SUBJECT/S: Pauline Hanson; minor parties; superannuation; Labor caucus

 And one of those already in the Shadow Ministry is Labor MP Michelle Rowland. She is, amongst other things, the Shadow Minister for Multiculturalism. I spoke to her earlier today and started by asking her does Labor have a new more nuanced approach towards Pauline Hanson the second time she's in Parliament.

MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR SMALL BUSINESS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CITIZENSHIP AND MULTICULTURALISM: I think two things, Tom. Firstly we need to always remember that what our leaders say actually does matter in our communities and this, I think, has brought up quite a few issues in that regard. But the second point I'll make is that Labor wants to have a constructive term of this Parliament and I think it's important to note that irrespective of the reasons why people may not have voted for the major parties, not voted for Labor, and instead chose to vote for minor parties, we need to look at the reasons for that. We need to understand that there are many people in our society who feel disconnected, who perhaps feel that certain parties are offering solutions. We need, I believe, to go directly to those people and start having honest conversations with them about the future. And so I believe that approaching, all members of parliament approaching one another in a respectful manner is a good start and I think that it is something in which we need to have full and frank debate with one another, and with the Australian people at large. 

CONNELL: But would you agree that appears to be a bit of a change when it comes to Senator-elect Hanson? There were some pretty strong words last time if you like, some attempts to perhaps have a disrespectful attitude, that this time there'll be a more careful approach?

ROWLAND: I think we should call things as they are, Tom. We will never in the Labor Party stand for racism or bigotry, however we will also be putting forward very positive policies in this term as we go into Opposition, and we want to make sure the Parliament is as constructive as possible. But by no means does that mean we are going to stand back and let bigotry and racism and hatred get the better of us or get the better of the Australian people.

CONNELL: It sounds as though your hope is that people who have voted for, for example, Pauline Hanson didn't necessarily do so out of a direct fear, for example, of Islam or Muslim migrants coming to Australia, but more perhaps a general fear of the unknown; a changing economy, perhaps uncertainty of their own employment. 

ROWLAND: I think that that's a big part of what I mentioned. And let's not kid ourselves, I think there are a large number of people who voted for Ms Hanson because she does espouse the views that they do believe in the views she espouses. So I don't think we should certainly brush that under the carpet, but certainly I think there is a large proportion of people and when you look at the areas where for example, on the evidence, GDP has slumped. They are areas in rural Queensland, and if you correlate some of those specific seats with the swings Ms Hanson said, you can actually see that there are direct linkages between economic exclusion and economic uncertainty and the propensity to vote for minor parties such as hers. So even if we put to one side, of course there are those people who choose to vote for her because of her views on certain issues such as Islam and race and others, but I do think there is a component and that's borne out by the evidence of people who feel tremendous uncertainty and who didn't believe that either of the major parties had solutions for them. That's our big challenge as Labor members in this Parliament, to demonstrate, to formulate policies and to communicate those with those people who've been so disaffected that they would choose to vote for these minor parties. 

CONNELL: Just moving on to the Labor reshuffle, are you keen to hold on to your responsibilities?

ROWLAND: As a marginal seat holder that's been returned, Tom, I can tell you that anything else beyond this point is a bonus. So I'm very happy to be back, I'm very happy to serve in whatever capacity the caucus chooses or Bill Shorten chooses to assign to me. And I've worked very well with all of my colleagues over the last two terms and I look forward to that continuing in any way that the caucus sees fit.

CONNELL: Music to Bill Shorten's ears no doubt but it is getting a bit messier down in Victoria in particular. You've got talk of perhaps four Labor MPs forming their own breakaway faction. It's all getting very messy isn't it, and this is a fight over a shadow portfolio for Kim Carr.

ROWLAND: We'll have our meeting tomorrow in Canberra and in the spirit of our caucus and according to our rules we'll determine then who is put up for those shadow ministry spots. But I really don't have anything to add to the speculation that's been going on Tom, but I just know that we are very fortunate in the Labor Party that we have a great range of experience, but also a great depth of talent. Particularly we've seen that injection of new talent that's come in after the election and I think that augers very well for the future for a strong Labor Opposition that will hold the government to account.

CONNELL: Moving on to superannuation, again Bill Shorten said during the election the government's policy is retrospective. Now he's saying we need an inquiry to see if it's retrospective, what's changed?

ROWLAND: We know that by backdating that cap on contributions to 2007 that that does have a retrospective element and it's not only Bill Shorten who said that, it's leading players in industry that have said that as well. 

CONNELL: Okay but he's saying now that three should be an inquiry to see if it's retrospective, you're just saying now that it is.

ROWLAND: Bill Shorten has always said that if you want to backdate something, if you say it's from 2007, then of course that is going backwards, of course that is changing to goal posts. But what he is actually calling for is saying we need to have a dialogue, we need to have a full inquiry into what these changes will end up meaning. Let's not forget, Tom, this is something that the government should have done in the first place. So what Bill Shorten is actually calling for is the most logical process which the government has absolutely failed to follow. We don't know what the impact is going to be on the sector at large. The government grossly underestimated the quantum of people who would be affected and I might also add, I think they seriously underestimated where those people would be impacted. I saw lots of talk about these retirees being concentrated in certain safe Liberal seats. I can tell you that there were many people who were seriously concerned about this policy in my electorate, and I know that because they told me. And if this government bothered to go through the proper policy processes, go through and speak to the industry and talk to people, they'd know the same. 

CONNELL: Michelle Rowland, we are out of time. Thanks for your time today on Sky News. 

ROWLAND: My pleasure.