Followup to Q&A – 30th May 2011

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011 @ 8:10AM

Last night was my first appearance on the ABC’s qanda. The format provides a terrific opportunity for public discussion and debate and I wanted to follow up by adding some additional information about some of the topics discussed. You can read the qanda transcript here.

Climate change and the carbon tax

The Labor Government takes climate change seriously and through the Multiparty Committee on Climate Change, will put a price on carbon for our high polluters to pay, whilst compensating low to medium income households, supporting jobs and investing in renewable energy. The overwhelming majority of peer reviewed climate research supports that climate change is happening and all around the world, governments are taking action.

One question put to me asked that we not disrespect the views of climate skeptics. Whilst everyone is entitled to their views, people expect their governments to act on the best information and evidence available. The evidence overwhelmingly supports the need for urgent action to address climate change.  That’s why I think we need a debate as to how we as a society can best transition to a low carbon economy, not whether or not climate change is real. I encourage you to read the Climate Commissions report, The Critical Decade which was launched recently.

Live Exports

I mentioned that there was an immediate investigation launched by the Minister into the issue. The Minister has also asked for orders to be prepared that enforce the complete suspension of live animal exports to the facilities identified by the evidence gained by Animals Australia.

More information is available at:

Refugees and humanitarian entrants

There wasn’t enough time left to discuss refugees and humanitarian entrants to Australia, and I would like to expand on this topic. We pride ourselves on our compassion for those in need and our responsibilities as a democratic nation and signatory to the UNHRC Refugee Convention.

We are one of the most multicultural countries in the world. We have a strong culture of inviting migrants and refugees to take the citizenship pledge and become full Australian citizens. We encourage new Australians to embrace their rights and responsibilities as citizens. This has been a proven strategy for many years for migrants and refugees to become successful as part of Australian society.

I wanted to mention the Settlement Outcomes for New Arrivals (SONA) report last night, but we ran out of time. This report looked at the on-arrival and post-arrival support of new humanitarian entrants over their first five years in Australia. The report had many positive aspects such as the strong commitment of refugees to furthering their education and qualifications. There were also recommendations to strengthen strategies and support pathways to sustainable employment that the government is working to incorporate.

And yet, the SONA report has been used selectively by the Federal Liberal Opposition to to level criticism and to denigrate the character and efforts of  new humanitarian entrants, pointing to high unemployment as evidence. The survey reported that 85% of those surveyed were recipients of Centrelink, however the SONA Report made clear this included all forms of support, from students receiving Austudy to childcare rebates for working mums, pensions and so forth. The survey was also clear that only 11.7% of respondents were in receipt of unemployment benefits. There are emails circulating perpetuating these untruths. If you see one, help me set the record straight. Note also that some 7 million Australians receive support from Centrelink.

Earlier this year I launched the Australian multicultural policy, The People of Australia, which outlines the vision for a culturally diverse, cohesive, participatory, inclusive and fair society. It is a vision I am very proud of and I am committed to doing my part through my portfolio responsibility of Multicultural Affairs.

Refugees and humanitarian entrants are a small proportion of our total immigration, around 7.5%.  And of course, for people granted refugee or humanitarian entry to Australia are supported through settlement services to integrate effectively into Australian society and embrace the rights and responsibilities of an Australian citizen.

For those interested in the discussion about a Regional Cooperation Framework, I would like to refer you to the Minister’s statements on the Malaysian negotiations, including his comments about discussions between Australia, Malaysia and the UNHCR to ensure that any asylum seekers sent to Malaysia will be treated with respect and dignity whilst their claim for asylum is processed. I would also encourage you to read some of the fact sheets and publications on the departments website for more information.

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