Transcript - Interview with ABC Afternoon Briefing with Greg Jennett

GREG JENNETT: All right, a little earlier than normal. We're going to bring in our political panel for the day now. Joining us right here in the studio, Labor frontbencher Kristy McBain. Welcome, Kristy. And LNP frontbencher Angie Bell. Welcome back to you too, Angie. Hard to go past the extraordinary events we've just been summarising there. Kristy, I might go to you first of all. An allegation from critics, mainly on crossbench it must be said, is this is panicked lawmaking on the run. The question is, how can anyone have confidence that this has been scrutinised, debugged, made human rights compliant, when it's pushed through in only 2 hours?                                   

KRISTY MCBAIN: There's been a lot of work happening in the migration space for months and months now. We inherited a migration system that was broken, that had a lot of loopholes in it. We've been working to deal with that. There's been three reviews suggesting ways forward on that. This is another bill introduced into parliament after it went through our caucus processes that deals with another loophole in the law. We absolutely have to make sure that we have laws at the government's disposal to make sure that non-citizens do not have a pathway to remain in this country, where things have been done that do not comply with our way of life.

JENNETT: Well, your side, for the record, is obviously supporting it and supporting it strongly, Angie Bell. But there's lots of points of criticism that can be made around this. Another that I cite is the comparison. Some are saying that these laws are not dissimilar to Donald Trump's so-called Muslim ban in that he listed countries deemed a terrorism risk to the United States and it was impossible to get a visa if you applied from there. Do you acknowledge that parallel?

ANGIE BELL: Look, the first job of government is to keep communities safe. And this is where the Albanese Labor Government has failed on immigration. It is farcical and it continues with the, as you said, the Minister this morning not fronting up to a press conference. The Shadow Minister did a press conference on this issue. It's very difficult for government members to defend this because it is utter incompetence when it comes to immigration. And we would like to see this go to the Senate this evening, so that the department can be asked in more detail about this. It is utter incompetence from this government, there's no doubt about it. And government Ministers simply cannot support what the government's doing.

JENNETT: Yeah, well, last I checked, the Senate, I think were pushing towards having a very brief hearing tonight and then probably passing it as well. That's the intention. Kristy, I have to ask, as an ALP member, where there is a bit of a platform or policy disposition against minimum mandatory prison sentences that is embedded at the core of this bill, why are you comfortable with that for this bill when not for many others?

MCBAIN: It's really important that the government has a range of laws at its disposal when we are dealing with non-citizens. These are non-genuine refugees who are not citizens of this country. There absolutely should be no loopholes in our migration law that allow non-citizens of this country to remain here. That loophole has been there for a long period of time. We are not a set-and-forget legislative machine like the former government was. We know that there's a loophole. We are dealing with it.

JENNETT: The reality is, though, some of these individuals could get caught in a vicious cycle, except they're non-citizens. But they could be in a situation where they're imprisoned for not complying with the migration laws. One to five years according to this legislation, then they're released, they don't comply or cooperate with orders of the Minister of the day and they go around again. This could go through several cycles. 

MCBAIN: It's important that when the government of the day makes a decision that someone is not here as a genuine refugee, that there are powers to make sure that they go back to their country of origin. This is simply making sure that they understand that they have a role and a responsibility as part of that system. If they've been found to be a non-genuine refugee, they're a non-citizen of this country, then they have to be returned to their country of origin.

JENNETT: Do you think there's a risk to constitutionality here Angie?

ANGIE BELL: Greg, what I would say is this government is delivering uncertainty when it comes to immigration, when it comes to our borders. We've seen over a dozen boats arrive. We've seen two boats arrive undetected. We've seen a boat sink at sea full of Rohingya. And so this is a government in chaos when it comes to immigration. And I would ask, where is the Minister on this?

JENNETT: So, why support them so strongly if you harbour so many concerns about their competence and their performance?

BELL: That's why we want to see more questions in the Senate this evening. That's what we're pushing for. We, of course, as a coalition, will do anything we can to support the government to keep Australians safe, and that is our position on that.

JENNETT: All right, we'll be talking to other guests on this throughout the program. I'm going to chance my arm with one eye on the clock that you might be called away, both of you, to divisions in the house. But let's see if we can push on to vehicle efficiency standard. Long live the ute Kristy McBain. The government's pushed SUVs out of the passenger vehicle framework and into the less onerous light commercial area. Can you still guarantee that there is no price hike effect embedded in this redesign system?

MCBAIN: The legislation was out for consultation from day one with industry. That's what good government does. It consults, it moves its position if it needs to, taking into account what the industry says. Earlier today, you had both the Transport Minister and the Climate Change Minister standing up with a range of car manufacturers who all say they are happy with the fuel efficiency standards. This is a Liberal Party policy going back to the John Howard years, which they've been too afraid to implement. Instead of trying to be productive and cohesive and make sure that Australians save dollars at the petrol bowser, they're now rabbiting on scare campaigns about family ute taxes. Let's get serious. Australians want to save money at the petrol bowser. This is one way they can do it. I'd rather stand with the rest of the world than Russia on this one.

JENNETT:  All right well, there is a compromise at hand that has got most of the vehicle industry on board. I think Kristy's alluding to that, Angie. Toyota was at the announcement, Hyundai were at the announcement, as were the Automotive Dealers Association. So, why dig in on this if industry has pivoted?

BELL: Greg if Toyota's vehicles don't come up to these emission standards, they will have to buy credits from Tesla. And that's how it works. And so how can the government members say that car prices will not increase? Because retailers, that is, car yards, will have to hand the prices on to consumers. That makes sense. This is a big fat tax from Labor on cars, on SUVs and on utes and those vehicles, new vehicles who don't reach those emission standards. And so they cannot say that there will not be price reductions during a cost-of-living crisis that this government has created.

JENNETT: Well, that's a different presentation from Angie of the question that I put to you, Kristy. I'm not sure you completely answered it. Can you give any assurances that that is not the design of the system, that it doesn't have a price effect that pushes up a range of fossil-fuel powered engines and cars?

MCBAIN: There's been a lot of consultation with the industry on this. That's why you had industry and car makers standing with those two Ministers today. They've said, this compromise works for them. It'll work for the Australian people. It'll save people money in their hip pocket when they go to the petrol bowsers. By doing nothing, Australians pay $12 billion extra at the petrol pump up to 2030 if we do nothing. I'm not prepared to sit here representing a regional community and say, I'm happy for you to pay more money at the petrol bowser. I want Australians to have more choice when it comes to vehicles. This gives them more choice. If they want to buy a more fuel-efficient car, they can do that.

JENNETT: All right, so you're going to campaign, presumably, Angie, on the higher purchase price of the vehicle, but what of the cheaper running costs?

ANGIE BELL: Okay, I accept that once you have an electric car, you may not have fuel costs, but you have to be able to afford to buy that electric car to start with. You have to live in an environment where you can plug that electric car in to recharge it. And not everybody does. Some people live in apartments and they won't be able to afford an electric car necessarily. The price is much higher, you might note, than the average SUV at the moment.

JENNETT: Somehow, I think we're getting a foretaste here of a debate that's going to rage all the way through to the next election and perhaps beyond. Alas, we did get our questions covered with both of you without the bells ringing, so they May be imminently ringing, though, so we'll let you go. Kristy McBain, Angie Bell. Really appreciate it.