Opinion pieces, speeches & transcripts

Doorstop interview 5 December

December 05, 2019



SUBJECTS: Visa privatisation; Medevac; Gladys Liu; Angus Taylor.

ANDREW GILES, MEMBER FOR SCULLIN: I’m Labor’s Assistant Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship. I'm here today to comment principally on reports about continuing efforts by the Morrison government to privatise Australia’s visa processing services. But I also want to briefly comment on the Medevac repeal yesterday.

Yesterday was a sad day, a sad day for our democracy and a terrible day for vulnerable people in our care who are going to be denied the medical care they need.

Today, it's time the Prime Minister comes clean. It's time the Prime Minister comes clean with his cabinet colleagues, the Australian people about the secret deal that he has done with Jacqui. Australia is deserved to know this.

Reports on the front page of The Age today confirmed that the Morison government is continuing with its plans to privatise Australia's visa processing services. This means 2000 Australian workers go to Christmas with the imminent fear of losing their jobs. This is isn’t good enough we know that this is a terrible idea. We know this because everyone has been saying so. This is an absolutely friendless proposal. Former Secretaries of the Immigration Department have referred to the risks to the integrity of our system, risks also to national security. The Community and Public Sector Union has warned that this could be the new Robo-debt implemented. And we know what will happen in Australia, because we've seen what has happened in the UK with their visa system that has been privatised. We've seen massive cuts to services and the creation of a two tier system, where people who can afford to pay get a fast track system. In Australia we're not hearing enough about why the government is doing this. We're not hearing anything from the Minister responsible, David Coleman, because he's had to recuse himself from this process because of his relationship with Mr. Scott Briggs, the principal one of the two consortiums bidding for this process. We haven't heard anything from the Prime Minister because he too, is conflicted and has recused himself because of his relationship with Mr Briggs. This means that Peter Dutton is the Minister responsible, but Peter Dutton has not said a word about visa privatisation since July 2017. He should be speaking about it, the reason that he won’t though is because he knows it's a bad idea, and he doesn't want to take responsibility for it. Well, it's time for him to take responsibility for it. It's time for him to stand up for 2000 Australian jobs. It's time for him to stand up for the integrity of Australia's visa processing system. It's time for him to stand up for our national security and rule out any further attempts to privatise Australia's visa processing system.

Any questions?

JOURNALIST: Just relation to the many Medevac laws, I guess the Government is saying that there is no deal struck. So what do you think they have to answer for?

GILES: Well, it just defies belief. The things we know about Jacqui Lambie is that she is a straight shooter. She set out very clearly the conditions that she wanted to have met and made clear that there were only two options; either her conditions would be met or she would not support the repeal. She supported the repeal. She was asked by Mathias Cormann in the Senate if it was okay for him to say that there was no ideal. I think anyone who's seen the various Government Minister’s scramble over their answers; you know that some arrangement has been reached. This isn't the way Australian law should be made. The Government has clearly issued a change in policy or made some commitments Australians need to know about.

JOURNALIST: Jacqui Lambie seemed quite emotional in the Senate yesterday, you say she's a straight shooter. So can we not take her word for her saying that there are genuine concerns about national security?

GILES: Well, that may well be the case, but it's not actually for her to set at those concerns. It's for the government. It's for Scott Morrison to set out what the issues are. His Cabinet Ministers went into the Senate not knowing what they were voting for. No one in the parliament beyond him and Minister Dutton knows exactly what has been agreed to. There are many newspaper reports some obviously very well sourced. Which go to what people think has been agreed, the Australian public need to know exactly what has been agreed.

JOURNALIST: On a similar note more information has come out about this secret witness J case. Do you think the laws are broken in terms of secrecy and national security?

GILES: These reports are really concerning. Labor supports the principle of open justice for our courts, just as we do in the parliament. The same really applies, just as lawmakers in Australia should know what we are deciding, the principles of open justice is something that's very important. Obviously, I'm not in a position to comment on the details of the case, but this is a matter Labor will continue to explore and try and uphold this critical principle in terms of administration of justice.

JOURNALIST: So how we strike that balance between national security and open justice?

GILES: Well, this is a very challenging question, and I'm sure the shadow Attorney General will have something to say about the details of that in the day. We do know that there have been a number of concerning reports where Australians have not had full access to information about important proceedings before the courts. There may be circumstances where some suppression orders or other mechanisms are appropriate. They shouldn't be the norm.

JOURNALIST: Just in relation to Gladys Liu there are reports that she's asking for money back from the Liberal Party after she made the donation, do you think that is an odd move?

GILES: It's a very odd move. And I hope Gladys Liu will come into the parliament and explain that. I think also there are real questions for the Prime Minister again here, day after day after day, there have been scandals and concerns relating to the Member for Chisholm, it’s time for the Prime Minister to come clean on that too.

JOURNALIST: And then just in relation to Angus Taylor? What does he need to do before the days out?

GILES: He needs to stop misleading the parliament; Angus Taylor walked into the parliament and gave the first speech that was characterised as we now know, by an extraordinary misrepresentation, a fantasy. And these fantasies have continued in his conduct. Angus Taylor should have done the right thing and resigned. There are reports today about attributing conduct to a staffer flying in the face of Westminster traditions. His conduct throughout this series of scandals he has been connected to throughout his time as Minister is utterly unacceptable, it's time to come into the parliament and do the right thing.

JOURNALIST: One of his staffer’s has now been thrown under the bus. Do you worry that he now won’t hear from him because someone else has stepped forward?

GILES: Angus Taylor is the Minister. The whole point of our Westminster system is the accountability of members to the executive to the parliament - not of the staff. Why has this come out now, it seems to be entirely unsatisfactory. Minister Taylor continues to be contemptuous of the parliament, contemptuous of his obligations to the Australian people. It's time for him to front up and fess up.

Thanks very much.