SUBJECT | Anthony Albanese’s overseas travel, jobs summit | 4 July 2022
Peter Stefanovic: Joining us live now in Melbourne is the Shadow Immigration Minister Dan Tehan. Dan, good to see you. We've seen those pictures come into us overnight; what are your thoughts on his trip to Kyiv and the announcement that followed, more Bushmasters, more APCs, drones, more money, etc.?
Dan Tehan: I think it's an incredibly important visit, and it's incredibly important that we keep supporting Kyiv, and we've got to make sure we're there for the long haul. And all the messages that the Prime Minister sent seem to be along those lines because we, obviously, have been there at the forefront of providing support to Ukraine. They have been very grateful for everything that we've done, so to see continuity in that, and also to see that message there that we will not forget and we will be there for the long term because this is becoming a war of attrition. And it's beholden on everyone, all global countries that support peace and democracy, to make sure that they're supporting Ukraine for the long term because this war isn't going to end anytime soon by the look of things.
Stefanovic: The PM has spent a fair amount of time away since he has been Prime Minister; much of it has been important work at must-attend events. He comes back, and then he heads off again for the Pacific Summit. There are now a few local emergencies that are taking place here. You got any concerns about the amount of time he's spending away?
Tehan: Well, it is concerning because what he seems to be doing is focusing completely on the international front, and good Prime Ministers can do both; they understand that, ultimately, the domestic front is the most important place, and that is where you have to have the majority of your focus — and then you've got to be able to deal with international events. What we see from Mr Albanese is very much a focus on everything international, and we're starting to see serious drift when it comes to incredibly important domestic issues, like energy, like skill shortages, like these floods that we’re now confronting on the eastern seaboard. So, I think what we've got to see is less focus on the international — It's important, you got to be able to do that — but you’ve got to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. We're not seeing the focus that we need here on the domestic front.
Stefanovic: Okay. Well, you brought up that issue of skill shortages; Brandon O'Connor he has said this morning that he wants more overseas workers here to help in those key areas — blue-collar, trades, and health care as well. Do you agree?
Tehan: Look, what we need to do is bring that jobs’ summit forward. Why do we wait until September to address this? We've already put policies on the table that would help address this issue. Our pensioner proposal, we've got two free trade agreements which would address some of these mobility issues, so why are we waiting till September for this jobs’ summit? We could have it in two or three weeks. This is a critical issue for business and there just seems to be a drift at the moment, and everything is taking an inordinate amount of time. I can't see why we wait till finals season for this jobs’ summit. Why not have it in the next couple of weeks?
Stefanovic: Minister O'Connor was critical of your former government, saying it was a mistake to allow droves of skilled migrants to leave Australia during the pandemic arguing that they should have been considered for Jobkeeper. What are your thoughts on that point?
Tehan: Well, what we did was make sure that we looked after all Australians to start with. Obviously, during the pandemic, we had no idea how long it was going to take and, at the time, the Opposition was very supportive of the moves that the Government took. So, I think everything this Government seems to be doing now is all about reissuing or reprioritizing or refocusing on the past, rather than, you know, addressing the issues that we confront here and now, and what I would say is why have a jobs’ summit in September when we've got the shortages so apparent right now? Why not hold the jobs summit in a couple of weeks? Let's get down to business. Another proposal that they could look at is the Ag visa. Now we had the Ag visa up and running. They're now saying that they do not want to put an ag visa in place. Why? When rural Australia needs workers right now to address the coming cropping season in two or three months' time. This is what we need to be focusing on. Don't look at the past, don't play a blame game, just focus on the here and now. That's what we need to see from this Government, and there's no reason why that jobs summit couldn't be in a couple of weeks.
Stefanovic: You had the migration capped at 160,000. Have you changed your view on that at all? Would you like to see that increased?
Tehan: So that's something that, obviously, we'll look at over time, but our focus at the moment is addressing the skills shortage that is here with us right now. And that's why we've put forward our pensioners' proposal. That's why we've said to the Government, ‘you want to implement the Indian Free Trade Agreement, the UK Free Trade Agreement? We'll do it straight away. It's why we'll support them to make sure that the Ag visa is up and running across Southeast Asia. All these things we want to work with the Government to support and get the outcomes that we need. These longer-term issues we’ll obviously consider over time, but right here and now, what we're saying is, why not have the jobs’ summit in two weeks? Why not work with us on these proposals that were put on the table that will address these shortages right now?
Stefanovic: Okay. Dan Tehan, the Shadow Immigration Minister, thanks for your time as always; we'll talk to you again soon.