14 November 2023


​​​​​​​SUBJECTS: High Court ruling on indefinite detention; student strike protests planned in Melbourne; unity statements against anti-Semitism; Foreign Minister’s comment on situation in Gaza. 

 SARAH ABO, HOST: Welcome back to today. Immigration Minister Andrew Giles has confirmed the immediate release of 80 asylum seekers from immigration detention. It follows last week's High Court ruling that determined dozens were being kept unlawfully. Joining us to discuss today's headlines is Minister for the NDIS and Government Services, Bill Shorten from Canberra, and 3AW’s Neil Mitchell in Melbourne. Good morning to you both. Bill, you've got men accused of murder, rape, violent attacks being released into the community. It is alarming. This is quite the problem for the immigration minister.

BILL SHORTEN, MINISTER FOR THE NDIS AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES: The High Court’s made a decision. It's changed some of the ways which we can hold people in detention. So, it's an immediate issue. I know that the Ministers are working through what's the best way to monitor people, what are the sort of visa requirements that these people will be under. So, we're just going to have to work through the issue. The courts. We live in a system where the courts are allowed to make independent decisions, and we've just got to deal with them.

ABO: Yes, but can we afford for you to work through it? I mean, how are you not better prepared for this potential outcome?

SHORTEN: Well, first of all, this law has been the wrong law for 20 years. So, we found that coming to government, the previous government had no plan B on this matter. So, we're working it through.

ABO: Neil, the chief role of the government is to keep Australians safe. Their own country doesn't want them back, these men. Has this been disregarded by the High Court's ruling? And do you think the government's dropped the ball here not being prepared for this outcome?

NEIL MITCHELL, 3AW: Oh yeah, there should be a plan B, as Bill says. But you've been there a while. It should have been well underway. But I agree with Bill. The courts are independent, and I think the Minister said the right thing yesterday. He said he said, look, these people were in detention for a reason because they are a danger in the community. We don't want them in the community. I would hope and I would expect that they are being very closely watched by whatever undercover police are available. I would really hope they're being monitored and to hell with their civil rights there. Step on them, sit on them, watch them every minute. And if they jaywalk, lock them up again.

ABO: Well, he doesn't want them in the community, but they are in the community now, Neil.

MITCHELL: Well, of course I are. But that's why I'm saying you've got to monitor them while they're in the community. And if they cross the line on anything, you nab them. And in the meantime, you work out a way to deal with it. As Bill said, you've got to work through it. There needs to be a plan B, and I think the government, in fairness, is doing that. They could have done it earlier, but they're doing it now.

ABO: Yeah, I just think they probably could have done it earlier. All right. Well Melbourne School students are walking out of the classroom -

SHORTEN: Well, hang on, hang on, hang on. Hang on, you just can't just throw that in at the end there, Sarah.

ABO: Well, I asked you about a bill and you said that there was no plan B.

SHORTEN: But you just - well, first of all, you say we should have expected it. The previous government certainly didn't have this expectation of dealing with this issue. It’d be handy sometimes if we could go back and find the previous government had done well.

ABO: Pointing the finger again. Alright.

MITCHELL: Well, you tell us about every week. You tell us every week what they've mucked up. How about recognising you're in power? Yeah. All right. You've inherited a mess. You should have fixed it quicker. Sarah's right.

ABO: All right, let's move on. In Melbourne, school students are walking out of the classroom next week, set to go on strike in support of Palestinians. Bill, it's drawn a bit of criticism. This one. Some saying that kids are being used as political pawns. What do you reckon?

SHORTEN: Oh, I think the community needs to dial it down at the moment. I think whilst people have got their strongly held opinions from the distressing scenes that we're seeing, you know, I think the community and parents and families should dial it down a bit and be saying to everyone, let's just try and get along here. Let's not try and import the problems that we see on TV into our own communities. What happened at Caulfield was ridiculous.

ABO: Yeah, I think Bill's right, Neil. We do need to dial it down, especially when it's sort of infiltrating schools now, we're talking about, you know, young students here. It's similar to what we saw with the climate change school strikes a few years ago. Should kids be protesting?

MITCHELL: Well, they've got a climate change strike this week in Victoria, followed by the Palestinian issue next week. Look, I don't know how you stop the kids. I mean, you want to encourage some political interest in them, but I suspect they're being manipulated. Bill's also right. I hate to say it, he's right about dialling it down. And Bill was one of the first on this program to call out the anti-Semitism. What we are seeing in Victoria at the moment, perhaps more than other states, is just appalling. It's just disgraceful. It is an anti-Semitic undercurrent. It is nothing else. What I would love to see, and Bill, I'd be interested in your views on this, is an unequivocal statement. Anthony Albanese, Peter Dutton, side by side outside a synagogue in Caulfield, saying anti-Semitism is wrong. Settle down, cool it. A bipartisan side by side gesture. What about that?

SHORTEN: Well, you'll find that I think both sides have actually said that, it's a little harder than it should be sometimes to get people in the same photo, but they both saying the same thing.

ABO: Yeah, absolutely.

MITCHELL: Why don’t we get them in the same photo. It's symbolic. It's a magnificent symbolism. There they are, the two leaders of the countryside by side. Why not? Why would they do it?

ABO: It think in fairness though Neil, both sides have -

SHORTEN: Neil, that did happen in Parliament.

ABO: And both sides have called out any kind of vitriol on both sides, right. Because we're seeing tensions flare up on both sides.

MITCHELL: Symbolism.

ABO: Well, I mean, this is the - well, that's true.

MITCHELL: But it's symbolic. It's symbolic.

SHORTEN: We’ve done it in the Parliament of Australia, which is the house that Australian democracy has created to make our arguments, unlike what we're seeing elsewhere. And both of them did support the same resolution put by the Prime Minister.

MITCHELL: Shouldn't be hard to do it in the streets. Come into the streets. Bring them into the streets. That's where they should be. In the streets with the people, making the point.

ABO: I guess similar to the point that Neil's raising Bill, is whether or not we're seeing that kind of unity in Canberra at the moment. I mean, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has failed to wholeheartedly support his Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, on her discussions of a cease fire in Gaza. I mean, she fronted the Senate yesterday, reaffirming her position. Take a look.

PENNY WONG, FOREIGN MINISTER [VIDEO]: This government, this country has a long-standing position of recognising and supporting the right of the State of Israel to exist. I appreciate that's not, may not be your view, but that is our view.

ABO: Bill, obviously, we'd need to tread carefully on an issue like this. You know, we know that tensions are high at the moment. Is there disunity within Labor?

SHORTEN: No, I just wanted to correct that headline. No, the Prime Minister stood up and I thought very comprehensively backed in what the Foreign Minister said. And as for the fundamental issue, what we've called for is a humanitarian pause like the United States. Ultimately, one day we would like to see enduring peace. But it's a step at a time. And the humanitarian pause has been what we've called for. That's all. But the other thing is, of course, the Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister have made the point that for those who are calling for a cease fire, no one's saying that Hamas should disarm or that Hamas should give back the hostages. So, I think the Foreign Minister's comments have been right in the correct swimming lane of sensible government policy.

ABO: All right, guys, we did have a lot to get through this morning. We've sadly run out of time. But thank you nonetheless for joining us. Appreciate it.