October 10, 2018








SUBJECT/S: Religious freedoms report


TOM CONNELL, HOST: Joining me live now is Labor MP Anne Aly, Anne thanks very much for your time today.  I wanted to play you, first of all, what some of the response has been. I’m not sure I'll hear in my ear in a moment if we have Alex Hawke just yet and what he think should happen. He was saying earlier today that what he believes is there should be this right from schools to be able to refuse not just teachers but students as well based on their sexuality. Now, this wouldn't be new legislation there appears to be a push to perhaps codify it at a federal level and make it more clear. What do you make of this?

DR ANNE ALY MP: Well Tom, first of all good morning or rather good afternoon, Labor’s position on this has been very clear we will not support any watering down of any legislation at the federal level that makes it easier for people to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, and especially not children. Now, we haven't seen the details of this report. Scott Morrison has been sitting on this report since May, for five months he's been sitting on this report. What exactly is he afraid of in releasing this report to the public? But the leak today suggests that there is a proposal there, or at least a recommendation there, to allow religious schools to reject students on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. And Labor has made it very clear that we haven't seen the details of this report or this recommendation, that we will not support any kind of amendments to the Discrimination Act that makes it easier for people to discriminate.

HOST: You got essentially this allowed already at a federally, at a federal level. Now states, it’s a state-by-state matter. You’re saying you wouldn’t water it down, what about going the other way? Would you water down the ability of schools, for example, to discriminate accepting students on the basis of sexuality?

ALY: Again, we haven't seen the full recommendations of this report, or even the full detail of this particular recommendation, Tom, which beggars the question again: Why has Scott Morrison refused to release this? He’s had it since May, it seems to be an important issue, it seems to be a very topical issue, so why isn’t he prepared to release it? What is he afraid of? Once we've seen the report, once we've seen the recommendations, and once we've seen the details, then we can start making determinations about which way we're going to support or not support.

HOST: But there is of course the government's review but there is also the current laws that we have in place. From your understanding of them and looking at them, are you saying you happy with things as they are? They do appear to include this provision, albeit it's always up to obviously interpretation.

ALY: Yeah look, there are exemptions in the current legislation both at state and federal levels. The current exemptions apply to schools and, Tom, I went to religious schools, I went to an Anglican school as well as public schools, and I sent my children to religious schools. I recognise the right of parents to be able to choose a school that is in line with the values and the ethos of their religion and their traditions. That is something that I recognise that I support. But again, Labor will not support any kind of amendment that makes it easier to discriminate against people, and particularly against children.

HOST: Alright we’ve gone on to a lot of immigration as well the debate this week about, well part of it sending people of the regions, part of it as well overall numbers to Australia. What's your take on WA, for example, could you do with more people there?

ALY: Well, let me start by saying, Tom, that population distribution is a really important issue and we recognise that the pressure on our big cities in the eastern states that are bursting at the seams. But it's an important issue that's worthy of considered consideration and a very methodical approach to what needs to be done here. Not the kind of fly by the seat of your pants, thought bubble policy that the government is putting up at the moment. There is merit to be had in the redistribution of immigrants to regional and smaller cities. But I do want to make two points about new immigration. And the first point, Tom, is that the first 12 to 18 months of an immigrant settlement experience is a very strong determiner of their success as citizens and their ability to be active contributors are to Australian society. The second point I want to make on that is that the reason that immigrants flock to the big cities is because that's where their support networks are. Be they family, be they community, be they services, be they job opportunities. And the issue that we have with this proposal that the government is putting forward is that there is no detail to it. There’s no detail as to how the government proposes—

HOST: --Right well that detail’s to come and, you know, Alan Tudge, to give him his due, is out there giving speeches and the policy will come. As to what you said there about new immigrants arriving, the first 18 months critical, are you saying you can't really see a situation in which they could be sent to the regions, there won't be the support networks is what you said, so that would be a bad outcome is what you’re saying?

ALY: Not necessarily, Tom. We certainly have some very good examples where immigrants have been sent to regions, Katanning in Western Australia is a good example of that. What I am saying is that this is a really worthy issue with consideration, which is why Bill Shorten wrote to Scott Morrison proposing a bipartisan approach to this in the form of a task force. It needs to be very carefully thought out and there needs to be detail as to how we going to support those people in the regions so that they do have positive settlement outcomes. At the moment we don't have any of these questions answered, all we have is a headline.

HOST: Is there an issue with just getting people are the regions full stop? And I’ll give you the Pilbara cities program as just one example. Eight years ago this was started, they thought they could get Port Hedland and Karratha up to 50,000 people. Turns out both populations have gone down in double figures since then, so do people just not really want to go to those towns?

ALY: I think if you had job opportunities in those towns, and don't forget over the last eight years we've seen the mining-construction boom and now that’s been wound down so there are extraneous factors in that Tom. I don't think that it’s necessarily a matter of preference, although I do acknowledge that immigrants would prefer to be in areas where there are support networks, but we had those support networks in the regions and in the smaller cities: services, job opportunities, settlement services, language services, all of the things that are available to them now in these big cities, then it would better guarantee the success any and positive outcomes.

HOST: I want to ask you about jobs more broadly and the issue of our visas, it ties into this. Because the other response from Bill Shorten is ‘well, what about those people on short-term visas in Australia with work rights?’ 1.6 million people. We don't seem to yet really know what he means what he’s going to target. Is there an issue where you're from with these types of visas?

ALY: Not that I’m aware of Tom, I think we’ll wait and say what Labor is going to come up with in this policy, as part of our as Fair Go For Australia comprehensive policy that includes looking after workers.

HOST: And what about the TPP, just finally Anne Aly, because this is what sort of kicked that off. Union issues with the TPP, you’ve got no issue, you’ll be supporting it?

ALY: Well we've taken a decision at Caucus to support the TPP and we've made very clear our position with that, is that if a Labor government is elected at the next election we will be seeking to make amendments to the TPP, very similar to what New Zealand has done in their individual agreements with countries, to guarantee the rights of Australian workers.

HOST: That might be a bid hard, harder I should say, after the whole thing is done but yes, Labor says it will try to do that. Anne Aly thank you for your time today.

ALY: Thank you, Tom.