SATURDAY, 25 JULY 2015
SUBJECT/S: ALP National Conference; Boat turnbacks.
GREG JENNETT: Now it's interesting to note that some of this journey was begun by the veteran, if we use that word, Labor frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon, its current agriculture spokesman but of course he's been around national security and broader issues in the broad over many years now and he's joining us this morning here from the conference venue.
Joel, you came out relatively early on this and announced your preference for boat turnbacks. Are you happy and confident that that will pass through without incident today?
JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR RURAL AFFAIRS: I'm not sure I like that "veteran" term, Greg, let's just say experienced. Look I'm pleased but we're not there yet. Negotiations are continuing and there will be a vote on the conference floor today, I expect, but I'm confident that people will come to the conclusion the best way we can deal with refugees, the most humanitarian way in which we can deal with the problem is to keep the current package in place but seek to build on it and improve it. For example, dealing with the issues that we face in Nauru, the mismanagement by the Government of that system, and of course, accepting more refugees. I think we have the capacity to do so and doing more at the International level, working with the international community to deal with some of these problems at source.
JENNETT: So we've just been discussing that package which is being unveiled today, we've been using a term like bargaining chip. Has that been critical towards building some sort of consensus around this approach today?
FITZGIBBON: I think it's fair to say that from day one we've been saying, you know, we do want a humanitarian approach but we believe that you can't unravel a package which is currently stopping people from taking that risky journey. So you know no one's got a monopoly on the humanitarian view here. We all go into this debate with the same intentions and that is to make sure that we treat refugees in a humane way and we act in keeping with our international obligations and our moral obligations as well. There are different views about how we get there. So from the beginning it's been about how do we achieve that goal and I think we're getting there.
JENNETT: So if Labor was in government, in 12, 16 months’ time, what's the end game on some of these policies? Faster processing, for instance, is it to drain the numbers out of Nauru and Manus by any predetermined time?
FITZGIBBON: Well, again, the end game is a very simple one. Meeting our international legal obligations, meeting our moral obligations, making sure we have an orderly process and an efficient process, and ensuring that we are playing a lead global role, setting the standard if you like, around the world as to how this issue should be handled.
JENNETT: And division, do you think the party is going to, you know, get through the spectacle of it's pretty passionate issue this and those who, I think, are moving an amendment on boat turn-backs today, are going to force the issue on the floor of the Parliament. What collateral damage might that inflict on the leadership?
FITZGIBBON: Look there's nothing wrong with a bit of colour and movement and I welcome the debate. People want to see delegates at the Labor Party National Conference having a little bit of a robust debate, if you like, a bit of a stoush. We've been democratising the Party, which means that no-one really controls the show anymore. We've got branch members at the rank and file level having a greater say, a greater input and that's made the situation less predictable than it used to be. I think that is a good thing. That's where democratisation is taking us and no-one should complain about that.
JENNETT: And you're pretty sure that this lands in a safe place for Bill Shorten and turnbacks today?
FITZGIBBON: I'm pretty confident delegates from all factions and from all walks of life will find a way forward which both demonstrates our humanitarian commitment, meets our international legal obligations and our moral obligations but ensures that flow of - that dangerous boat ride, that flow of people doesn't recommence.
JENNETT: Alright, Joel Fitzgibbon, we'll let you go and prepare for conference and Ben, and Miriam, as I say, Joel Fitzgibbon was an early voice to go out there and put a flag down, if you like, about boat turn-backs and said that he thought it should be an option retained by Labor and it looks very much from the ALP National Conference here that position will get through today.