Release type: Transcript


Interview - ABC Afternoon Briefing


Senator the Hon Anthony Chisholm
Assistant Minister for Education
Assistant Minister for Regional Development

SUBJECTS: High Court immigration ruling, Optus outage, 4-day school week

GREG JENNETT [HOST]: All right. Time now for our political panel, and joining us we have here in the studio, Labor Frontbencher, Anthony Chisholm, welcome back, Anthony, and from Queensland, LNP Frontbencher, Angie Bell is with us. Angie's in Brisbane, I believe. Welcome to you, Angie. I might put the first question over towards you. The High Court has struck down this ‑ well, it's virtually brought an end to indefinite immigration detention, the likes of which has been practised in this country for about 20 years now. This will affect visa holders with criminal convictions who were awaiting deportation. What should happen next? Can this be fixed by partisan fashion by legislation.

ANGIE BELL: Well, it has been bipartisan for the last 20 years, and now this position has been overturned by the High Court. This is a question of safety for the Australian community, and there really needs to be a plan B from the government in terms of community safety and how they are going to minimise the impact of releasing some 92 individuals, one of whom we know has served a charge for raping a 10‑year‑old boy. So these are people who have been denied their visas because of their character, and I think this is quite dire for the Australian community, and the government needs to come up with a solution for minimising harm in our community across the nation.

JENNETT: All right. Well, Anthony Chisholm, there is a stop‑gap measure in place, I think we heard Penny Wong explain that in the Senate where you were, this is a highly conditional visa for the Rohingyan individual who was at the centre of this case. But can that be managed using conditional visas in the other 92 remaining cases that might be affected by this judgment?

ANTHONY CHISHOLM [ASSISTANT MINISTER]: Yeah, thanks Greg, and obviously we acknowledge the High Court decision yesterday. My understanding is that they haven't actually released yet the judgment in full. So that is something that the government are going to have to take into consideration. But community safety is obviously the most important thing, and that is what the government will be focused on, ensuring that we do continue to keep the community safe, but we obviously need time to see the judgment, and then work out what appropriate next steps are.

JENNETT: Would we be right in assuming that among the other 92 there might be some really worrying criminal histories there, the likes of which you would not want to be released in any form, under visa controls or not, into the community. Would that be fair to assume?

CHISHOLM: Well, I don't think it's helpful to assume or speculate on those sorts of things, Greg, but first and foremost the government obviously, its priority is community safety, so I'm sure whatever measures we take it will be with that community safety first and foremost in our mind.

JENNETT: All right. Let's move to Optus, Angie Bell, I'm sure you've had plenty of feedback as a local MP there in Queensland, about the implications. Sketch out for us, if you can, a bit of a picture of your understanding of the business consequences in particular.

BELL: Well, certainly this affected very many millions of Australians across the country, this outage never seen before on this scale, and it has affected individuals, it has affected businesses, and it's important that Optus comes out and explains exactly what went wrong so Australians can understand that, but also to prevent it happening again. The government needs to communicate in a much better way to the Australian public in terms of what they should be doing when this happens, what the alternatives are for them, and they simply haven't done that, and now we've seen today ‑ Anthony probably voted against it ‑ the inquiry into the government's response to this black‑out, and so I think that much more needs to be done in terms of preventing this happening again. We want to see an explanation, obviously those businesses and individuals across the nation want to hear why this happened, and how the government is going to stop it happening again, so that their communications cannot be impacted in the same way again. This was life and death in some situations that I've certainly heard of and read about and seen on the news as well.

JENNETT: Of course, communication, vitally important. I mean plenty of people have made that point, Angie, but what about, you know, where it really hurts a corporation, paying compensation; is that in order?

BELL: Well, we're still waiting to hear whether that is the case. That will be up to those ‑ that corporation - as to whether they pay that compensation, but the government needs to communicate more clearly to the Australian people the way forward.

JENNETT: All right. So what of that, Anthony Chisholm, do you see room for improvement, well, by companies, but also maybe a more clearly defined set of instructions from government about how they should operate in these circumstances.

CHISHOLM: I'm disappointed Angie isn't following the Senate more closely to know that we supported that reference to the Senate Committee, but ‑‑

BELL: Not to the government's response, Anthony.

CHISHOLM: I do think that.

BELL: Not to the Labor Government's response.

JENNETT: I think it was [indistinct] in there somewhere, yeah.

CHISHOLM: I think it's important that we highlight the failure of Optus in this regard. So this is the second significant incident that they've been involved with in recent times, and the communication was sub‑standard. It's like they learnt nothing from the cyber-attack recently, so I think Minister Rowland actually did step up and front the media yesterday, and then announced the post‑incident review today. So, I think Optus customers would see a government that is taking action, and it really puts in stark contrast the response of Optus, which was completely sub‑standard.

JENNETT: Should it be "two strikes you're out" for the Chief Executive Kelly Bayer Rosmarin?

CHISHOLM: Look, I'm not someone who grandstands on chief executives and their role, that's a matter for Optus. But I would say that it is clear, and I think it was expressed in the frustration of Minister Rowland in how she responded that the Optus response has not been good enough. So they do absolutely need to do better. I think some of those stories that Angie referred to, they were just some real heart‑wrenching stories from a personal level, but also the impact on businesses as well; it's diabolical, and the fact that Optus let that go on without providing an adequate response is just completely outrageous.

JENNETT: Can that be improved, as almost like a corporate culture thing in this country, any failure, whether it be by utility, Angie Bell, we're talking about a telco here today, but it could just as easily happen with a transport company, a supermarket, and the like; can this be improved, this sort of client or customer communication culture that we have, or lack of it?

BELL: Well, frankly, today we're talking about telecommunications. The government sets out the rules around that, including the Ombudsman, and so the government should be communicating to the Australian people what their options were under these circumstances, and they simply didn't. And Anthony says that, "Oh, yes, there's an inquiry," but the inquiry is into Optus, the inquiry is not into the government's response to this issue.

JENNETT: Yes, yes. There were some changes ‑ just clear that up for us, Anthony Chisholm, there were some amendments put forward that would include a reference to the Government's role. I think that is happening, isn't it, through the Senate Inquiry?

CHISHOLM: It is, yeah.

JENNETT: Okay. So that was ‑ I think that was successful, and it was finally approved on the voices in the Senate, just to clear that one up. Now I'm really keen to get your thoughts, both of you, Angie, Anthony, cause you have portfolio interests in education, and in your home state of Queensland, there is now some discussion ‑ I'll take it to you first, Angie ‑ around flexible school hours options in both the primary and the secondary sector. If it came to it, and I'm not sure this is being specifically advocated by the State Government, correct me if I'm wrong, would you support, are you in favour of four‑day school weeks, Angie Bell?

BELL: Well, there hasn't been any consultation around this change to school hours, and at exactly the wrong time in a cost‑of‑living crisis the Labor Queensland Government is talking about going to a four‑day week. Now I hear parents across Queensland gasping for air, because it's not compatible with a five‑day work week. Who's going to look after the children? There are no day care places around the state available, there are waiting lists everywhere, there are no places, extra places in out‑of‑school care, so this is something that the Queensland Government has sprung. Grace Grace needs to talk about this in more detail. I'm sure the LNP in Queensland, my colleagues, are looking at this closely, but there hasn't been any communication, consultation around this, and if this is to start as early as next year, then this is problematic for all of those families across Queensland who simply can't pay the bills now, never mind having to give up days of work.

JENNETT: Well, there would ‑‑

BELL: So we need more detail, and we need to hear more from the Queensland Government, who clearly, very clearly is out of touch with the cost‑of‑living crisis that's gripping Queensland, and indeed the nation right now.

JENNETT: All right. Well, there would be, wouldn't there, picking up on Angie's point, Anthony, implications for families on the fifth day. What do you understand of the status of this? From what I hear, if it is advanced, it would be optional and done on a trial basis, but even allowing for that, are you attracted to this level of flexibility?

CHISHOLM: Well, I think it's something that should be considered, but they've got to go through appropriate consultation on it. I think I'd probably take a broader view and look at it in the federation style of government that we have, and states are responsible for their own education system, and I think it's important that they do trial things and see what works, and this could lead to better outcomes. It won't suit people to go down this path, and I think that's the benefit ‑‑

JENNETT: Better education outcomes?

CHISHOLM: It might lead to better education outcomes; it might lead to more teachers being in the system as well. So I'm open to ideas that lead to better outcomes and enable more teachers in the system, and I do think that's the benefit of the style of government that we have, where States are encouraged to do that, and then other States might look at it and go, "Well that worked," or "We could trial it this way" and it provides some benefits.

JENNETT: Would it be a reduction in productivity by teachers though, if they were in the classroom for 20 per cent less time.

CHISHOLM: Well, I'd assume they'd be working more hours on those four days, Greg, but I'm not an expert on what the State Government have proposed in this regard. I was more making the broader point about federation and states having responsibility for education.


CHISHOLM: I think it is important that we are innovative and look at things that are actually going to lead to better educational outcomes.

JENNETT: Well, it's going to be interesting to watch. As you say, Angie Bell, we, I think, are awaiting further detail on it. Love to keep across this with both of you in further discussions, if it takes shape either there in Queensland or anywhere else in the nation. Certainly a good talking point. We'll keep across it. Angie Bell, thanks for joining us.

BELL: Thanks, Greg.

JENNETT: Anthony Chisholm, to you as well.

CHISHOLM: Thanks, Greg, thanks Angie.