SUBJECTS: UK Free Trade Agreement; Biloela Family.
MICHAEL ROWLAND, HOST: The Deputy Opposition Leader Richard Marles joins us now from Parliament House, in Canberra. Good morning to you.
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY, RICHARD MARLES: Good morning, Michael. How are you?
ROWLAND: Very well. In your view, a good deal for Australia?
MARLES: Oh, look, I think this is a good deal. We support the agreement with the UK. I’m not exactly sure what a Penguin is. It cannot be as good as a Tim Tam-
ROWLAND: We’re on a unity ticket there!
MARLES: But it does make sense for us to ultimately be doing a trade agreement with the UK. Obviously, we’ll want to have a look at the detail as it goes through the processes in Canberra. But it’s important that we are seeing trade diversification because we need to be having a much broader set of international markets than we currently have.
ROWLAND: A bit of concern about the lag, the 10-15 year gap before Australian beef and lamb producers get the full benefits of this deal. Does that concern you?
MARLES: Well, again, we want to have a look at the detail of this. Often trade agreements do phase in over a period of time. But its, you know, the detail of these deals matter, and so we do want to have an opportunity, which we will, to go through all of this, and we’re obviously concerned not only with that but with the question around access to labour in the agricultural sector where really, right now, there is a crisis and we’re seeing tens of millions of dollars of harvest being- rotting on the vine on, as crops are not being able to be harvested in time. So, we want to understand exactly how that’s going to play out as well. But this is a principled agreement and as a matter of principle, we support it.
ROWLAND: Okay. To another issue; the Tamil asylum seeker has now been reunited in Perth. What in your view, what in Labor’s view, should happen next?
MARLES: Well, I think this has been a very sorry story for a number of years now. It’s obviously a great thing that the family have been reunited in Perth, but it only highlights how ridiculous it was that this family was placed on Christmas Island for a period of two years, at huge expense to the Australian public- millions of dollars- when there is a community in Australia that they have come from and that really want them; in Biloela. And ultimately that’s the answer to your question. I mean, as soon as medical circumstances allow, really, the family should be allowed to go back to Biloela until their legal situation is resolved. And I think the other point here, Michael is, we’d be the first to acknowledge that the system that is run when it comes to asylum seekers is very complicated and it’s difficult but in the midst of it all, there is ministerial discretion and the point of that really is to allow the rule of common sense to apply. And I think the rule of common sense here is pretty clear.
ROWLAND: Let’s go to that system because we could be three or four months away from the election and just for our viewers’ clarity, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said yesterday, “We do not believe anyone who has come by boat should be allowed to be permanently resettled in Australia.” Is that Labor’s view too?
MARLES: Well, we put in place offshore processing. That was Labor which did that. We put in place a situation where people who came to Australia by boat after July of 2013- and that does not apply to this family- and who end up in offshore processing- offshore detention, should not be resettled in Australia, that remains very much, firmly, our position. And the Coalition put in place a system of turning back boats, particularly between Java and Christmas Island and that’s a position which Labor supports. That is the regime, those three elements together, which has enabled a situation to stop where people were coming by boat and we were seeing an extraordinary loss of life at sea. It is obviously critically important that that regime be maintained, and we are implacably resolved that that’s where we stand in supporting that regime being in place-
ROWLAND: Okay, so no difference really between the major parties when it comes to broader protection parties? Just in the interest for our viewers here, there is no substantial difference in border protection policies, whether you’re Labor or Liberal?
MARLES: That’s absolutely correct. We believe in strong borders. And ultimately we arrive at that position as a matter of compassion because the loss of life that we saw on Australia’s border actually had something to do with Australia, you know, you can’t turn your back on that. And what we’ve now learnt is that we can put in place policy settings which, in truth were a combination of settings put in place by Labor and this government which have brought to an end that loss of life at sea, and that is unequivocally a good thing and we will continue that.
ROWLAND: We’ll leave it there. Richard Marles, thanks for your time this morning.
MARLES: Thanks, Michael.