Transcript by The Hon Julie Collins MP

Press conference, Hobart

Program: 936 ABC Hobart


936 ABC Hobart

E & OE

SUBJECTS: Violence against women; Labor party reform; asylum seeker policy

Louise Sanders: More than a few things happening federally. Good chance to catch up with Julie Collins, the member for Franklin, but also minister for housing and homelessness, minister for community services, for indigenous employment and economic development, and minister for the status of women.

Julie Collins, good afternoon to you.

Julie Collins: Good afternoon, Louise. How are you?

Louise Sanders: I’m well. can I start with the announcement that you made today. There’s some research funding to go into looking at ways to stop repeat offending for women who are victims of violence. tell me why this is such an important issue?

Julie Collins: Oh, it’s very important because we do have to work with perpetrators to ensure that they don’t reoffend. We put some money in today to ensure that we can do some research to see what sort of programs work and what sort of programs are the best in terms of perpetrators that will work in our community before we start to fund more of them.

Louise Sanders: Is this something where you’ll expand the search overseas to see what programs are operating in other countries?

Julie Collins: Well, it’s part of our national plan to reduce violence against women and their children. We’ve invested more than $86 million now on a rage of programs, working with the states and territories. so it’s been quite an exercise over the last few years trying to get the states and territories to agree, but I’m very pleased that the national plan’s up and running.

Louise Sanders: It’s interesting that it is a national plan, because as you say the states and territories have been working to it and I’m sure you’re aware of the things that have been going on in Tasmania, for instance. but the approach to, I guess, joint investigations and some of the ways of easing the process through some of the systems for women who are victims of violence, it seems to have gone someway to at least protecting those women, minister.

Julie Collins: That’s certainly true, there’s always more work to do. but our national plan is seen internationally as world’s best practice. I certainly talked about it when I went to the united nations commission on the status of women in New York in February, and it was received very well.

Louise Sanders: I guess too, just as minister for status of women keen to see the report today from the discrimination commissioner too about the implementation of her report into the defence force and the offences against women there.

Julie Collins: I was very pleased to see that and Elizabeth Broderick, as our sex discrimination commissioner, has done some excellent work in the defence force, when it comes to either recruiting women, but also some of the issues that the defence force have had in terms of dealing with women in the defence force.

Louise Sanders: It’s interesting too, just talking to people just in conversation, it seems that the move and the recognition of the problems that they have in the defence force is now becoming a way of an example that can be set when an organisation or an institution truly recognises its need to address a core issue.

Julie Collins: I agree with that, and it’s also too about leadership and about our message to the community that it’s not acceptable. meeting with the chief of army, he has been very strong about what’s happened in the army, and he’s been a very big supporter of getting right to the core of the issue and dealing with it.

Louise Sanders: Minister, if I could ask about some of the other issues that are around at the moment. You were at the meeting yesterday, the caucus meeting in Sydney in Balmain, an historic place, of course to gather the Labor caucus. I gather it upset some of the locals in peak hour at a narrow part of the peninsula. But why is the reform in – with the way in which the leader of your party is elected. Why is it the right way to go?

Julie Collins: It’s about including the membership of the Labor party. I have consistently supported this, and the Tasmanian branch of the alp has supported this in the past. so it’s about giving members more of a role in the party, and it’s also important that our leader has the confidence of the party, so having both the party members and the caucus support the leader is very important.

Louise Sanders: Without getting into current issues, there are going to be times, aren’t there, where a leader may not have the support, though, of the parliamentary party, for whatever reason, and I guess there is going to be an urge that’s strong to see, perhaps, someone else in his or her place. is there still room for that? The political realities of leadership?

Julie Collins: There definitely is. and I don’t think that any leader that’s had very little support in the caucus, would continue. I think that they would certainly resign of their own accord if they didn’t think they had the support of caucus we’ve certainly seen that in the past. So I think the reforms are very good.

We also need 75 per cent of caucus to sign for the leader to be removed if they are not willing to step down if they no longer have the support of caucus also.

Louise Sanders: That was brought down to 60 per cent, wasn’t it changed?

Julie Collins: 60 per cent in opposition.

Louise Sanders: Oh, okay, right. and I guess too, the parties all struggling for membership, is this something you think might attract people to the party if they feel they have a say in who ultimately leads them and leads the country?

Julie Collins: I understand that party secretaries around the country in each state and territory have had more inquiries and even some people willing to join the party, yes. So it certainly seems to have been revitalising the party membership and of course the community that are Labor-orientated that are now stepping up and joining the party, and in some cases re-joining the party.

Louise Sanders: Well, that’s another thing too, I guess we’re seeing, perhaps, in the polls… the latest opinion poll, and i’ll talk to a pollster a little later today, showing certainly a narrowing of the gap between labor and the coalition as we head towards this election. Do you think that there is more that is getting a response from the public than just the change in the leadership?

Julie Collins: I think that there is more. I think labor policies over the last five to six years have been very good. Things like DisabilityCare. Things like better schools. things like rolling out the national broadband network have been very well received by the voters.

But of course in the change of leadership, Kevin has made some decisions recently, moving from a carbon price to an emissions trading scheme, and our asylum seeker policy in terms of Papua New Guinea.

Louise Sanders: How hard is it now that you are a minister, and now that you’re in a cabinet, to be able to get out on the ground to be able to give the time to holding your electorate in the coming election?

Julie Collins: Well, it’s all about juggling and prioritising, I guess, Louise. I’ve already been out door knocking today. I flew home from Sydney this morning. I’ve had a range of meetings today. Some important phone calls, and about to go and deal with a whole pile of paper work.

Louise Sanders: And you’re fitting in time for an interview with the media as well, minister. what are the things – and I mean i’ve spoken to the Labor candidate for Denison and the time that she’s able to give to her campaign to get elected. What are the things that people are talking to you about? What do they want to say when you do knock on the door or someone from your party of your group rings them up and says, I’m from Julie Collins office, what do you want to talk about?

Julie Collins: Well, we’ve had Papua New Guinea asylum seekers raised with us today. We’ve had the cost of living raised and the move to the emissions trading scheme, all of which have been very well received in the electorate when i’ve been door knocking.

We get a range of views. Some people dealing with issues such as their centrelink payment. We have issues to deal with housing come through the office. We get a whole range of issues, and certainly when I’m out and about door knocking. So it’s not just about me going out to people but also people contacting my office very regularly.

Louise Sanders: You mentioned the png asylum seeker option. Are people responding positively to that, are they?

Julie Collins: They certainly have been today. I think people realise that this has been a really tough decision. Obviously we needed to do something. we have people drowning. We know that the number of people arriving on boats is going to increase, and we know that we have therefore the risk of more people drowning and we have to do something about it. I don’t think it’s been very easy for anybody, but we have to do something about breaking the business model of the people smugglers.

Louise Sanders: Was it easy for you, personally? What was your attitude when you first understood this to be the policy?

Julie Collins: Well, I think it’s been very difficult for me personally, but not as difficult as seeing the navy people last week picking up a baby out of the ocean and trying to resuscitate it. I think that that’s pretty grounding for anybody and we can’t resettle 46 million displaced people. we have to have a process.

Louise Sanders: Are we following the right option, though, in dealing with a country in which issues of violence, sexual orientation, levels of poverty, abuse of women are still core issues that are being dealt with on a daily basis?

Julie Collins: Well, obviously Australia, as well as Papua New Guinea, take our obligations for welfare and safety people, really, really strongly. And we want to do the best by people. You know, the PNG government has made clear that its commitments to transfer transferees will be treated with dignity and respect. So, you know, it is very difficult but of course we are also going to fund some of this.

Louise Sanders: Do we know what the cost will be? There are questions being asked by the opposition and by others as to what is it going to cost Australia?

Julie Collins: Well, of course, the costs will be released in due course by Minister Wong. And we’ve also said that they’ll be outlined in the usual economic statement that governments put out before an election.

Louise Sanders: What about with some of your state colleagues, david o’byrne, for instance is one who has taken to social media to question the policy. Talking to Brian Green yesterday, he noted, I think, that he had some concerns about the way in which we deal with asylum seekers. Is it something which you see perhaps some of your state colleagues being at odds with federal policy on this?

Julie Collins: Well, obviously everybody’s entitled to their own view, but it is very easy to, you know, have a pure view when you’re not involved in having to make decisions that are very difficult, and you know people are dying in the ocean. You have to make some tough decision. That’s what government’s about, and that’s what we’ve had to do.

i think the really concerning part is that we’ve now got Mr Abbott out there deliberately undermining what the government’s trying to do in terms of our messaging. So it is a big concern at the moment.

Louise Sanders: Do you think if people – just finally – if people are looking for a distinction between Labor’s policy on dealing with asylum seekers who come by boat and the coalition’s, that there is a difference of policy on offer?

Julie Collins: Well, there is a very big difference because we’ve obviously increased our number of refugees. What we want to do of course, is bring people who have been waiting in camps overseas to Australia. We’re also considering increasing that even further. Iur last increase of 20,000 places was the largest increase in 30 years. So we’re certainly willing to take more asylum seekers, but what we want to do is stop people from taking the risky journey over the ocean.

Louise Sanders: Julie Collins, good to talk to you. Thanks for your time this afternoon.

Julie Collins: Thanks, Louise.

Louise Sanders: Thank you. Julie Collins is member for Franklin. Also minister for a number of portfolios, housing, homelessness, community services, indigenous employment and economic development, and Minister for the status of women.