SENATOR THE HON. KRISTINA KENEALLY
DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE
SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS
SHADOW MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP
SENATOR FOR NEW SOUTH WALES
AM WITH KIM LANDERS, ABC RADIO
MONDAY, 3 JUNE 2019
SUBJECTS: Labor’s border protection policy, Government tax-cut package, religious freedoms.
KIM LANDERS, PRESENTER: I spoke to Senator Keneally, the new Shadow Minister for Home Affairs earlier. Senator, good morning.
THE HON. KRISTINA KENEALLY, SENATOR FOR NEW SOUTH WALES: Good morning.
LANDERS: In the past, you’ve said that you dislike the option of boat turnbacks. You’ve supported onshore processing. You’ve wanted to bring refugees on Manus Island and Nauru to Australia. Is that past going to haunt you and undermine your credibility?
KENEALLY: Not at all. In fact, the things I’ve written in the past have really been an honest grappling of how we as a country ensure that we are securing our borders and yet treating people humanely – that we are keeping Australians safe, but also not losing our collective national soul, not losing our collective national conscience and ensure that we are treating people humanely at all times.
And the conclusion I’ve come to, in that honest reflection, open reflection, is simply this – that offshore processing, boat turnbacks where safe to do so and regional resettlement are important tools – they are necessary tools – to keep our borders secure, to keep our country safe and to ensure that we are treating people humanely. It is no good, no good at all, if people are dying at sea.
LANDERS: So when Anthony Albanese says that Labor needs a policy reset after the election defeat – are boat turnbacks and offshore processing immune from that review?
KENEALLY: Yes, they are. Let’s be fundamentally clear that Labor stands with the Government when it comes to keeping our borders secure and every time that Peter Dutton says otherwise he is simply lying. He is simply doing the people smuggler’s work. Peter Dutton only has one setting and that’s attack and right now he’s attacking me because he knows that his Department is a mess. He has presided over cuts. He has presided over failure. He has presided over an era that has seen four highly critical Australian National Audit reports into budget cuts, into failures in their ability to deploy the Cape Class patrol boats, into blowouts in visa processing and citizenship processing. Peter Dutton does not want a blow torch applied to his administration of the Department…
LANDERS: So, border security…
KENEALLY: But with my appointment, that’s what will happen.
LANDERS: So, border security has been seen as weakness for Labor – is your job simply to neutralise that?
KENEALLY: My job is to stand up and make clear that Labor will never allow the people smugglers back into business, but it is also to stand up and make clear that we do not need to become a cruel nation. We do not need to see people sitting indefinitely in offshore processing centres.
LANDERS: So, what’s Labor’s policy on what to do with the hundreds of mostly men on still on Manus Island and Nauru?
KENEALLY: Well, there is an agreement in place with the United States, that agreement has not been completed. There is still capacity for the US to take more under that agreement and I would like to see the Government get moving and working with the United States to ensure that happens. There is an offer on the table from New Zealand to take 150 refugees. I believe if the Government had the will to do so they could sit down with New Zealand as soon as this week and resolve the issues about the special class visa and see those 150 leave. Within those two deals right there you could see a significant number of those people on Manus and Nauru resettled in third countries.
LANDERS: You’re also Labor’s Deputy Leader in the Senate. The Government says the election gave it a strong mandate for its entire tax-cuts package – will Labor support that package in the Senate?
KENEALLY: Well the first thing I’d observe, Kim, is the Government has already broken a promise. It promised that it would deliver tax-cuts for low income and middle-income people this year…
LANDERS: But about the whole package though – what’s Labor’s position on the whole package?
KENEALLY: But let’s make this point – the Government made a commitment they would return to Parliament and get this passed by the 30th June. The Government has made a decision to not do that.
LANDERS: But the Government says it’s not going to break up the package. So will Labor, or will it not, support the entire package in the Senate?
KENEALLY: What we have made clear is we support the tax-cuts for low and middle income workers. The Government hasn’t even put any legislation before the…
LANDERS: But that’s not a no?
KENEALLY: The Government has not put any legislation before the Parliament. They are the Government, its incumbent upon them to do so and if they do, we’ll take it through our usual Shadow Cabinet processes.
Labor’s campaign was tone deaf to the concerns of people of faith. You speak openly about your Catholic faith – would you support a Religious Discrimination Act?
KENEALLY: I do think that unfortunately in Australia we are in a situation, we’ve arrived in a situation – perhaps its Twitter, perhaps it’s the instant ganging-up on social media that occurs – that there are people of faith that feel uncomfortable to speak publicly. I have experienced this throughout my time in Parliament where I have been criticised as a person of faith participating in the political process. Now I have always said that if there is a way, within legislation, to contemplate strengthening the ability to have respectful and civil conversations in the public discourse where people who come with a perspective of faith are able to contribute and feel that that is respected and valued – I am opened to that.
I have been quite upfront about this. I do believe that people of faith, indeed, I think that all of us are spiritual beings. I think we all come with some sort of spiritual aspect, look at Aboriginal Australians, they tell deeply spiritual stories about how we as human connect to creation. My point is this – people bring that, their spiritual aspects, to their public conversations and that needs to be acknowledged and respected and civil perhaps.
LANDERS: And do you think there’s support from your Labor colleagues for a Religious Discrimination Act?
KENEALLY: I think there is an openness to have the conversation with the Government and the community about how we ensure that people of faith are able to participate in public conversation, in the public square, in respectful and civil conversations.
LANDERS: Senator, thank you very much for speaking with AM.
KENEALLY: Thank you.