23 October 2011




NATARSHA BELLING: Let’s go to our political debate for tonight, and going head to head is Finance Minister Penny Wong who joins us from our Adelaide newsroom, and shadow immigration minister Scott Morrison, joining us from Sydney.

MATT DORAN: Thank you both for your time, Senator, if I might start with you. As the wrangling just continues over our asylum seeker policy, it seems the boats just continue to arrive, another two intercepted today in the Indian Ocean, 143 passengers, three boats now in the last 24 hours. Senator I know you’ll perhaps be eager to blame the Opposition blocking the Malaysia Solution, but is it not now time for the Government to, in effect, step in and govern?

WONG: We would govern, and we would implement an arrangement that we know would provide deterrence. What we have is Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison saying they will vote with Bob Brown to prevent offshore processing. What does it say about the extent to which they are prepared to play politics and negativity? They vote with the Greens in order to stop offshore processing. And the Government was upfront with the Australian people that more boats was the risk that we faced as a result of Tony Abbott’s decision.

DORAN: Mr Morrison –

MORRISON: What we’re seeing here is, basically, business as usual under Labor. This is a Government who has adopted the Greens’ policies. The Coalition’s quite happy to allow offshore processing as we practiced it when we were in government. But we now have a Prime Minister who blamed John Howard when she was in Opposition, now she’s Prime Minister she blames Tony Abbott, in between she blames Kevin Rudd. So I think it’s time she ends the blame game, and starts governing, and adopts the Coalition’s amendment.

WONG: You know what I find extraordinary is Scott saying we adopted the Greens’ policy. He was the one that was going to vote with the Greens –

MORRISON: But it is the Greens’ policy, Penny.

WONG: But I just want to say –

MORRISON: You could have chosen our policy.

WONG: What we saw this week is the Chief of the Navy saying that the Coalition’s policy of turning boats back would risk lives –

MORRISON: Now don’t verbal the Chief of Navy, Penny.

WONG: Including the lives of Navy personnel –

MORRISON: The Chief of Navy –

WONG: I’ll stop in a sec, let me finish. The second thing we saw was the head of the Immigration Department saying that Nauru – which is what Scott said is the answer – wouldn’t work as a deterrent. So you’ve got the Chief of Navy saying turning the boats back risks lives. You’ve got the head of Immigration saying that Scott’s policy doesn’t work. And he wants to pretend to the Australian people he has a policy. What he’s got –

MORRISON: Well there is only one problem you’ve got Penny -

WONG: Is negativity with the Greens.

BELLING: We’ll just quickly move on.

MORRISON: Our policies actually did work. The Chief of Navy said that on that occasion he was able to turn a boat back and in Chris Bowen you’ve got someone who won’t even get people off a roof in the detention centre when they’re protesting.

WONG: You’re not answering the question. You’re not answering the question.

MORRISON: So I’m not surprised he won’t seek to turn boats back.

BELLING: Senator Wong excuse me for just a moment. I’ll have to move on to the other big issue – we’re almost running out of time – the Qantas dispute. Now there’s growing concern that this ongoing dispute is not going to be resolved. There’s growing concern that it’s not only going to devastate our tourist industry, but most importantly our very fragile economy. Why are you not stepping in to resolve this dispute? There’s also speculation Tony Sheldon’s got something to do with it.

WONG: What we said is that there are powers in the Act, and the Minister has made it clear that he would consider using them if they are required. But let’s remember where we are. We’ve seen the parties negotiating. We’ve seen an offer, various offers being made.

What we are saying is they should resolve this. This is a dispute that is causing, and has caused, a lot of disruption to Australians and their families. It has been of great concern. And we would really say to the parties, let’s sit down. Sit down, negotiate, and get an outcome.

MORRISON: Well I’d agree, Matt and Tarsh, with Penny, that this is a very serious issue that does need to be resolved. Not only here in my own electorate here in Sutherland Shire, but right across the country. Many jobs depend on the aviation industry, but well beyond Qantas: also in the tourism industry, and logistics distribution. So it is important that they sort this out. And if they can’t sort it out then the Prime Minister really does need to bring it to a head.

BELLING: We’ve once again run out of time tonight. Thanks so much for joining us, we really appreciate it. Finance Minister Penny Wong, and shadow immigration minister Scott Morrison.

WONG: Good to be with you.

BELLING: Thanks for your time.

MORRISON: Great to be with you from the Shire.

WONG: Thank you.