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Sunday Agenda -

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Interview with Steve Bracks, former Victorian Premier

Sky News Australian Agenda program, 28th November 2010

Peter Van Onselen: Do you think you could've won this election? At the end of the day I know it's
still up in the air, but you had resounding victories, you replaced John Brumby as leader because
the view, apart from anything else, was that he was perhaps not gelling with the community from
opposition. You then beat Jeff Kennett, extended your majority comfortably in subsequent elections.
Do you think you could've won this one?

Steve Bracks: I can't think of anything that I would've done differently from John Brumby. As you
know, we were a pretty formidable team. John was Treasurer for pretty well all the period that I
was Premier over the eight years. We worked together in opposition. He was Opposition Leader, I
became Opposition Leader. We worked together very well, and this period of government I think he
was a very good premier. So I don't think so. I think what you're seeing, and I know that Paul
Kelly and Malcolm and also Piers have mentioned this, that really this was a big ask for Labor. No
other time in history has Victorian Labor ever won a fourth term. So we were going to create
history by winning, and we still could get close. We don't know. It's still potentially a hung
parliament. I don't think we can get a majority on the figures I saw last night, but it might be
that we can form with other people some sort of working majority. But it was a big ask, and I think
in the end the Liberals ran a very good campaign of a referendum on the Labor government and really
focusing on us, rather than them, and that paid off in the end. It's the sort of campaign I
would've run if I was them as well.

Paul Kelly: I'm just wondering what you think the lessons for the Labor Party might be from this
election result?

Steve Bracks: They're probably, Paul, not equivalent lessons across into our federal counterparts.
You expect me to say this, but I do believe it, it has been a good, sound government. We've had
continuation of strong economic policy outcomes in Victoria right through the Kennett years,
through the years that I was Premier, through the years that John Brumby was Premier. The Victorian
experiment has been pretty sound and strong. For a non-resource state to have an overwhelming share
of the job growth in the country, to have low unemployment, to have high growth, to have a AAA
rating, with the fiscal position of the state very sound and strong and giving back effectively in
services, it's been a pretty good effort. I don't think it's equivalent, I think it's really almost
a time issue, that is the Victorian voters, almost 20% of them in the last two or three days, just
quietly said it's time to give the other side a go. There was no aggravation about that. I didn't
sense any real aggravation on the polling booths when I was out there in country and regional
Victoria.

Peter Van Onselen: Mr. Bracks, can I interrupt there and ask if that's the case, was it a campaign
problem from the Labor Party, that your party didn't go after Ted Baillieu hard enough? In NSW the
Labor machine managed to get Morris Iemma elected because they went after Peter Debnam and they
went after him early, whereas Ted Baillieu just kind of grew in statue because Brumby tried to run
a largely positive campaign until the very end, where it just looked very desperate.

Steve Bracks: Yes, John Brumby did run a very positive campaign, talking about the plans for the
future and running on our record as well. So I think those two things were very strong. There was
an attempt to try and get a contest near the end, and obviously you'd have to say we weren't
successful. We couldn't get the comparison up, we couldn't get the contest up. In the end I suspect
people were going to the polling booths, and enough people, really saying they wanted to pass a
judgement on the government after 11 years. But the judgement is not that clear. In a sense this is
quite ironic from my point of view. It's gone back pretty well to the figures we had in 1999 when
we came to government. We had a hung parliament then, the country seats which we've held were
really the large ones that held us up, we didn't get much in the city, and it's much the same now.
The difference is that there are no Independents there deciding this. It's really a contest between
Labor and the Coalition.

Piers Akerman: Mr. Bracks, following the polling it appeared that Mr. Brumby was fairly secure
early on, as you say. Then we had what many Victorians saw as an extremely negative advertising
campaign against Mr. Baillieu. How much do you think that cost Labor? Also, what do you think of
the Greens' performance at the end of this campaign and Ted Baillieu's decision not to preference
them?

Steve Bracks: Piers, I think there are two things there. One is I don't think the ad you're talking
about on the school sales and in the PANCH hospital sale, I don't think it had a marked effect
across the whole of the Victorian electorate. If it did, it would've been uniform and you would've
seen on the proposition that we would've lost our regional country seats. We didn't get many swings
against us in Ballarat or Bendigo or Ripon or Geelong. I think what was working there more was the
sort of cost of living pressures. If you understand Victoria, that corridor really from Mordialloc
to Carrum to Frankston, round to Narre Warren, this is the mortgage belt of Melbourne. A mortgage
rise occurred part way during the campaign, and I think that had a profound effect. Obviously we
underestimated the effect of that on the whole cost of living issue, which was pushing strongly. So
I think that was a bigger effect. Secondly Piers, on the Greens, I think that was a good decision
of the Liberals. I think it helped them outside the inner city seats in showing that they could
take a hard decision and stand for something, and I think that was a good decision. But I also
think it's a wakeup call for the Greens really. They just can't slide in on the back of preferences
from other parties; they have to stand up for themselves. We campaigned very strongly in those
inner city seats. We went toe to toe and I think that paid off. I was very pleased we won those
four seats against the Greens, and I think they have to rethink their strategy now and not just
rely on just simply sliding into participating in government on the back of other people's
preferences.

Malcolm Farr: Sir, it seems that there's an economic success story here that the voters aren't
prepared to credit anyone for. You pointed to the mortgage rates and the effect it might have had
on the campaign. But Victoria was barrelling along, doing very, very well in economic terms. That
was either a result of the state government or the federal government. Voters quite dearly didn't
want to give credit to either, but they were prepared to mark a government down for, as you said,
the mortgage rate movement. What's happening in Australia? Are voters taking for granted the fact
that economically we're stable, or what?

Steve Bracks: I don't think is entirely unusual. In fact, if you look at the period that I gained
government in 1999, the economy in Victoria was improving. In some respects, when the economy is
sound and strong, it gives permission for people to look around. They don't feel as insecure and
therefore wanting to keep with the government that might be increasing their prosperity. I think a
bit of that was happening here. I think it was largely that the Liberals really mounted a campaign
of Labor light; that is, it was the Labor project running a strong budget, giving back in services,
but they just said give us a go because we'll do it more efficiently. That was the pitch, really,
if you boil it down. It was a good enough pitch in what Victorians said, okay we'll give the other
side a go. But when they say they'll give them a go, they didn't give them a go universally. This
is not over yet. My prediction, for what it's worth, is that it's more not less likely there'll be
a hung parliament. With the early votes coming in in Bentleigh, a large number, about 25% of the
voters, have already voted before the final swing, I suspect it's going to be very close to a 44-44
all arrangement. That's going to be interesting.

Paul Kelly: But if it's 44-44 all, how does that work? Is it possible to form a viable government
in that situation? Or might there be a need for another election?

Steve Bracks: It's going to be very difficult, Paul, because there are no Independents, there are
no Greens, no unaligned MPs. I think the Governor is obliged in those circumstances to ask the
Caretaker Premier if he can form a majority, and he probably can't on those figures. But he'll ask
that to be tested in the parliament. There will be a fair bit of discussion and debate in the
parliament, and ultimately it might have to go back to a re-election, unless something gives. What
hasn't been discussed here is the reality that Labor by itself is the majority party in the number
of seats. The Liberals have less seats than the Australian Labor Party, but combined with the
National Party, the ten seats from the National Party, they make up their 44. Now feasibly the
Governor could ask the National Party for security of the state, whether or not they would give
support to a minority Labor government, that has happened in the history of parliamentary democracy
in Victoria. That would be a question that will be asked at some stage, but whether it's accepted
or not will be another matter. So all those matters will be explored, I'm sure, before the Governor
feels that the deadlock requires another election. In any event, I don't think you'll see a
resolution on that matter, if it is a hung parliament, until sometime into the New Year is my
guess, because there's no time for a re-election this year.

Peter Van Onselen: Mr. Bracks, can I ask a simple question, but 88 seats, wouldn't an uneven number
have been better? Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but why not have 87 or 89 seats?

Steve Bracks: Yes, hindsight is a magnificent thing! Yes, if we're redrawing the constitution,
you're right, we probably should go to 89 or 91 or something of that nature, and maybe that's a
future constitutional change. But the good news in Victoria is that you can change the constitution
from a majority of both houses of parliament; you don't need to go to a referendum. So maybe that
could be on the agenda on both political parties in the future.

Peter Van Onselen: Another question, a more serious question, I know that there's a large divide
usually in voters' minds between state and federal issues, but it strikes me looking at this
result, thinking that the Brumby government certainly hasn't been a bad government, certainly not
as bad as for example NSW Labor, that you had a Victorian state that got behind Julia Gillard at
the last election, she picked up seats, she retained her own marginal seats. She's had a tough time
since the election on a range of issues. I'm wondering whether or not some of the voters that
perhaps gave her the benefit of the doubt at the federal election have taken out some of their
angst at her disappointing performance since then by penalising John Brumby?

Steve Bracks: Peter, I think that's a heroic link that you're making! It's a good attempt to try
and bring it into the federal narrative, but actually I didn't sense any of the federal issues
working or operating, except for the general cost of living issues and people not discerning on
mortgage rate rises or whatever. But I didn't sense that at all. I can't remember one federal issue
that was really pushed or promulgated very hard in any campaign around the state, so I suspect it
was really a state election and most of the exit polls, I think, will show that. This is really
about the state, about who is going to take it forward either as a fourth term or a change to the
Liberals. But I don't think there was much in the federal implications.

Paul Kelly: But even accepting that, Mr. Bracks, if we do see a change of government in Melbourne
and the Liberals coming into office, what are the implications of that change of government for
Julia Gillard? What does this mean for the federal Labor government?

Steve Bracks: It wasn't that long ago that the political landscape of Australia had a Labor
government at every level, a federal Labor government, territory Labor governments, every state
Labor government. The change is happening and we'll see obviously Coalition or Liberal governments
that are occurring round the states and territories. Often this doesn't have a big impact on a
party of a different complexion federally. John Howard is proof of that, and I think if you look
historically, Paul, you'll see other examples of that. I think you can work effectively at a
federal level if you are a different political party from the state level. I don't think it will
neither help nor hinder Julia Gillard and federal Labor. I think it's just something they have to
take into account. If I was them, I'd pretty well ignore it and just get on with governing. I think
that's what people want them to do and that's probably what they should do.

Piers Akerman: Mr. Bracks, your description of the pressures on the Victorian voters at this
election sounded like a reprise of the Howard election. You're saying that it was longevity,
complacency with a good economy. Do you see that parallel?

Steve Bracks: Yes, there is something there, Piers. There's something like that. I think this was a
pretty sound, able government, it didn't have scandals, it had a competent team that was running
it, it had a strong economy that it was presiding over. There was some commentary there that was
this just the federal sort of wash-over in Victoria, which was having a strong economy.
Comparatively, we did pretty well without having resources. The job growth was faster here in
Victoria. Yes, I think there is some comparison there, that in the end the Australian public and
the Victorian public want to give the other side a go at some stage. I think there are enough
people to make it close, on this occasion. Whether they've said they want to totally give them
another go has really got to be determined.

Peter Van Onselen: Mr. Bracks, thanks very much for joining us to pick over what is still, I guess,
an uncertain result. I did have one last question, completely unrelated to the Victorian election.
The anti-siphoning laws, the details of which came out during the week, in your post-parliamentary
career you've got a role on behalf of the Pay TV industry in fairness and disclosure. But I'm just
interested, what is your view of what Senator Conroy has come out with?

Steve Bracks: I think it's welcome that there are some items to be taken off the list, but we'd
like to see it go a lot further. I've always been pro-competition, reducing regulation in this
country, and to have the biggest anti-siphoning list in the world is not really a world record you
want to keep. More not less competition, leaving the market to decide these matters, is a much
better idea. The Productivity Commission endorses that view, the ACCC endorses that view, so it is
a step, but I think we need to take many more steps to see those marquee events, which people want
to watch on free-to-air, but free up the rest. Let's get some value in there and let the public
decide and the marketplace decide on what should be shown, where it should be shown, rather than
governments paternalistically deciding that. I think that will be a much better long-term outcome.

Piers Akerman: Mr. Bracks, given your free market position, I assume you'd like to see some
competition introduced into the NBN debate?

Steve Bracks: I think we have to recognise, Piers, that we are not a large population. We haven't
got a large population in this country. We do need to build the nation. What's interesting, and I
challenge you on this, I think one of the great attributes of the NBN is it makes us more world
competitive. When we think of Australia, people should be thinking of Singapore - well connected,
good communications, good infrastructure, good regulation. That's exactly what we need, and that's
why the NBN is so important. I don't think the private sector can achieve it without government
intervention. The government will move out of this over time. I think that is what nation building
is about, and I'd actually support the NBN. I think it's going to be one of those things we'll look
back on and say, gee we're glad we did that, connecting up Australia, making us more world
competitive, attracting investment in industry as a result of that, and then sort of opening up to
the market in the future, after that sunk investment has happened.

Peter Van Onselen: Mr. Bracks, former Premier of Victoria, we appreciate your company - thanks for
joining us on Australian Agenda.

Interview with Scott Morrison, Shadow Immigration Minister

Sky News Australian Agenda program, 28th November 2010

Peter Van Onselen: We've been talking about the Victorian election, but it would be remiss of me
not to make the first question your thoughts on what you think of the result?

Scott Morrison: This campaign that the Liberals and Nationals ran very strongly in Victoria was all
about waste, it was about the growing pressures on families, particularly their budgets, and it was
also about this sense of no more excuses. As someone who comes from NSW where the voters gave the
NSW government one last chance, it would've been appalling to see that happen again in Victoria. I
think those three issues resonated very, very heavily, and that of course has pretty significant
implications as to how things play out federally.

Peter Van Onselen: But even you have to concede that the Victorian government wasn't as bad a
government as the NSW Labor government have been?

Scott Morrison: I think the NSW Labor government holds all records when it comes to this! I
remember many years ago when I was a state director, I saw a focus group once and it said if we're
going to have to have a Labor government, why do we have to have the really, really bad one in NSW?
But Labor's brand I think generally is affected by this. The way the Hawker Britton model was seen
applied on state governments of Labor over the last decade or so I think has really been trashed
here. I think people see it as the political equivalent of junk food, this idea that you can have a
sweet moment on the lips, but it's forever on the hips when it comes to the policy.

Peter Van Onselen: The result's still 50/50 though. It's still looking like 44 all, or very close
to that.

Scott Morrison: I think 44 is the best Labor can do with this result. 44 is the best they can get
to. We still have around about five seats or so which are in doubt. For Labor to even get to 44,
every single card has to fall their way.

Peter Van Onselen: But after 11 years in government, after the government being as bad as you say
it has been, the best that Baillieu can do is still only get to 44, 45, maybe 46?

Scott Morrison: I thought Steve Bracks made a good point, and that's when he came in with his
victory. It was basically what it is today, and I think the distance that the Liberals and Nats had
to come from in Victoria was a long one. 13 seats is a long haul in an 88 seat parliament, so the
result for the Victorian division of the Liberal Party, I think, is outstanding. I think to Tony
Nutt and his team and to David Kemp and particularly of course Ted and his team, I think they ran
an incredibly strong campaign. Six weeks ago, Labor thought they had this in the bag.

Paul Kelly: What does this election mean in terms of the way the Liberal Party treats the Greens?
We saw this big decision the Liberals took to preference Labor ahead of the Greens. What does this
mean for the way the federal party will allocate preferences in the future?

Scott Morrison: I think it's case by case, Paul. We've got one situation here we've seen in
Victoria, and we've had another one at a federal level. I think there's no doubt at a federal
level, what the Greens have done to Labor federally is basically draw them back to those inner city
seats and a range of very micro issues that those seats often focus on. I think that has really
hurt the Labor Party in places like Western Sydney here and in the suburban rings of Melbourne and
Queensland and South East Queensland, where people are seeing that Labor is really losing touch
with them about their interests, in prejudice to interests that are being pushed by the Greens. I
think that's a big problem for Labor. But Ted took a different view this time round in Victoria,
and there were reasons for doing that and it's clearly had a positive impact for him. So I think
we'll take it case by case. The Greens should assume nothing, but the Labor Party should always
assume that they're the ones who are in our sights.

Malcolm Farr: Just as a hypothetical, do you think the Victorian voters might have learnt a lesson
from the federal election, where they saw the Greens come in and those things you were just
referring to, the clenching of the issues, if I can call it that, down to things like people saying
why on earth are we talking about gay marriage when I want my mortgage down. Do you think voters
thought, hang on, let's not do this again at the state level? Is it going too far to think that
they drew that conclusion from the federal example?

Scott Morrison: I think when people make these decisions there's a whole range of reasons why they
do it, and we can over-analyse them. But I think at the end of the day the point about what Ted did
with Greens preferences here was he stood up for a range of issues. I remember back to several
elections that we were involved with. We hadn't preferenced the Greens before, for the same
reasons. There was a very strong view amongst our base and amongst our own members that they didn't
want to support that. But I think politics has become very, very volatile, and the circumstances in
which you make a decision at one point will be different to another. At the end of the day, these
decisions are largely tactical, but I think Ted has made a strong point and it's clearly produced a
very, very good result. This swing is big. This is a big swing in Victoria. I noticed the Labor
Party today are really stretching themselves with their spin today, trying to couch it in other
terms. But they got thumped yesterday, and we will see what the result ultimately is on the floor
of the parliament. But if the best they can do is hope for someone from the Coalition side to
change parties, then I think that speaks for itself.

Malcolm Farr: However again, the Liberals come second. You're good at second, aren't you?

Scott Morrison: The Libs and the Nats, I think, ran a very good Coalition campaign in Victoria as
well, and I think that's another real positive we can take out. We're working very well together at
a state level. I know that's happening here in NSW as well, and we're working really well together
at a federal level. The unity is on the coalition side of politics.

Peter Van Onselen: Just finally before we come to your portfolio though, what would you personally
like to see happen federally? Would you like to see what Ted Baillieu did emulated and putting the
Greens last?

Scott Morrison: Again, I would look at this as you get closer to the next federal election. When I
was state director in NSW, we didn't preference the Greens and Nick Greiner and I used to have a
few arguments about that from time to time. But I think it's a decision you make closer to the
time. I think the key here is the Greens shouldn't be assuming anything. The Labor Party certainly
shouldn't be assuming anything.

Peter Van Onselen: You want Labor to be spending money in Green threat in the electorates, and then
turn around and maybe preference them last, but wait till late to decide it?

Scott Morrison: I get very sceptical when Bill Shorten starts congratulating the Liberal Party on
decisions that we make. I notice that Bill was pretty excited about that decision last night, so
let's just see what happens.

Peter Van Onselen: In terms of your portfolio, it was a big issue at the last election, it's been a
big issue for a number of years now, this issue of asylum seekers. I know you are strong on the
policy for the opposition, obviously it's your policy. What about the rhetoric though? It strikes
me that Tony Abbott's rhetoric about stopping the boats and about the flotilla, the armada, the
invasion, that's rhetoric I don't hear as much from you.

Scott Morrison: Stopping the boats isn't a slogan, it's the proven record of our policies in
government. I think that's the point that the Labor Party often misses. They like to talk about it
as a slogan, but for us it's what we actually did. The problem is, if you don't stop them, then
what we're seeing in our detention network now is what inevitably follows. Now what makes us very
frustrated is that the decisions we took in government were very hard decisions. They had very real
human consequences. We don't not acknowledge that. They did, they were tough. But by 2007 there
were four people, only four people, in the detention network who'd arrived by boat. There are now
more than 5,100. People are back on rooves again, they're sewing their lips up again, they're on
hunger strikes again, and people are waiting all around the world for places in our humanitarian
program and can't get them. That's Labor's moral burden now. That's the consequences of their
decisions. I thought Christian Kerr wrote a very good article in The Australian yesterday when he
said basically where are all those now chastising the Labor Party for the moral consequences of
their policy decisions?

Peter Van Onselen: I think those are good points and they're good defences of the policy. But what
about the rhetoric? The number of boats coming, increased as it has with all the ensuing problems
that you mentioned, do you consider that an invasion? Do you consider that an armada of boats?

Scott Morrison: I think the commentary that goes around these issues often misses the point. The
issue is not, and I know the Labor Party likes to use the phrase about how many boats would it take
to fill up the Etihad Stadium or whatever, that's not the point. The point is the compromising of
our special humanitarian program. The point is the fact that we have an orderly program that we
want to pursue, and the policies the Labor Party have introduced have completely trashed that.

Paul Kelly: If we can just go back to the point, the real point here is how you stop the boats.
It's not the historical point about what happened under the Howard government. The boats are now
coming regularly, they're coming on a sustained basis. The fundamental issue which I don't think
the Opposition has properly explained is how the suite of policies that you've got, which are
different, but only different at the margins, how those policies are actually going to stop the
boats? Can you tell us?

Scott Morrison: Sure. Let's run through all seven points.

Paul Kelly: No, let's not go through seven points.

Scott Morrison: They're the policies, Paul. Let me start. Temporary protection visas, number one.
Permanent residence in Australia is a product people smugglers sell. Taking that off the table is
something that the Canadian government also just realised. They had two boats turn up and they went
quickly towards this. Secondly the issue of legitimate third country offshore processing in Nauru.
Those two policies when done last time, formed together, were really the heart and soul of the
policies we pursued, and we went from 43 boats to zero boats in the space of 12 months.

Malcolm Farr: If I can just interrupt on Nauru, Nauru was in a state of emergency from June until
just early this month. They've only just got a parliament running and got their first budget after
two elections this year. Is this the sort of stability that Australia would want to invest in with
the lives of other people?

Peter Van Onselen: It's not that different to the hung parliament.

Scott Morrison: Exactly. They had 18 members in their parliament too.

Malcolm Farr: We haven't had a state of emergency yet! Hang on.

Scott Morrison: And they may be considering an amendment for 19 members in their parliament! But
the fact is all sides of politics in Nauru support it. I visited Nauru. I spoke to both sides of
politics. They all supported it. Nauru is actually in a far stronger position today than it was
back in 2001 in terms of its ability to manage its own affairs. For example, there were no issues
in terms of power generation as there were back then. The small issues that had to be dealt with
were things like an extra desalinator and things like that, which is a very small cost. So Nauru
was more than able to do this. The key thing I learnt when I was in Nauru was there was no razor
wire on Nauru, people could move freely around the island. Nauru was also not defined as a place of
detention under the Migration Act, which is an important point in terms of the most recent High
Court case.

Peter Van Onselen: What about Labor's point, that it's not a signatory to the conventions?

Scott Morrison: I think this is a complete furphy, and another excuse why Labor won't pick up the
phone. Under international law, the principle of non-refoulement of people to the place of where
they're saying they're fleeing persecution is now an established international law effectively, as
it's understood around the world. That is the core of the convention. So there is no issue that
people in Nauru would refoule people. There's no issue about that at all. So what additional
protection the Prime Minister thinks this applies, other than a protection from her having to pick
up the phone to Nauru is beyond me.

Paul Kelly: But isn't what you're saying when you look at it overall that a Coalition government is
going to treat people more brutally and more harshly, as a disincentive?

Scott Morrison: No, not at all. What it is is a different process. People are coming to get a
migration outcome and to follow a particular path which they think will advantage them over others.
They've seen, for whatever reason, all sorts of conditions far worse than anything they would see
in a detention centre, and our detention centres are not prisons. They shouldn't be prisons, and
Nauru was not even called a place of detention; it was a processing centre and people could move
freely. It's about what people perceive to be what sort of path they will have towards a permanent
migration outcome. So removing permanent residency for a start, removing the opportunity to enable
people to come effectively as an anchor and then bring families behind them, which is what is
crowding out our special humanitarian program now, is a big issue. There are also issues of
paperwork. Less than one in five people who come by boat have any documentation at all, compared to
more than nine out of ten who arrive by air. Now that makes it very difficult on assessors. We do
know people smugglers tell people, get rid of your documentation, it makes it better for you.

Paul Kelly: But what you're really saying is that a lot of these people aren't actually refugees,
when you say they are seeking migration outcomes.

Scott Morrison: The government's saying that.

Paul Kelly: Precisely. But is that what you actually think? That a lot of these people aren't bona
fide refugees at all, they are people seeking a migration outcome?

Scott Morrison: The government says that they think 50% of those who are coming will be rejected
for refugee status. So I think that speaks for itself. We're not disagreeing with that assessment,
and that's a 50% rejection rate based on a benefit of the doubt given on the fact that people don't
have documentation. Now when you go to the issue of people arriving by air, the rejection rate is
far higher, particularly for those coming from China. It's over 80%, because we know who they are,
we can assess them. Our policy is, if we reasonably believe that you have discarded your
documentation, and the assessors can determine that from their interview process, we'll presume
against you for refugee status.

Piers Akerman: Mr. Morrison, do you give any validity to Julia Gillard's plan for a processing
centre in East Timor?

Scott Morrison: No. This thing, as Citizen Richo said, is increasingly ridiculous. She doesn't even
know what it is, and we had to get this out of the secretary of the department. Effectively what
she's saying is she wants this migration zone set up in the region. If you get over the border,
then you'll be transferred to East Timor. If you stay there for three years, Australia will have to
underwrite resettlement and people come to Australia. If that's not an asylum magnet, I don't know
what is! That's what the Indonesians are saying. The Malaysians are saying we don't have any
information. There's a good reason for that - there's no proposal. There won't be one till
February. We've had 2,500 people turn up since she announced it, and the centre's only going to
accommodate 2,000 people. This is a never/never plan.

Peter Van Onselen: I doubt very much, Mr. Morrison, you're going to agree with her assessment. But
she's at least found her feet rhetorically in the parliament this week, hasn't she?

Scott Morrison: She certainly hasn't found a way, when it comes to her agenda. She's basically got
the leftovers from Kevin and whatever the Greens stump up to her on a daily basis with these
fortnightly discussions I assume they're still having. I think that remains the Prime Minister's
fundamentally big problem. We're almost six months down the track from when she took over, and
there's still no agenda. I think that's bearing out in terms of how the public is assessing things.
You need to have an agenda as a prime minister. You need to have an agenda as a government, not
just working on the leftovers of those you usurped.

Peter Van Onselen: You state in your portfolio area this concept of a big Australia, immigration
has been in the debate recently. I'm wondering how can we have a situation where both major parties
no longer seem interested in the idea of a big Australia, yet we have such bottlenecks in the
economy and such need for employees around the country?

Scott Morrison: The bottlenecks that are occurring also are in our suburbs and in our outer areas,
and I think that was on show yesterday in the Victorian election. A lot of those issues in those
outer middle ring suburbs were on issues like public transport, they're about law and order and a
range of other service provision issues. The issue about population is about sustainable population
growth and making sure that your services and infrastructure are keeping pace. That's what the
issue is actually about. If you're not getting that nexus right, then clearly you need to have a
migration response to that. That's what we said at the election. The government said, somehow you
dealt with this and you didn't have to talk about immigration, which was nonsense.

Paul Kelly: But surely you're only dealing with one side of the debate here? The fact of the matter
is, as the Reserve Bank keeps saying week after week, there are very severe capacity constraints in
the Australian economy. This is leading the bank to increase interest rates, it's leading to higher
inflation. One of the solutions to this is to use the immigration program the way it's always
traditionally been used, that is to service the needs of the labour market. Why won't you do that?

Scott Morrison: I don't have a problem with that, Paul, and this is the point. Of that massive big
net overseas migration figure we had of almost 300,000, the contribution of skilled migration to
that was only a third. Two thirds of it were in other areas. What was happening in our migration
program, you can accommodate, as we did when we were in government, in a net overseas migration
intake of around 140-150,000, or even higher than that, we said 170,000 at the election. You get
your program targeted, you can address skills needs. What this government has done is allowed its
temporary migration program to get out of whack, and what we're saying, if we're in government, is
we need to get a handle on temporary migration. The government just seems to think it's just going
to happen, it's one of those things you can't control.

Paul Kelly: But this is a pretty significant cut to take it back to 170,000 all up.

Scott Morrison: That's higher than we had for 40 years.

Paul Kelly: I know it's higher than what we had for 40 years. We've got a resources boom, the like
of which we've never seen before in the history of the country. This seems to be a very strange
time to be cutting back the level of immigration.

Scott Morrison: But that question presumes that you cannot increase your skilled migration
component out of the overall intake.

Paul Kelly: So you're doing both?

Scott Morrison: What we're saying is that you've got an intake of which only a third was skilled
when it blew out. So the blow-out wasn't in skilled, the blow-out was in other areas of the
program, and measures need to be taken to get that in hand. That's simply what we're saying.

Malcolm Farr: But it's not just skilled migration which is the issue. You can't get a taxi driver
in Perth. They have to fly in sandwiches to some of these places, because no-one is prepared to go
out there for under $100,000 a year to make sandwiches! You need people on all levels of
employment. You, for political reasons I'd argue during the election campaign, argued against the
very increase in the Australian workforce that is necessary. As Paul said, if we can't deal with
the economic growth, the only answer is to reduce that growth through higher interest rates and
other measures.

Scott Morrison: But you're assuming that the overall intake is what the problem is, in terms of
addressing skills needs. What I'm saying is the program is not focusing enough on skills needs. You
can accommodate those skills needs by more flexible programs, particularly in the temporary area,
particularly for lower skilled occupations. We have the union movement at the moment shutting out
trade occupations from 457 visas in Western Australia. The government is now thinking of
introducing what we've been suggesting, and that is a tailored temporary visa for the mining
sector. We think you can do all of those things. We just don't think you have to let your program
completely blow out. What you need to do is focus on the micro, I think, in policy terms, of the
debate, and the micro is how you construct your program, your temporary arrangements, your
permanent arrangements, and the flow-ons that exist between the two. For example, student visas, we
could have half a million student visas coming in every year, provided that half a million
effectively were going out within two or three years as well. I don't have a problem with the nexus
either, at high ends. The Californians were incredibly successfully by making a nexus between a
high end qualification and citizenship. These are things I think we shouldn't throw out.

Piers Akerman: So Mr. Morrison, what sort of population do you think Australia should have in 20
years? 36 million?

Scott Morrison: I don't think that's the question. I think the question is what is the rate of
growth? That's why our policy focused on what is a sustainable rate of growth. We wanted the
Productivity and Sustainability Commission to advise us on what that rate of growth was, based on
service delivery on the ground, and what should that be over the next five years. You set your
migration program accordingly. We think that's just commonsense.

Paul Kelly: What do you think is the relationship between boat arrivals and the immigration program
in terms of public opinion? That is, to what extent do you think that a lot of boat arrivals, which
we have at the moment, actually undermines public support for the immigration program?

Scott Morrison: I think it does. I think it absolutely does. But let me make this point, and that
is I don't think the rate of boat arrivals is fuelling population growth. I think those two issues
are completely separate. But what is absolutely important, I don't think any government of any
persuasion can responsibly say they have control of the immigration program and we have what is
happening to our north happening on a regular basis, there were three boats since Friday and they
continue to increase, and particularly since the re-appointment of the government. But public
confidence in our immigration program is very much in the public psyche vested in whether we can
control our borders. This government has hopelessly failed on all counts.

Peter Van Onselen: Mr. Morrison, we have to move onto the NBN before we run out of time. But just
quickly, I know you're a big reader of history. Your 20 year old colleague, Wyatt Roy, isn't. He
told The Weekend Australian Magazine, 'I'm not a big reader, I like to learn by experience'. Will
you be counselling him that experience might teach him that reading's a good thing?

Scott Morrison: I hear Wyatt is the GQ Man of the Year coming up! So far be it for me to give
someone who's getting such a great start any counsel!

Malcolm Farr: Piers has lost again!

Piers Akerman: But I had your vote, Malcolm!

Malcolm Farr: You did!

Peter Van Onselen: We'll have to move onto the NBN, because we are almost out of time.

Scott Morrison: I'm sure Wyatt will learn from experience. But he's also doing a great job.

Peter Van Onselen: I need your view on the NBN. We're not off air yet gentlemen! Where do you think
this is going? Is this wise for the Opposition to put itself so opposed to it, just in case the
government ends up pulling it off?

Scott Morrison: What I think has happened with the NBN over the last couple of months is that the
public have now understood that the government wants to sign up to a $40 billion plus project,
without the due diligence that is necessary, and to commit Australia to massive levels of debt,
which I note that their budget now underfunds by $900 million over the forward estimates. I think
the public are waking up to the lack of process in the way this government makes decisions. Again,
big announcement, big fluffy announcement, with all the bells and whistles. It's this junk food
approach to politics that the Labor Party takes. Down the track, the implementation, pink batts,
all of that tell us what their record is on implementation. That will now be the task for this
government I suspect when they have pushed it through on Monday, and they will be accountable for
the delivery, they'll be accountable for the cost. I think people think potentially that they're
going to get this all for free. When the bills start turning up, the government will be accountable
again, and they can expect us to be there reminding people.