TRANSCRIPT: ABC RN Breakfast, Thursday 25 June 2015





SUBJECTS: National Security 

ALISON CARABINE, PRESENTER: Tanya Plibersek, welcome.


CARABINE: Look, if we could go first to the asylum bill, that question is whether the Government has the authority to detain people offshore and to spend money for that purpose, doesn’t the fact that the legislation is needed to clarify this, show that offshore processing, which was reintroduced by Labor, may have been illegal all along?

PLIBERSEK: Well, no, what it shows is that the Williams High Court decision which put into doubt the Commonwealth’s ability to fund a whole range of different programs, wasn’t picked up in the case of offshore processing and it was important to make sure that just as, when we were in government, we had to update a whole range of Commonwealth spending to say that the Commonwealth actually had the authority to spend money in those areas. So, the Government now had to update the area of offshore processing.

CARABINE: And what it will do is shore up the integrity of offshore processing. Bill Shorten told Parliament yesterday that Labor would always be guided by compassion when it comes to asylum policy. How do you square that commitment from Bill Shorten with the numerous problems that are associated with offshore processing such as the sexual abuse of children, just as starters?

PLIBERSEK: I think it’s absolutely vital to say that the way that the centres have been run at times is completely unacceptable, certainly no one would accept the death of Reza Berati, the reports of sexual abuse of children, of sexual abuse of women, of sex being traded for goods, none of these things are acceptable-

CARABINE: So what you’re doing is endorsing the Government with continuing offshore processing which has had all of these problems.

PLIBERSEK: On the other hand, Ali, if offshore processing centres were closed down, and people smugglers got a message tomorrow that if they sent a boat to Australia, it would get through, we begin the whole process of risk again - people losing their lives on the open sea. So, you can have a regional resettlement process that includes offshore processing without endorsing in any way the way that the centres have been run by this Government.

CARABINE: Well, moving on to this citizenship bill. Labor has said that it will support revocation of citizenship in principle, you’ve been briefed on the bill. Dual nationals could lose their citizenship for what’s termed ‘certain other offences’ which seems to be a catch-all and it turns out that it could include such low level offences such as graffiti-ing Commonwealth properties, is that something Labor would like to see reworked before it comes to the floor for a vote?

PLIBERSEK: Well, that’s why it’s very important that this bill now goes to the joint security and intelligence committee because it seems to have been rushed. There’s been all different proposals from the Government about what this legislation would look like. Remember, we first heard that the Government wanted to revoke citizenship in January last year. Scott Morrison, who was then the Immigration Minister, floated this idea. The Prime Minister’s raised it at various times. We’ve been asking for months when we would actually see legislation in black and white. It’s been rushed into the Parliament. We’ve had inadequate time to consider it, inadequate briefing. Now it should go to the Parliamentary joint committee that is responsible for this area so that it may be properly examined. People-

CARABINE:  And so it will be going to that committee. What definitions would you like to see tightened in the bill?

PLIBERSEK: I think it’s also very important for witnesses to be called who are experts in this area, who can interpret whether these provisions are indeed as wide as some have suggested. I’ve heard you had on the radio this morning, I think it was Anne Twomey suggesting that provisions are very wide, people like that should be able to give evidence to the committee so that the legislation may be improved in drafting.

CARABINE: And what about retrospectivity? It is a widely held principle that new laws not be made retrospective, is it fair that people convicted of offences before the changes are legislated could potentially be deported?

PLIBERSEK: Indeed, that’s another thing that should be examined in a great deal of detail by this committee.

CARABINE: And according to the legislation, the children of terrorists could lose their citizenship. Are you comfortable with that?

PLIBERSEK: Well, that’s another provision that’s been taken straight from the existing law. If, in the past, the provisions relating to people who are fighting with the armies of other nations- and so that provision has been brought from the existing law. It’s something that we would have to look at very carefully.

CARABINE: And something that the Government’s going to have to look at very carefully is the difficult decision regarding the wife and five children of Khaled Sharrouf, do you think they should be allowed to come home?

PLIBERSEK: I think that if Mrs Sharrouf comes home, she should face the full force of the law. I’m extremely worried about those children, I can’t imagine being their grandparents. Of course, you would be worried for their physical safety if they remain where they are. I think it’s unquestionably child abuse, taking children into the environment that they’ve been taken into. When the children return, if they return, they will need a great deal of emotional support to recover from what they’ve seen.

CARABINE: Okay. Now, you’re Bill Shorten’s Deputy, how does it sit with you that he lied about his role in the leadership battle between Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard?

PLIBERSEK: Well, Ali, that’s ancient history. What’s not ancient history is-

CARABINE: But he’s now the Labor Leader. And the question now is about his honesty and his integrity.

PLIBERSEK: I think the question should really go to the Prime Minister who said before the last election no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no new taxes, no change to pensions, no cuts to the ABC and SBS and has broken every single one of those promises. Promises that affect, deeply affect, the lives of all Australians.

CARABINE: It’s not been a great fortnight for Bill Shorten. Now there’s questions about his trustworthiness. Arthur Sinodinos puts it this way, that every time Bill Shorten makes a political commitment from here on in, people will question whether he’s telling the truth. Doesn’t this undermine the credibility of your leader?

PLIBERSEK: You know what, he was talking about ancient history, he came out yesterday straight away and corrected the record. I think it's very important to focus on the lies that the Prime Minister has told, that actually are affecting people's lives today. The Prime Minister said before the last election that there would be no change to pensions, pensioners are set to lose as much as $8,000 if they are single and $14,000 if they're a couple. Singles who have got assets as little as $289,000 are set to lose part of their pension. Now they’re things like superannuation but also household effects, your mum’s engagement ring, assets that are supposed to last you ten or twenty or thirty years in retirement. That’s the kind of lie that the Prime Minister has told. In respect to our, you know, the past leadership chaos, I think it's been a good reminder for my colleagues to watch this 'Killing Season' over the last few weeks and to remember what we gave up by being un-unified in government. We had-

CARABINE: It’s not such ancient history, it’s recent history.

PLIBERSEK: We had the best response in the world to the Global Financial Crisis. We did the apology to the stolen generations. We did the National Disability Insurance Scheme. We did so much that I am proud of and we left government too soon because we were disunited. I think now we've got Bill as leader, me as his deputy and a very united team.

CARABINE: Well, just finally and briefly, is it ever okay to lie in politics?

PLIBERSEK: It’s never okay to lie, I teach my children that all the time, but isn’t it a shame we’ve got a Prime Minister who lied to get elected?

CARABINE: Tanya Plibersek, thanks for coming in.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.