November 28, 2022

SUBJECT | Victorian Election and temporary protection visas | 28 November 2022

CHRIS KENNY: Let's go to Canberra now and catch up with Dan Tehan, who's the shadow immigration minister and a leading Victorian Coalition figure as well. Thanks for joining us, Dan. So much to talk to you about. I wanted to get your reflections on that Victorian election result. First, though, do you agree that this is a result of the Liberals in Victoria, the State Liberals, just going for a softly softly approach? Not daring to contest strongly the climate and renewables policies of the Andrews government or even their pandemic management?

DAN TEHAN: Well, Chris, I think there are multiple factors that came into this election loss, and I think one of the things that we're going to have to do is look at a complete reset about what we need to do to make the Victorian Liberal Party a professional fighting, a political team that can take on the Andrews’ Government and set itself up to form government next year. Now, our values have to be an absolute key to that, and they have to be central to policy development. But we've also got to make sure that when it comes to the volunteer administrative wing that we are also working very much in unison with the parliamentary party and with the professional organisation, the Secretariat. If you don't have unity across those three, you'll never be able to take on Dan Andrews and the Labor Party in Victoria.

KENNY: But two key issues, they're going to push the state into sort of zero emissions and 100% renewables, can't be done. It’ll just exacerbate the energy crisis, and of course, we know what they did to the state during the pandemic, yet barely a glove landed on them on either of those issues throughout the past couple of years, let alone the campaign.

TEHAN: Well, there's no doubt, Chris, that you have to have very strong policy differentiation to be able to take to the Victorian people so that they know there is a contrast in the approach of governing that you're going to take. Now, I'm not going to sit here and talk about what's been because we can sort of go over the entrails, and it won't get us anywhere. What we need to do is to make sure that going forward, in the next four years, we set ourselves up to win the next election and policy differentiation, clear policy differentiation based on our values has to be one thing that has to be absolutely front and centre of what we do. But we've also got to make sure that we've got the volunteer arm of the party working in unison with the parliamentary party as well; we've got to make sure we can broaden the electoral map in Victoria. If you have a look at where we represent in Victoria, it's rural Victoria, and then it's a sliver of the eastern suburbs. Now we have to broaden that electoral map, but we’ve also got to make sure that we're getting all demographics voting for us. So there are numerous things to do. We need a proper - we need some proper research done, we've got to get professionals…

KENNY: I wouldn't worry too much about the research. I'd get back to the fundamental values of what the right of centre party ought to stand for, but we'll continue that discussion. I want to get back to federal politics. Very sorry, Dan…

TEHAN: I agree, but you've got to be able to sell. You've got to be able to sell those values to the Victorian people.

KENNY: Yeah, well selling, selling, selling another version of net zero is not liberal values, and it's not product differentiation; it's just trying to be Labor lite. But we'll continue that discussion. I really want to get to federal politics and your portfolio area because we all know that Labor promised to scrap TPVs, and temporary protection visas, but perhaps what we didn't know before the election is this means they're going to actually give a path to, or give permanent residency to, 30,000 people already here in this country on TPVs. This is happening now. The Immigration Minister Andrew Giles has announced that, and he's also looking at giving those people family reunion rights. Here he was in Parliament last week.

CLIP ANDREW GILES: We've also flagged important changes that have been made to a family reunion. Again, an issue affecting people who've been here for a long time, which goes directly to those two principles: securing our borders, including securing safer passage to people who need our protection.

KENNY: Dan Tehan, exactly what is going on here and how frank has Labor been with the public about it?

TEHAN: Well, they haven't been frank with the public about it, and they're not being fully transparent about this either, Chris, because we know none of the details. What we do know is that there is very clear policy differentiation. We had a policy which enabled us to get control of our borders again. We stopped the boats. We were able to do that with three main policy planks. We turned boats back where it was safe to do so, we introduced offshore processing that worked, and then we introduced temporary protection visas. Now those three suites of policies meant that we were able to control our border. Now the Labor Party's said that they were going to get rid of TPVs before the last election. No details on that. Now we're hearing that they're taking further steps, and there is no public policy discussion around this. They're not telling the Australian people how this is going to work. And most importantly, we know that there have been attempts by the people smugglers to start their trade since the election. There are no details about how many attempts they've been for boats to try and come again to Australia, and any sort of assessment, especially an assessment from the Australian Border Force, about the current policy approach that they've taken, whether it jeopardises control of our borders again.

KENNY: But this is the point, though. If 30,000 people who came here on illegal people smuggling vessels and have been on temporary protection visas until now, if they're given permanent residency and are able to fly in from their source countries, wives, brothers, sisters, maybe another 30,000 people, maybe more, maybe twice as many, to Australia, will that put the sugar back on the table for people smugglers?

TEHAN: Well, that's absolutely the point that we made before the election, and it's the point that we're making now. Anything like this that leads the boats starting to gain is the wrong approach. It is the wrong policy. And everything that we've seen is that this will now start - we'll start to see, as a result, attempts again from the people smugglers to start their evil trade, and no one, no one wants to see this, and the government needs to be very clear with the Australian people on what they are doing, exactly how they're going to implement their policy and any advice that they've been given by the Australian Border Force; what it’s like, what are the likely consequences from it. We’re getting nothing and the real concern, the real worry, is that all it’s going to lead to is the boats starting again, and none of us, none of us, want to go through that again.

KENNY: Yeah, it’s a hell of a worry. Thanks for joining us, Dan.

Media contact | Cate Mercer-Grant 0408 564 232