Immigration and Border Protection

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January 08, 2019



SHAYNE NEUMANN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND BORDER PROTECTION: Thanks for coming here today. It's crystal clear from the media reports that Peter Dutton is not across his Home Affairs portfolio and the complexity and detail of citizenship is not something he’s familiar with. It's clear from the announcements from the Fijian Government overnight that Neil Prakash, currently in Turkey, awaiting charges – serious charges – in relation to terrorism is not a Fijian national. Peter Dutton didn’t consult or have his Department consult with the Fijian Government before he announced that he was stripping this terrorist of citizenship. This headline is a lie. Peter Dutton is a shameless self-serving media tart on this issue.

And what he's done has embarrassed himself, has embarrassed the Prime Minister, embarrassed our country. And in a week's time Prime Minister Morrison has to go to Fiji to sort out Peter Dutton’s mess.

If Neil Prakash is not a Fijian national then his citizenship as an Australian cannot be stripped from him, he can't be rendered stateless.

Peter Dutton claimed he was making Australia safe. Well, national security is too important to mess around with in this way. You've got to do it with competency, diligence and with thoroughness and it's quite clear that Peter Dutton – shameless self-serving media tart that he is – did it at the same time as he undertook the tirade against Malcolm Turnbull, in whose government, and whose cabinet he was happy to serve for years.

Talk about a mistake, how incompetent is this Minister? And now he doesn't want to front up in provide any explanations or justifications for his actions and conduct or his inaction, inertia or idleness on this issue.

Happy to get a headline. But not happy to do the work. Do the work Minister, front up, answer the questions, justify your actions and sort out the mess you’ve undertaken and made with one of Australia’s best allies, Fiji. Happy to answer any questions.

JOURNALIST: Will this do damage to our relationship with Fiji?

NEUMANN: Well of course he's doing damage with our relationship with Fiji. If you don't consult with the Fijian Government before you undertake this thing and seek headlines like this. Then we have the Prime Minister going to Fiji in a week's time to sort out Peter Dutton's fiasco. I mean this is a guy that couldn't count when it came to leadership. This is a guy that lied to Parliament in relation to the au pair issue and a bloke that should be referred to the High Court for section 44 issues. These decisions are being challenged in court in relation to a whole range of issues. I mean this is an incompetent Minister that shouldn’t even be there.

JOURNALIST: The Government is standing by their legal advice, should they be releasing what that legal advice says?

NEUMANN: Release that legal advice. Have the Minister justify what he undertook in relation to that matter. What discussions he had with the Fijian Government. What legal advice he has. What discussions Minister Coleman’s had with the Government of Fiji. What did the Departmental officials in Home Affairs have, what discussions did they had in relation to the issue? It’s clear that the Fijians don't believe that Neil Prakash is a Fijian national. If that's the case Peter Dutton hasn't made Australia safer, what he has done is show his incompetence.

JOURNALIST: There is a stalemate here I guess between what the Government is saying and what the Fijians are saying. What happens if consensus can’t be reached

NEUMANN: Well if Prakash comes back to this country as an Australian citizen, as an Australian citizen he has got the right to vote, he’s got the right to do a whole range of issues. We don't want Prakash back in this country, let me make it clear. This guy is a terrorist and we support the prosecution of this bloke in Turkey. We support the government extraditing this guy back to Australia to face serious charges in relation to his terrorist activity. I don't want him anywhere in Australia, other than in jail. 

JOURNALIST: Is this an embarrassment for the Government?

NEUMANN: This is an embarrassment for Peter Dutton, it’s an embarrassment for Scott Morrison and it’s an embarrassment for the country, that the Prime Minister of this country has to go to Fiji and sort out Peter Dutton’s incompetence and mess.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

NEUMANN: Well it’s clear. I mean the Fijian, it's clear in law. Under our citizenship legislation, if someone is not a dual national they can't have their citizenship stripped, because you can't be stateless. That's what the law is, it is crystal clear. Peter Dutton should know it. He's the Minister. Happy to come back from holidays to have a go at Malcolm Turnbull, not happy to do your job.

JOURNALIST: On a different issue, in regards to the Saudi woman in Thailand, what do you think Australia should do about it, should Australia get involved?

NEUMANN: Well this is a very serious issue. I'm pleased the Thai authorities are involved in this and I understand that the UNHCR is working with this young Saudi woman. I have contacted – through my office – Minister Coleman to be satisfied myself that the government’s providing support that's necessary for her. I will let the situation go through the process. She's got an application she’s making with the UNHCR for refugee status. I'm not going to pre-empt the outcome of that particular process. I don't comment on individual cases on the merits of them. It's not wise to do so, but I’m pleased the government is providing support. I'm pleased that the UNHCR is helping her in her application for refugee status and I'm pleased that the Thai authorities are also cooperating and that's what should happen.

JOURNALIST: Is there more the Government should be doing?

NEUMANN: I think the Government providing sufficient, I'm not going to release publicly the information that has being provided to my office, but I'm satisfied that the government’s providing the support that's necessary. I'll let the process work its way through in her application with UNHCR.

JOURNALIST: What changes will Labor make to welfare payments for jobseekers?

NEUMANN: Well the jobs network is not working. Can I make it plain, anyone sits in business knows the jobs network is not working. It needs to be reformed and Labor will retain mutual obligation. But we need to revamp the work for the dole scheme. It was the case that about one in five employers would avail themselves of employment services and the jobs network in the past, but now we've got less than 4 per cent of the employers avail themselves of that. We've got situations where people who are applying for jobs have to make tick-a-box applications that may not be commensurate with their skills, training and abilities, once a month up to 20. And that's onerous on them. It’s onerous on businesses who have to go through and sift through those applications, so the reforms necessary. This is a $6 billion industry that's been privatised in the past. There's a lot of work that needs to be done to reform it, and to make sure the jobs network is jobs ready for people.

JOURNALIST: Why are the changes necessary?

NEUMANN: They’re necessary because the system is not working. It's absolutely not working. It’s not working for small business. It's not working for big business and it’s not working for job seekers. I mean you’ve still got about 5 per cent of people unemployed in this country and underemployment is much higher. So the system is not working. The Government should reform it. And if they won't, Labor will if we're elected and we’ll announce further details of that closer to the election.

JOURNALIST: What changes to the Work for Dole are needed?

NEUMANN: Well we've seen reports back in 2016 that the Work for the Dole scheme only provides a 2 per cent increase in the capacity of a person to get a job. So you know we're spending $65 million on the Work for the Dole scheme in relation to this matter. If we’re spending $65 million of taxpayer's money but it's not having a commensurate increase in the capacity of someone to get a job then the system needs to be reformed. And mutual obligation should be retained, but we need to spend the money wisely and well for taxpayers. We need to make sure that people get the skills they need to get the jobs they want.

JOURNALIST: And finally the Government claims welfare dependence has dropped to 2 per cent under it. Does the Coalition deserve credit?

NEUMANN: I think the Coalition deserves no credit in relation to that issue. The unemployment rate is far too high, unemployment rate is even higher. Youth unemployment rates much higher. This is a Government that has got its priorities wrong. Instead of investing in necessary infrastructure to provide jobs and provide health services and Medicare and education services they need. This is a government that seems bent on actually defunding those services and that's not good for jobs.

JOURNALIST: It has been revealed that Fraser Anning attended another far-right rally in July and charged taxpayers $2,500. Do you have comments on that?

NEUMANN: He should be repaying the weekend Nazi rally he attended in Victoria. If he has undertaking any more far right extremist rallies on taxpayers expense he should be refunding those public monies as well. I don't think it passes the pub test and it certainly doesn't pass the test if anyone here in King George Square as to whether that's appropriate use of public money. He should be repaying those monies as well. Thank you.