SUBJECT/S: Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran; Nannies; Palestine



CHRIS HAMMER: Michelle Rowland is the Labor MP for Greenway in Sydney’s west. She joins us now, good morning Michelle.


HAMMER: The news this morning from Indonesia, grimly the executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, what’s your reaction to the news?

ROWLAND: It is extremely grim and I extend my deepest condolences to their families and all those who loved them. These are two people who made a mistake a long time ago, who had demonstrated their remorsefulness every single day that they had left on this earth, and I think it’s a terrible tragedy and a terrible waste. I feel so sad for their families and loved ones. The Sukumaran’s family church is actually in my electorate and a couple of months ago we had a vigil for them. It was absolutely packed out, both inside and out onto the street which I think demonstrates the level of feeling in our community for these poor young men who are no longer with us.

HAMMER: The Australian Government has announced it’s withdrawing the Ambassador to Jakarta, are they doing enough? Is the response appropriate?

ROWLAND: I think this is appropriate. It is unfortunate that we have come to this set of circumstances, but it is about Australian citizens and the way that they have been treated and Labor supports the Government’s efforts in this regard. And I should highlight we have been united as a Parliament, not only against the death penalty, but in doing everything that we can to ensure that these young people were kept alive. Unfortunately now that is no longer the case we need to have an appropriate and a strong response.

HAMMER: Given the bipartisanship on this issue, seeing the passion evoked in the community more broadly is it time for Australia to lead some sort of diplomatic push against the death penalty worldwide?

ROWLAND: I think there is an overwhelming feeling in the community at the moment that’s highlighted the impact of the death penalty and how, in fact, it can lead to such unjust outcomes. I think that is something that we should be looking at as a Parliament. We had I think just about every member of the Parliament sign a petition about this particular matter and against the death penalty specifically. And I think there would be some strong community feeling for that, but I think first things first Chris: this is a relationship with Indonesia specifically that we are talking about here and I think we need to remain focused on that in the first instance.

HAMMER: Okay. Moving on to domestic issues, Scott Morrison has revealed a pilot scheme for the use of nannies for shift workers. Given that the shift workers have difficult accessing normal childcare centres, it’s not a bad idea is it?

ROWLAND: I think there is merit in always ensuring that we have accessible and affordable childcare options and recognise that we don’t have families in Australia that are all the same. People are different, they have different working hours and demands. I do have concerns with a couple of points that have been made in this announcement, and bear in mind this is supposed to be part of a families package, the centrepiece of this Government’s Budget that’s going to come down in two weeks’ time. But we have scant detail of this. We’ve simply had an announcement and some media commentary from the Minister. But there are many questions yet to be answered, things like how are we going to ensure that the standards that are demanded from other sectors in childcare are met under this scheme? Who is going to qualify for this scheme?


And while recognising that this is a pilot scheme, we need to also ensure that all the other avenues for affordable and accessible childcare are available. This is a Government that’s cut a billion dollars out of the childcare sector. One of the most flexible and well supported aspects of childcare is family day care. We have a situation, Chris, where local councils are bailing out their family day care providers in their local areas because they need to be kept going even after this Government’s cuts. We have about $6,000 worse off for many families in our communities as a result of this Government’s cuts. So I think that it cuts both ways: whilst we do need to have affordable and accessible childcare, we can’t do that at the expense of all other forms of childcare.

HAMMER: Nevertheless, you’ve raised certain concerns about this scheme, isn’t that the purpose of having a pilot scheme where we can find out where things may be lacking?

ROWLAND: This Government can go ahead with its pilot scheme, Chris, but we need to see more of these details. You can have an announcement but without the actual bones to the measures, and without families knowing whether or not they’re going to qualify, at this stage it is simply an announcement.

HAMMER: There are fears they may tighten the activity test for childcare subsidies for people who are on welfare benefits, what concerns do you have there?

ROWLAND: Again, we don’t have clear details about this, but it would certainly fly in the face of trying to encourage parents, specifically women, to re-enter the workforce if it’s actually made tougher for them. So again we need to see the details of this and not just thought bubbles.

HAMMER: Just lastly can we touch on another international issue that Labor is considering in the run up to the National Conference in July and that’s recognition of Palestine as a state. The party’s policy at the moment calls for a two-party two-state solution, negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians. This new position would move more to a recognition of Palestine. What are your feelings on this?

ROWLAND: I support the policy that’s being proposed here. I have been a supporter of a two-state solution. I think Chris Bowen summed it up very well the other day when he said it seems like we’ve been talking about this for a very long time, and indeed internationally we have been doing that. It seems we often go one step forward but two steps back, I think we need more than words here. We need to recognise that a two-state solution is the viable option. We need to recognise that the Palestinian people have a right to self-determination just as the state of Israel has a right to exist free of fear. But I think that it is an appropriate response that we make in changing our national platform. I note that Tony Burke and Tanya Plibersek are working on this and I think this would be a positive move.

HAMMER: It does suggest though that there’s a lack of confidence that the Netanyahu Government is committed to a two-state solution itself.

ROWLAND: I think one can examine the words of Mr Netanyahu during the election campaign only recently where he basically said there will be no two-state solution. It’s no surprise that I think even the Obama Administration has expressed its dismay over that matter.

HAMMER: Any trigger point for Labor in government actually going ahead and recognising Palestine will be the continued settlements, more settlements on the West Bank?

ROWLAND: That is likely to be a part of it, Chris, but I think we need to take this one step at a time. We’ve got our National Conference coming up and I think that these things are going to be robustly debated and I welcome that.

HAMMER: How confident are you that Labor can reach a unified position on this, or do you think it will be quite divisive at the Conference?

ROWLAND: I think we’ve always demonstrated in our National Conferences that we have robust debate, we have robust debate within the conference itself and also in our local branches, that’s the nature of the Labor Party, and I welcome that. I think that we have always taken a position as the Party, at least as long as I’ve been in it, that we support a two-state solution here and I’m confident that feeling will prevail.

HAMMER: Okay, Michelle Rowland. Thanks for your time today.

ROWLAND: My pleasure.