SUBJECT/S: Newspoll; Social cohesion and de-radicalisation; Geert Wilders





KIERAN GILBERT: With me now, the Shadow Minister for Citizenship Michelle Rowland. A few issues to get across; the polling. It’s got Turnbull way ahead as better PM, but neck and neck for the parties and the 2PP. Is that encouraging for you, are you still competitive?

MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CITIZENSHIP AND MULTICULTURALISM, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Kieran, I think we have been competitive in what is a very difficult situation from Opposition. You’ve got to do the hard yards of formulating policy. Let’s not forget we came off a devastating election loss in 2013. Bill Shorten has kept us united. We’ve been working on policy, gradually releasing it and we are in a situation where we have been competitive for some time and I don’t need polls to tell me that.

GILBERT: Does he need to do more though to be more than just uniting the party, that he needs to focus on the issue of the economy more? Because that’s been one of the criticisms that he and Chris Bowen haven’t made enough ground on that front.

ROWLAND: Oh, I dispute that. I think we have been very strong economically, and the fact that former Treasurer Joe Hockey was widely recognised as the worst Treasurer in living memory, I don’t think that was an accident we were able to get ahead on the economic front, it was thanks to people like Bill Shorten and Chris Bowen and his team leading the charge there. But let’s remember this; even though Malcolm Turnbull and his supporters might be jumping for joy, as you say the two party preferred result probably isn’t what they would have expected. Bill Shorten leads a united team, unlike Malcolm Turnbull who is getting jeered at his own state conference. And just remember too, he knocked off probably the most unpopular Prime Minister in living memory, so putting all those together, I wouldn’t be taking a lot of comfort from it if I was Mr Turnbull or his friends.

GILBERT: Let’s look at some issues of responsibility in your shadow portfolio. The issue, I guess, that’s dominating a lot of the focus in the Parramatta shooting is this radicalisation of young Australians. There’s a meeting today Mike Baird is hosting, a round table in Sydney, another on Thursday with security agencies on how to stop the radicalisation of young Australians in the first place. What’s your take on all of this, what more can be done to empower communities, schools, families, to prevent this sort of stuff from happening?

ROWLAND: Certainly I think hitting on the word ‘empowerment’ is important. We need to address this not only from a law and order perspective, which is extremely important and we need to let those authorities do their jobs, but we also need to look at some of the causes of radicalisation. You have situations where young people are being seduced into committing such a horrible crime, for a 15 year old to commit such a horrible crime beggars belief. We do need to get to the bottom of these issues, what is actually causing it. We know that there are some issues with specific individuals who are preaching their hate and radicalising young people. Also we need to make sure that young people are given opportunities to know that they can contribute to this country, they have a stake in this country, they belong here. When you start marginalising people in a real, but as well as a virtual sense, then you start to have people getting isolated. So it is an extremely vexed issue and I think the fact that we’re sitting down as politicians with community groups, listening, is a very productive step.  

GILBERT: Michelle Rowland, do you have any criticisms of Malcolm Turnbull’s response to that shocking attack in Parramatta where he held a news conference immediately after but then five days later gave a full response in terms of the deradicalisation agenda and that sort of thing. He’s copped some flak from various quarters, what’s your take on it, do you think he handled it appropriately?

ROWLAND: Look I don’t know how productive it would be for me to criticise the Prime Minister on this. I believe it is an extremely vexed matter. The criticism I have of the Prime Minister is this: he talks a lot about respect, he talks a lot about mutual understanding, he talks a lot about belonging. We need to see this in action. We know from the responsible Minister here that the countering violent extremism strategy, she has basically said it’s not working, we need to have another look at it. This needs to be done urgently. We also need to ensure that we have a situation where people aren’t subjected to racist hate speech or bigotry. We have listed this week in the Senate, the amendments that are being proposed to Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. This is a chance for Malcolm Turnbull to put his words into action, make sure that he brings his party into line to not support such divisiveness.

GILBERT: On this issue of bigotry and hate speech that you referred to, that’s been one of the criticisms levelled at the Dutch MP Geert Wilders who’s coming to Australia to help launch a new political party here, do you think he should have been granted a visa to visit?

ROWLAND: The granting of visas is a matter for the Department. The Minister takes advice on that. I have two views on this. Firstly, I have no time for this individual or his fringe views. I don’t think mainstream Australia has time for him, the Labor party has no time for him. The last thing I want to do is to give more air time than he is entitled to and I think he is entitled to very, very little. I note the comments from Samier Dandan, a very well respected member of our community on this point, and I completely understand his concerns in this area. I would just be concerned to ensure that we don’t make a martyr of this individual. I think he deserves as least air time as possible and if he does incite any hatred which would end up being - particularly if it resulted in violence - if he does any of this then surely he would be in breach of his visa conditions. That should be monitored very carefully.

GILBERT: Michelle Rowland, appreciate your time.  

ROWLAND:  My pleasure.