SUBJECT/S: Syrian Refugee crisis; George Christensen’s disgusting tweet
FAIRFAX ‘BREAKING POLITICS’
WEDNESDAY, 9 SEPTEMBER 2015
CHRIS HAMMER: Michelle Rowland, the Prime Minister has said that when it comes to Syrian refugees he wants to give priority to women, children, families, and to persecuted minorities. What do you make of that prioritising?
MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CITIZENSHIP AND MULTICULTURALISM; SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Chris, for many years we have had a bipartisan approach to the issue of who comes in on our humanitarian programme, underpinned by the principle of non-discrimination. We take people on the basis of need, not creed, and I think that it would be a significant departure from that position if we were to start imposing some sort of filter at our end that compromised that non-discriminatory requirement. And I stress that this has been bipartisan, and I even heard Phillip Ruddock only recently in the Parliament restating how important it is that we have that non-discriminatory mechanism.
HAMMER: If the emphasis is on need, though, then inevitably many of the people who do come to Australia will be from persecuted minorities.
ROWLAND: You are absolutely correct, and I would not be surprised at all if the UNHCR, with whom we work to determine who we accept in our humanitarian program, I would not be surprised at all if they are of various Christian denominations. But Chris, if we go down this road of saying we will impose that filter and not take our advice from the UNHCR, then you even start going down a path of who is more worthy? Maronites? Copts? Assyrians? Like, you start going down this road of then trying to judge who is more worthy within various Christian denominations.
HAMMER: Now the Prime Minister has used this term ‘persecuted minorities’, but some of his backbenchers have gone further and suggested that maybe Christians should be given priority. What does the Prime Minister need to do?
ROWLAND: The Prime Minister needs to accept that we have had this non-discriminatory policy. I think that this has given rise to some of the unfortunate ongoing mindless rantings that we’ve had from some people in his caucus, and if he doesn’t want to accept that non-discriminatory principle, then we will be going down a very dangerous road in this country. I think that the Prime Minister needs to acknowledge that non-discriminatory principle, we do need to take our advice from the UNHCR, not from people like Eric Abetz or Cory Bernardi.
HAMMER: What do you think about comments that if too many refugees are accepted into Australia, it’s going to have a big economic impact, that they’ll be taking jobs off Australian workers, for example?
ROWLAND: Well, the most far right example we have of this in recent hours has been that of George Christensen, who has put out a tweet actually saying these are the refugees that are going to end up taking our jobs. Well, he’s factually incorrect amongst many other things. The ABS data that was only released last week, I believe, showed that our humanitarian migrants are in fact the most entrepreneurial. They add billions of dollars of value to our economy. So not only are his comments mindless, they are factually incorrect, and this Prime Minister needs to show leadership on this and finally put an end to this sort of talk.
HAMMER: Okay, Michelle Rowland. Thanks for your time.
ROWLAND: My pleasure.