SUBJECT/S: Turnbull must show the leadership on multiculturalism Abbott wouldn’t; Joe Hockey as Communications Minister



CHRIS HAMMER: Michelle Rowland, good morning.


HAMMER: Now you’re the Shadow Minister for Citizenship and Multiculturalism. How should Malcolm Turnbull differentiate his Prime Ministership in your view, from that of Tony Abbott’s?

ROWLAND: Chris, it would be nice to have some policy in this area based on fact, and based on responding to some of the big challenges we have. Even some of the most recent Scanlon findings have concluded that there’s never been a time when we have less inclusiveness in many of our migrant communities, more discrimination for many people in our society. These are very serious challenges that need to be responded to and we have an opportunity here to have some real leadership in this area where Tony Abbott failed.


HAMMER: Now we have such things as the Senate Inquiry, the so-called “Halal Inquiry” instigated by Cory Bernardi. Now there’s a suggestion that Senator Bernardi might even leave the Liberal Party. He’s from the Right, the conservative Right of the party. Should Malcolm Turnbull be calling his bluff?


ROWLAND: Yet again it would be nice to see some decisions being made in this area based on fact. We’ve even had Barnaby Joyce come out as Agriculture Minister saying that some of the claims that are being made around Halal - and bear in mind, this is also about Kosher food as well - some of these claims that are being made could actually harm our export potential and also the prices that Australian farmers receive for these goods. So it would be nice to see this based on fact. Cory Bernardi pushes his own agenda. He has enjoyed the favour of Prime Minister Abbott. He was number one, and I believe still is number one, on the South Australian Senate ticket and it would be a pleasant change to have some facts inserted into this rather than some of the hate mongering we’ve had from the likes of Senator Bernardi.


HAMMER: Okay, so what’s the test for the public assessing Malcolm Turnbull, giving some sort of benchmark which you think he should meet in their eyes.


ROWLAND: Firstly we have had members of this government who are openly opposed to multiculturalism and even as Malcolm Fraser said, those who are opposed to multiculturalism need to realise that their arguments have failed. Malcolm Turnbull needs to come out and make a very strong statement and reprimand people like George Christensen who are repeat offenders in this area, who go to Reclaim Australia rallies and dress themselves up as essentially Pauline Hanson. A very strong statement there. Secondly, watering down the current race hate protections in the Racial Discrimination Act, 18C in particular. We had a supposed inquiry into this by George Brandis over a year ago. We haven’t seen the results of that as they’ve never actually been public, all those submissions. But we had Prime Minister Abbott at the time say it was taken off the table for the sake of “Team Australia”.


Now, Prime Minister Turnbull needs to come out and give assurances to the Australian community that he will not water down these provisions, that he will reprimand members of his team who still seek to pursue this, and there are many. There are many who continually get up publicly, including in the Parliament, and say these things. Thirdly, we need an approach towards migration and refugees that means that Australia is on the international stage and also again consistent with what the findings are showing. The findings are showing that our humanitarian intake actually contributes to Australian society, yet we have again people in his government who are talking about refugees essentially taking jobs. There needs to be a public statement by the Prime Minister on these things and he needs to address them as a matter of urgency.


HAMMER: Finally, you’re also the Shadow Assistant Minister for Communications. Malcolm Turnbull obviously is no longer Communications Minister, would Joe Hockey make a good Communications Minister?

ROWLAND: Joe Hockey would be a good Communications Minister for the fact that not only did he double the deficit, but then he can take on board the fact that the cost of the NBN has doubled under this government. So it would be highly consistent with his capabilities.

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


ROWLAND: My pleasure.