Television Interview with Natalie Barr – Sunrise – Friday 24 November 2023

SUBJECTS: Student strikes; Operation Sovereign Borders

NATALIE BARR: More now on our top story, and students are planning a mass walk‑out today in support of Palestinian and a call for an end to the conflict in Gaza. Hundreds of kids are expected to attend rallies in Sydney, Wollongong and Adelaide. It follows yesterday’s protests in Melbourne where hundreds of students walked out of class and flooded the streets of the CBD.

For more, we’re joined by Education Minister, Jason Clare and deputy Opposition leader, Sussan Ley, in a very windy Hay this morning. Good morning to both of you.

JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Good morning.

NATALIE BARR: Jason, what can you do if students disobey orders and go to these protests?

CLARE: Well, g’day, Nat. My view, which I hope is pretty uncontroversial, is that school students should be at school during school hours. I’ve spoken to State Education Ministers, that’s their view as well.

My Department has spoken with Education Departments, that’s their approach as well. They’ve sent notices out to schools making it clear that if students aren’t attending it will be counted as an absence, and there won’t be any catch‑ups, or make‑ups, or re‑dos.

So the important message here for students is school’s on, we expect you to be at school. If you want to change the world, then go to school. Education is the most powerful cause for good in this world, and that’s where you learn. If you want to protest, do that on the weekend, but school’s on, we expect students to be at school today.

BARR: So, Jason, do you think they’ll care, if all they ‑ if they know they’ll just get marked down as absent?

CLARE: I think students know how important school is. I know parents know.

BARR: Well, if I look at this, they don’t.

CLARE: There’s some students there in Melbourne that have chosen to protest, that’s very disappointing. I’m expecting students to be at school today, so are the State Education Ministers, and I’m hoping that most students are at school today.

BARR: And I’m sure most of them will. But Sussan, we’ve got this very sensitive unfolding situation in the Middle East; we’ve got comments from kids yesterday, a 16‑year‑old girl saying Hamas was doing a good job. What do we do here?

SUSSAN LEY: Thanks, Nat. Yes, it’s always windy on the Hay Plain, and we’ve got a crowd of galahs joining us. I am really worried about the activists and their influence on school kids via social media.

I’m actually not blaming the kids. There is some pretty poisonous stuff circulating, completely inaccurate. It’s being picked up, it’s being used by activists, it’s being pushed at our school children, and unfortunately it’s causing some of the problems that we’re seeing, and social harmony in Australia starts very much ‑ well, it starts in kindergarten ‑ but it’s really important in our schools, because I’ve spoken to Jewish students who are so anxious about going to school, about getting on the school bus, about the types of conversations that people are having, all based on some really, really awful stuff on social media.

We need all levels of government to step up, call out antisemitism where we see it, and bring our country together.

BARR: Yeah.

CLARE: Just on that point, Nat, and I agree with much of what Sussan said, we’ve all seen just in the lifetime of our grandparents the evil that antisemitism can reap, and we’ve seen just in the last few years what Islamophobia can do in New Zealand with the terrible massacre that happened there.

There’s no place for hate in Australia, and we’ve all got to work together here to eliminate it wherever we find it.

BARR: Yep, well said. Moving on now, serious questions are being raised this morning over our border security after 12 people were able to reach Western Australia by boat undetected. The group of 12 arrived on a remote part of the coast from Indonesia. It’s unclear if the group, who are not Indonesian nationals, are fishermen or asylum seekers.

Authorities are now investigating just how that group could slip under the radar. Jason, do you have an update. They reached the mainland, apparently a World War II airfield on the Kimberley coast line, Kalumuburu, owned by an Indigenous group. What do you know?

CLARE: You made the point there’s an investigation going on. We don’t comment on Operation Sovereign Borders matters. I just make the general point that if people seek to come to Australia by boat, the boat is either turned back, or people are returned to their country of origin, or they’re settled in a third country. That was the position under the former government, it’s the same position under this government.

BARR: Things have changed though, Jason, obviously with the High Court decision. Is this now a problem? Will we be seen internationally as, you know, a free‑for‑all?

CLARE: No. Don’t conflate the High Court decision with this. They’re two separate matters.

BARR: Okay. Sussan, are you concerned that we could be seeing more boat arrivals on our shores after this group was detected, or is this just sort of a one‑off?

LEY: Nat, I don’t have the security briefings, but I’m very concerned. I’m concerned it’s halfway through this government’s term. We feel we’re a poorer and more divided nation. I’m visiting factories that are going out of business, the people smugglers are back in business.

We’ve got millions ‑ 1.5 million migrants coming to this country and infrastructure being cut. Meanwhile we’ve got a Prime Minister who seems to prefer to be overseas, and we’ve got people being released into the community with criminal records and women feeling unsafe in their homes and the cost‑of‑living spiralling.

You know, I’m just feeling, as so many Australians are, that 18 months into Anthony Albanese’s term of government, this country is not coming together, it doesn’t have the cohesion, it doesn’t have the leadership, and we’re really anxious. So of course this is the latest sign of a government that ‑ look, Australians know that the Labor Party can’t measure borders and can’t manage the economy. They gave them a shot ‑‑

BARR: Okay.

LEY: I don’t think they’re doing very well.

BARR: Okay. Just final word, Jason, ’cause you’re shaking your head.

CLARE: There was just a rant there about wanting to bring the country together, and then you just had the most divisive language that you’ve ever heard from an opposition member of Parliament.

If the Opposition are true to their word about wanting to bring the country together, then be a bit positive here; look at where we can work together, not just all of that sort of insipid negativity that we just heard from Sussan.

BARR: Okay. Thank you very much, we’ll see you next week.

LEY: Well, I was here when the last boat ‑ I was here for the last boat arrivals. Get it together, Jason.

CLARE: I remember you sent a text message out to people trying to win votes too.

BARR: Okay. We will leave it there. Thank you.ENDS