MONDAY, 30 JULY 2018
SUBJECT/S: By-elections, Government preference deal with One Nation.
PATRICIA KARVELAS (HOST): Labor's performance in the Super Saturday by-election puts the party and its leader Bill Shorten on firmer ground. Tony Burke is the Minister for Citizenship and Multiculturalism and the manager of Opposition Business. Welcome back to RN Drive.
TONY BURKE, MANAGER OF OPPOSITION BUSINESS: Good to be back. You’ve promoted me to minister. I'll take it.
KARVELAS: Shadow minister didn’t I say? I did say ‘he’s the minister’!
BURKE: You did, it was fantastic.
KARVELAS: You’re not the minister. You have been a minister but you haven't won the election, you just won a few by-elections. Alright, clarity. Today's Newspoll indicated Labor would win an election held right now but only by a slim margin. It also shows Bill Shorten remains relatively unpopular with voters. Can you win a federal election with an unpopular leader?
BURKE: We can win the federal election there's no doubt about that. And Bill Shorten will be our leader at the election. If we were to take all the polls for advice we would have had very different outcomes on the by-elections that have just happened. And I think the one signal that the by-elections do give pretty strongly is that the issues we're talking about and the policies we're putting together are exactly what the Australian people are wanting.
KARVELAS: Susan Lamb performed well in Longman but we also saw a solid performance from One Nation. What do you make of that?
BURKE: The Government have taken a very different approach to One Nation to the approach that John Howard took when One Nation first emerged. And I think we're watching exactly how that unfolds. If you cosy up to One Nation and you trade preferences with One Nation then One Nation will simply haemorrhage the Coalition vote. That's exactly what happened. The primary vote of 29 in Longman and all the different arguments that these are just what you'd expect from by-elections, I don't think anyone could have expected the Coalition primary to fall as low as it did in the seat of Longman.
KARVELAS: But there wasn't a preference deal between One Nation and the Coalition.
BURKE: Well, One Nation preferenced the Coalition and the Coalition preferenced One Nation. We can say it's just a magnificent coincidence. The truth is when John Howard was Prime Minister he didn't get there straight away but he ended up making clear, on the floor of Parliament no less, that his view was that One Nation should always be put last on ballot papers. Malcolm Turnbull, when One Nation re-emerged, started to use lines for his team like ‘One Nation's different now' we were told they were more sophisticated now. The only difference is they're gradually working their way through each ethnic heritage for who to complain about. They've moved from Asia to the Middle East and the Government in the last few weeks has decided to highlight people whose heritage is in Africa. The process that One Nation has gone through now is the same sort of bigotry that drove One Nation back when John Howard said he would put them last. John Howard while there's a lot I don't agree with with John Howard's Government he had the right way of dealing with the simple concept that this party is different to other political parties and they should be put last.
KARVELAS: In Braddon, independent Craig Garland did well and there was a sense on the ground that voters were disenchanted with both major parties. In fact Labor, you may have won but you can't claim you did well in Braddon.
BURKE: I met Craig Garland by chance, I was in a coffee shop in Wynyard and he just turned up and everybody in the place knew him. He's got a real natural warmth about him. I'm not surprised at all that he did well and there's certainly a section of the Tasmanian community that he has identified with really, really strongly. He was adamant that when it came to the choice between Labor and Liberal where he thought his preferences should go and had a very strong view that they should go to Justine Keay. But there's no other way of looking at it other than he certainly struck a nerve in Tasmania.
KARVELAS: And Labor didn't strike the same nerve.
BURKE: Our primary vote was still pretty strong. But there is a particular group of roughly 10 per cent or more of the Tasmanian population that voted for Craig Garland. I'm not critical of him. He’s very impressive, a very genuine person and he made clear his view. But our vote was still significantly higher than his so I don't know how you can conclude that he struck a nerve and we don’t. I'm being generous to how he went and Justine will be the member of Parliament.
KARVELAS: There is, of course, another pretty significant election later this year in Victoria and concern around South Sudanese gang violence has become a flashpoint. The Government is introducing laws to stop kids as young as 14 who have criminal convictions from associating with known gang members. What do you make of that?
BURKE: On the particulars of that I won't pretend to be well across it. Obviously, any law where minors are involved you've got to be careful as to how the law is framed but I'm sure the Victorian Government is doing that. I don't dispute and the Victorian Government doesn't dispute that there are issues to deal with with respect to gangs. My complaint very strongly with how the Liberal Party, particularly federally, has dealt with this is the identification of particular ethnic heritage, in this case, Sudanese and wanting to get the media grabs up labelling a community for gang violence. Knowing full well exactly what sort of hatred that gives rise to.
KARVELAS: Your federal counterpart Alan Tudge has proposed assessing new migrants for Australian values before granting them citizenship. He said this in a big speech, we've had him on RN Drive. People can podcast that interview to hear his views and what he's proposing. Does the idea have merit in your view?
BURKE: I’d love to see an example of a copy of the test because he doesn't have one. This is a media announcement that gets made roughly every two to three months that dominates the conversation for a few days each time it happens and then he wheels it out again a few months later. John Howard changed the citizenship laws to introduce a test conducted in English about Australia and you can very easily put any values questions into that that you want under current law. What's happening here is not the Minister trying to deliver a change to the law, he's trying to deliver a lead in a public discussion that has people deciding who and who is not properly Australian. It's part of the same theme that we're seeing with the Sudanese gangs argument where they are wanting to lead a conversation that takes people and pushes them to the margins. They shouldn't be doing it. It's a deliberate strategy. They didn't do it last term. It's a sort of game they've been playing ever since Pauline Hanson came back into the Parliament.
KARVELAS: He also says we should have the same employment expectations of migrants who come here under the humanitarian stream as we do for skilled migrants. Is that fair enough?
BURKE: I’d use aspirations rather than expectations in the sense that we want to be able to get people to that point. Let's face it, we do a good thing and it's happened under this Government as well, we do a good thing in the humanitarian program trying to find the most needy and desperate people in the world. We often prioritise women and children in that. In doing so it means this; a large part of that cohort will be individuals who have experienced torture and trauma. A large number of people who are the most desperate won't have had proper access to all the different educational opportunities that are available to people who aren't victims of torture and trauma. Now, this doesn't describe everybody on the humanitarian program but it does describe a lot of those people and to have an aspiration and assistance to try to find a pathway for people to work is something that I think we should all support. When you start to approach that through a punitive mechanism, when you start to say ‘you will just never become an Australian citizen’, I think at that point we're really missing the point of the goodwill that both sides of politics truly should get when we engage in a good way with the humanitarian program and say to some of the most desperate people around the world we can give you a new start.
KARVELAS: Tony Burke final question on a story that's broken this afternoon. ACTU secretary Sally McManus has called for the sacking of jobs Minister Michaelia Cash following news today that the Commonwealth DPP is now investigating her office's tip-off to the media about those police raids on the union. Why should she be sacked if the police, the DPP are currently still investigating this?
BURKE: Look there's comments made by Brendan O'Connor and I don't want to go over the top of those. My recollection is we’re one step back from that in terms of if it then proceeds beyond that. But right at the moment, the DPP is making a decision based on the evidence they have. It's certainly the case that under the Westminster system you are responsible for what your office does and if it is the case that Michaelia Cash’s office has acted in a way that is unlawful then that lands firmly at the feet of the Minister.
KARVELAS: Tony Burke, thank you for your time.
BURKE: Great to be back.


Tony Burke