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Transcript of interview with Tim Lester: Fairfax Video: 15 August 2013: Coalition's Secrecy; Coalition's failed border protection policies; Kevin Rudd's resignation.

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Subjects: Coalition’s Secrecy, Coalition’s failed border protection policies, Kevin Rudd’s resignation.

TIM LESTER: So, one week of sittings down in the life of the 44th Federal Parliament in Australian political history and in the life of the new Abbott Government. Is the Abbott Government developing an unusual level of secrecy? Certainly those inside the Government would say no, but Labor seems to be saying yes. Every Friday Labor MP from the South Australian seat of Kingston, Amanda Rishworth joins us. She is in her Adelaide office, having gone home last night I’d assume Amanda. Tell us what first were your impressions of week number one in the new Federal Parliament?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: What we are seeing from the Abbott Government is an unprecedented level of secrecy. Whether it comes to asylum seekers and the fact that Minister Morrison refuses to give any details at all to the Parliament - no details on how many boats they’ve turned around, despite before the election campaign getting up with a megaphone and saying they were going to do this. Whether it’s buying back boats which is a big policy of theirs which Indonesia said would never happen but they still went ahead with a megaphone again saying they were going to do this. Of course now that it comes to the responsibility of implementing this - we have no idea what’s going on and that’s because the Government will not say anything. I think it was quite humiliating for the Minister to continue to go up to the dispatch box and say, he doesn’t know, he’s not going to say, he didn’t have his folder with him and he’s not going to tell us anyway. I think there are some serious concerns around this. As former Minister Bourke, Shadow Leader of the House actually made the point

that if they were successfully turning around the boats, why wouldn’t they tell the parliament because surely that would be a deterrent for people smugglers.

But this transparency issue is also happening when it comes to the raising of the debt system. All Labor is asking is for Joe Hockey to say why he wants to raise the debt ceiling to half a trillion dollars. This is something that Tony Abbott while in opposition argued that the Government of the day must do; now he is backing away from that demand.

TIM LESTER: On the question of asylum seekers, the Government has a point doesn’t it when it says that much of the information that it makes public but becomes a kind of a guide book for people smugglers and enables them to carry out their business. So by being secret they are not frustrating the business plans of the people smugglers.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I think that the Australian people deserve a level of information. When a commitment is made to them before the election that the Coalition is going to turn around boats, then surely they should be telling the Australian people if that policy has succeeded - if they’ve actually turned around any boats. I don’t see how telling people smugglers that they’ve successfully turned round a boat would actually effect; in fact it could well be a deterrent. What we are seeing I think is a complete disregard for the Australian people. Complete disregard for some of the incidents that we are aware have happened. Buying back boats - surely they would be wanting to let the Indonesian fishermen know that they were willing to buy back boats. Why is that secret? Quite frankly the people smugglers will know all about this because this has been published in the Jakarta Post. It seems the only people that are being kept in the dark are actually not the people smugglers, but indeed it is the Australian people.

TIM LESTER: There are claims in the coverage of Fairfax Media this morning that the Department of Immigration and the new system over immigration is using forced separation of families as a strategy for forcing or at least strongly encouraging people to go back to their home countries. What do you think of using forced separation as a tactic?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I haven’t seen any of those particular reports, obviously while people are here in Australia we have a deterrent system. We have a detention system, which Labor certainly supported and indeed we implemented offshore processing whether they be families or individuals were sent to Manus Island or Nauru. The reason we did that was to have a deterrent strategy. Mr Morrison likes to say that there are less boats coming across, we don’t know what the details are because he won’t tell us, we’ve just got to take his word on it. But I wouldn’t be surprised whatever strategies are being used,

quite frankly the most effective were the ones that Labor put in place which were a big deterrent saying that people who do come by boat will not be settled here in Australia.

TIM LESTER: You mentioned boat numbers; Scott Morrison says a seventy five per cent reduction in the number of asylum boats in the first two months of the Abbott Government. That’s an outstanding result if he’s right, isn’t it?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well look, I would make two points. One point is that there was a significant decline in the number of boats which were publicly available as Kevin Rudd implemented the detention in Nauru and Manus Island and the fact that they could have permanent settlement in those places, but they could not come to Australia. That is the policy that is working. Any other policy that Scott Morrison is talking about has not even admitted or told the Australian people whether or not these policies have been implemented. I believe it is actually the former Government’s policy - now of course in terms of the numbers of people actually coming - we don’t know what the details are, we don’t know which of those policies we can point to because Scott Morrison won’t provide any of that information. My strong suggestion and hunch is that the reason why Scott Morrison won’t tell us what measures are working is its actually the former Labor Government’s measures that are doing the job.

TIM LESTER: Amanda Rishworth you came to Federal Parliament, you won your seat of Kingston in 2007 on the wave of popularity that Kevin Rudd lead. How did you feel as you watched Kevin Rudd leave federal politics this week?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: It was a very emotional speech and time to recognise Kevin, who had done so much I think for our country and has so much to be proud of and the Labor Party has so much to be proud of, actually decide to leave politics. I have no doubt that Kevin will make a continuing massive contribution to this country and to the world but it was a very emotional time for the Labor Party because as was rightly pointed out - Kevin brought Labor out of the wilderness, into government and had delivered so many I think important reforms during that time that Labor can always be very proud of.

TIM LESTER: There was so much division and angst around Kevin Rudd as well. So much, so much heartache for Labor. Surely that needs to be written into the history of Kevin Rudd as well?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Obviously we were not a united group for some time before the election and that is obviously a big concern to the electorate. I think all of us throughout have individual responsibility to make sure that we are united. I don’t think you can point the finger - I think all of us have those individual responsibilities and I have to say that I am pleased to say that the

Caucus is united now and is getting on with the job of holding the Government to account and actually calling the Government of the big issues of the day.

TIM LESTER: Richard Marles says that we ought to now lion- or Labor at least ought to now lionise Kevin Rudd. Was Kevin Rudd really that great?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Look, Kevin Rudd had brought in some amazing reforms. Not only did he bring Labor into Government, but as has been mentioned a lot, has made that historic apology to the stolen generation. But he also with the Labor Government did a whole lot more - whether it was in the area of homelessness, whether it was the introduction of paid parental leave, whether it was the historic rise in the pension, whether it was getting rid of WorkChoices our fingerprint through the last six years of Labor Government and under Kevin Rudd has been quite significant and I think they will be long lasting legacies into the future.

TIM LESTER: Amanda Rishworth, grateful for your time this morning and we’ll see you in parliament next week.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Excellent, look forward to it Tim. Have a good one.