Transcript by The Hon Scott Morrison MP

Doorstop interview

Location: Canberra


QUESTION: Is a leadership challenge inevitable?

MINISTER MORRISON: I have no idea.

QUESTION: Do you think Malcolm Turnbull should rule out a leadership challenge so this chatter goes away?

MINISTER MORRISON: They are matters for him, I am not here to commentate on what others should do, I am focused on the job that I am doing, supporting a government that is doing a great job for Australia. We are creating jobs this year at a rate of over 20,000 a month and in a country where 19 per cent of Australian families are without a job, I think that is a good result. That is ten times what we saw from the previous government in 2013, getting those jobs into place, ensuring we are able to transfer families and people out of welfare and into work so they can have the choices that they need for their families is what we are focused on. It is what keeps me up at night every night, getting Australians into jobs.

QUESTION: Would you turn down the role of Treasurer if you’re picked?

MINISTER MORRISON: I will leave all of those speculative things that you guys can carry on about that but I don’t tend to engage it.

QUESTION: Have any of your colleagues approached you about becoming Treasurer, have you had any discussions?

MINISTER MORRISON: No, see, when you are not engaged in that sort of nonsense, people don’t talk to you about that sort of nonsense other than when people talk to me about that nonsense in press conferences like this.

QUESTION: Do you think this current leadership speculation is just being fuelled by the media?

MINISTER MORRISON: I have no idea.

QUESTION: Minister, more than 90 per cent of surveyed refugees…

MINISTER MORRISON: A policy question, excellent.

QUESTION: …under the previous Labor government failed to find a job for three months, is this a matter of demonising the former Labor government?

MINISTER MORRISON: No, not at all.

QUESTION: What is the current government going to do about the influx of refugees?

MINISTER MORRISON: What the results show is that resettling people in Australia is a difficult job. It is a very difficult job and that is why how you identify and select people and bring them into the country. You have got to do that in a way which gives those people who you are trying to help the best opportunity of success in Australia. What this survey highlights is it is a tough job. Now there were studies released by the previous government which showed that over five years you still have a very high level of welfare dependency over that period of time. What have you got to do to turn that around? You have got to get people into employment, you have got to improve their language skills, you have got to integrate them into the community, you have got to have those settlement services working at their best. We are the best resettler of refugees and humanitarian entrants in the world but even being the best in the world in resettlement still has results that looks like that so in taking an additional 12,000 people under our refugee and I stress our Special Humanitarian Programme as well, it is not just the refugee programme, it is both of them, by taking them under that programme, an extra 12,000 from Iraq and Syria above and beyond our planned intake from those areas in our 13,750. It will be a tough job and you can’t rush it, you have got to get it right and we will have another meeting later this week of the Refugee Resettlement Advisory Council, there will be others we will be co-opting into that meeting to work through these details. I want to say again to Australians who have opened their hearts who really wanted to help and support here, we will be getting information out about how you can best target that support. We don’t need blankets and tinned peaches and these sorts of things that is not what is going to help here. What we will need is for people to engage in their communities and supporting people with the direction of our settlement service providers and within the particular communities who we are seeking to help and we have made no secret about that fact that that is going to focus on persecuted minorities which does mean substantively those from Eastern Orthodox Christian community groups who have been particularly targeted over a very long period of time. Of course we will be taking others from other groups but our record is already doing that, with more than 70 per cent of the intake over the last two years working within those communities, supporting those communities is how you can best help. Contact your local Member of Parliament or Senator if you are interested or engage with your own local community group and toss ideas around how you can best help.

QUESTION: Further on that question or that story, some of the responses to that story are along the lines of if 88 per cent of the refugees are still on welfare, that is the refugee’s fault. What is your response to that comment?

MINISTER MORRISON: No I don’t agree. It is a tough thing to move from places where people have been unsettled for in many cases years, when we have got a high proportion of people who have never worked ever in their lives. We have got 15 per cent of those who have come in who have never been to school a day in their life. Now it is tough to move from that environment into a country like Australia and to be able to get on your feet quickly. That is why I stress when the discussions about how many numbers could be taken and over what timeframe, you have got to be practical about it, you have got to be sensible and measured about it because the people you run the risk of harming most if you do it too fast is the people you are trying to help themselves. You don’t just bring them all on one big plane and put them in a tent and then say good luck. You run the settlement process properly and that is what we will be doing and Paris Aristotle will be taking a key leadership role in that endeavour.

QUESTION: Do you know how much of that $700 million will be transferred to the States to provide services such as schooling?

MINISTER MORRISON: They’re our costs, they’re our costs.

QUESTION: How do you respond to some of Annastacia Palaszczuk’s comments this morning that the government appears to be rushing through measures to attack domestic violence without properly consulting the States and Territories?

MINISTER MORRISON: I haven’t seen her comments but what I do know is the government and Prime Minister and Minister Cash has been work compulsively with the States and Territories on these issues. Just a few weeks ago – a few months ago in fact, I was at a culturally and linguistically diverse workshop round table, where all the State and Territory ministers were there and we were working through the particular issues that those in particular cultural communities in Australia face with relation to domestic and family violence. Now, I think we’ve been working hard to work collaboratively in a good spirit. I think that is the prevailing spirit that’s there and I would only want to say things which endorse that spirit of cooperation and ensure that all of us at every level of government, federal, State level, in the community, community leaders, whatever role you have, whatever part of Australian society you’re in, you can make a difference on family domestic violence by standing up for what are good values and ensuring that the most vulnerable in our community, our women and our children and our young daughters, I have two young daughters, don’t have to face a future of violence that women in the past have.

QUESTION: Do you think Tony Abbott has the majority support of the party room?


QUESTION: Would you be considering or suggesting paring back the welfare that these refugees would be entitled to?

MINISTER MORRISON: No. Because the settlement services model has served us incredibly well. The simple point the research makes is: this is a hard job. It’s a complex job and we shouldn’t overestimate our expectations about how quickly people are going to be able to integrate into the community and find employment and be able to have their language skills upgraded. This all takes time, it takes effort, and that’s why you don’t come up with these numbers lightly. And when we came up with these numbers last week, between Minister Dutton and myself and the Prime Minister and others who were involved, it was about focusing on: yes, who can we take? How do we make sure we can assess them properly and target that intake? How can we do all the necessary security and health clearances appropriately and confidently? And then how can we make sure that there are the places in Australia where people can come and be absorbed into the community successfully and professionally? Now, the majority of the settlement out of the Syrian community in particular, but also the Iraqi community, has been in New South Wales and in particular in Sydney. Now, if we just ran along with those estimates you’d have around 60% of that group actually settled in Sydney. Now, that would put a very significant strain on some of those resources. That could really undermine the services and resources that those we’ve already resettled might be able to have access to. One of the issues that Paris and I and Senator Fierrevanti-Wells will be working through later in the week is how we can better gear up our settlement services in places outside of Sydney to ensure that other parts of the country will be able to participate in this resettlement effort.

QUESTION: Minister, how big a swing could the government cop in the Canning by-election and still come out with its head held high; still saying it’s done a reasonable job?

MINISTER MORRISON: When Andrew Hastie is elected as the member for Canning, that’s a win and a win is a win in politics.

Thanks very much.