Sky News AM Agenda (27)

20 April 2017



SUBJECT/S: Citizenship test changes; Malcolm Turnbull’s 457 visa con-job


KIERAN GILBERT: With me now Labor frontbencher, the Shadow Finance Minister Jim Chalmers. What do you make of the citizenship changes from what you've heard this morning?


JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FINANCE: We're waiting to see some more detail from the Prime Minister and the Immigration Minister. That announcement was just made and just dropped into the papers. We weren't consulted on any of these sorts of changes, so we'll take our time to go through them. We've got a range of questions. A lot of the things that seem to be announced in this announcement are features of the citizenship test and the citizenship arrangements already, but we'll go through it. The test that we apply to these sorts of things is to make sure that they're well motivated; to make sure that they strengthen our society and not weaken it; that they unite our society and don't divide it. So with those principles we'll go through the changes that are being proposed today. Some of them seem pretty obvious; some of them seem like a feature of the system as it stands. But where there are new things genuinely and legitimately proposed, we'll go through them.

GILBERT: Do you think that questions like this one of domestic violence, "while it is illegal to use violence in public, under what circumstances can you strike your spouse in the privacy of your home?". Do you think questions like that are appropriate to test people's commitment to what is a very important value in our country in that regard?


CHALMERS: That is an extremely important value in our country. Already we ask new citizens to sign up to our laws and we've got very strong laws against domestic violence and some of the other things that were mentioned today. So we'll go through the detail of that as well. Obviously, one of the most important Australian values is not engaging in family violence or any kind of violence. Already we ask people to sign up to our laws and values. We'll see what additional steps the Government's proposing.


GILBERT: We've seen recently that video from Hizb ut-Tahrir. Do you think that some of these are messages or efforts to target radical elements of the Muslim community?


CHALMERS: It's up to Peter Dutton and Malcolm Turnbull to answer that question - what the specific motivations were. We'd like to know who they consulted with to make these changes and we'd like to know more of some of the detail of some of these changes. We want to make sure that they're well-motivated changes. I think that a lot of Australians would be deeply sceptical about the Prime Minister's motivations in this general area, whether it be citizenship, whether it be 457 visas. He's so fundamentally weakened that you can excuse people for thinking that he's looking for a pat on the head from Peter Dutton and Pauline Hanson and the hard-line right-wingers in his own party. That's what a lot of people think his motivations are. This is a Prime Minister who can't go to the dunny without checking with Peter Dutton and Pauline Hanson first. So those are all factors as well which are no doubt feeding into these announcements that we're seeing from the Prime Minister.


GILBERT: In relation to the 457 visa changes, Mr Shorten's been very critical and you and other colleagues have been critical of the system as it has been used the last couple of years. Why now is Labor critical of the changes trying to rein it in?


CHALMERS: These changes are largely cosmetic. And what's come out in the last couple of days since the announcement's been made is that the vast majority of workers in occupations will still be able to continue unchanged by these arrangements. He's effectively renamed the 457 visa and put two different visas in its place, but a lot of the issues that we've had concerns with, particularly around labour market testing will endure under this new arrangement.


GILBERT: What do you want to see done further than's been announced? We've seen a few hundred professions taken off the list. You can't retrofit a free trade agreement, can you? Because that would be breaching a deal with another country, so what do you want to see done?


CHALMERS: Labour market testing is the focal point of our concern. As it stands, employers are not required to properly test the local market to see if an Australian can fill a job before they use a 457 visa. The changes announced by Malcolm Turnbull the other day don't adequately address that. And we do have the complication of the free trade agreements, which means that something like three quarters of workers from the countries we have agreements with - they're position is uncertain because of the agreements we've signed, because Malcolm Turnbull and others have dealt away the ability to test the labour market.


GILBERT: Finally, in the world of Donald Trump and, of course, the migration crisis in Europe - do you concede that the Prime Minister's right to the extent on a broader question that Australians, like people around the world, will accept appropriate migration levels if they feel the Government has appropriate control over borders and the processes by which people are allowed residency and citizenship?


CHALMERS: I do agree with that. And there's nothing in principle wrong with trying to make sure that the arrangements are up to date and appropriate. They need to be well motivated; they need to be a unifying thing; they need to strengthen our community, not weaken it.


GILBERT: Mr Chalmers, good to see you. Appreciate your time.