Transcript by The Hon Scott Morrison MP

Sky News AM Agenda with Kieran Gilbert


KIERAN GILBERT: Minister Morrison good to see you we have got a lot to talk about in terms of the resettlement of refugees and I want to get to that in a moment. First though the political story of the day relates to Simon Benson’s story about this reshuffle, where do you think it has come from this morning?

MINISTER MORRISON: I have no idea but we are focused on what is happening outside this building, not inside this building and that is jobs for Australian families. 19 per cent of Australian families aren’t in a job and we need to improve that statistic. Over 560,000 children are growing up in a jobless family. Now we have got some good jobs data this week, we are encouraged by that but we have got a lot more to do. On those matters it’s just speculation.

GILBERT: But in terms of some of the names here like Andrew Robb, that would be bizarre if he were to be axed wouldn’t it? He has been one of the best Ministers.

MINISTER MORRISON: Well I think Andrew of course and Ian MacFarlane too they have been doing excellent jobs in their portfolios but at the end of the day we all serve, as Peter Dutton said this morning, at the pleasure of the Prime Minister. These are matters for him and he is the bloke to ask about it, at the end of the day that is speculation.

GILBERT: Even someone like Jamie Briggs as well, an up and comer, being referred to here in danger. He is not going to be too pleased about that?

MINISTER MORRISON: Well I expect Jamie is tougher – I mean again speculation, speculation these are matters for the Prime Minister. I am focused on what is happening outside this building like Australians are, not what is focused on inside. I know the gallery gets very interested in this but today frankly I am far more interested in what we are doing with the various communities coming together, the settlement services providers and I know you would agree this horrible story over Tara Brown is something that I think breaks Australia’s heart and just certainly redoubles our efforts as to why we need to attack the scourge of domestic violence.

GILBERT: Absolutely and that is just heartbreaking that issue. We will get to that as well with the refugees; I do just want to finish off here if I can…

MINISTER MORRISON: I have already finished on that.

GILBERT: I know but you are seen as pivotal in terms of all of this stuff about the Prime Minister, his leadership, if there is to be any change you are seen as the person who is pivotal in all of this. Do you accept that?

MINISTER MORRISON: I don’t quite understand…

GILBERT: If you were to say Prime Minister you can’t win and the majority of the Party Room says to you “Scott Morrison we want you to work with Malcolm Turnbull and be Treasurer with the Turnbull Government”, you are pivotal to all of this, do you accept that?

MINISTER MORRISON: Well I support the Prime Minister, that’s what I accept and the Prime Minister knows that. I am sure the Prime Minister has plenty of advice on those sorts of issues and I support the Prime Minister.

GILBERT: Yeah well that doesn’t really answer my question. I mean do you accept that you are pivotal…

MINISTER MORRISON: The essential question is…

GILBERT: You are pivotal to…

MINISTER MORRISON: Do I support the Prime Minister and I do, of course I do and have and…

GILBERT: Will he be Prime Minister until the election?

MINISTER MORRISON: I certainly support him to do that and we have worked closely on so many issues whether it is on border protection or in my current portfolio. Ultimately those aren’t matters decided by me, they are matters decided by others and I support him.

GILBERT: Well he has a good week and then this emerges, it can’t be a great look. He wants to focus on what he has done this week, it has been a good week, and then this arises in the Tele.

MINISTER MORRISON: Well Kieran I didn’t write the story and usually don’t read them either.

GILBERT: Ok, I don’t believe that last answer I’m sorry, I think you do read them but anyway let’s move on.

MINISTER MORRISON: I didn’t say I didn’t read them, I said I often don’t read them.

GILBERT: Ok, let’s look at the other issue today and the serious matter of the resettlement of 12,000 refugees. Now you look at what the US has done overnight, 10,000, this is a big number from Australia can we do it in terms of the timeframe the government hopes to in terms of resettling these people?

MINISTER MORRISON: Well it will take as long as it takes but let me put it into context, over the last two years alone we have settled almost 8,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees and humanitarian entrants to Australia, almost 8,000. Now the reason we could do that is we freed up over 4,000 places per year because we stopped the boats. We did that within the existing intake. Now almost 70 per cent of that almost 8,000 intake we have had over just the last two years were focused on persecuted minorities. Now a quarter or thereabouts came from those of a Muslim faith but this isn’t about faith, it isn’t about religion, it is about who can we best help and who needs our help most? And the evidence is that persecuted minorities and that don’t exclusively relate to Christians but it is predominantly Christians we should be honest about that, they are the groups that have dominated our intake over the first two years of our government.

GILBERT: What do you make of the reaction from the Grand Mufti and others who have been critical of the government’s language here, and I guess the question you know for clarification on this when it comes to minorities is what about the persecuted majorities? Like in Syria for example where the Sunni population is a majority but they have been smashed by the Assad regime?

MINISTER MORRISON: Well that is where the intake of the around about 25-27 per cent has come from both, particularly the Syrian community it is around about 45 per cent out of the Syrian intake in particular and that is overwhelmingly from the Sunni population as you would expect it to be. So it is not exclusively on persecuted minorities but when you are taking 12,000 that is a very large number but in the context of hundreds of thousands you have to set priorities and you have to look at your settlement programme and say who can we best settle, who can we best take into the country and support? There will be a cohort, obviously, that comes from the other persecuted cohorts and communities in Iraq and Syria as there has been to date. So judge us on our record, our record is without having lifted the intake, stopping the boats, freeing up the spaces, we have already taken almost 8,000. More than 70 per cent have been persecuted minorities, particularly Christians, and the balance has come particularly from those Sunni populations.

GILBERT: Now that is a policy win no doubt because with the lack of arrivals by boat you have been able to do that. What was the specific figure again, 8,000?

MINISTER MORRISON: Just under 8,000.

GILBERT: Just under 8,000 from Syria?

MINISTER MORRISON: Just over 7,900 [Syrian and Iraqi refugees and humanitarian entrants] is the figure and over 70 per cent of those are from those persecuted minorities. The way you settle them Kieran is you will work with family and community groups that is why today’s meeting is so important. We have had an outpouring of community support, church communities and others from the Muslim community. We want to help and Australians want to help to. As we know this often happens in these situations, an outpouring of assistance from the good hearted nature of Australians. What we have to do today is focus on how best we can corral and organize that support. You don’t want that support to overwhelm you and crash your normal programmes to support people. Today we are going to be looking at practical ways that we can harness that good will and good support so it really helps us implement the programme we have.

GILBERT: Just on the criticism from the Grand Mufti and others who have been – and not just him but several within the Australian community, both within the Islamic community and generally about the suggestion that the government might not give as much focus as it should to persecuted Muslims from the same region. What do you say to that assertion?

MINISTER MORRISON: Well I think some of the things I have said today better inform the debate about this. I was making those same points yesterday to be fair. We will continue the sort of focus and priorities that we have already had over the last two years. During that time we have continued to resettle those, particularly from the Sunni population but we have also resettled Shia as well and I think that should give people some comfort. We are dealing honestly and in good faith but I think we should be very transparent also about this process and of course we are going to support as many people as we can but we are going to support those as best we are able to with the systems we have.

GILBERT: And finally on the issue of domestic violence it has been horrific. We have seen the Courier Mail today with a front page of well-known Queenslanders standing up against this scourge. When you look at how much money, and I know this comparison is made and it is not easy to make comparisons in terms of the dollars spent but the dollars spent on counter terrorism, security and so on to this when two women are being killed a week. It is unbelievably horrific.

MINISTER MORRISON: Well of course it is and that is why I think there is no corner of the country, no part of government – local, state, federal or wherever which is not unified on the need to address this. You have got to address it at every point and I think the funding comparisons can get out of whack. I mean what do we think our police forces do every single day? This is one of their primary activities in the community and the support that is behind that is warranted there. But I mean just this week I announced the review into online gambling, now one of the reasons I am so focused and concerned about that issue is we know that when people get into problem gambling, and there is a greater risk of that in the online space, that domestic violence can be one of the things that result from that. You have got to attack this problem at every single point, social, economic, law enforcement, community all of this. Now we are doing that I think there is genuine bipartisanship at every level of government. Tara’s sorry and terrible case will just redouble our efforts. Ken Ley and Rosie Batty are coming back with their report, we are looking forward to getting on with that and we have certainly made provisions to be able to move on that very quickly.

GILBERT: Let’s hope we can make some progress and improve the situation in this country; it should be a lot better. I appreciate your time Minister thanks.