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Transcript 17683

Transcript of doorstop interview, Cairns

Photo of Gillard, Julia

Gillard, Julia

Period of Service: 24/06/2010 to 27/06/2013

More information about Gillard, Julia on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 17/02/2011

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 17683

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the Sydney Morning Herald has reported this morning that the Opposition's Immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, has urged the Shadow Cabinet in December to capitalise on the community's growing concerns about Muslims in Australia with a discriminatory policy. Can you comment on what this leak may mean?

PM: Well, first and foremost we need the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, to confirm whether or not these reports are true, that his Shadow Cabinet sat around talking about making Australia's immigration policy one that discriminates on the basis of religion or race. And Mr Abbott has to confirm today, does he agree with Scott Morrison that we should have discriminatory immigration; that we should knock someone back because we don't like their religion. Is that Tony Abbott's position?

And if that's not Tony Abbott's position, then really he has to say to Mr Morrison, his Shadow Minister, he's not prepared to follow him down this grubby path and Mr Morrison should go to the backbench rather than being on Mr Abbott's frontbench.

JOURNALIST: What does this mean on the back of the debate of the last few days about the appropriateness or otherwise of bringing the asylum seekers to Sydney for the funerals of (inaudible) Christmas Island?

PM: This is an incredibly important question for the future of the nation - how we construct our migration policy. For many, many long years now it's been bipartisan politics in this country that we do not discriminate on the basis of race or religion.

I'm a migrant. I've got a very clear view about what it means to be a good migrant to this country. I can talk about that from lived experience. You're a good migrant to this country if you come here; you're here because you want to abide by the rules of this country; you love this country and you're prepared to work hard to make its future. That's the basis on which we run our migration program.

We don't say to people ‘you can't worship this way if you want to come to Australia.' That's not the Australian tradition, it's not the Australian way. So, this is a big question for Mr Abbott to answer today.

In an act of leadership, is he saying the modern Liberal Party now stands for discrimination on the basis of religion?

Mr Abbott clearly made comments he regretted about enabling asylum seekers to attend funerals of their loved ones. Mr Abbott said that when Mr Morrison backed away from those comments he was pleased to see that Mr Morrison had.

Today there is another big issue, a very big issue, involving Mr Morrison. Mr Morrison, from today's reports, appears to want to go down a very grubby path in the migration debate in this country. Is Mr Abbott going to follow him down that path or stop it now and get Mr Morrison to go to the backbench?

JOURNALIST: Do you think the Party is extremely divided on this issue?

PM: Liberals, over a long period of time, Liberals like Malcolm Fraser, have championed a non-discriminatory immigration policy. Prime Minister Howard championed a non-discriminatory immigration policy. He at one stage questioned that policy and then, in his latter years as Prime Minister of this country, said he very much regretted ever questioning it and he very much believed in non-discriminatory immigration.

So, if Mr Abbott is making this move, he is repudiating Prime Minister Howard, Prime Minister Fraser, and many people in his political party today.

JOURNALIST: And what are the implications for Australia's social fabric if this is the way policy, or at least behind closed doors discussions, are going?

PM: Well, I simply can't imagine it. I can't imagine that an Australian Government would ever do what Mr Abbott and Mr Morrison may well be urging. I can't imagine that an Australian Government would ever say ‘if you're Greek Orthodox, you can't come to this country; if you're a Muslim, you can't come to this country.'

I can't believe that Mr Abbott or Mr Morrison really want to see the nation go down that path. That's why it's so important today that Mr Abbott comes out and says ‘these reports are incorrect, and I believe in a non-discriminatory policy', or ‘these reports are correct, Scott Morrison is wrong, he's going to the backbench, and I, Tony Abbott, reaffirm the Liberal Party's belief in a non-discriminatory immigration policy'.

JOURNALIST: Thank you for your time, Prime Minister.

PM: Thank you.

Transcript 17683