PATRICIA KARVELAS (HOST): Tony Burke is the Shadow Minister for Multiculturalism and Citizenship and he joins us on RN Drive. Tony Burke, welcome.


KARVELAS: It was an extraordinary performance by Pauline Hanson today. What did you make of it?

BURKE: It’s another layer of conspiracy theories. The Al Jazeera conspiracy theory. The Port Arthur conspiracy theory. Takes us back to when we had the vaccination conspiracy theory. Its what Pauline Hanson trades in. When she referred in a media conference to there's been a lot of hate, I forget what the quote was around hate. I think that part of it is true. Only that is where her party starts and where their policy ends.

KARVELAS: There has been some criticism of this Al Jazeera report. That the actions of the journalist amount to entrapments. Pauline Hanson quoted Peter Greste who worked at Al Jazeera at some point and remember he was obviously in prison for a long period of time, saying that they were methods that weren’t ethical. What's your take on that?

BURKE: I thought the Peter Greste contribution was really thoughtful. I think it's a valid discussion but I tend to not get involved in the arguments as to where the media should and shouldn’t draw lines. I think that discussion is happening among journalists and that is a good thing. It doesn’t change in any way though how the One Nation characters responded. Nobody made them or forced them or entrapped them into asking for millions of dollars from the National Rifles Association. No one entrapped them or suggested or told Pauline Hanson now is the moment you should start talking about conspiracy theories over Port Arthur. So there will be a discussion among journalists over where the line should be drawn and whether this one falls beyond the line of entrapment or before it and I respect that is an appropriate discussion for journalists to work their way through. I don't think it changes any of the outcomes here. About just how shambolic One Nation is. Nor does it change the fact, even this whole program doesn’t change the fact that there were already enough reasons to say that One Nation was on the fringe of Australian politics. We didn't actually need Al Jazeera to get us over the line on that.

KARVELAS: Do you believe Pauline Hanson’s explanation will wash with One Nation supporters?

BURKE: With some of them. Some of them will jump to every possible conspiracy theory and that's the internet world in which some people live. There is always for every political party, a range of people who look at it and there will be some people who had supported One Nation purely because they were frustrated with all of us and it was to send a message and they will look at that and they will say that’s not the person I would ever want to be our messenger.

KARVELAS: The Prime Minister says One Nation will be put behind Labor on Liberal how-to-vote cards. You’ve criticised the time it has taken him to get here but do you welcome this outcome?

BURKE: I welcome him taking that first step. I'm not going to pretend for a minute that that completes what they need to do and it's for this very simple reason. The reason that there has been, and there was for many years, a bipartisan policy about putting One Nation last on how-to-votes is this; because of the primary vote they get in a number of places, its not just some strategic game with preferences, its actually a decision as to whether or not you are willing to put them into the Parliament. What Scott Morrison has announced today by only applying it to Liberal seats, he’s created a situation where the seats where One Nation has a primary vote high enough that they could well end up in Parliament are the seats where they may still get preferences. So this Liberal-National divide is really significant. Because its the National Party seats particularly in Queensland where preferences from the National Party, from the Coalition, could well be the reason that we get additional One Nation members into Parliament. Now that is real.

KARVELAS: Okay you say that but just the other night I had Darren Chester, who is a senior Nationals frontbencher from Victoria tell me that that's not true, we haven’t seen One Nation MP’s elected into the lower house. It's true there are no One Nation MP’s elected into the lower house, and that this is essentially a furphy.

BURKE: It happened in Queensland at the last Queensland election, one of the state…

KARVELAS: We’re talking about the Federal Parliament aren’t we?

BURKE: No but we are talking about where the One Nation vote is at right now. And that's why I’m giving you the exact example. Within the seat of Capricornia, within one of the seats where you’ve got a local federal member of Parliament saying they want to do this preference swap. Within that seat, you’ve got a state seat where there is a One Nation member in the Queensland Parliament purely because the LNP decided to give them preferences. This is a real outcome. And with One Nation, there will be attempts next week and quite rightly, the Parliament will censure Fraser Anning. The only reason he is a member of Parliament is because he was on the One Nation ticket. Those sorts of characters that One Nation puts forward if the Liberal Party and the National Party don't believe they should be members of Parliament or don't believe they should help them become members of Parliament, then they should be putting them last. It is a real outcome and its on the line in the next few weeks.

KARVELAS: The Nationals won’t commit to putting One Nation behind Labor and the Greens and I spoke to Ken O’Dowd who says it’s simply a matter of political survival in his seat. He was pretty upfront, he does want One Nation’s preferences. He wants them to flow to him though, he wants to get elected, he doesn’t want to get One Nation elected he wants to get himself elected. Do you accept that it’s easier for you to say that, you’re scoring some political points but for some of these MP’s it's about survival?

BURKE: I don't accept that at all. Let’s not forget when One Nation first emerged the initial view was that their support would be stronger in Labor seats than in Coalition seats. Pauline Hanson came in as the member for Oxley having taken a safe Labor seat. Even at that point, Labor was very clear that we were going to put that group last. We made that line in the sand as a matter of principle well before it became settled as to what sort of seats would end up receiving their highest vote. We don't know how much the One Nation vote will vary from the last federal election but with all the publicity it would be reasonable for some people to presume, maybe the last week would have shifted it, but there have certainly been different points where they have been tracking with a much higher vote than what they would have got a few years ago. If that's the case, take Ken O’Dowd’s seat that you just raised, if One Nation received either through preferences from minor parties or from themselves an increase of 10 per cent in their primary vote, largely at the expense of the Nats, they would beat the Nats and it would be National preferences that would decide whether you have a Labor member of Parliament or whether you had One Nation. Ken O’Dowd's preferences will be real. And this is where every member when they start playing preference games needs to know they are not simply determining what preferences they might be able to get for themselves, they are also giving a recommendation to their voters that a vote for me, if I don't get over the line, this is where I want you to send it next. And if they are seriously willing as a National Party to say that they would prefer to have more One Nation members in the federal Parliament then they should continue on their current course. The alternative is to listen to Tim Fischer, who’s been very clear, as an elder statesman of the National Party, exactly where principle would lead them, and that's to putting the racist parties last.

KARVELAS: Okay, the ACTU has been running a ‘Put the Liberals Last’ campaign in some seats. Bill Shorten has asked them to stop. Have you got a guarantee from them that they will stop?

BURKE: I haven’t heard anything more recent to what you have heard on that. Obviously, I agree with what Bill Shorten has said. People will run their own campaigns but the argument that I think is very clear I understand why the ACTU is focussing on the Liberal Party and National Party. People shouldn’t support them because they don't support those workers. In terms of who should be last, I think the view should be very clear.

KARVELAS: So they have to get rid of the slogan then don’t they? It’s a slogan as well, it’s ‘Put the Liberals Last’. They need to change that slogan, don’t they?

BURKE: That’s our message to them, yes.

KARVELAS: And do you have a guarantee that they will?

BURKE: I just told you my information is as recent as yours on this one Patricia.

KARVELAS: Do you hope that they make that clear soon?

BURKE: I want there to be as many voices in the country as possible, including the unions being clear that the racist parties should be last. The forces of division should be last. And I also think within that, you can make a very clear case that for working people they should not be supporting the Liberal Party because the Liberal Party never supports them.

KARVELAS: Bill Shorten held an online WeChat forum for members of Australia’s Chinese community this week to address their concerns about the racist remarks from NSW Opposition Leader Michael Daley. How damaging have those remarks been?

BURKE: First of all they were completely unacceptable. They needed to be apologies for, they were. They needed to be condemned and they have been. For most of the interaction that I’ve been having with different community members has been people attribute them as a comment from Michael Daley rather than a view from Labor. Because everything that they have seen from us has gone in the exact opposite direction. Part of the outrage from the community was how different that message was from what they have traditionally heard from us and that added to the anger about it. When you then go through issue by issue affecting the Chinese community, everything from the University level English test on citizenship through to the arguments that are happening at the moment about where One Nation should be on the ballot papers are all arguments that I think play much better for people who are voting Labor than people heading towards Scott Morrison.

KARVELAS: But it does demonstrate that there is a problem on your side of politics on these issues too isn’t there?

BURKE: Well certainly those comments never should have been made. Absolutely never should have been made. I haven’t heard them from others within the Labor Party. I know Michael pretty well and I was genuinely shocked when I saw them coming out of his mouth. I've seen no evidence that there's a broader issue within the Labor Party and I think the extent of the condemnation, it's not like we have been holding back and avoiding rejecting those comments. I'm not sure how we could have been stronger than we have been.

KARVELAS: Tony Burke, thanks for joining us.

BURKE: Great to talk to you.

Tony Burke