ABC News Breakfast

Subject/s: Trump immigration ban; Turnbull’s abject silence





 Subject/s: Trump immigration ban; Turnbull’s abject silence

ALI MOORE, PRESENTER: Mark Dreyfus welcome to the program.


MOORE: Do you have any more clarity on the impact of this on Australian dual nationals? We’ve heard the story this morning about the Melbourne teenager.

DREYFUS: We know that there are more than 100,000 Australians who were born in these seven countries, and probably tens of thousands more, like this boy from Melbourne High School, who were born in Australia but for reasons to do with international citizenship law have got dual citizenship. This is something that is affecting thousands and thousands of Australians and it’s wrong. It’s something that we need to have our government speaking up about, to tell our friend the United States that they’ve gone down the wrong path.

MOORE: Well Julie Bishop has asked diplomats to lobby for exemptions for Australia. What else should she be doing?

DREYFUS: That’s not good enough. It’s not good enough for her to simply say ‘I’ve instructed our diplomats to do something’, she’s got to speak up. And Malcolm Turnbull, our Prime Minister, the leader of our country, has to speak up. He needs to show some moral leadership which is entirely lacking at the moment. You’re left wondering what happened to the old Malcolm Turnbull? The old Malcolm Turnbull would have spoken up here. But now, we have this Prime Minister who is basically an empty space. Someone who is not prepared to say anything, not prepared to stand up for Australian interests and not prepared to tell our friend and ally the United States when they are going down the wrong path. This is really important. Some moral leadership is needed here. France, the United Kingdom, Germany, they’ve been prepared to say something. The former US Ambassador to Australia, Jeffrey Bleich in very very firm and strident terms this morning, he made clear what he thinks of this ban and we should be doing the same.

MOORE: Jeffrey Bleich was of course a Barack Obama appointment. Is there a risk though that if Malcolm Turnbull was to speak up, that that deal for America to take refugees from Manus Island and Nauru could be at risk?

DREYFUS: I don’t think so. I think that this is far more important to speak directly to the United States about why they are going down the wrong path. The United Kingdom, which is negotiating an absolutely vital trade deal for the United Kingdom’s future as they seek to exit from the European Union - they are negotiating now with the United States on that trade deal – that has not deterred the United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May from speaking out. We’ve had abject silence from our Prime Minister.

MOORE: To be fair though, Theresa May’s words have been less than shall we say stridently critical, and her initial comments were not very critical at all. And she’s said that the state visit will go ahead regardless of demonstrations and a number of people who have signed a petition against it.

DREYFUS: But at least she said something Ali – we’ve had silence from our Prime Minister. We’ve had our Prime Minister say that this is a matter for the domestic policies of the United States. That is not good enough. We’ve had from Scott Morrison, the Treasurer of this country, an extraordinary statement suggesting somehow in a self-congratulatory tone, suggesting that the United States has in some way copied Australian policy, which of course is quite wrong. It’s wrong for him to say it, and it’s wrong in fact, because we have non-discriminatory policies in this country. We need to have a United States with non-discriminatory immigration policies. We know in this country, and this is part of core Australian values, that we get strength from diversity, we get strength from respecting others, we certainly don’t improve our national security by adopting this sort of blanket ban, this sort of mindless exclusion of everybody from particular countries because, make no mistake, that’s what this ban is.

MOORE: But Mark Dreyfus I guess, bottom line, is what Trump is doing is what he promised to do prior to his election, he was elected, it is a democratic country, they are a sovereign nation.

DREYFUS: It was wrong before the election, and it’s wrong now. I think most people around the world have lived in hope that not every promise made by President Trump before the election, was something he was going to implement. This is certainly one of them. We are now seeing from the chaos that has erupted around the world, in airports across the United States, just what the effect of this is. And it’s not just those people who have been immediately affected, those caught in transit when the ban was put in place – it’s all those tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people who had plans to travel to the United States, who have family in the United States, who have work in the United States. We heard from Brian Schmidt, the Vice-Chancellor at the ANU, a Nobel Prize winner, saying yesterday how deeply affected the staff and students at the Australian National University are going to be by this ban. The fact that President Trump may have said something about this before the election is no reason for us to stay silent about it. We need to speak up, we need to condemn this kind of discriminatory policy being implemented by the United States and we need moral leadership from our country, from our government.

MOORE: Given the strength of your feeling on this, if you were in government, what else could you do? Words are hollow, it’s a very close relationship with the US, what could you do that would have a practical impact?

DREYFUS: We need to speak publicly. We need to explain clearly and simply to the United States that this is wrong, that it’s not in accordance with the dearly-held Australian values of freedom in Australia, we need to try to explain to the United States the chaos that this is causing, we need to put our view to the United States and it should be our view that this does not assist in making Americans more secure any more than the implementation of this kind of policy might assist in making Australians more secure.

MOORE: On the flip side, do you fear that this will actually make the world less secure?

I’m sure that it will make the world less secure. Just for a start, the chaos that has been caused at airports necessarily means that border officials are distracted from their true task of focusing on individuals which might pose a threat to national security. A blanket ban based on nationality, a discriminatory policy distracts from what the real problem is which is individuals who might pose a threat to the security of the United States or the security of Australians. We need to stay focused here.

MOORE: Just a last question, if I can just reiterate that – is there anything though that Australia could do? Because while you say there needs to be moral leadership, there certainly seems to be – as you say, your argument is that we should speak up – but as such a strong ally, is there something, some action that Australia could take, to show its displeasure?

DREYFUS: I don’t think it’s about action Ali. I think we are close to the United States. They are our longstanding friend and ally, and when Australia speaks we should be able to hope that it will matter in the United States. And that’s why Malcolm Turnbull as our Prime Minister needs to speak up, needs to stop being weak and spineless which is the way he is approaching this at the moment.

MOORE: Mark Dreyfus thank you for joining us.