03 August 2020

SUBJECTS: The Morrison Government’s support for Clive Palmer’s challenge to WA’s hard border; restrictions in Victoria.



SUBJECTS: The Morrison Government’s support for Clive Palmer’s challenge to WA’s hard border; restrictions in Victoria.

ANNELISE NIELSEN, HOST: More on the Morrison Government's border backdown, WA Labor MP and Shadow Trade Minister Madeleine King. Madeleine King, thank you for your time.


NIELSEN: What do you make of the Government backing down, it doesn't necessarily mean that they don't actually support the border being eased.

KING: Not at all and they've been very clear, the WA Liberals and the Liberal Federal Government, that they want these borders brought down. They have argued, as you said in your piece, vigorously to the Federal Court, to go to the High Court, that the border restrictions should end. It's a backflip of massive proportions. It's a good thing they’ve withdrawn but it's too little, too late. The argument is on the record and for WA Liberals and Federal Liberals under the leadership of Scott Morrison to now turn up and say, ‘hands off, we're out of this case’, it's ridiculous. This evidence is on the record, these facts that they've presented, that they've argued, against the WA hard border, is now a matter of record for the High Court to consider.

NEILSEN: The High Court will consider, though, the substance of the case and that is whether the hard border is unconstitutional. If it finds that it is indeed unconstitutional, would you continue to support it?

KING: If something is found unconstitutional by the High Court, then changes will have to be made. And this is the problem. It is a challenge that didn't have to be made and it is made by Clive Palmer, who is a man that would sooner take himself and his arguments to the High Court than try to fill out a form to get an exemption to come into Western Australia. This is the kind of bully we have to deal with in Western Australia, that just wants to get what he wants. And this is the kind of person that the Federal Liberal Government is supporting in this High Court case. So if it is found unconstitutional, the State Government and Mark McGowan are going to be put in a very difficult position. And if it is found unconstitutional, the blame will be laid squarely at the feet of the Federal Attorney-General, Christian Porter, who has acted against the interests of Western Australians in acting so vigorously against the interests of our people in this state.

NIELSEN: Isn't it your obligation, though, as an elected representative in the Australian Government to be respecting the Australian Constitution and does it not concern you that you are doing something that is potentially unconstitutional?

KING: No one wants to act against the Constitution, Annelise. I mean, Mark McGowan doesn't want these borders in place. I don't want these borders in place. But we are in a global pandemic, and extreme measures are necessary. All states have different border restrictions placed upon other states, and particularly our friends and colleagues in Victoria, which is undergoing an extraordinarily difficult time and I feel for people in Victorian and wish them my best. So we all want to act constitutionally. Right now, we're in a crisis and if it's found to be unconstitutional changes will be made. The truth is Clive Palmer didn't have to bring this case, the Federal Government didn't have to act in the case in support of Clive Palmer, and we'll have to wait and see what the High Court says, I suppose. Unlike Liberal prime ministers Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull, I'm not going to try and predict what a High Court might decide in this. I am going to hope for the best and hope that the State Government's arguments prevail.

NIELSEN: But the idea of a Constitution is that they protect those fundamental inalienable rights at times like this, in extreme circumstances, so that they aren't thrown to the side and people are left with fewer rights on the other side of it. So is it not a concern for ordinary Australians that they have the right for freedom of movement in this country and that could be being completely just disregarded by a state government?

KING: I think that’s absurd with all due respect. The principal concern of ordinary Australians today is for their health, and for the safety of their families and their friends. We all want the economy to get moving better. We know the only reason the Western Australian economy can keep moving at the moment is because of the border restrictions which enable our mining industry to prevail. People from all around the country have filled in forms and got exemptions and done the right thing and are able to travel into Western Australia. So to say that somehow people can't come here is an absolute furphy. They just have to follow the rules - rules that are put in place for people's safety. And that surely, in this nation during this global pandemic that is COVID-19, must be our priority. It's a priority of the State Labor Government, and it will be my priority as well to make sure people stay safe. People are able to move if they fill in the forms and follow the directions and agree to the restrictions.

NIELSEN: Those exemptions, though, for WA, they're quite strict. For instance, if you do want to go see a family member in WA, they pretty much have to be on their deathbed for you to do it. For a lot of fly-in fly-out workers, they're finding it really hard having to self-isolate for long periods of time away from their interstate loved ones. So it isn't something you can brush to the side and say ‘look, these exemptions, they are easy to get’. They're really not and that's part of what this challenge is. So why shouldn't Australians be more concerned that in doing that that is actually restricting what is a right preserved in the Constitution?

KING: Annelise, from my dealings with the people in my constituency and across the country and I've been contacted by many people who are looking for assistance in getting exemptions, we direct them to the proper channels of filling in those forms, I still think their main concern and if we’re as a people agreeing that we're all in this together, most people support that notion that we work together, we adhere to the restrictions. I've got family on the east coast and friends, and I've got a sister who wants to come and see our elderly mother later this year. But she accepts that might not happen. And as a health worker she knows it's in the best interest of the country. So none of us are immune to the effects of these border closures. And on the FIFO thing, the state government has set up a system and the mining industry here in WA has established a means whereby essential workers that did live in other states were able to move here. So there is a matter of planning and an orderly way of dealing with how we get through this global pandemic without spreading more of the virus around the country. So I think very sensible actions have been taken to make sure people are able to move. Yeah, it’s not as free as we might want it and it's not going to be for some time, because we want to keep the nation as healthy as possible. And we need to keep Western Australia on a healthy footing so that we can continue our mining operations. Moreover, we can help other states get through this as well. It is about a national approach, but state by state there are different levels of pandemic arrivals in those states. So we have to be pretty measured on this and act sensibly.

NIELSEN: And just finally, you are Shadow Trade Minister, there are concerns with the lockdown measures coming into Victoria that could be announced today that it could include ports and a lot of key trade routes for import and export. Would you caution the Andrews government against shutting down any ports in Victoria?

KING: Look, no one wants to see ports, or whether it's road barriers as well, we have been able to get trade going across the nation through proper exemptions. No one wants to see ports closed, that’s jobs, it’s also people's goods and livelihoods. But I know the Andrews Government has to do what it has to do to get what is a catastrophic kind of situation under control. So whilst I hope they don't have to, I would understand if Premier Andrews has to do that.

NIELSEN: Shadow Trade Minister Madeleine King live there from Perth, thank you for your time.

KING: Thank you very much Annelise.