SUBJECT/S: Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran; Young Australian Women Joining Daesh; Possible Troop Deployment to Iraq; National Security; The Government’s Attack on Gillian Triggs.

KIERAN GILBERT: Joining me this morning to discuss this and other matters of the week the Manager of Opposition Business, Tony Burke. Mr Burke thanks for your time. Firstly, your response to this, a last ditch effort by the Prime Minister, an appropriate response you’d say?

SHADOW FINANCE MINISTER AND MANAGER OF OPPOSITION BUSINESS TONY BURKE: This is one of those issues where every side of politics stands together. There’s been complete bipartisanship and support in the way the Government has been trying to seek clemency here. I think when both the Foreign Minister and Tanya Plibersek stood together in Parliament, it was one of the real high points that we’ve had; Parliament at its best. Certainly the Opposition wants the Prime Minister’s plea to be successful.

GILBERT: At this stage though, as you say it’s been bipartisan, there’s also a big amount of support within the community as well from all quarters. Unfortunately, tragically for the families of these two young men and the two individuals themselves, it looks like it’s falling on deaf ears in Jakarta.

BURKE: The thought of what’s in front of them is chilling. Australians can only stand together and ask that this not go ahead.

GILBERT: Can I ask you about a few other stories around today. The suggestion and the conformation from the Foreign Minister yesterday that up to 40 young Australian women have headed to Iraq and Syria to join IS essentially. Either their partners or to become jihadi brides. This is a real worry isn’t it? It’s not just young men that are being attracted to this warped ideology.

BURKE: It’s a horrific story and another reminder, and Julie Bishop made this clear in her comments in Parliament as well, of the importance of working with communities who are the eyes and ears in making sure when anything like this might be being contemplated by a young person, that we’re on to it straight away. You wonder and feel for the families and the parents; how does a child grow up and then suddenly make this sort of change? To be able to deal with it and try to prevent it, is something where Australians do need to work together.

GILBERT: The former ASIO Director General David Irvine made the same point in his valedictory speech saying how important those communities are in providing support to our intelligence agencies and underpins a lot of what they so. I guess the question is about the Prime Minister’s comments earlier in the week then, directed at Muslim Leaders. Craig Laundy, a Liberal MP, said Muslim leaders in his electorate speak out all the time, that it is a religion of peace and they mean it; contradicting the Prime Minister to an extent. What’s your view on the PM’s comments? Did he alienate groups within your electorate, which of course has the largest percentage of Muslims of any electorate in the country.

BURKE: The comment was dumb. The comment as I saw it was dumb. When communities are working so closely with agencies; when leaders are making clear comments day after day. Be in no doubt when somebody who they’ve never met who has nothing to do with them does something atrocious and they’re suddenly expected to answer “well we need to check you don’t agree with it”; the mere fact that we keep expecting this brings an extra pressure on people themselves. To not acknowledge the way people are working with authorities and working within communities just belies the facts. I was pleased the Foreign Minister didn’t make that mistake yesterday and she’s been talking much more positively about the cooperation.

GILBERT: On the fight, the military operation, it looks like the Prime Minister could announce a deployment as early as today, possibly tomorrow, but certainly before he heads to New Zealand, of a few hundred more troops. What’s Labor’s view on that as part of the training mission with New Zealand.

BURKE: There’s an understand between the Government and the Opposition that if they were to make a decision like this there would be a full briefing and then the Opposition would make comments subsequent to a Government announcement.

GILBERT: Ok, on the politics of the week then. Gillian Triggs, the Human Rights Commission President, the Government’s made it clear she’s lost their confidence. Do you think that it’s time for her to go just to protect the institution of the Human Rights Commission.

BURKE: It’s time for someone to go and I don’t think there’s any doubt that it’s the Prime Minister. He’s the person who yesterday says ‘this is just a beltway issue, why are you worrying about it?’ He’s the one who blew this issue up; he’s the one who decided to come out with his fists blazing to turn this into some grand fight. His Attorney General referred to the importance of the Human Rights Commissioner managing the politics of both sides of politics. The Human Rights Commissioner has a statutory job, the reason they’re appointed to a statutory job with a fixed term is so they’re not reduced to the level of managing the day-to-day politics. For this to be the way the Prime Minister of Australia deals with one of our highest statutory officers because she wrote a report critical of both sides of politics over the treatment of children in detention is just extraordinary.

GILBERT: I guess there argument is the timing of it. The Government’s reduced the number of children in detention to under 200 or 245 if you include Nauru…

BURKE: Yeah but read the report…

GILBERT: That’s down from 2000 under Labor…

BURKE: This report was critical of Labor as well. You wouldn’t know it from what you hear from the Government. The Chair of the Committee that was enquiring into it acknowledged that he hadn’t even read the report. The Human Rights Commissioner is doing the job of the Human Rights Commissioner, the problem we have is we don’t have anyone doing the job of the Prime Minister.

GILBERT: Mr Burke we’ve got to go, thanks for your time this morning, appreciate it.

BURKE: Good to be with you.


Tony Burke