Interview on Adelaide ABC 891, Breakfast with David Bevan and Ali Clarke
David Bevan: Well let's welcome Simon Birmingham South Australian Liberal Senator, Minister for Trade and Tourism and Investment. Good morning to you.
Simon Birmingham: Good morning David and Ali.
David Bevan: Amanda Rishworth, Labor Member for Kingston in Adelaide's south, and Federal Shadow Minister for Early Childhood. Good morning to you Amanda.
Amanda Rishworth: Good morning great to be with you.
David Bevan: And Rebekha Sharkie, Centre Alliance MP for the seat of Mayo. Good morning to you.
Rebekha Sharkie: Good morning.
David Bevan: Simon Birmingham, let's begin with you. Has there been a rethink of past commentary amongst our politicians since the Christchurch shootings?
Simon Birmingham: Well I think events like this that are as profound and tragic as Christchurch should cause all of us, whether it's politicians, radio announcers, anybody with a public megaphone as such, to reflect on how we conduct ourselves and make sure that we do so in a way that as best we can, unifies our society. Now that doesn't mean we don't have rigorous political and policy debates, of course we'll continue to do that too, that's the nature of democratic society. But it does mean that we should really ensure that everything we do is about also trying to bring people together and making sure that the type of intolerance that obviously contributed to a madman's terrible actions, is minimised wherever possible.
David Bevan: Well there has been some commentary that within your own ranks, within the Coalition Government, Muslims have been targeted. There's been some dog whistling over the last few years, have you had cause to stop and think you know I wonder, and I'm not talking about you Simon Birmingham personally, I would never say that of you, but have you had cause to think that look within my own ranks and we'll ask the same question of Amanda Rishworth on Labor's side, but within your own ranks have you thought you know some things have been said on our side which should not have been said?
Simon Birmingham: Look I can't think of any instances that spring to mind. But David, we've come through a period of time where we've of course had strong debates about border protection and that will continue. A tragedy like this doesn't eliminate the importance of keeping secure borders, but we need to make sure those debates respectful. Of course we've had a long debate about terrorism and I know that you were there on Sunday night at the vigil that was held at Mosque on Marion Road and you and Ali like you like me, would have heard Houssam Abiad, I think make a very valid point there that perhaps we need to stop prescribing motivations to terrorists. In the end, as somebody who claims to conduct a terrorist act in the name of Islam or in the name of some sort of political ideology, frankly probably doesn't deserve to be able to do so. These are just deranged individuals who have no place in our political structures, nor in faiths of peace.
Ali Clarke: Amanda Rishworth, do you think there has been a rethink?
Amanda Rishworth: Well I think there should be very careful consideration of what, particularly political leaders, but other leaders, the media, a range of organisations who do broadcast. So I think I've been regularly saying on issues such as language that targets a particular race or a particular religion. Language does matter, language does matter in how we express ourselves and we all should be good role models for that. I think people should reflect when they're talking about these issues and be very careful in what they say. I do think sometimes in some of the media commentary there's a confusion between the difference between hate speech and vilification and actually freedom of speech. I think that's not to say that we start cloaking ourselves to say this is all about freedom of speech, we should say what we want about anyone at any time I think this is a timely reminder that we should be careful in what we say.
David Bevan: Amanda Rishworth again, I would never accuse you personally of any of this but have you had cause in the last few days to think about some of the things that have happened and been said from within your ranks the Labour party's ranks, and think gee I wish we hadn't gone there.
Amanda Rishworth: Look I can't identify any instances. I think that Labor leaders have been very responsible in the way that we have responded to different bills. Take the medevac bill, there was a lot of hysteria about what that would mean but of course what that was all about was about allowing sick people to get the medical treatment they deserve. So I wouldn't be able to point to some specific instances but...
David Bevan: Well the obvious example would be the, 'Can you trust Habib flyer?' that Labor put out in the 2014 state election.
Amanda Rishworth: Well I don't know the background to that.
David Bevan: Come on, we all know what went on. I mean you've seen the flyer and it was obviously referencing a Middle East sounding name. She was a Liberal candidate, and that those words can you trust Habib were put up against a bullet-ridden wall.
Amanda Rishworth: I think we all have to be responsible for our own language and I would call on everyone to be responsible for what they say and not vilifying and confusing what is hate speech and vilification with freedom of speech.
David Bevan: You don't think that the Labor Party should just come out and say in South Australia look we have taken, genuinely tried to take the high moral ground on these issues, we've called out some terrible stuff that's happened on the right side of politics, the conservative side but even within our own ranks, we have at times made mistakes and that was one of them.
Amanda Rishworth: Well look I think people have said that before.
David Bevan: But not you.
Amanda Rishworth: Well I'm happy to say it but I think everyone needs to be responsible for their own actions and I take that very seriously. I've been very consistent on these matters and and absolutely have said we need to be thinking very carefully about our language.
Ali Clarke: Rebekha Sharkie Centre Alliance MP for Mayo, do you believe the Labor and Liberal parties when they say they won't preference One Nation now?
Rebekha Sharkie: Look I really hope they don't preference One Nation and they should go back to John Howard's position there. I'd just like to say I had a look through Hansard last night following the Medevac bill, the government asked in just six days 34 Dorothy Dixers about national security. They were deliberately trying to instill fear in the community, and they (indistinct) of a range of ministers even the Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack as to how threats of national security were going to affect jobs in regional Australia. Now Simon Birmingham said he cant think of any incidences. Well I can think of just a couple off the top of my head, Peter Dutton said that the Fraser Government made mistakes by resettling Lebanese refugees back in the 1970s. Then we had Dutton, the Prime Minister and Mathias Cormann say that refugees were going to be taking our hospital beds. We have had a politics of fear in the Parliament around how we treat refugees, how we treat people who are Muslim for a long time and Simon Birmingham voted to say it's okay to be white, which is a known white-supremacist saying. So, I think that we actually need more than just words now we actually need some action.
David Bevan: Simon Birmingham?
Simon Birmingham: Well we canvassed that and I acknowledged that a terrible mistake in process happened and I said how embarrassed and sorry I was at the time. Now I took that on the chin fair and square as a mistake, and it's one that I'm embarrassed by. Its something that I wish had not occurred and I certainly wish that stuff up of process had not occurred. At a broader level, I think Rebekha has to be careful here that she doesn't go down a path that says, we can't debate whether or not resettlement policies have always been successful or have had flaws. We can't debate whether or not certain measures like the one she supported in the Medevac bill could in fact cause for, flow of boats to come back to Australia and with that, the loss of life in drownings at sea and all of those other horrific consequences. I mean this is where we have to be very careful about how we respond. We have to be able to still debate issues that matter to this country and you can't have Rebekha Sharkie going down some sort of pathway that is all about then an extreme vision of political correctness that you can't even discuss any of these issues. We have to be able to discuss them, discuss them respectfully, discuss them in the way that unites our country. This idea that we can't actually discuss border protection policies that are important to our nation in a whole range of different ways including saving lives at sea. Well this frankly political correctness gone mad coming from Ms Sharkie.
David Bevan: Rebekha Sharkie?
Rebekha Sharkie: It's not political correctness gone mad. Thirty-four questions in six days that you asked of your own ministers. I think that was unnecessary and I think if you are saying that Malcolm Fraser did the wrong thing by resettling Lebanese refugees in the 1970s...
Simon Birmingham: I'm not saying that, if you go back and don't actually verbal what was said you will see there were questions about the way in which resettlement occurred and how that worked. I think Malcolm Fraser's treatment of refugees particularly in relation to Vietnamese boat people to our country and of course a Governor of South Australia being most outstanding example of that, was an incredibly generous and positive period. But that doesn't mean again, that you can't have a look at the way resettlement policies worked, where they were successful, where they didn't succeed in terms of people getting jobs, becoming members of society in a way that we want positive outcomes, and if you don't learn from those mistakes you'll repeat them in the future. This is where your're trying to use circumstances of tragedy and to say we just can't talk about these topics, we have to be able to talk about them but talk about them sensibly.
David Bevan: I didn't follow that this part of the debate closely enough but we just received a text saying Peter Dutton, your Cabinet colleague said that Lebanese migration to Australia was a mistake. Now is that a fair and accurate report of what your ministerial colleague said, and if he did say that, I mean...
Simon Birmingham: We're going back a few years and I obviously don't have the quotes in front of me either David. That I don't believe is the case, my understanding is the debate that occurred was one about how the resettlement policies were applied, not that the migration per say was a mistake, but whether in fact he had all of the right support measures and everything else in place to help people be able to become engaged members of the Australian society. He said it is in terms of what jobs, engagement...
David Bevan: What about Greens leader Richard Di Natale's motion to suspend Fraser Anning after his appalling statements following the shooting. Amanda Rishworth, is that a good thing to do? That is to put up a motion to suspend Fraser Anning, or is it a case of look we're coming up to an election, all you're going to do is give him a platform in the Parliament. If you've taken an extreme version of how we manage our words, Jacinda Adern the Prime Minister of New Zealand is saying I'm not going to mention the name of the person who was responsible for the shooting, I will not give him a platform. Taking that reasoning and applying it to offensive statements, he hasn't shot anybody, but offensive statements made by Fraser Anning. Putting up a platform for him in the Senate to argue whether or not he should be suspended is that a good idea?
Amanda Rishworth: Well look I think it's always a balance in these things. I think you don't want to give any more airtime to people that say quite frankly ridiculous things and it's really hurtful things. But at the same time I think it would be comforting for people that feel that they're being targeted to know that the Parliament stands up against this type of rhetoric and that it is not representative of the parliament. So I think it is the right course of action to take. But I also think there is a question for the Liberal Party, are they going to put people like Fraser Anning and One Nation last? Labor has been very clear and we have a historic position on putting One Nation and other extremists last. The last Queensland election, the Liberal Party said they'd do no deals but they still preferenced One Nation in 50 seats out of 58 seats before the Labor Party. So there is some real questions as Rebekha said, let's see some action from the Liberal Party about whether they will actually take into consideration these disgusting comments and the fact that One Nation was the breeding ground for Fraser Anning and he was elected as a One Nation Senator and actually stand up against this party.
Ali Clarke: Ten minutes to nine, that is the voice of Amanda Rishworth we are in the middle of Super Wednesday. Rebekha Sharkie is also with us as is Simon Birmingham. So to you Simon Birmingham, on Amanda Rishworth's points, do you think the Prime Minister and your party will stand by the promise that they will not preference One Nation?
Simon Birmingham: Yes. Look, the Prime Minister was I think very clear that there will be no deals with One Nation. I fully expect that extremist positions will be put last in relation to the way in which the Liberal Party constructed its how to vote card. And now of course you've got to see who nominates to be able to assess just who's worst and, I well recall many years of upper house voting where I'd start at the top and then start a bottom and then you work out the ones in the middle. But we do take these matters very seriously, but you've got to see who the final nominations are and work out, and we put Fraser Anning, where you put Pauline Hanson...
David Bevan: It's pretty straightforward, do you put Fraser Anning and One Nation above the Labor Party or do you put them below the Labor Party?
Simon Birmingham: Well I trust that we will be putting those of extremist positions at the bottom of the ticket and it's just a case of seeing which order you put the extremists in.
David Bevan: But they should go below the Labor Party. I mean this is, the parties of the centre, you have big disagreements but you remain parties of the centre, just one to the right of the centre one to the left. You have some allegiance to the centre dont you?
Simon Birmingham: David, I certainly do. I think that's evident in much of my politics that I think we really do need to fight and work hard for good, strong, centrist positions in Australia. But of course, they are the sorts of things that will bring us together as much as possible. In terms of preferences, the PM's been clear, there'll be no deals with any of these parties and extremists will be at the bottom of the ticket.
Ali Clarke: Okay. Simon Birmingham, Amanda Rishworth, Rebekha Sharkie thanks for your time.
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