Doorstop on Kevin Andrews' NZ Welfare Lie and AFP operations

23 September 2014


SUBJECT/S: Kevin Andrews’ NZ welfare lie, national security legislation, AFP operations, Muslim communities, Julia Gillard’s book


The Government needs to provide certainty to pensioners, families and young people who are being impacted by the harsh cuts at the very core of their unfair budget.

In the last 48 hours, we’ve had the Families Minister say that the pension cuts might not proceed on the original timetable, we’ve had the Treasurer say it’s the first he’s heard of it and then we’ve had the Prime Minister saying he’s still keen to cut pensions.

I know from my own community in Rankin, just south of Brisbane, that this type of uncertainty just makes people more anxious, it makes them less secure, it makes them more worried about how they’re going to make ends meet.

And as you heard from Jenny Macklin this morning, we’ve now seen this farce – this budget farce – extended to Kevin Andrews’ lies about the New Zealand welfare system – the lies that he’s using to justify his harsh attack on young jobseekers here in Australia.

What this shows is that Kevin Andrews is not just a liar, Kevin Andrews is not just incompetent - Kevin Andrews is both.

He couldn’t come up with a proper reason – an accurate reason – to support these harsh attacks on young jobseekers, and so he just made one up.

JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister yesterday in a speech to Parliament said that there needs to be a shift in the balance between freedom and security. Do you think that’s absolutely necessary?

CHALMERS: As you would have heard from my colleagues, we take a constructive approach to the updating of the various laws and arrangements that govern how we approach these sorts of issues. We are being bipartisan about it and being constructive and collaborative. We will look at the various arrangements they put to us with an open mind. We think that they should have proper parliamentary and public scrutiny and consultation, and then once implemented, proper oversight.

JOURNALIST: You mentioned your electorate – your electorate has been directly affected by this, how are people responding?

CHALMERS: I’ve spent a lot of time with the multicultural communities in my electorate, as you would appreciate. It is true to say that people are edgy about recent developments.

My overwhelming experience in my electorate is that people of all the various faiths want to live in a constructive way. They embrace the Australian way of life; they make a tremendous contribution to my area. I consider myself blessed to represent such a multicultural area with so many different faiths and nationalities, people from so many different homelands.

But it is true to say that people do get edgy at times like this. It is understandable when you see what’s going on overseas and what’s happening here in terms of the law enforcement agencies.

I do also want to thank and pay tribute to the AFP and others who have conducted some of these operations in my area and surrounding areas in recent times. They are very professional – not just the way they go about some of these activities like raids and other things like that, but how they engage with the community. I’ve had the opportunity to discuss these matters with the AFP in recent days and I do want to thank them for their professionalism.

JOURNALIST: Mr Chalmers, when Tony Abbott says the balance needs to shift, is that creating some anxieties in your community in the sense that he says some people might feel a greater burden than others. Do they feel like that is perhaps being directed at them, the Muslim community?

CHALMERS: I think the overwhelming sense in my community is that people want to see the appropriate laws and arrangements that keep our community safe. I think most people would understand that you need to update laws like these to make sure that they are relevant, that they are keeping people safe, that people can go to work and raise their families in a community that is safe and where the laws are policed effectively.

I think people have a pretty responsible and mature outlook when it comes to those sorts of things and obviously they would look, like we would, at all of these changes with a critical eye. But at the end of the day, they want what everyone wants, which is a safe Australia where people can buy in and do the right thing.

JOURNALIST: Do you think the Government needs to make a differentiation in its messaging between extremist Muslims and lay Muslims – members of the Australian community who don’t have these kinds of ideas?

CHALMERS: Yes. Not just the government, I think everyone has the responsibility to improve understanding in our community that the overwhelming majority of Muslim Australians want to do the right thing. They want what non-Muslim Australians want for their families. So I think all of us have the responsibility to build understanding, not diminish it.

I think in that context, Senator Lambie’s recent contributions were disappointing, in the way that they sought to diminish understanding about some of these issues, not build it up.

JOURNALIST: Do you think it’s dangerous for her to talk about such a concept that’s quite complex, and clearly something that she doesn’t know much about?

CHALMERS: It’s certainly not helpful. I actually have the same view that Malcolm Turnbull had, which is that speaking in that way plays into the hands of people who want to do the wrong thing, the people who want to recruit. I think we have a responsibility, elected people – all of us, journalists as well – to make sure we talk about these things in a rational, responsible way, a way that builds understanding in the community and doesn’t diminish it.

JOURNALIST: Are you going to watch the Julia Gillard interviews tonight?

CHALMERS: I probably will, yes. I’ve got a mountain of respect for Julia Gillard. I think that she’s earned the right to pen her thoughts. I think we’ve got a lot to learn from that period in government – good and bad – and I think that Julia is playing her part in helping the next generation, people like myself and others, learn from the lessons of the last little while. Tremendous achievements of her Government for sure, but also some lessons to learn and I think her book will help us learn them.

JOURNALIST: Is there a lesson in parachuting Bob Carr into the Foreign Minister job?

CHALMERS: I’ll leave that up to Julia. Thanks Laura.