SUBJECT/S: Citizenship changes; Liberal “machismo”, Government’s child care changes leaving one in four families worse off;Labor’s positive plan to tackle climate change





HELEN DALLEY: Joining me now is Michelle Rowland. She’s the Shadow Minister for Small Business and Shadow for Citizenship and Multiculturalism. She’s in our Parliament House Canberra studio. Michelle Rowland, welcome to the program.


DALLEY: Now the National Security legislation, this latest change, Labor has agreed in the caucus to the government legislation stripping citizenship from dual citizens who commit terrorist acts. What were your final concerns before you’ve agreed to pass this?

ROWLAND: I think it’s important to note that Labor said from the very start that we would support a sensible updating of Australia’s citizenship laws to take into account phenomena like Daesh, which have unfortunately emerged. Now the reason why Labor has chosen to support this legislation, and we did so today in the House of Representatives, is two-fold. Firstly, this legislation was referred to a parliamentary committee whose substantive recommendations were bipartisan and Labor said that our support for the Bill would be conditional on all those criteria being met. And secondly, as I said previously, we understand that it is sensible policy making to update our laws to take into account these unfortunate phenomena. So Labor did that today, but let’s remember that this is a Bill which the Government obviously has brought in and for which the Government bears the constitutional responsibility, that is, ensuring that it is sound from a constitutional perspective.

DALLEY: So do you think it is safe from a High Court challenge?

ROWLAND: We have letters from the Attorney-General, the first presented as part of the Joint Committee’s report, assuring us and giving us comfort that this is constitutionally sound. Secondly, they made amendments to their own legislation today to account for an issue surrounding separation of powers where in their original drafting, for which they received advice as being sound, their original drafting had the Minister performing a role that might be seen as a decision maker standing in the shoes of, for example, a judge. So they had to amend their own legislation and again without providing us with the actual advice they provided us with a letter from the Attorney-General stating that with this amendment the Bill would be constitutionally sound. Now Labor has relied on those provisions.  

DALLEY: All right, does that mean you are satisfied that only convicted terrorists can be stripped of their citizenship if they’re also a citizen of another country and how will it actually work in practice as far as Labor’s concerned?  

ROWLAND: Someone can be stripped of their citizenship based on the actual offence or based on the conduct. So in one sense you have someone who does certain things, they do that, they then go offshore, and then if they are found a notice being issued saying that they have committed these particular types of offenses then the Minister could undertake certain actions and they could be stripped of their citizenship. Now you asked the question about whether or not we believe this is constitutionally sound. Well, we rely on what the Government has presented to us. But let’s face it, at the end of it, the constitutional compliance of any legislation that goes through the parliament rests with the government of the day. Now I think it is quite telling that this Government had to amend its own legislation. I think it is quite telling that this Government said from the outset that this was an important issue that they wanted to address. They made an announcement in May this year, it wasn’t until June that the legislation was actually presented and it wasn’t until September that we had the Committee report on its findings.

DALLEY: But if I could put to you Michelle Rowland, politicians of now both persuasions have spent so much time and effort on this and yet might it only impact on less than a few dozen people, is that your understanding?

ROWLAND: Let’s look at the facts. Before Labor actually had this Bill in a joint committee and before these amendments were made we had very strong advice that this could actually apply to a very broad cohort of people. People who actually didn’t do things that were terrorist related. So now that it’s been stripped back, we don’t know the exact figures of who this would apply to, but we know that the criteria has been narrowed down so it would in fact apply to a very limited set of people.

DALLEY: What more do you think Australia should be doing to combat IS? Are we covering all the bases as far as Labor is concerned?

ROWLAND:  I think it’s instructive to look at the comments made by both the Prime Minister and Bill Shorten in the Parliament the other day. We know that we operate as part of an alliance around the world, that there is no appetite for boots on the ground in the conflict zones, but we need to work with our international partners, take advice from them but also anything we do needs to be in consultation with them. So I think it’s very important that Australia follows that regime because that is what our allies expect of us and indeed that I think is the most productive way to go forward. May I also add that we are a very long way off having a political solution in this as well and we need to make sure we pursue that.

DALLEY: Now you are also Shadow for Citizenship and Multiculturalism. There are still strong criticisms of the Grand Mufti and his comments after the Paris attacks. Do you think that criticism is helpful if we are trying to get moderate Muslims to be a strong part of the fight against IS?

ROWLAND: As Mr Irvine, our former chief of intelligence said, there is no doubt that our greatest ally in this fight against radicalisation within Australia will come from the Muslim community itself.  There is no doubt that they will be our greatest allies and there’s also no doubt as the Victorian police have noted, that making the type of comments that some people have made, including and I’m talking specifically about some of those rallies that have been held, those types of public comments and actions make the job of the police even more difficult.

DALLEY: No I’m talking about Josh Frydenberg is the latest, he was criticising the content of what the Grand Mufti said. Do you support Josh Frydenberg and others’ criticism of the Grand Mufti’s comments?

ROWLAND: I think the comments I’ve made are an important prelude to that which is this: it is very disappointing to see that only a few days after the Prime Minister made his statement in the Parliament and only a few days after he left to go overseas, we have the Government, Government members, splintering off and making their own comments on this issue. Now Josh Frydenberg is free to have any opinion he likes, but you’ve got to ask yourself this question, why did he choose to make them some two weeks after the comments were originally made and after even as Prime Minister Turnbull noted, even after the Grand Mufti clarified his comments to the satisfaction of the Prime Minister? Now as I said, he’s welcome to make any comments that he likes, but I would prefer also to see him, if he wants to comment on these matters, perhaps he should comment on his colleagues like George Christensen who goes out of his way to make extremely divisive comments, not only in the Parliament, but at Reclaim Australia rallies. I would like to see him apply the same standard of freedom of speech as he’s chosen to on this occasion. And may I also say, I know having been the Shadow Minister in this role for two years, having a large Muslim community whom I deal with on a regular basis, I know that Muslims do not subscribe to this view of IS as standing for them. They find them absolutely repugnant. They find them to be barbarians and I think we should remember that our greatest allies in this will be the Muslim community itself.

DALLEY: I want to ask you about the childcare revamp, the government wants to get support on. Why isn’t Labor embracing at least a start to reducing tax payer subsidies for very wealthy people and increase the rebates for middle and lower income families in the childcare changes?

ROWLAND: Well for a start the only modelling we have on this matter is modelling that shows us that 1 in 4 Australian families will be worse off to the tune of around $2000 a year. Now we don’t think that it is equitable to see those families worse off. We don’t think that it is right for this Government who has had two years -

DALLEY: Are you saying that they are low income families that are going to be worse off?

ROWLAND:  We know from the Natsem modelling, and if the Government wants to release its own modelling to dispute it then they’re welcome to, but the reality is, we have such little detail on this package, the only details we get are coming out piece by piece. For example we thought this was a $3.5 billion childcare package. Apparently today it’s $3 billion, suddenly half a billion dollars has dropped off somewhere. So we have such little information on this, we don’t even know who was precisely going to be affected and that’s the question that we are asking of this Government.

DALLEY: Do you think that will get support either from you or from the crossbenchers this week?

ROWLAND: We have to see the detail. We haven’t even seen the legislation introduced into the Parliament yet.

DALLEY: All right, on climate change, the big conference in Paris. Bill Shorten’s 45 per cent emissions reductions target pledge if he was Prime Minister, is this totally designed just to put pressure on Malcolm Turnbull or is it actually a genuine realistic target?

ROWLAND: It’s a realistic target which has been recommended by the Climate Change Authority itself. A 45 per cent reduction on 2005 levels by 2030 is what the Climate Change Authority is recommending. So I think  it’s important that we make decisions that are based on the science and also demonstrates Australia is serious about it. Once upon a time Malcolm Turnbull was serious about taking real action on climate change.

DALLEY: Some of the business groups including the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry they’ve slammed the 45 per cent target, Malcolm Turnbull called it heroic and naïve. ACCI was horrified. It does seem to be going further than many industrial countries. Can it be achieved without the cost of electricity for households skyrocketing?

ROWLAND: Bill Shorten has made this commitment and I think it’s important to note this fact: we will go to the business community, to consumer groups, and to the public at large consulting on this 45 per cent reduction target. Now Malcolm Turnbull said it’s heroic, well I’d rather be heroic than gutless any day. This is a Prime Minister that was willing to put his leadership of his party on the line and instead today he has gone to Paris and is taking a policy of Tony Abbott’s, one that he completely derided. Now we should have a climate change policy that is based on fact. We should have a climate change policy that is based on markets. Once upon a time the Liberal Party believed in markets. Now anyone is welcome to their view on this, but our starting point should be the science and it should be the recommendations from reputable bodies such as the Climate Change Authority,

DALLEY: Great to have you on the program, thanks for joining us.

ROWLAND: Pleasure.