ABC ADELAIDE: 24/07/19

July 24, 2019


ALI CLARKE: Joining us now is Simon Birmingham, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, hello.

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Good morning, Ali.

CLARKE: Mark Butler, Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Labor Member for Hindmarsh, good morning to you.

MARK BUTLER: Good morning.

CLARKE:  And we have the independent Senator for South Australia, Cory Bernardi. All here for Super Wednesday or auditioning to replace the people on MasterChef, just a thought.

CORY BERNARDI: Well, Ali, I could team up with you, what do you reckon? You can cook I’ll comment.

CLARKE: No, I can’t cook.

DAVID BEVAN: Well, all morning we’ve been receiving calls from people saying they’ve been woken up by robocalls. Now we’ve yet to work out who is responsible for these, although they are asking questions such as: “how do you think the South Australian economy is going?” and one listener who persisted right into the end insisted it was authorised by the South Australian Government; something that the Marshall Government denies. Simon Birmingham, what is the point of these robocalls, don’t they just annoy people?   

BIRMINGHAM: Well, David, robocalls are made by many services to survey, gather information and understand people’s opinions and views.

BEVAN: Do you think they’re a waste of time, they just annoy people?

BIRMINGHAM: No, David, they are used to get a better understanding of peoples views, opinions and to gather information. It is part of modern technology and practice. In relation to these ones this morning, I heard some of your coverage this morning, I got in touch with the Liberal Party State Director to query what was happening and I understand a statement has just gone out acknowledging there was a technical error. Calls that were supposed to go to some suburbs yesterday evening went out this morning and the State Director has issued a public apology for inconvenience or annoyance. 

CLARKE: Actually, I do have that statement that has just been handed to me. It does say the South Australian Liberal Party apologises for some early morning telephone surveys that went out in error. State Director Sascha Meldrum said survey calls were made across a number of suburbs which were in fact scheduled to go out last night but due to a technical error went out between 6:15am and 7:15am this morning. The quote is: “I sincerely apologise for any inconvenience or annoyance caused by these early morning survey calls to households.”

BEVAN: So, sorry somebody pressed the wrong button. On a bigger issue, Boris Johnson is now the PM of the UK. Given that Donald Trump and Boris Johnson are now leading our two longest and strongest allies, is Scott Morrison actually the best person for the job? Now he would be a lot more comfortable with these two men than Bill Shorten or Penny Wong. Your thoughts, Cory Bernardi?

BERNARDI: Of course I think Scott Morrison is a better alternative than the Labor government; there is no doubt about that. In reality international diplomacy is one of the hallmarks of leadership and Scott Morrison has proved himself adept at that. He’s respected by Donald Trump, I’m sure he’ll get along well with Boris Johnson as well. Together we might not agree with everything that is going on but together Australia will be very well represented on the main stage. 

BEVAN: Mark Butler, Scott Morrison is going to feel a lot more comfortable with Donald Trump and Boris Johnson than Bill Shorten would?

BUTLER: I think the strength of our relationship with the US and the UK over many decades lies in the fact that it doesn’t really matter what party the US President, the UK Prime Minister or the Australian Prime Minister for that matter comes from. The relationship is much deeper than that and I think whether it is Bill Shorten, Scott Morrison or any of the other figures you’ve talked about, once you get into the national arena you are very much focused on the national interest. Bob Hawke, for example, got on famously with Ronald Regan they were from different political ends of the spectrum, they were pursing very different economic policies in their countries but they still recognised the national interest was way beyond party politics.  

CLARKE: So you’re just as comfortable with this triangle of Trump, Johnson and Morrison as you would have any leaders?

BUTLER: Well I got a vote about Scott Morrison and it won’t be a surprise to your listeners I voted strongly against him but I don’t get a vote in the British Prime Ministership or the US Presidency. Our job as major political parties, so for Simon and me in particular, our job is to be very clear we will work with whoever the British and the American people, or the people from any other country for that matter, chose as their leader.

BEVAN: Simon Birmingham do you welcome Boris Johnson’s accession?

BIRMINGHAM I congratulate Boris Johnson on his election as Leader of the Conservative Party in the UK and his impending appointment as Prime Minister. I look forward to working with him and his government. As Trade Minister we have much to get on with if Brexit is achieved and Australia stands ready to move as swiftly as the UK are able to finalise trade agreements between Australia and the United Kingdom that we hope would restore much of the market access that Australia lost many, many years ago as part of the UK’s entry into the European common market at the time and we want to make sure we enhance trade and investment ties between Australia and the UK. We’ve been working to be prepared for that under Prime Minister May and I want to acknowledge her service and her enormous efforts to try and resolve their complex domestic policy changes but we will now get on with the new Prime Minister and whoever he appoints as his ministers to make sure the Australia-UK deals with the maximum possible benefits for peoples of both our nations.  

CLARKE: October 31 is the date for the Brexit as such. Just in working terms, Simon Birmingham, how long or how soon we will actually see this tangible difference or tangible change to this agreement?

BIRMINGHAM: We have seen a couple of Brexit dates come and go, now Mr Johnson as the incoming Prime Minister has been very clear he doesn’t want to see any movement from that October 31 date. The UK technically is not able to negotiate new trade agreements with other counties until they terminate their customs union with the European union, so in that sense they can’t formalise negotiations with us until after October 31, if that’s the date of departure. But we would move as swiftly as we can. We’d already put in place a trade working group between Australia and the UK to explore possibilities. I think that would put us in a position where the UK would want to get the deal done in a period of months, maybe even weeks, where we would be able to move as swiftly as they were able to. Australia has plenty of experience of being able to strike trade agreements bilaterally with big countries like China and Japan and the US and across multilateral partners such as through the Transpacific Partnership. We could help them get a deal done; a good deal that hopefully ensures a free flow of Australian agriculture products and business products into the UK, investment and trade in both directions.

BEVAN: Simon Birmingham the Foreign Fighters’ Legislation, I think it has passed the Lower House now it will head up to your chamber the Senate. Can you explain what exactly the Government is trying to achieve here with these people, Australians, who are being held in refugee camps in the Middle East?  

BIRMINGHAM: Our ambition is to provide them the maximum possible protection for Australians from the threat of terrorist incidents or domestic disruption here in Australia. Those who chose to leave Australia to go and fight in foreign wars with terrorist groups like ISIL, what we want to do is make sure we deal with, as best we can, with those foreign terrorist fighters as far from our shores, as far from our risk of any violence occurring in Australia as is possible. What the bill provides for is a temporary exclusion order prohibiting an Australian of counter terrorism interest from returning to Australia for up to two years. So that would provide a two year window, it would be a decision made by the Minister for Home Affairs based on the advice and analysis of the risk that that person of counter terrorism interest poses. But under the types of amendments and so on that are being considered that would also be subject to judicial overview.  

CLARKE: Cory Bernardi?

BERNARDI: I actually will back the Government on this 100 per cent. I think it is very important for all Australians and quite frankly I think if someone goes to fight with Australia’s enemies against the wests interests and our national interests, then the exclusion order could be much broader than that.

BEVAN: What if they had no choice? What if we are talking about mothers and children?

BERNARDI: Yeah this is where it becomes a little more difficult and the Government has made some decisions to repatriate some mothers, or women and children. I personally don’t agree with those decisions. I think it is a very tough call but ultimately once people have been exposed internationally to these sorts of theatres, where it is so gruesome, so hideous and so brainwashing, they forfeit their rights to Australian protection. 

BEVAN: You’d never let them back?  

BERNARDI: Yeah this is one of the challenges. I don’t think it is in our national interest to repatriate them. I think the Government’s made different decisions so people will have different views on this but when a child has been exposed at the parental behest to beheadings and various other atrocities, I don’t think it is Australia’s responsibility to raise that child and to rehabilitate them.

BEVAN: Mark Butler would you leave them there forever?

BUTLER: No, these are children and Australian citizens so obviously it is not that simple and neither of the major parties have taken that view. We’ve been in pretty strong agreement with the Government, there needs to be a temporary exclusion order regime in Australia. The UK, for example, has had one in place since 2015 and as we have with a range of different national security legislation over the past little while, there is a joint parliamentary committee, Chaired by Andrew Hastie and a number of Labor members on it as well, a committee that has worked very well, cooperatively and constructively over the years considered this legislation and made a series of recommendations that were made on a unanimous basis. We think those recommendations should be picked up. We’ve made it very clear that we support the legislation in principal. We support this being introduced. But, for example, one of the recommendations is that the orders should be made by a judge, as happens in the UK. Peter Dutton wants to make the orders himself rather than have a judicial officer make that. Those are amendments we will continue to press in the Senate when a debate comes up over the course of today. We’ve been clear that we support the need to make sure that the people that do go overseas that engage in terrorism activities and want to return home can be subject to temporary exclusion orders while our security agencies work out a way to keep Australian people safe.

BEVAN: But if they are going to be brought back here eventually, if this is eventually where they are going to end up, wouldn’t it make sense to get them back here as soon as possible so that we can, for want of a better word, start the re-education?

BUTLER: These are matters we take advice from our security agencies about, we don’t support, and I don’t think the Government supports permanent exclusion, particularly when you are talking about children. The vast bulk of the people who are in the queue, if you like, to come back as we understand from the department are children and women. We don’t support the permanent exclusion of Australian citizens that is sort of impractical. But we do need to take account of security agency advice about ways in which they can be brought back into the country safely.

BIRMINGHAM: Ali if I could just, in relation to this it is important for listeners to understand that this is not mandatory. It is by a case by case analysis. The Government has chosen to bring some children back to Australia and is working through this process. Equally this provides powers when we think there is a higher risk to make sure we deal with those cases offshore to keep Australians safe. That is the policy rationale behind it, it gives us flexibility; it gives us judicial oversite. As for the Labor Party I acknowledge they voted for it in the end but it was a pretty grudging process.

BUTLER: We supported a unanimous committee decision that was Chaired by your people, Simon.

BIRMINGHAM: You’re going to try and make 41 amendments in the House of Representatives, claims it was unconstitutional and were dragged kicking and screaming supporting this just like you were tax cuts.

CLARKE: Okay Simon Birmingham, Mark Butler and Cory Bernardi thank you for joining us.