SUBJECTS: Scott Morrison’s refusal to rule out supporting One Nation with preferences

TONY BURKE: Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been caught out today by an interview Pauline Hanson gave on radio this morning. Even though that Scott Morrison has been claiming that his Party won’t do a deal with One Nation, Pauline Hanson revealed that local candidates have been talking to her about preferences for up to two years. Scott Morrison can’t have it both ways. He can’t hide behind the words of yesterday without acknowledging what Pauline Hanson has revealed today. Let me make it clear. The issue that the Liberal Party needs to answer to, the issue that Scott Morrison needs to answer today is this: will they put One Nation and other racist candidates last on their How to Votes? 

To say ‘oh we just won’t cut deals', Scott Morrison is trying to set up an argument where the preferences happen through arrangements with local candidates and then he says ‘oh what a surprise, there was no deal’. If any of Scott Morrison’s words over the last few days have meant anything then you would expect he would be willing to commit that he will not try to help put voices of hatred into the Parliament. Because that is what preferences are. Preferences determine whether or not, particularly with a party like One Nation, whether or not you are willing to encourage their voices to be put into the Parliament, beyond their own vote. That’s what preferences do.

It’s also not good enough for them to separate Fraser Anning as though voices of hatred in the Parliament are a recent invention over the last 12 months from Fraser Anning. Fraser Anning is only in the Parliament because he was on the One Nation ticket. We have in Pauline Hanson someone who is willing to describe people’s faith as a disease, who has been willing to mock people and humiliate them in the Senate. Who has been on the front line of being the voice of hatred in the Australian Parliament from the day she first arrived.

If Scott Morrison is unwilling by the end of today to make clear that they will put One Nation last then I’m not sure what his words of unity of the last few days actually mean. There is no point preaching words of unity on the days the public want to hear them and then cutting your deal when it’s in your political interest and making sure that One Nation is not put last. One Nation needs to be last on every How to Vote. Labor has done this every single time. We’ve seen in the last few years the Liberal Party willing to trade preferences and put One Nation above Labor. If you are serious about changing the political dialogue in this country you need to commit today, Prime Minister, to put One Nation last on every How to Vote.

JOURNALIST: Is that an easier call for Labor to make if One Nation are more likely to preference the Liberals than Labor?

BURKE: You’ve got to remember the history of this. When Pauline Hanson first arrived in Parliament she took a seat from Labor. That was how this started when she became the member for Oxley. None of that has ever stood in the way of Labor saying ‘we will put One Nation last’. None of that has ever stood in the way of Labor taking a principled stand here and saying we will not promote the voices of hatred into the Parliament. And can I say it’s not just Labor, John Howard had the same position. John Howard was willing to commit to putting One Nation last on How to Votes. Why is that John Howard was willing to do it and Scott Morrison won’t?

JOURNALIST: Moving on to other issues, the Turkish President has threatened to send Australians home in coffins if they come to the country with anti-Muslim sentiment. What do you make of that?

BURKE: Bill Shorten has already released a statement on that and I couldn’t agree more strongly with what Bill Shorten said today, which is that those comments are foolish, they are offensive, they come at the exact time that the world is in mourning following the events in New Zealand and the efforts of world leaders need to be, as they have been everywhere else, to bring people together. 

JOURNALIST: Should Australian’s hold off visiting Anzac commemorations at Gallipoli this year?

BURKE: All travel should always been informed by DFAT travel advice and I don’t think you will ever hear anyone say anything different to that.

JOURNALIST: Should there be any changes made to the dawn service in Gallipoli to keep Australian’s safe?

BURKE: Right at the moment the specific comment we need to deal with is how foolish and offensive these comments are. There needs to be across the political spectrum people standing together making clear that these comments aren’t welcome and I think that's what Bill Shorten done today and the Prime Minister has done that as well. 

JOURNALIST: Should there be an increase to the warning for that travel advisory?

BURKE: Those decisions should be made by security agencies, not by politicians.

JOURNALIST: The alleged Mosque attacker is suspected to be a white supremacist from New South Wales. Is Australia getting a bad reputation around the world?

BURKE: I think when you go to global reputation you also have to look at the power that the voices of hatred in our Parliament have been getting. This is not going unnoticed around the world and we can’t pretend that Fraser Anning is the only voice of that nature. We also can’t ignore how he got into Parliament. He got into Parliament because he was on the One Nation ticket and One Nation has been the prime voice of hatred in Australian politics for a very very long time now. I welcome a whole lot of the words of unity that have been given by the Prime Minister. I just want them to mean something and the test of whether they mean something will come today with whether or not he is willing to simply, clearly say they will put One Nation last. Because unless you are willing to put One Nation below your main political opponents, unless you are willing to do that, then the rest of it’s just words because you are willing to encourage someone’s entry into the Parliament.

JOURNALIST: Mr Burke on migration, what does Labor make of the Government’s decision to cut the number of permanent places?

BURKE: It’s been reported as a cut, it’s actually effectively at about the level that immigration's running at right now. We also need to remember that because the Government hasn’t adopted Labor’s policies with respect to to labour market testing if the demand is there people will simply come through the temporary program rather than the permanent program. When this is argued in terms of congestion can I say someone on a temporary visa doesn’t cause more congestion than someone on a permanent visa. If you want to deal with congestion, and we do, then you invest in infrastructure and Labor will. If you want to deal with challenges in our hospitals, and we need to, you stop cutting the funding to hospitals which the Liberals have done and which Labor won’t cut funding to hospitals. If you want to deal with the actual issues here of overcrowding of transport then you fund public transport, that is what you do. What the Government’s done today it’s hard to see it as more than an accounting trick because it will simply switch from permanent migration to temporary migration if there is increased demand and at the moment all they have done is change the level to what it already actually is. 

JOURNALIST: Do you agree with that level though? Do you agree with the 160,000?

BURKE: That is where it is currently running at. This level gets adjusted each year in the budget, it happens every year in the budget, it should always be tailored to the needs of the economy and the needs of the nation at that point in time. We are certainly, on the information we have seen at the moment, not arguing against it we are simply saying that the promotion of it is simply an accounting trick.

JOURNALIST: Is it a good idea to have more incentives for people to go regional?

BURKE: Regional programs, if they work, can be very effective, but they need to be designed in a way that they work. There is a series of regional programs that happened when Labor was in Government as well.

JOURNALIST: Will Labor keep that limit of 160,000 if elected? Or would it be revised?

BURKE: It gets reviewed every budget, every budget it gets reviewed. Sometimes it gets reviewed up, sometimes it gets reviewed down. It depends very much on where skills shortages are at in any point in time. The Government is wanting to promote this as some massive difference between the parties, it’s not. It’s been driven for generations now in terms of what are the needs of the economy at different points in time and as I say all that the Government is doing is shifting it to the level where it already is. 

JOURNALIST: So then it’s the correct number for now?

BURKE: I don’t have any evidence to contradict that.

JOURNALIST: The Morrison’s Government plans to restrict migrant visas to big cities to encourage new arrivals into the regions, do you support this?

BURKE: I’m not the spokesperson for Immigration so I can give you only a limited amount of information on this. When I say that it matters that things are tailored to the needs of the nation you also need to make sure that on skilled migration, that it’s being tailored to where the skills shortages are. So if someone is coming on a skilled visa because we don’t have enough people, and if you don’t have enough people in a particular skill that actually holds back jobs for everybody else so anything there you need to make sure that where you are sending people through skilled migration program is a match to where the vacancies are whether it is or not is not information that I have in front of me. 

JOURNALIST: Will the Labor Government fund fast rail links for the three biggest cities?

BURKE: The commitment to fast rail is something that Anthony Albanese has been championing, we have a private members bill before the Parliament specifically on fast rail, something that the Government’s been refusing let come to a vote. Thank you very much

Tony Burke