27 May 2011




BELLING: And joining us now in the studio this Friday morning are Finance Minister Penny Wong and shadow immigration minister Scott Morrison. Thanks to both of you for joining us this morning.

WONG: Morning Tarsh, good to be here.

MORRISON: Good morning.

BELLING: Let’s start now with of course the big issue for today, the gaming reform. Penny Wong, what are your thoughts on that? There was a promise for mandatory in the lead-up to the last election.

WONG: There’s a promise to deal with problem gambling. Behind all the talk, and all the politics, the issue is this: we have some Australians who have a problem with gambling who cause, because of their addiction, a lot of suffering in their own lives and in their families’ lives. And we do have to deal with it. We’re working through this with the states, we want to have a proper full pre-commitment regime, and that’s what we’ll be working towards.

BELLING: Scott Morrison, shouldn’t we be dealing about people’s gambling problems, rather than worrying about taxes and how much the state governments get through poker machines?

MORRISON: Well that’s for the states, but I think Penny and I would agree that this is a pretty serious issue. And it’s been an issue around for a long time, and they’re issues about balancing people’s own personal responsibilities, how these issues are dealt with in our communities. In my own electorate I know that our clubs are, you know, very earnest in trying to ensure that problem gambling issues are dealt with. So, look, we’ll wait to see the legislation and see what the actual proposals are, because we’re not at that stage yet. But I would think there’s pretty much commonality about the need to do what we can to address problem gambling in our community.

BELLING: Would you pull your colleagues, if they do kick up a fight in the states, into line over this issue?

MORRISON: Well, that’ll be a matter for the states. We’ll address the legislation that comes before our Parliament and we’ll be doing that in a reasonable and balanced way.

BELLING: Penny Wong, onto the other big issue this week, immigration debate, a very damning report from the Human Rights Commission. What are your thoughts there? Currently, obviously, the current system is not working.

WONG: We have to break the business model for people smugglers. We have to stop people getting on the boats and coming to Australia. And no amount of tough talk and rhetoric is going to do that. What we have to do is change the business model so people don’t have the incentive to get on the boats. And that’s what this does, that’s what this arrangement does. It’s about saying to people, if you get on a boat, and you come to Australia, you’re going to the back of a very long queue in the transit country, which is Malaysia. And that’s why this is a policy that is sensible. Obviously, there are a lot of people banked up in Malaysia, and that’s why people are clearly going to see that it’s not worth their while getting on the boats. That’s the idea.

BELLING: With all due respect, the Government hasn’t got the best record with rolling out policies. Are we going to have the same situation with this situation in Malaysia that we did with the pink batts, and the Education Revolution debacle?

WONG: Well, I don’t agree on the Education Revolution issue; that put a lot of money into a lot of schools around Australia and helped keep Australia out of recession. We know that 200,000 Australians would have been on the dole queues but for the investment that that was a part of. But on this issue, we’re working through the agreement with Malaysia. I think this is a sensible approach. What it recognises is that we need a regional approach to a problem that is worldwide. I mean there are 42 million displaced people around the world.

BELLING: Scott Morrison, the Human Rights Commission report, really serious issue. Should we just forget about politics, and the infighting, and the barrage of criticism between the Government and Opposition? This is a serious issue – they said, suicide and the desperate situation of people in detention.

MORRISON: Well Sev Ozdowski I think got it right when he talked about the Government’s Malaysia solution. I think he made it very clear that his preference would be to see us return to the Pacific Solution. I know the Government is trying to move towards a Pacific Solution but just can’t get there, they can just pick up the phone to Nauru. But also a policy of temporary protection visas, that’s what broke the people smugglers’ business model last time, and the Government refuses to go the full distance to achieve that.

Now, that’s what we’ve advised. I mean I can give you this absolute, rock-solid, specific guarantee: no one who goes to Nauru will be caned. No one. And we know that because we know where they’ll be every second of the day. Now the Government cannot give that guarantee for those who are sent to Malaysia. So I’m for breaking the people smugglers model but I’m not going to allow a Government to go ahead and compromise things like the United Nations Convention Against Torture which Malaysia is not a signatory to, and they need to make sure that they think these things through. And they look at the consequences and that’s what Sev Ozdowski, the former Human Rights Commissioner I think has laid bare today.

WONG: Can I just make two points. One is, Scott talks about temporary protection visas – they didn’t stop people getting on the boats, let’s be clear. After they were introduced, more people got on the boats–

MORRISON: Our record speaks for itself.

WONG: More people got on the boats Scott.

MORRISON: Six years of success.

WONG: After temporary protection visas were introduced and more people got on the boats.

MORRISON: Six years.

WONG: So they’re the facts.

MORRISON: You completely lost that argument, I’m sorry Penny, with the Australian people. They know we stopped the boats and our policy stopped them and you just won’t engage them.

WONG: And temporary protection visas increased the number of people getting on the boats.

MORRISON: Well you can stay in denial on that; I’ll let you.

WONG: The second issue, and I’m not in denial on that.

MORRISON: You are.

WONG: The interesting thing is Scott, you don’t want this to work. See we’re working to try and get this to work – a solution to a really, really complex, difficult policy problem that lots of countries are dealing with. But you just want to throw bombs because you don’t want this to work. We’re for the national interest.

MORRISON: No one will be happier than me if the boats stop. I campaigned for this for the past two years.

WONG: We want it to work and we’re working very hard to make it work.

BELLING: Will the Malaysian solution stop the boats?

WONG: We believe it will because it will break the business model. It doesn’t mean it will fix everything because this is a big problem. But when you say to people, ‘don’t get on the boat, because if you do you’re not going to be processed in Australia, you’ll join the end of a very long queue in Malaysia’ that clearly removes the incentive for people on the boats. So we welcome the fact that the Malaysian Minister yesterday made comments that he’s already seen some change in behaviour as a result of this. We’ve got a long way to go. Not pretending there’s a magic wand for this big problem but this is a sensible solution and in contrast to the sort of rhetoric that see from Scott.He clearly doesn’t want it to work. He doesn’t want it to work.

MORRISON: But Penny this is a specific question. Under Malaysian law, illegal immigrants can be caned. So can the Government give us a guarantee that anyone sent to Malaysia will not be caned?

WONG: Scott–

MORRISON: I can give that guarantee for Nauru.

WONG: Can I finish?


WONG: I mean Scott, this is the same thing you’ve been doing for the last few days. And the Minister has put out a statement to that fact.

MORRISON: He hasn’t answered that question.

WONG: You don’t want to listen to that statement because you just want to play games.

MORRISON: Because you can’t answer it.

WONG: Let me finish. You just want to play games with it. We’ll work through this methodically and carefully in the best interests for Australia.

MORRISON: So they won’t be caned.

WONG: What the Minister has said is that we have received undertakings from Malaysia, that people’s human rights will be respected.

MORRISON: I’m sure those going to Malaysia will be very comforted by those words.

WONG: If you’re so worried about people in Malaysia – if you are, then surely you would welcome the 4000 that we are–

MORRISON: We took thousands from Malaysia and Burmese refugees. You know that Penny. We took thousands.

WONG: He’s just talking over me Tarsh. I mean–

BELLING: Can I disturb just for a moment because we are running out of time. The other big issue – Scott Morrison, this is not good. The pressure should be on the Government regarding immigration, the other big issues, carbon tax. Unfortunately, the internal political fighting within your party is causing distraction.

MORRISON: Well I think that’s overblown, we are 100 per cent opposed to the carbon tax.

WONG: Dear me.

MORRISON: We’re opposed to the carbon tax.

BELLING: The body language between Mr Abbott and Mr Turnbull is not good.

MORRISON: There will be no carbon tax under the government Tony Abbott leads. That is absolutely crystal clear.

BELLING: Is he leading the government?

MORRISON: As I said, there will be no carbon tax under a government Tony Abbott leads.

WONG: That’s an interesting slip. Interesting slip.

MORRISON: I think people understand that crystal clear. That is the Liberal party policy, the Coalition policy. And that’s what we’re taking to the election and people can count on us to deliver on that unlike the Government.

BELLING: But surely, this isn’t good to have this leadership and tension going on?

MORRISON: There is no leadership speculation.

BELLING: Body language says a lot.

MORRISON: There is no speculation at all. Tony is the leader – unchallenged, uncompromised.

WONG: Have you told that to Malcolm?

MORRISON: Have you told that to Bill?

WONG: I think the Coalition are completely divided. And I think everybody saw that from the footage with Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull. We’ve also seen Joe Hockey at war with Tony Abbott for not being economically responsible. And amazingly we see Nick Minchin, Senator Nick Minchin, who used to have my job and who installed Tony Abbott, saying it’s not OK for Tony and the Coalition to be fiscally irresponsible. I mean I think that says it all.

BELLING: We could go on all day. And you should come back every week and chat with us because we love it. Thanks so much for joining us, have a lovely weekend.