Subjects: Jobs growth; parliamentarian citizenship; Commonwealth Games athletes; CFMEU
We are going to go live now to Melbourne where the Citizenship Minister is standing by, Alan Tudge. Good morning, Alan, how are you?
I can't begin the interview without saying congratulations on hitting one million jobs.
It is pretty exciting, isn't it? This was a commitment which we made five years ago and people said we wouldn't be able to deliver it, but we have.
It is a million new jobs which we have created since being in government, and that is good news to those million families that may not have had jobs previously.
We know that the number of people on welfare has come down as people have gone into work, and that is great for them, it is great for the economy.
Yeah. Now, you are the Citizenship Minister, you are not the minister for constitutional referendums, but I do need to ask you about this report that is suggesting we should have a referendum on whether or not Section 44 should be struck out of the constitution.
What's your view on that?
As you know, this was one of the recommendations of the Joint Standing Committee and we are reluctant to proceed down that path at this stage, simply because it is so difficult to get a referendum question up.
I mean, as you know, Sam, only eight out of 44 referendum questions have ever been successful, and typically they are very non-controversial ones. You would need a long lead time, and there just isn't that lead time at the moment before the next election.
What we do want to do though is put in place some of the sensible measures which they have recommended, including changes to the nomination process so that we, hopefully, when people are nominating to stand for their political party or for election, that they are actually dealing with their citizenship issues there rather than getting into trouble down the track.
It is an intriguing thing, isn't it, that we are told that Section 44 could be a barrier to multicultural Australians entering Parliament?
But it strikes me that it is the Poms and the New Zealanders and the Scots that have caused us all the problems. What is wrong with these people? Why have they not got their act together and renounced their citizenship?
I was a dual national and I was Pom as well as an Aussie up until about eight years ago now, when I renounced my citizenship, and it is a very straightforward thing to do. And I knew
that I was British, I renounced it before I stood for Parliament.
The problem was that it was all the Labor members that did not do that, and as you know Bill Shorten basically had a protection racket for them for the last six months.
And this is why we are still dealing with this problem now, why we still have to go back and have a number of by-elections, because Bill Shorten would not fess up six months ago to his members, who were clearly dual nationals and clearly weren't eligible more than six months ago.
Yeah, and so do you think Anne Aly is still in strife? I mean, she has that letter from the Embassy saying she is fine, but The Australian newspaper reports today that there are some legal experts that think there still might be a question mark. Does she need to be referred to the High Court?
Listen, I don't know the details of her situation. I do understand that she has that letter from the Embassy, but these are complex matters to determine whether or not she is in fact a dual national.
If she is, then the High Court is very, very clear, if you are a dual national, you are not eligible to sit in Parliament. So that is a matter for her, it is another test for Bill Shorten, but I just simply don't know the details in relation to it.
Okay. Now, on these Commonwealth Games athletes that are apparently on the run, can you clear this one up for us?
Radio National was reporting this morning that there is not just 19, there could be as many as 100 Commonwealth Games athletes roaming around Australia and many are refusing to return home to their home countries.
Is that seriously the case? That many?
That is just speculation, Sam. I mean, we haven't revealed the figures and we won't be revealing the figures. The rules are very clear, that you come into Australia on a visa, there are conditions attached to that visa.
When those conditions expire because of time or other factors, then you have to leave the country. About 13,500 people - athletes, their coaches, et cetera - came into the country for the Commonwealth Games, nearly all of them left but there are some who have not left the country and they are now in breach of their visas.
They will get found and they will be deported, and in the future, it will be much more difficult for them to get back into Australia because they have breached their visa conditions this time.
Okay. Now, just before you go, we spoke to the CFMEU's John Setka today. He said that unions need to break the law in some cases when they are bad laws to protect their members.
That is how they get results, that is how they get big pay rises for CFMEU members. What is your reaction to that?
John Setka is the world-record holder for breaking the law. I mean, he has been convicted 59 times now, including five times for assaulting police officers.
I think that all Australians find that completely and utterly unacceptable, and what is equally unacceptable, Sam, is that the leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, is tied to - he is hand in hand with John Setka.
He invites John Setka along even to his election night parties. He is bosom buddies with John, and whereas he should be completely distancing himself from John Setka and the CFMEU because of their egregious, unlawful conduct time and time and time again.
And John Setka is one of the leaders in that regard.
Okay, Alan Tudge, thanks a lot for your time today.
Thanks very much Sam.