Transcript: Senate Morning Doors

Doorstop media conference outside the Senate.  Topics: Australian Building and Construction Commission; resignation of Bob Day; Amnesty International report on Nauru

E&OE

MINISTER CANAVAN:

I always found Senator Day to be a man of integrity, humility and commitment to the professionalism of his role as a Senator. He took his role as a Senator very seriously, and I was lucky enough to work with him for a couple of years on important issues in the Senate. He will be a great loss to the Senate. I'd also like to commend him for the integrity he has shown in these last few weeks, which have obviously been a trying time for him and his family. But he would appear to be putting the interests of his customers and clients ahead of his own personal interests which is a great credit to him. I wish him and his family all the best in resolving these difficult issues and doing his best to get his business and his life back on track.


But I'd also like to talk about a cause that was close to the heart of Senator Day and that is reform to the construction sector. It is incredibly important today, that we are re-establishing, that we're reintroducing the Australian Building and Construction Commission Bill, to re-establish a strong cop on the beat. It is crucial that this reform occurs for our country. We are a country that wants to develop, that wants to grow. I am a Senator for a state that wants to keep growing and developing, and when we have these kinds of tactics, these bullying and intimidating tactics from trade unions, it pushes up the cost of building our great country. It stops development from occurring, and it certainly slows things down like building sporting precincts on the Gold Coast as we can see in the papers today.

 

As the Minister for Northern Australia, I want to grow northern Australia. I want to build dams, build roads, build new cities and towns and build bigger existing cities and towns right across our north. And people who are all about stopping construction and stopping things from happening, stop that from happening. That denies the great right of all Australians to have a bigger country, a better country, a country with great promise because we're still a young country. We need to crack down on this kind of behaviour, because it's anti-social, it's anti-Australian and it's stopping people from having jobs and building their own homes in the country.


And if I can say, I encourage everybody to watch this video that's been released overnight, of intimidatory tactics at a site on the Gold Coast. I encourage everybody to watch this, because this is behaviour that should be condemned by all. There is threatening behaviour in the video. There are claims that ‘I know where you live and what your phone number is’, there is objectionable language that I can't repeat here this morning. It should be condemned by all. But I bet you, I bet you, you won't have one Labor Senator or one Labor Member on the other side of the place come out and condemn these tactics.

 

This should be a Donald Trump test for the Labor Party. Last week they were lining up to condemn Mr Trump and his objectionable comments, and we all condemn those comments. But today there will be a vacuum of silence from the Labor Party on this issue. They will not condemn the behaviour of the CFMEU, which is at least as objectionable, if not more objectionable than the comments of Mr Trump.  But they will not seek to condemn that because they are in hock to these unions. They are their donors, their friends, their supporters, and you will not hear boo from them criticising their conduct. And that's why they cannot be believed on this issue, they cannot be trusted, and we should re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission so that we can get our construction sector efficient and continuing to deliver the services it brings to all Australians.

 

REPORTER:
Will you be considering many of the amendments that are being put forward by the cross bench?

 

MINISTER CANAVAN:
We will always seek to communicate to Senate crossbenchers and other parliamentarians about issues. We have done that on other bills of course through the Parliament and I am sure we will do likewise with these important reforms.

 

REPORTER:
As a father, did you watch the Four Corners report about the children's stories from Nauru and how did that make you feel?

 

MINISTER CANAVAN:
Look I haven't had a chance to watch the Four Corners episode at this stage. I had a function last night. But often I do catch up on iView with Four Corners. The issue of refugees in general, and I have heard some of the extracts of Four Corners this morning in the media, does touch me, and does have an impact on myself. I like to think we are a country that does open our arms to those in distress. We, among developed countries, have one of the largest refugee intakes in the world and I'm proud that we do do that. At the same time, we need to of course have a managed system in place. We cannot accept all. And we certainly cannot promote a people smuggling trade which has, as you know led to thousands of deaths and causes great human suffering and grief in and of itself. So these are difficult decisions for any government. They are decisions though that we have taken and we proudly stand by because it has ended that abominable trade. That is clear. And I hope that no future government does anything that will encourage that trade to start up again and contribute to this kind of human suffering and grief.

 

REPORTER:
Would you find the conditions acceptable if another country were to impose them on your own children, hypothetically?

 

MINISTER CANAVAN:
Look I hope no human beings are put in a situation where they are desperate enough to flee from their own home countries. Unfortunately though, we don't have the world I would like. We have the world as it is. And we have to respond to that world. These decisions that were put in place are difficult. They are tough. But they are needed, clearly, to stop this trade. When the former government closed offshore processing and announced publicly and proudly that they would no longer adopt these policies, we had 50,000 people arrive on 800 or more boats. It was something that was not sustainable and they themselves admit that by reintroducing offshore processing before the 2013 election. So we have had experimentation in this field, and I think the time for experimentation is finished. It should be settled policy now, at least for both major parties. These are the policies we need to protect our country and to maintain the integrity of our humanitarian refugee intake.

 

REPORTER:
What do you make of Amnesty International < inaudible >

 

MINISTER CANAVAN:
Look I have respect for Amnesty International. I have worked with Amnesty before and they do a lot of good work around the world. But I don't agree with their assessment in this case. There is other reporting and that testimony last night with the Secretary of the Department of Immigration who has been to Nauru recently, indicating any comparisons to torture here would appear overblown. They certainly don't seem to me to fit the normal definition of that word. Of course it's a difficult circumstance for people in this situation. But life is sometimes about difficult choices, and government is about making tough choices on behalf of the Australian people in the best interests of our country.

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