. Is that the way that it should be done in terms of what is and what remains Australia’s major security ally?
O’CONNOR: I think the way to approach this first and foremost, Kieran, is to really express our values and our approach. We have a non-discriminatory immigration system. We don’t believe in discriminating and haven’t done so for four decades. It’s been a bi-partisan position of the two major parties and it should remain so. And there’s no harm – in fact it’s important now at this time that the Prime Minister declares the importance of a non-discriminatory immigration policy.
As for how the Government should deal with the US administration, we do need to know, Kieran, as soon as possible, whether in fact the executive order on the bans will affect dual Australian citizens and to date we don’t know the answer to that.
We don’t know whether in fact the refugee agreement will be constrained or restricted in any way because of the ban - for example if there are Iranians that are in off shore processing centres, will they not be able to be part of the agreement that’s been struck between our two countries?
O’CONNOR: That’s a very important development, question that we’ve not-
GILBERT: Well, we will seek to get some clarification from the Prime Minister in the next few-
O’CONNOR: Absolutely.
GILBERT: Well, we are going to be speaking with him shortly so I will ask him a few of those issues. Just finally on the jobs matter, this is the Opposition Leader’s focus this morning. It will be at lunch time at the Press Club, arguing for a greater Australian representation of major projects. Is this something that, well, obviously is going to be a major theme from Bill Shorten over the coming months; but how much of this is about a protectionist sentiment trying to tap into the same thing that Donald Trump basically did?
O’CONNOR: Well this pre-dates the election of Trump by some, in many respects, insofar as the concern about the abuse and over use of temporary work visas, when we’ve got 1.8 million Australians either looking for some work or looking for more work. We’ve got hundreds of thousands of young Australians unemployed and what we say is; of course we need to use temporary workers from time to time from overseas but that should not be the substitute for workers to be trained and to acquire the skills needed in our labour market. And that’s why today Bill Shorten will outline how important TAFE and training is and why we need procurement policies to ensure we have more apprentices in workplaces around the country.
GILBERT: Mr O’Connor, we will talk to you soon, appreciate it.

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