October 31, 2022

SUBJECT | Islamic State/NAPLAN Results | 31 October 2022

PETE STEFANOVIC: Joining us live now in Melbourne is the Shadow Immigration Minister Dan Tehan. Dan, good to see you. Thanks for your time, as always. So, yeah, that first cohort of ISIS brides and their children they're back in Sydney, so what concerns do you have now that they are actually in the country?

DAN TEHAN: Well, there are real concerns, Pete, and the Government needs to come clean on what the next steps are. What are the next steps to keep Australians safe? To make sure that these returnees are properly monitored? What is the cost of that? But, more importantly, two of the women have got husbands back in those camps in Syria; now, is the plan to see them come back as well? And what will the Australian people know about their activities in Syria when they were active members of ISIS? Also, one of the other women who it’s planned to bring back to Australia has had her citizenship stripped; now, you don't have your citizenship stripped unless you have undertaken an activity which is detrimental to the Australian national interests. So, we need answers to these questions, and we need them now. The Australian people need to know what the Government is up to and how what they doing’s in Australia's national interest.

STEFANOVIC: Okay. Yeah. So, they've been light on details so far now that the wives and the children are back in the country, as I mentioned there. Prior to that, they had some forecast though that they will be monitored very closely, and that will extend to all of them, the women and the children anyway. Are those monitoring conditions that have been set sufficient in your view?

TEHAN: Well, we don't know what those monitoring conditions are. We don't know whether there has been illegal activity undertaken by any of these women in Syria and, therefore will they face the letter of the law here in Australia. The Government is not being upfront with the Australian people about these returnees. We learned that the returnees came to New South Wales because Victoria wanted to wait till after the election before they brought any of the returnees back to Victoria. This seems an exercise which has been made up on the run. It doesn't seem like the safety of Australians is being put first. And the Government needs to come clean because, at the moment, there are no answers to very, very serious questions that will keep Australians safe.

STEFANOVIC: Some of them may well be up for legal problems, though, even charges. Could that be a reason why they've got to remain tight-lipped at the moment?

TEHAN: Well, if that's the case, why doesn't the Government come out and say it? We’re hearing nothing from the Government. I said on this show last Monday that there were rumours that they would be brought back between the budget and Melbourne Cup so that it would mean that they would come out back to Australia when everyone was focused on other things - that turned out to be correct. Now we're not getting any of the answers we need on these key, key questions.

STEFANOVIC: The Government points to operational matters; that's why costs haven't been revealed. Is that good enough?

TEHAN: Well, that might be the case when it comes to operational matters, but what they're not being clear about is what is going to happen to those who have broken the law. What is going to happen, as I've said, to the two husbands of the two women who were still in camps? Are they coming back? What is going to happen to the woman who has had her citizenship stripped? Will she be coming back? Will there be control orders put in place? For those who knowingly went to declared areas will they be charged? All these questions remain unanswered, and the Australian people have been left in the dark, and that's simply not good enough.

STEFANOVIC: The Government had said when it comes to the husbands that that was a non-starter, those who are in prisons, anyway, are you buying that?

TEHAN: Well, this is the question that needs to be answered and answered clearly. Now that their wives and children are back here in Australia, are they absolutely clear that their husbands will not return? We need to hear that straight from the horse's mouth, from the Government. We also need to know what will happen to the woman that has had her citizenship stripped - will she be returning to Australia? These are the questions that we need loud and clear answers from the Government on.

STEFANOVIC: Switching topics now, Dan, NAPLAN results out this morning show teen boys at record lows for literacy; one in nine is unable to read at a basic level. You're a former education minister; what do you make of the results?

TEHAN: Well, first of all, I think it clearly shows that the decision to shut schools during the pandemic was the wrong one, and I think all education ministers at the state and territory level now need to be really focused on making up for that decision, which I think has really impacted on boys in particular. The second thing we need to see is mobile phones need to go from schools, and there needs to be a back-to-basics approach. Phonics needs to be taught in every primary school right across the nation, and the focus needs to be on getting kids to be able to read and write by the time they leave primary school.

STEFANOVIC: I mean, a lot of this takes time, though. A lot of this has happened over time, and that brings your government into focus here. Have you got to accept some responsibility for where levels are at?

TEHAN: Well, we obviously initiated a curriculum review so that we could get the focus back on to ensuring that the kids were focused on reading, on writing, and on adding up. And we need to make sure that we keep that focus going; we encourage the states to introduce phonics, and we will continue to do that from the opposition because that is absolutely vital to get into giving kids the skills that they need to be able to read and write. We put record levels of funding into education. So now the focus needs to be on making sure that we're getting these basics right.

STEFANOVIC: Just a final one here on the gas crisis at the moment in Australia, Dan. Mandatory code of conduct for major producers on the table. The government's still looking at a British-style price cap, too, which was a massive expense for the Brits, and that time frame has now been shortened. Would you support any of that?

TEHAN: Well, the Government looks completely hapless when it comes to what they're doing on energy prices. The budget showed that we have a serious, serious issue - 50% increase in energy prices. The Treasurer yesterday, when asked about this, could not say that energy prices would come down in this nation. He would not commit to the $275 pre-election commitment to reduce energy prices, to reduce electricity bills, and he could not give any sort of guarantee that energy prices will come down in this country. They have no plan for this. The budget clearly demonstrated that they have no plan. So, I don't have any confidence at all in the Government's ability to be able to address this issue.

STEFANOVIC: Dan Tehan, we will have to leave it there.

Media contact | Cate Mercer-Grant 0408 564 232