Subjects: Migration to Australia under the Fraser Government.
The Immigration Minister has been copping some flak this week for daring to speak what I consider to be the truth and he joins me right now from our Canberra Studio.
Minister good morning.
Good morning Ray.
Look I don't know why all the handwringers have gone on about this comment in relation to the Fraser Government's immigration policies.
If I can just share – and I've done this stacks of times – we go back to 2006, an article that appeared in Fairfax, I think by Gerard Henderson, the Liberal leader Malcolm Fraser became Prime Minister in late 1975 around the time of the outbreak of the Lebanese civil war between Left leaning Muslims and Right leaning Maronite Christians. Initially Fraser and his Immigration Ethnic Affairs Minister Michael MacKellar were approached by Maronite Australians to allow some Lebanese Christians who [inaudible] to settle here.
Fraser agreed, however it was not long before processes got out of hand. As it turned out, very few Christians wanted to or were able to come to Australia. Department officials were sent to Lebanon to administer the programme. They began granting visas mainly to Muslims, often on the flimsiest evidence they had close relatives or indeed any relative here. The programme became known as the Lebanese Concession. The concession involved what was the Lebanese concerned would be admitted to Australia under the refugee intake, despite the fact that strictly speaking, they were not refugees. And so it goes on.
Now the other article I refer to was written by Matthew Franklin in The Australian, I think in 2007: 'Immigration authorities warned the Fraser Government in 1976 it was accepting too many Lebanese Muslim refugees without required qualities for a successful integration.'
'Cabinet documents released back in 2007 under the 30 year rule reveal how Australia's decision to accept thousands of Lebanese Muslims fleeing Lebanon's civil war in '76 led to a temporary collapse in normal eligibility standards. The emergence of these documents raises the question of whether the temporary relaxation might have contributed to the racial tensions in south-western Sydney' and so it goes on talking about the type of people that came here and they talk about those people in the most terrible way.
Now I've had many meetings with Lebanese Maronite Christians – you know second and third generation Australians – who tell me this is exactly what happened.
I don't wish to labour the point, but it's a bit like if someone said to us tomorrow 'look we'll take 30,000 of your people'; well you go straight to Barwon Prison, you go straight to Goulburn, you go straight to Bathurst and you say 'well here's a few thousand to start, you can take them', and I'm not suggesting we emptied prisons in Lebanon of Muslim people, we got a lot of good Muslim people over a long period of time, but we got some very crook ones under Malcolm Fraser and that's just the way it is.
Well Ray, a lot of what you've read out there is indisputable. I mean that's the history and that's as I conveyed it. Now, I'm not going to be dishonest in this discussion. I've spoken the truth.
What's happened though is that Bill Shorten – I've seen a different side of Bill Shorten this week, I mean some of his colleagues have spoken about this sort of shifty, sneaky part of his character, which obviously Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard saw – but he sought to completely misrepresent what I said.
The point that I was making is that we should call out the small number within the community, within the Lebanese community, who are doing the wrong thing. If we do that we can hold up the vast majority of people within the Lebanese community who work as hard as you and I do, who have contributed to Australian society, who are captains of industry, people that have worked hard, provided their kids with an education; they are being besmirched, those good people are being besmirched by these people within the Lebanese community who have done the wrong thing – and that is no different to what any Lebanese leader would tell you and yet the Left as you rightly point out, go off half-cocked.
I mean they hate me because of the refugee policy that we've got because we've stopped the boats and they don't like me as Immigration Minister, that's fine. I can tell you now Ray, I won't cower to these people. Bill Shorten can carry on, be part of the tricky elite in this country, he can talk double code to people, he can be tricky in his language – I'm not going to be intimidated by it. It only gives me greater resolve to make sure that in the work that I'm doing, we bring the right people into this country, we celebrate the fact that we've brought some wonderful people into this country over a long period of time that have made out country what it is today and we celebrate that, but I am not going to allow those people, regardless of their ethnic background, regardless of whether they were born here, whatever the case may be; if they are doing the wrong thing, if they are seeking to do harm to our country or to our people, then I will…I can promise you this; continue to stamp these people out because I'm not going to allow any intimidation, I'm not going to be cowering like Mr Shorten does in his backroom union deals – that's what's happened here the Left's run off as I say, because they're not a fan of mine – it's water off a duck's back and it just makes me more determined to make sure that we get the migration policy right.
I was criticised recently by Labor for saying that I was too slow in bringing the Syrians in. Well you know what, because we've done the extra security checks that needed to be done, we've found 22 people within those that were granted visas or were about to be granted visas, who we were worried about and we didn't allow them in because of that decision, because I stared down Labor's nonsense then, we have brought people in who will do the right thing by our country, who will start a new life with their family here and that's what we want. We've got the vast majority of the Lebanese community who are good, upstanding, decent, hardworking citizens that provide for their kids, work hard in our community, they are being besmirched by this minority, that's the minority I spoke about and I'm not going to take one step backwards.
Let me say this to you. I've had any number of meetings over the past decade with members of the Lebanese Maronite Australian community and Lebanese Muslim community in the same room, we've sat there, and we've broken bread and spoken about this.
I've implored them to be public. They've said exactly what you've said, but for varying reasons they are too scared to say what has been enunciated, all they've got to do is repeat what was written by Matthew Franklin out of these papers. I mean the Fraser Cabinet was told via these papers many of the refugees coming in as Lebanese Muslim migrants were unskilled, illiterate and had questionable character.
You know what the Maronites say to me? 'Ray, Mr Fraser got the worst of the worst, he didn't get the best of the best, he got the worst of the worst', but they're not prepared to say it.
And Ray the irony here is that Matthew Franklin who wrote that article in 2007 is now a senior adviser for Anthony Albanese.
As I say the facts here are indisputable which is why I feel comfortable where I am, I'm on safe ground because I've relied on the facts. If people don't understand the history then they'll make the same mistakes into the future and when we looked at bringing people from Syria, I wanted to have a look at the way in which people were brought into our country to provide assistance because Australians are generous people. We want to provide support to people, but we aren't going to have the hand bitten that's being extended by way of friendship. We aren't going to allow people to come into our country to do the wrong thing by Australian citizens.
We want people to come here to start a new life, work hard, provide a good education for their kids – that's been the history of migration in this country – but there have been mistakes made and if we don't learn from those mistakes, as I say, we'll repeat them again and I am not going to do that during my time as Immigration Minister.
Well Bill Shorten knows the truth about what happened in 1976 and it is there for all to see. Let me just remind everyone this is a conservative Minister Peter Dutton, he's not having a crack at Paul Keating or Bob Hawke, he's enunciating what one of his fellow Liberal Party politicians did in Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser. I mean you could sort of take a pot….oh yeah Dutton, he's having a crack at the Labor….he's having a crack at his own because Malcolm Fraser did this and he can stand on his record for as long as he wants to on his hind legs; at the end of the day many of the problems we encounter in south-western Sydney now are at the feet of one man; Malcolm Fraser. That's where they are. Anyway we'll leave that and move on. I don't expect you'll make any criticisms of your former Prime Minister.
I wanted to talk to you about this departure tax. There's been a twist this morning with Pauline Hanson saying she'll comeback – and I don't understand this, they must be very forgiving in the Senate, they won with 31-30 and defeated your legislation last night, but Pauline Hanson and Brian Burston from One Nation weren't there. Pauline was doing a doorstop somewhere or an interview somewhere, but now she said that we'll come back in today and we'll revisit this and we want a sunset clause after I think five or six years they're talking about – in other words it is in place for that period of time and then it's reviewed.
But I spoke to one of your colleagues this morning about how this works. Doesn't someone from One Nation know there's an important vote on or do you think they knew it was on and avoided it so they could throw this spanner in the works at the last minute and then get it relooked at today?
Ray when you have a choice of conspiracy or stuff-up, I normally go for stuff-up.
So it was a stuff-up?
I suspect….look she just missed the vote. I don't know why. She inadvertently no doubt….she can explain it, which I think is what normally happens, they can recommit the vote if they say 'look you know I was intending to vote this way, but I was delayed, I was stuck, didn't hear the bells,' whatever it was. So she has made a mistake and I am sure she will stick her hand up and work that out and ultimately she'll support the Bill.
Ok, but will they cop her amendment? Will you cop her amendment do you think?
I'm not a party to the negotiations, but I think there is agreement on some amendments, but Mathias Cormann and I think a couple of others in the Senate are negotiating it. So i just haven't been that close, but I think there is agreement. She is happy to support the Bill in the amended form and hopefully it will be recommitted, the Bill will be passed. It builds on the success, I mean this Registered Organisations Bill that was passed this week is as big a win for the Government as the Australian Building and Construction Commission will be because it really applies the same onus on union leaders and others that we have on company directors. This is a big win for a couple of million workers around the country.
People don't want to be ripped-off. If they are paying their union dues they expect the money to be spent wisely and I think this Bill has been a really good win for the Government this week and hopefully the ABCC Bill goes through next week.
Well it appears up until now the only rules that union bosses observe is; if it's not a rort if you're not involved.
It's not a rort until you get caught.
Yeah or the benefit; you know it's only a rort if you are not in it and that is documented by Sharri Markson. Just interrupting, I've got a call here from a listener, I just want you to hear what he has go to say. G'day George.
G'day Ray and g'day Mr Dutton. I actually can't hear Mr Dutton now, he's gone blank, but I will say this; Mr Dutton thank you very much. My family were one of those in 1976 who came here and I agree with Mr Dutton that a lot of them who came here are just riffraff, they really were.
I come from a Christian minority, the Assyrian people who really suffered there and I just want to say thank you again also to my [inaudible] who came here from Lebanon as refugees from Syria and they are Christian minority again and they've come here and I tell you what; they are going to make Australians proud. And not only thank Mr Dutton, but thanks to the Australian people who got a big heart and I guarantee you that they will make a great life here.
My family have grown up here. I own a business and employee people. My sister is a police officer. We have intermarried. We've got Aussies in the family. We've got Greeks and Italians. We basically integrate quite well into the community. I just want to say thank you so much for the opportunity. Australia is a great country and we'll make Australia proud.
Well done. Thank you George.
Thank you George. Thanks very much mate.
Well there's what we are talking about. There's the success story.
That's it mate. Why would be allow good people like that, the vast majority like that, to be besmirched by the criminals within a particular community. We need to call them out and if we do that then at the same time we're heaping praise on the good people. That's been the story of migration.
It doesn't matter where you come from Ray, I mean if you live in Australia you come here where you are a part of this society because of the opportunities that afford you, you want to live in a safe community, you don't want people bringing their problems here, take the opportunity of a great education and health system and lead a great life. That's what we want. We don't want people with trouble and we don't want the people that are going to cause problems into the future and if we don't learn from those mistakes we'll make them again and we can't afford that. There's a lot to protect in what is a great country.
Well you think about the contribution that Greek Australians, Greek Italians, Maltese Australians, Eastern European Australians, Lebanese Australians have made since before the war in the case of many of these people and after the war…
I mean it is unbelievable and what I've said – and I'll leave it this way – you want to go to the markets, the fruit and veg markets in Brisbane or the ones in Sydney and see the potpourri of people working together where every Vietnamese Australian is called Johnny, every Greek Australian is called George and they take shots of each other all morning, they work together, they have a great respect for each other and if you want to look at multiculturalism working then go to one of those workplaces or go to the fish markets across the road from where I am at the moment where you see people from Asian extraction, Greek, Italians, all working, all working together as Australians.
That's dead right Ray and you know the other thing that they all have in common, as do millions of other Australians, is that they want an honest discussion and I think from their political leaders they want people to discard the politically correct nonsense language that Shorten and others carry on with. Let's deal with issues carefully, responsibly, but honestly and have the debate. If we have the debate then we fix these problems, we don't see them get worse overtime.
We can address the concerns that we've got and that way we make our country a great place today, but with an even greater future and that's what we want for our kids and grandkids – that doesn't matter where you've come from, that is ultimately what you want – you want a safe place, safe environment for your family where you can work hard and get ahead. And from my perspective, I mean that is why I am in public life and why I am in this job and I enjoy it, but you have to make tough decisions.
I mean we can't allow people to come here who have criminal backgrounds or if they commit crimes here, they can expect to have their visas cancelled and that's the reality of how we should run the programme.
Now look I've run out of time. I want to devote next week's chat to trucking and 457 visa holders. It will take up our whole time and I'll get my staff to brief your staff on exactly where we are heading with this, but we are having far too many accidents and the RMS are telling me in New South Wales and the main roads in Queensland are saying, 'oh no, we don't give these people licence unless they can drive.' Day after day after day I've got people coming from other parts of the world to drive B-Doubles who can't drive it forward let along backwards and we need to talk about it.
Happy to. Thanks Ray.