SUBJECTS: Newspoll; Bourke Street Attack; Ministerial powers to deport extremists; NSW Labor.
LAURA JAYES: Joining us now Shadow Communications Minister Michelle Rowland. Michelle Rowland, good to see you. Another Newspoll in your favour. Six months from now a general election - it would be extraordinary if Labor lost this wouldn't it?
MICHELLE ROWLAND MP, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: I don't think we can jump to any conclusions, Laura. Six months is a long time in politics, and I think the fact is that this government clearly has been running out of ideas for a while. Far from pursuing purely a "kill Bill" strategy now, it seems to be a bit of a "copy Bill" strategy. Everything from the "Bill Bus" to the announcement about the Pacific last week, and even in today's papers talk about having a taskforce on migration levels which Bill Shorten was promoting, some six weeks ago, be done in a bipartisan manner.
But all that aside, the fact is that the electorate, let’s face it, is very cynical. It's cynical of institutions, it's cynical of politicians, and the challenge for Labor and for all political parties quite frankly, is to make sure that they present themselves honestly, in an authentic way to the public. There's been a lot of commentary about whether or not Scott Morrison has managed to do that but we are very focused on two things: having the best policies and prosecuting those, and having the best candidates in the field.
KIERAN GILBERT: Okay Michelle, well we're now approaching, obviously, the Christmas period, the summer months and people just switch off completely. So the window Morrison, the Prime Minister's got is not as big as many would think in terms of people actually listening to the government. In terms of where Bill Shorten is, in September he was 14 points behind on a preferred Prime Minister comparison. Now he's just 6 per cent behind. That must be encouraging for you?
ROWLAND: It's certainly encouraging, and I've said on many occasions that being Opposition Leader is the toughest job in politics because you not only have to be critical of the government, you have to be constructive and you have to present yourself and your team as an alternative government. So I think Bill Shorten has been executing that to the best of his ability and it's good to see that the more people have contact with him the more they are willing to take a second look at Labor. That is encouraging but let's remember too, you talk about those windows of opportunity, Kieran: there is a Victorian State election in a couple of weeks and, of course, between now and what everyone assumes to be the next Federal election, we've got a NSW State election in between that as well. So those windows of time, I think are even more condensed than we realise.
JAYES: I go to the events of Friday now. This really shocked everyone, not just in Melbourne but right around the country. There was strong rhetoric from the Prime Minister yesterday suggesting religious leaders can and should do more. Do you agree?
ROWLAND: I think religious leaders do a great deal now and I think all of us need to take stock from the advice of our security agencies who say that our best allies in fighting extremism are communities themselves. I was at a local event with the Ahmadiyya Muslim community yesterday with representatives right across the political spectrum and these are patriots. These are people who preach that if you're going to love God you have to love your country. And it is very clear that within specific organisations a lot of work is being done, not only to curb radicalisation, but to make sure it doesn't take hold in the first place and we need to keep encouraging that.
GILBERT: In terms of the debate when it comes to residents and deporting residents, my understanding is the government's got ample powers already. If there's an extremist who is a resident of the nation - not a citizen - there is already ample power within legislation for the government, for the Minister, to get rid of them. So any debate around this to me seems a bit of a distraction, given the individual - the perpetrator - in this case was an Australian citizen.
ROWLAND: You're right Kieran, in that, of course, there's a difference between being a citizen and any other category by which people are resident or are otherwise in Australia. But I think that in all of this, two things stand out. Firstly that I'm pretty sure that everyone in the Parliament is united in ensuring that the first responsibility of us as public office holders is to keep Australians safe and to do everything in our power in order to make that happen. And secondly, we always take our advice from our security agencies. There are some instances within the legislation, as you say, already for the Minister to cancel or to revoke certain stays. And Labor supports that being undertaken, always on the advice of the security agencies and with the best knowledge that this is about protecting Australians.
JAYES: With the rhetoric used by the Prime Minister and others yesterday, and you point out that families and religious leaders already do a lot. Are they feeling more isolated, are they feeling increasingly under fire for things which are not their fault?
ROWLAND: I don't purport to be able to speak for everyone in this instance, but in my personal dealings from constituents and from people in various community groups whom I deal with, they all understand that eyes are on them. Eyes are on them when it comes to these issues and a lot has been done over the past couple of years to strengthen local communities to make sure that there are opportunities in place, particularly for young people who might otherwise be predisposed to falling victim to these sorts of radicalisation, but it is one in which there must be constant vigilance. Constant vigilance, and I think we should also acknowledge that our police forces, that our security forces, do the very best that they can in all the circumstances to make that happen.
JAYES: Just quickly, as a NSW MP, why does Labor in NSW deserve to win the next election given the events of the last week?
ROWLAND: They are highly regrettable events that have happened and I think that the election of Michael Daley to the leadership in the way that it's happened demonstrates that, once the journalist in question made that statement, I think from then on it was generally understood that Luke Foley's position was untenable. I think a lot of commentary has been made and will be made in relation to this. I do point out that one of the requests that the journalist made in this was that she not be used as political football and I would be very disheartened to see that happen from either side, from anyone in the Parliament.
But look, Labor has to demonstrate to the people of NSW why it should be allowed to govern. It would've been in Opposition for two terms and I think the fact that we've got a very strong statement from Michael Daley in terms of over-development being a serious issue for the people of NSW, but also needing to have that focus on regional NSW, does bode well for having the best run leading into the next state election.
JAYES: Michelle Rowland, always good to talk to you. Thanks so much.