TRANSCRIPT: Citizenship changes





SUBJECT: Citizenship changes

TONY BURKE: Thanks very much.

I want to say a few words about where the debate in the Chamber and everything is up to with respect to Citizenship. I’ve read some amusing accounts today of the Government believing that somehow Peter Dutton is putting pressure on Labor over citizenship changes. Can I make a few things clear? First of all, I’m not sure I’ve ever felt less pressure in my life. Peter Dutton walks into the Parliament and demands Labor support a document he has not yet written. And he does it day after day. And I presume this week again he will stand up and demand that Labor support a document that he has not yet written and unsurprisingly Labor will say “show us a copy of the proposal.” The other thing though, is Peter Dutton in the last couple of days has taken a step which ordinarily doesn’t happen which he has decided to go on the record claiming that Labor should have a particular position based on briefings. Now I was given a briefing on the 8th of May. In the ordinary course I don’t talk about the briefings that we are given by the Government. But Peter Dutton, for reason known only to himself which is true of most of the things he does, has decided to put that briefing on the record. So if it’s on the record let’s have a talk about what happened at that briefing.

First of all was I briefed on the issues of the citizenship changes that were in the papers on the weekend? No, not at all. That’s all new. None of that existed as part of the proposal at the time of the briefing. When I was asked which parts of what I was being briefed on the Government was committed to the answer was none. When I asked what the evidence base was, if I could be provided with the evidence base for the changes, I was told it didn’t exist. When I asked for, for example on the English language test, how many people who currently apply for citizenship would pass the test, the Government didn’t know. When I asked how many Australians would pass the test at a University level, the Government didn’t know. When I then asked about, with the English test, how many people who have completed the English language training course the AMEP (Adult Migrant English Program) would be able to pass this test, the Government did not have a clue.

This proposal so far has been incoherent. Today I see in the papers, a claim that it is somehow linked to national security. Now, let’s unpick this. If it’s about national security how can it be that it only applies to people who are permanent residents all of whom are already here. If it’s a national security issue how can it be applying to people who are already here and if they are a national security problem, why are they permanently living here? We then have the argument from the Government, ‘it’s about national security because they want people to take a formal pledge of allegiance’ and yet the other part of their proposal delays how long people live here before they make that pledge. The proposal so far has been incoherent. When it’s tabled in the Parliament maybe we will get something that makes more sense. But every time I hear the claim from Peter Dutton that somehow there are divisions within Labor all I know is there are divisions within Peter Dutton’s head. One part of this policy is inconsistent and contradictory to the rhetoric that accompanies it. If Peter Dutton wants Labor to support a change, he should put forward something that is in the interests of national unity. He should stop behaving like a dill demanding that people support a document that has not even been written.

JOURNALIST: Specifically on the administrative appeals tribunal overall powers what’s your position currently?

BURKE: Well I don’t even know what the Government’s proposal is on this. Once again, we’ve got changes here that have appeared in the paper that weren’t part of the briefing, that weren’t part of the Government’s original proposal, that now they’re changing. They don’t know where they stand. All the divisions in this proposal have been a process of ongoing chaos from Peter Dutton. Now we’ve done the unsurprising thing, put it in writing, let us know what your proposal is, and we’ll have a look at it. That’s not an unreasonable position. The weird position is what Peter Dutton has gone down where he puts everything out by media release, the arguments contradict the proposal that he has put, he claims Labor have been given a briefing and yet what he is now talking about wasn’t something that Labor was briefed on. Then he claims in a different article over the weekend that he hopes that Labor will wait until they see the fully written proposal before they make a final decision. I don’t know what’s going on in this man’s mind. But it’s nothing to do with logic.

JOURNALIST: I take it then you would like to see the submissions made public? There are talks that they won’t be.

BURKE: It’s no surprise that the Government is wanting to hide and suppress these submissions. If Peter Dutton was confident of his arguments he’d be willing to make all of those submissions public. The reason you don’t want the submissions public is if you’ve been humiliated by them. I was briefed on the 8th of May. There were still three full weeks to go of public submissions. At that time I was told 1,700 submissions had been received. I don’t know how many have been received by now. I don’t know what they say. But you can guarantee if they were supportive of where the Government was at they’d be releasing them, they’d be publishing them, they’d be all over it.



Tony Burke