08 October 2019


SUBJECTS: Record numbers of people arriving by airplane and claiming asylum on Peter Dutton’s watch; exploitation of vulnerable people; Syria; climate change policies and protests; 2019 election.
LISA MILLAR, HOST: To Federal politics now and the Labor Party has taken aim at the Coalition over the number of asylum seekers who have arrived in Australia. Official figures have confirmed more than 95,000 arrivals by plane since 2014. For more I'm joined by Shadow Home Affairs Minister Kristina Keneally. Good morning.
MILLAR: What do these numbers tell you?
KENEALLY: Well, they tell us that the number of airplane arrivals has been increasing steadily and has had a marked jump in just the past few months. 80 people a day are arriving in Australia at our airports and claiming asylum. Now there is nothing wrong with claiming asylum; it's an important right. But what we know is that 90 per cent of these people are found not to be refugees. And what, there's evidence that what is happening is that criminal syndicates, people smugglers, have shifted their business model from boats to planes. They're trafficking people here. These people are working in exploited conditions on farms, in hospitality, sometimes in sexual servitude. Sometimes being paid as little as $4 an hour and suffering significant exploitation and abuse and all of this has been allowed to happen under Peter Dutton's mismanagement of Home Affairs.
MILLAR: So they’re scamming the system, I mean, and one thing about the difference between planes and boats, of course, is people arrive on planes and they've used passport and identification and they are at least identifiable which you don't see when people are arriving on boats.
KENEALLY: Well, that is true. The difference here is that it is taking now the Department of Home Affairs four years to determine an asylum claim. And it's that blowout in processing time, is the loophole, that these people smugglers are taking advantage of. They know if they can send a person here on a legal visa, tourist visa or student visa, get them to apply for asylum, they will remain legally in the country for four years and then they have those people here. They traffic them out to illegal labour hire companies, to nail salons, to hospitality, restaurants, to brothels, and they have them here. They hold their passports, they pay them pittance, some of these people have reported conditions that sound like slavery. People have been subject to sexual abuse and other horrific conditions. This is all happening in Australia now. And Lisa, this has real impacts for Australians as well. When people are trafficked to do these jobs, they're taking jobs that the Australians aren't able to do. That when they are paid extremely low wages, that lowers wages can conditions for all Australians. And really, I don't think the mums and dads of Australia would like to know that the fruit that is going in their child's lunchbox has often been picked by a 19 year-old who's been trafficked here, who is being paid $4 an hour and been facing horrific working conditions.
MILLAR: Now the Government, of course, says it is refusing 84 per cent of those – you're saying that the delay is there – but that the arrival of boats is still a risk so that they have it all under control. What would you do to change this situation?
KENEALLY: Well, border security is more than just boats and Labor supports, strongly, Operation Sovereign Borders – boat turnbacks were safe to do so, offshore processing and regional resettlement. Those are fundamental. But we have borders at our airports too. What we have seen with this massive blowout Lisa, if these numbers continue this year, this financial year, will be the largest amount of asylum claims in Australian history, if the Government keeps going. What the Government needs to do – get into the source countries, Malaysia and China where most of these people are coming from, workout what is happening on the ground – the way they do with boats – get in there on ground in country. Secondly, talk to these people and talk to the companies that are using these people. Somebody knows, in fact, last year Jason Wood, the now-Assistant Minister, released a report on the Migration Committee that made the point there is evidence illegal labour hire companies are scamming the system.
MILLAR: We're got a lot of news; I just want to get your thoughts on a couple of other subjects. We've seen what's happening in Syria with the US pulling out of Northern Syria, also reports today that Australian Turkish dual citizenship woman – this report in the New Daily by Samantha Maiden this morning – Zehra Duman has had her citizenship cancelled. What are your thoughts about this current situation?
KENEALLY: Well, first of all, this is an unfolding situation. The White House only made their announcement yesterday. We understand that the Government are working with our American counterparts to understand the consequences of this decision by the Americans. There is significant concern, indeed the Prime Minister himself and the Foreign Minister Marise Payne have expressed concern and sympathy, for the children who are innocent victims of their parents’ decision.
MILLAR: Well the citizenship has been cancelled of an Australian.
KENEALLY: Well, these are reports we've seen today; I'm not in a position to confirm those, of course, that would be for the Government to do. But we do hold concerns, as do the Government, about the well-being and the safety of these children. There are about 40 some children we understand of Australian citizenship in these camps. What we would urge, first of all, is all parties to seek to not escalate the situation. Secondly, we know that the Government are working with our national security agencies and we encourage them to continue to do so to consider what can be done to ensure the safe removal of children if that is possible now.
MILLAR: Climate protesters are threatening to flood the streets today. They're clearly not happy with the direction that either the Government has been going or the Labor Party. Are you concerned that in the review of the Labor Party policies that you'll see a reduction or a cut in the emissions target?
KENEALLY: As Anthony Albanese has said, all our policies are up for review but our values are not and Labor has long sought and indeed had when we were in government put in place policies to both drive down emissions and drive down energy prices. Lisa right now you only need to look at what's in the papers today – Malcolm Turnbull out there blaming his own Liberal Party for failure to address rising emissions and rising power prices.
MILLAR: Bill Shorten took the blame on Sunday, you were one of his key campaign companions, do you take some of the blame?
KENEALLY: You know I saw what Bill said and I think it was quite admirable and honourable as Leader that he does that. But let me also reflect Lisa – we are collectivist movement, the Labor Party, and there's a level of collective responsibility we all share for that election loss.
MILLAR: You are taking some of the blame?
KENEALLY: Absolutely. I think we all need to take responsibility. This is not a Party run by one person. This is not policy offering designed by one person. We are as a movement responsible for the loss. And that is that is largely what this review process is designed to do is determine where we went wrong.
MILLAR: Kristina Keneally thanks for joining us.
KENEALLY: Thank you.