ABC Radio Adelaide – Christchurch shooting, One Nation preferences

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Radio Interview, ABC Radio Adelaide, Breakfast

SUBJECTS: Christchurch shootings, One Nation Preferences

DAVID BEVAN: Lets welcome Simon Birmingham, South Australian Liberal Senator, Minister for Trade and Tourism and Investment- good morning to you.


BEVAN: Amanda Rishworth, Labor MP for Kingston in Adelaide’s south and Federal Shadow Minister for Early Childhood- good morning to you, Amanda.


BEVAN: And Rebekha Sharkie, Centre Alliance MP for the seat of Mayo- good morning to you.


BEVAN: Simon Birmingham, let’s begin with you. Has there been a rethink of past commentary amongst our politicians since the Christchurch shootings?

BIRMINGHAM: I think events like this that are as profound and tragic as Christchurch should cause all of us, whether it is 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 as best we can that unifies our society. Now, that doesn’t mean we don’t have rigorous political and policy debates- of course we continue to do that, that is the nature of a 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 mad man’s terrible actions is minimised wherever possible.

BEVAN: Well there has been some commentary that- in your own ranks- within the Coalition Government, Muslims have been targeted, there has been some dog whistling over the last few years. Have you had cause to stop and think- and I am not talking about you, Simon Birmingham personally, I would never say that of you. But have you had cause to think that in my own ranks- and we will ask the same question of Amanda Rishworth on Labor’s side- but within your own ranks, some things have been said on our side which should not have been said.

BIRMINGHAM: I can’t think of any instances that spring to mind but David, we have come through a period of time where we have 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 are respectful. Of course, we have had long debate about terrorism and I know that you were there on Sunday night at the vigil that was held at the mosque on Marion Road and you and Ali, 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, somebody who claims to conduct terrorist attack in the name of Islam or in the name of some sort of political ideology frankly 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?

RISHWORTH: I think there should be very careful consideration- particularly political leaders but other leaders, in the media and a range of organisations that do broadcast. I have regularly been saying on issues such as language that targets a particular race or particular religion, that 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 are talking about these issues and be very careful in what they say. I do think sometimes in some of the media commentary there is a confusion between the difference between hate speech and vilification and actually freedom of speech and I think they’re not the same and I think when we start cloaking ourselves in saying this is all about freedom of speech and we should say what we want about anyone and at any time I think this is a timely reminder that we should be careful in what we say.

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 Labor Party’s ranks and think, I wish we hadn’t gone there?

RISHWORTH: I can’t identify any instances. I think Labor leaders have been very responsible in the way that we have responded to different bills- and take the Medivac bill; there was a lot of inference about what that would mean but what that was all about was about allowing sick people to get the medical treatment they deserved. I wouldn’t be able to point to specific instances but-

BEVAN: Well the obvious example would be the, ‘Can you trust Habib?’, flyer that Labor put out in the 2014 State Election.

RISHWORTH: I don’t know the background to that and I wasn’t part of that.

BEVAN: Oh c’mon we all know what went on and you have seen the flyer and it was obviously referencing a Middle East sounding name, she was a Liberal Candidate and those words, ‘Can you trust Habib?’, were put up against a bullet ridden wall.

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 to not vilify and confusing what is hate speech and vilification with freedom of speech.

BEVAN: You don’t think that the Labor Party should just come out and say in South Australia, look, we have genuinely tried to take the high moral ground on these issues, we have called out some terrible stuff that has 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?

RISHWORTH: I think people have said that before-

BEVAN: But not you.

RISHWORTH: I am happy to say that I think everyone needs to be responsible for their own actions and I take that very seriously. I have been very consistent on these matters and absolutely have said we need to be thinking very carefully about our language.

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?

SHARKIE: I really hope they don’t preference One Nation and they should go back to John Howard’s position there. I would just like to say; I had a look through Hansard last night following the Medivac bill and the government asked in just six days, 34 Dorothy Dixers about national security. They were deliberately trying to instil fear in the community and they are from 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 says he can’t think of any instances, 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 1970’s. Then we had Dutton, the Prime Minister and Mathias Cormann saying refugees were going to be taking our hospital beds, that they were- 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 we actually need more than just words now, we actually need some action.

BEVAN: Simon Birmingham?

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 is one that I am embarrassed by and it is something 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 Medivac 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 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 which matter to this country and you can’t have Rebekha Sharkie going down some sort of pathway that is all about then an extreme version of political correctness where you can’t even discuss any of these issues. We have to be able to discuss them, discuss them respectfully, discuss them in a way- that I said before- that unites our country. This idea that we can’t actually discuss our border protection policies that are important to our nation in a whole range of different ways, including saving lives at sea, that frankly is political correctness gone mad coming from Ms Sharkie.

BEVAN: Rebekha Sharkie?

SHARKIE: It is not political correctness gone mad. 34 questions in six days that you asked of your own Ministers, I think that that was unnecessary and I think that if you are saying that Malcolm Fraser did the wrong thing by resettling Lebanese refugees in the 1970’s-

BIRMINGHAM: I am not saying that, Rebekha. If you go back, 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 that Malcolm Fraser’s treatment of refugees, particularly in relation to Vietnamese boat people to our country and of course our Governor of South Australia being the most outstanding example of that was an incredibly generous and positive period. That does not mean, again, that you cannot look at the way which resettlement policies work, were they were successful? Where they didn’t succeed in terms of people getting jobs and becoming members of society that we want in a positive outcome, if you don’t learn from those mistakes well you will repeat them in the future. This is where you are trying to use circumstances of tragedy to say we just can’t talk about these topics- we have to be able to talk about them but talk about them sensibly.

BEVAN: Now, I didn’t follow this part of the debate closely enough but we have 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…

BIRMINGHAM: We are 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 that the debates 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 in place to help people be able to become engaged members of the Australian society-

BEVAN: What about Greens Leader, Richard Di Natale’s motion to suspend Fraser Anning after his appealing 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 are coming up to an election, all you are going to do is give him a platform in the parliament. If you take it to an extreme version of how we manage our words- Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand is saying I am not going to mention the name of the person who is responsible for this 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?

RISHWORTH: I think it is always a balance in these things. You don’t want to give any more air time to people that say- quite frankly- ridiculous things and really hurtful things but at the same time, it would be comforting for people who feel that they are 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 this of putting One Nation and other extremists last. The last Queensland election the Liberal Party said they would do no deals but they still preferenced One Nation in 50 seats out of 58 seats before the Labor Party. So, there is a real questions, as Rebekha said, lets 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. He was elected as a One Nation Senator and actually stand up against this Party.

CLARKE: Ten minutes to nine. That is the voice of Amanda Rishworth and 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- was very clear that there will be no deals with One Nation. I fully expect that extremists positions will be put last in relation to the way which the Liberal Party constructs it’s how to vote card. And now of course, you have got to see who nominates to assess who is worst and I will recall many years of Upper House voting where I would start at the top and then start at the bottom then you would work out the ones in the middle but we do take these matters very seriously but you have got to see who the final nominations are to work out where you put Fraser Anning, where you put Pauline Hanson-

DAVID BEVAN: – Look it is pretty straight forward: do you put Fraser Anning and One Nation above the Labor Party? Or do you put them below the Labor Party?

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.

BEVAN: But they should go below the Labor Party. I mean this is the parties of the centre 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, don’t you?

BIRMINGHAM: Look, David, I certainly do, I think that is evident in much of my politics that we really do need to fight and work hard for good strong centrist positions in Australia but- and of course those are the sorts of things that will bring us together as much as possible. In terms of preferences has been clear: there will be no deals with any of these parties and extremists will be at the bottom of the ticket.

CLARKE: Okay, Simon Birmingham, Amanda Rishworth and Rebekha Sharkie thanks for your time.


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