Interview with David Lipson – Lunchtime Agenda, SKY News – 10 July 2013

Lunchtime Agenda – David Lipson

10 July 2013

Topics: Anti-Dumping Commission; asylum seekers

DAVID LIPSON: Well, from the oldest Australians to the newest potential Australians, asylum seekers, and revelations today of a billion dollar blow out in the cost of running detention facilities to house asylum seekers. Also, a court ruling that could open up a loophole for thousands of people whose refugee claims have already been denied.

Jason Clare is the Home Affairs Minister and I spoke to him earlier. Started, though, asking him about the new Anti-Dumping Commissioner, who will be responsible for cracking down on companies that import goods at lower than cost price to undercut the local market.

Jason Clare, thanks for your time. Dale Seymour, the new Anti-Dumping Commissioner for Australia, who is he and what powers will he have to crack down on dumping?

JASON CLARE: David, last week you would have seen I announced big reforms to Customs and Border Protection, the biggest reforms in decades. What I’ve announced today is the establishment of the Australian Anti-Dumping Commission. We put laws through the parliament to do this earlier this year and we’ve officially opened the commission today. It will be headed up by Dale Seymour. He’s got a lot of experience working in the private sector as well as in government. He’s previously worked at Deloitte’s, he’s worked for a big US firm, and he’s been the deputy secretary of a Victorian department here.

The key to tackling issues like dumping, and that’s where companies import goods into Australia at below their real cost and that can hurt Australian companies – the key to tackling this is to make sure that you’ve got a commission, an umpire, that has all of the powers and all of the people they need to make sure that people play by the rules, and that’s what the commission will do, that’s what Dale’s job will be.

DAVID LIPSON: And what are those powers? Will he be able to take companies to court? Will there be fines that can be immediately imposed by him?

JASON CLARE: It means being able to impose duties where we find that goods have been dumped, making sure that a company doesn’t benefit from dumping a good in the Australian market that can hurt an Australian company and cost Australians their job. Over the last 12 months or so, we’ve put six tranches of legislation to bolster our anti-dumping laws that tackle things like where companies sell things at a loss or try and circumvent the system. All of those laws are now in place and they’re consistent with World Trade Organisation rules.

The new commission will have the benefit of those new powers, but it will also have the benefit of almost doubling the number of investigators that we have to do this sort of work. We’re increasing the budget by about $24 million over the course of the next four years, and that will mean that the commission will have the resources it needs, and another important thing, David, is we’re moving the work that is done here from Canberra to Melbourne where most of the manufacturing industry is. And that will help to make sure that Dale and his team understand the needs of Australian business.

DAVID LIPSON: Okay. Well, on another matter, the reports today of a billion dollar blow out in the cost of running our asylum seeker detention facilities, or processing facilities, first of all, if you can confirm that for us and why was this actually announced on the day that Kevin Rudd took back the prime ministership from Julia Gillard? Was that an attempt to sweep this under the carpet?

JASON CLARE: David, I think Tony Burke, the new Minister for Immigration, has made some comments about that this morning. I’d refer you to what he said. More generally what I’d say is this is what happens when you can’t get political parties in Australia to work together on this. The people of Australia have had a gutful of the partisanship and the fighting that’s poisoned this debate.

If you want to fix this, if you want to tackle it properly, we need to do two things. First, the government of the day in Australia needs to be given the power it thinks it needs to stop people dying at sea. We think that’s flying people back home, whether it’s to Sri Lanka or Iran or halfway back to Malaysia. And the second thing that you need to do is work together with the countries of our region where people are transiting through to implement the sort of regime that was implemented after the Vietnam War.

Now, we can do that by working with the countries of our region, but we also need the Liberal Party and the Greens to put down their partisan position, be prepared to comprise for the common good. Until now, we’ve seen Tony Abbott line up with the Greens to refuse to give the Government the power it thinks it needs here, and that’s what Australians are very upset and frustrated with. The political parties in Australia are fighting over this. The Governments been prepared to compromise, so should the Liberal Party and so should the Greens.

DAVID LIPSON: The original contract was meant to be $275 million. Now it’s up to $2.5 billion. Surely that’s an indictment on the Government’s inability to deal with this situation, hung parliament or not.

JASON CLARE: It is an indictment on the Parliament. Parliament has achieved many significant reforms that we thought might have been beyond the ability of the Parliament to achieve, whether that’s tackling the problem of the Murray-Darling Basin or carbon pricing. But it’s failed here, and it’s failed here because the other political parties have refused to work with the Government.

If you’re going to tackle these big issues, there’s got to be some give and take. Parties have got to be willing to compromise. That’s what we saw on these other issues. That’s why the Parliament was successful in dealing with them. It hasn’t been successful here because the Liberal Party and the Greens have stuck in their own corner.

Ask anyone watching this program, they’ll say they’re sick of the politics. It’s been poisoning this debate and it’s the reason people are getting on the boats and drowning at sea. The Government has made it very, very clear. We think we need the power to fly people back home, or fly them half way back to Malaysia, and the Opposition and the Greens have refused to give us that power.

DAVID LIPSON: Well, speaking of drowning at sea, Customs have now confirmed that seven men actually jumped overboard recently when Australian authorities approached their boat because they feared they would be turned back to Indonesia. This is off the back of those 34 asylum seekers that threatened self-harm. Are we seeing asylum seekers and people smugglers take a new direction in their tactics to get to Australia and if so, how concerning is that to you?

JASON CLARE: I’m not sure what the reason was that those people jumped overboard, but people smugglers make a million dollars a boat, and they know that by adapting their strategy to the different things that Border Protection might do, they can make sure that they can get the money and get people onto boats.

We’ve got to be pretty clear about this, David. If they know that the Navy were trying to turn that boat around, they’ll sabotage the boat, the boat will sink, everyone ends up in the water, Navy personnel have to go and rescue them. It puts their life at risk. It puts the life of everybody out there on the high seas at risk, and you can’t turn the boat back.

You can’t turn a boat back to Indonesia if the boat is at the bottom of the ocean, and you can’t turn a boat back to Indonesia if the Indonesian Government refuses to let you. That’s what Angus Houston said in his report last year. Indonesia has said that they won’t let boats be turned back to their country.

It means that Tony Abbott doesn’t have a policy. He’s just got a slogan.

That’s the point here. If Tony Abbott’s going to say he’s going to stop the boats, then tell us how, because his core policy, his policy of turning back the boats, can’t be implemented if Indonesia says no.

DAVID LIPSON: Also today a court ruling, the full bench of the Federal Court, which has apparently created quite a large legal loophole that could mean that all asylum seekers who have been denied refugee status could actually apply again through the courts. Do you expect this will create a big backlog and clog up the courts?

JASON CLARE: I think Minister Burke’s made some comments on that this morning as well. He’s indicated that we would consider whether an appeal is appropriate. So the Government will do its due diligence and make some comments once we’ve got that legal advice.

DAVID LIPSON: So you’re just holding on that one for now? You don’t exactly know which direction the Government will take?

JASON CLARE: That will be a decision for Minister Burke based on the legal advice that his department provides him with, but he’s made the point that an appeal is possible. That’s a decision that he’ll make based on the advice he receives from his department.

DAVID LIPSON: Jason Clare, thanks for your time today.

JASON CLARE: Good on you. Thanks, David.

DAVID LIPSON: The Home Affairs Minister speaking to me a little earlier on.