Subjects: AWU Raids; Migration; Manus RPC.
Minister, good morning.
Good morning Ray.
I understand that if you've got to go you've got to go to this division, but it's been a particularly chaotic 48 hours. I was sitting here at the same time yesterday saying the nonsense from the Labor Party, Tony Burke and others, that somehow there's a conspiracy between the Australian Federal Police, your government and a Federal Court magistrate to issue a warrant was just absolute nonsense, but then we've got this massive own goal caused by someone within your colleague Michaelia Cash's office.
Well the staffer's made a big mistake and he's paid a heavy price and an appropriate price for it. He's resigned his position and when Michaelia Cash was made aware of the change in circumstances she informed the Senate of that.
And the difficulty of course is, as you say Ray, this detracts from the main story here which is one about Bill Shorten's integrity and one about the police raiding the AWU.
We're in the 21st century and in a democracy like ours nobody directs the Australian Federal Police Commissioner or the agency what to investigate. They make their own decisions about the veracity of allegations and they are thoroughly and absolutely independent.
And Labor's red herrings here and trying to distract away from the fact that the police made a decision based on their professional integrity to conduct this raid, means obviously that they're investigating a matter very seriously.
And this is not the first allegation of impropriety around unions. We know that there are dozens of union officials before the courts right now. Mr Shorten's been wading in this murky water for a long time. He's been round the union movement for a long period of time and his colleagues know there are questions that Bill Shorten has to answer.
But you're right, this mistake by the staffer on the periphery of this issue is a distraction from Mr Shorten's questions that he needs to answer.
Now, just if you could explain to us given that you're in Parliament how this happens.
Now Senator Cash mislead Estimates – inadvertently she says – quite a number of times. I think five times actually. Where are the staff when this is happening? Can't someone pass her note and say, 'Minister, we need to stop here and have a talk?' I mean before she basically makes a fool of herself having to come back later. Where are the staff and I mean do they hang you out to dry in those circumstances?
Well Ray, I don't know the circumstances over what period the statements were made, whether it was a short burst in relation to a number of questions at that point in time or whether it was over a longer period of time.
But the main thing here is that – whether you're in Senate Estimates or you're in Question Time in the lower house – if you deliberately mislead then that's a serious offence and that's not the allegation against Michaelia Cash here. The staffer has done the wrong thing. He provided the wrong advice. It was brought to the Minister's attention later, she corrected the record and we move on. But as I say …
….so the Labor Senate is screaming yesterday – despite interjection from the chair – that she needed to resign, that Westminster system had been compromised by her misleading the House. I mean you can inadvertently mislead the House as long as you don't deliberately mislead the House, is that the rule?
Yeah of course, yeah. If you're deliberately or knowingly, that's a very different situation than what Michaelia Cash is in.
But why is Labor carrying on and shouting and screaming the way that they are? Because they want to distract away from the main story, they want to protect their leader. They want Bill Shorten to be protected and the fact is that the AWU made a donation of $100,000 to GetUp!. As we've discussed before, the Labor Party wholly own GetUp!. It's a subsidiary of the union movement. They get $1 million plus a year from the CFMEU. There are countless CFMEU bosses that have either been fined in recent times or are before the courts now. The Royal Commission demonstrated that.
So for the Labor Party ultimately to believe that they're above the law, or the union movement to believe that they're above the law, is a complete farce.
So, they want to distract people away from the main game here and the main game is that the police took an independent decision to conduct these raids because they obviously had credible information that they wanted to act upon and the investigation will continue. And the Federal Police won't be bullied by me, they won't be bullied by Bill Shorten or Malcolm Turnbull and they are thoroughly independent Ray and I can give you that absolute assurance.
I work very closely with Andrew Colvin who's the Commissioner. He is just a first class person and like his predecessors he doesn't do the Government's bidding, he makes decisions about what they investigate and what they don't. And Labor was running this distraction that somehow the Government had convinced the AFP to conduct these raids – really that's just a slur on the men and women of the Australian Federal Police and the Commissioner and it's contemptible.
So Labor's got a lot to answer for and when all of this dust settles with the current circumstances, these matters will be properly investigated as they should and if people need to be charged then that will be a decision made by the Australian Federal Police and the Director of Prosecutions.
There is a lesson to be learnt here that if you're going to leak to the media make sure you don't leak to the Left of the media because they go straight to Doug Cameron and tell him what's been leaked.
There are a few people that are happy to take leaks because that helps them in their job as a journalist and then they turn around and bite the hand that feeds them. So, there's not a lot of purity in some of these journalists, but anyway I'll let you comment on that.
Well I'm always astounded by, you know, how dare you impugn our integrity, we'll never reveal sources. Someone beat Usain Bolt in rushing from wherever they were to Doug Cameron's office to say, 'uncle Doug, you need to know this before you go to question Michaelia Cash,' so you've got to be careful who you leak to I suppose.
Now, one that's very important and I know we're pressed for time, but a story today in News Limited papers: most Aussie voters believe the country is full. Almost half the people that were surveyed want a partial ban on Muslim immigration. Just over 50 per cent agreed that Australia sometimes feels like a foreign country – I mentioned that earlier. We grew by 384,000 in the year March '17, with 60 per cent of that because of overseas migration. Now, it puts a lot of pressure – they said, 74 per cent of them – on hospitals, roads, affordable housing and jobs.
This is something that's been discussed and Dick Smith, as someone outside of Parliament, said we need to put a halt in it. There are other people from both Labor and Liberal who agree with him. Where do we stand?
Well Ray, we're always having a look at the migration numbers and I want to make the decision around the number each year that's in our country's best interest. I want our economy to grow, I want people to be spending money in local small businesses, building houses and adding to the strength of the economy, because that's how we get people employed and how people can support their families in turn.
So, we need to get the balance right and we've adopted the same policy settings that John Howard did; that is that we have about two thirds of the intake which is skilled and one third around family predominantly.
So people that have moved here understandably want to bring their brother or their mother or their father or cousin or something. And you can understand that there will always be demand for that type of migration and many Australians could relate to that story obviously.
So, in the Labor years the number peaked at about 305,900 in one year, which was an enormous number. We've got that number down now below 190,000 and, as I say, we're happy to reassess it because …
….will there ever be a time where you think we need to be under 100,000?
Well, as I say, I think you look at where the economy is at the time, you look at the sorts of issues that people rightly are raising around housing and infrastructure, roads. A huge frustration for people to be sitting in traffic to and from work each day and spending time away from their families and kids and things they prefer to be doing otherwise.
And people do, generally speaking, want to migrate to Melbourne, or greater Melbourne and greater Sydney – Brisbane to a lesser extent – and the other capital cities. In some regional towns they're crying out for people because they can't get workers in the meatworks, or can't get workers in areas of primary production or tourism, restaurants, et cetera.
So, we need to get that balance right, but we've brought it down from Labor's 305,000, now down to under 190,000. And we can look at that because we're not just bringing people in for the sake of it and this a big issue around our citizenship laws, which have been blocked in the Parliament so far. We want to make sure that people who want to become Australian citizens, if they're of a working age, that they are working, that they have integrated into Australian society, that they're abiding by our laws and adhering to our values and that's an essential part to what the Government believes in.
Okay, couple of quick ones. Manus Island due to close next week. We mentioned this briefly last week. Some detainees for years said it's a hellhole, they don't want to leave now because the place they're going to is allegedly a bigger hellhole.
Well, this is a crazy situation Ray. I mean so you've got people – there are 606 people in the regional processing centre on Manus at the moment – they're refusing to leave. So we've said that we want to close it by 31 October. Obviously it's in PNG, so it's an issue for the PNG police and the PNG Defence Force where this processing centre is.
But, as you say, for a long period of time, everybody's been screaming about wanting to get out of the place. Well, we say that we're going to close it and move them into a different facility and require those that aren't refugees to go back to their country of origin and now they won't leave.
So it's a difficult situation, particularly when you've got advocates and the Greens and whatnot back here telling people don't go because that'll diminish your chances of coming to Australia.
We have been clear, I repeat it again today and I promise you I will not be changing my position, that is: people who seek to come by boat will never settle in this country, and we've been very clear about it and we say it again today.
So all of this false hope that's offered up is only making a difficult situation worse and it's going to make it hard for us to achieve the 31 October deadline when people are refusing to accept the offer to move.
Okay, as always, thanks for your time. We'll talk next Thursday.
Thanks Ray. See you mate.