Election 2016: Turnbull in damage control after Barnaby Joyce links asylum seekers to live exports

Updated May 26, 2016 14:27:33

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is in diplomatic damage control today, rejecting his deputy Barnaby Joyce's comments that a 2011 decision to suspend live cattle exports to Indonesia is linked to an increase in asylum seeker boats.

Key points:

  • Malcolm Turnbull stresses strength of relationship with Indonesia
  • Barnaby Joyce had linked live exports with asylum seekers
  • Bill Shorten describes Mr Joyce's comments as "ignorant"

Mr Turnbull said "there is no link between the Indonesian Government and people smuggling" and praised the leadership of Indonesian President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo.

"We have a good relationship with them. I think President Jokowi is a great leader, he's in fact an inspirational leader," Mr Turnbull said.

"The only point that I want to stress is that our cooperation with Indonesia in terms of stopping people smuggling is very, very strong.

"They are as committed to stopping that trade as we are."

Speaking at the ABC's regional leaders debate in Goulburn last night, Mr Joyce, Labor's Joel Fitzgibbon and Greens leader Richard Di Natale were asked about the issue of live exports.

Mr Joyce said Australia had been one of the largest suppliers of meat to Indonesia in 2011, when the Gillard Labor government decided to suspend live cattle exports in the wake of a Four Corners cruelty investigation.

"Might I remind you that when we closed down the live animal export industry, it was around about the same time that we started seeing a lot of people arriving in boats in Australia," Mr Joyce said.

"They accepted us as a reasonable trading partner; we proved overnight that we weren't; we created immense bad will in the region we live."

Mr Joyce tried to clarify and limit the damage of his comments by speaking on Channel Seven on Thursday morning.

"I'm not saying that this caused the Indonesians to start sending people across, I never suggested that," he said.

"But I did clearly suggest that it made it difficult, gave a real degree of difficulty in how we negotiate with Indonesia."

But Treasurer Scott Morrison said he would not "accept" Mr Joyce linked the live cattle export suspension with an increase in asylum seeker boats.

"I don't think that's what Barnaby is suggesting. That's what others have implied," Mr Morrison said.

"What Barnaby simply said was he talked about the escalation under Labor's failed policies on border protection."

Liberal frontbencher Dan Tehan told Sky News he could "understand" Mr Joyce's comments.

"Barnaby was saying that when you've got a relationship with a key partner like Indonesia you've got to treat them with respect," he said.

Indonesia's former foreign minister Marty Natalegawa issued a statement following Mr Joyce's comments saying that the implied link between the live export ban and people smuggling was "fundamentally flawed and patently false".

"At best, it represents an over-analysis of the subject. Worse still, it is shocking to suggest that the Indonesian government would put at risk the safety and lives of innocent asylum seekers in making the treacherous journey to Australia simply to make a point," the statement said.

A spokesman for the Indonesian Foreign Ministry said the Government wanted to clarify Mr Joyce's statement before officially responding.

'Really ignorant remark': Shorten slams Joyce

Joyce links ban on live exports in 2011 to arrival of asylum seeker boats in Australia Video: Joyce links ban on live exports in 2011 to arrival of asylum seeker boats in Australia (ABC News)

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Mr Joyce had made "ignorant" comments.

"At no stage until last night has anyone, even our worst critics, tried to link the two issues," Mr Shorten said.

"I think it's a really, really ignorant remark.

"What I'm not going to do is let the Government clown brigade roll into the circus and say that somehow the live animal export issue is tied up to asylum seekers and this is the first time it's been raised."

Mr Joyce's rival for the seat of New England, independent candidate Tony Windsor, described the remarks as "appalling".

Joyce quizzed during debate

ABC political editor Chris Uhlmann, who was hosting the debate, pressed Mr Joyce on the comments on Wednesday night.

"Do you genuinely believe that those two things were linked?" Uhlmann asked.

"I think that our capacity to have a strong working relationship with Indonesia is affected by them relying on us to be reliable suppliers of protein for their market," Mr Joyce said.

"Do you realise that you are suggesting the Indonesian Government then unleashed the boats in response?" Uhlmann asked.

"I think it's absolutely the case that we created extreme bad will with Indonesia when we closed down the live animal export industry," Mr Joyce replied

Up until then, the debate had been fairly mild-mannered, but Mr Fitzgibbon and Senator Di Natale seized upon Mr Joyce's comments.

"Barnaby, Chris gave you the chance to step back from your comments. You're not taking the opportunity?" Mr Fitzgibbon asked.

"I stand by [them], we can talk about this all night. You either believe that it created bad feeling in Indonesia, or you don't," Mr Joyce said.

"Are you suggesting the Indonesian Government is sending refugees to Australia?" Senator Di Natale asked.

"I believe that the Independents and the Greens and the Labor Party, when they closed down the live animal export industry, created immense bad will, and our capacity to manage other problems which became present were affected," Mr Joyce said.

Watch the full Regional Leaders' Debate on ABC iview.

This article includes interactive context annotations which are not supported on this platform.

For the full interactive experience in this article, you will need a modern web browser with JavaScript enabled. Find out more about browser support at ABC News Online.

Negative gearing

Negative gearing allows property investors who make a loss on running their property to reduce the tax they pay on other income.
The Coalition parties have promised not to change the current negative gearing laws, which apply to established and new houses or apartments.
Labor wants to abolish negative gearing for established houses from next year, which it claims will make housing more affordable.
The Coalition has criticised Labor's plan, saying it would discourage investment, raise rents and reduce home values.
But Labor says its plan would help put first home buyers on a level playing field with investors.
Australia has more than two million property investors, and more than 60 per cent made a loss in the 2013-14 financial year.
The average loss is about $10,000.
If someone earned a wage of $80,000, for example, negative gearing would cut their taxable income to $70,000.

Marginal seats

A seat is described as "marginal" when the winning candidate from the last election won the seat by less than 6 per cent.
That means the candidate received less than 56 per cent of the two candidate preferred vote.
If a candidate wins 56-60 per cent, the seat is classified as "fairly safe", and over 60 per cent is considered "safe".
For a seat to change hands, a swing of anything more than an absolute majority (50 per cent + 1 vote) is required.
For example, if a member holds a seat with 56 per cent of the vote, a swing greater than 6 per cent is required for the seat to change hands.

Superannuation concessions

These are tax breaks designed to encourage people to put more money into superannuation, in theory saving the government money down the track by reducing the burden these people will place on the public purse when they retire.
Currently, superannuation is taxed at 15 per cent, with super earnings not taxed at all once you hit 60 years of age. Employers are required to put a minimum of 9.5 per cent of an employee's income into a super fund.
The superannuation concession allows people to voluntarily contribute more to their superannuation and still be taxed at the rate of 15 per cent (or 30 per cent if you are really well off), well below the majority of tax rates.
In the budget, the Government announced a lowering of the income threshold at which the 30 per cent (rather than 15 per cent) tax rate kicks in on superannuation contributions from $300,000 to $250,000, which matches one of Labor's policy commitments.
They also announced the lowering of the annual cap on contributions entitled to the concessional tax rates to $25,000, from the current $30,000 for under-50s and $35,000 for those aged 50-plus.
The two moves combined are expected to save a further $2.5 billion over three years.
Labor has promised it would raise $14 billion in a decade by putting a 15 per cent tax on super earnings more than $75,000 a year.
The concessions have been criticised for disproportionately benefiting the wealthy, who get a much bigger discount on their normal income tax rates than those in lower tax brackets.
With many wealthy people likely to be ineligible for the pension on reaching retirement anyway, critics argue that the concessions cost the government far more in lost revenue than it would cost to support wealthy individuals with the aged pension.
Superannuation concessions cost the federal budget $30 billion in 2015–16.


The Gonski needs-based funding model was implemented under former prime minister Julia Gillard in 2014 following the independent Gonski review.
Under the model every student receives a base amount of funding with extra allocated for students with special needs or from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The Government has not matched the funding levels required by Gonski but has agreed to pump an extra $1.2 billion into schools, giving the states funding certainty until 2020.
The pledge partially reverses the 10-year, $30 billion cut to education funding contained in the Abbott government's 2014 budget.
Labor has promised to fully fund the last two years of Gonski at a cost of $4.5 billion.
The announcement was unveiled as part of a decade-long education plan from Labor worth $37.3 billion.

Backpacker tax

Currently, backpackers who come to Australia for work do not pay any tax until they earn more than $18,200.
In the 2015 budget, there was a proposal to tax backpackers on every dollar they earn from July 1, 2016.
By imposing this 32.5 per cent tax, the Government would earn $540 million over three years.
The Government has now delayed the introduction of the tax by six months until a government review on working holiday visas is complete.
That has angered farm groups, who argue they will be in the middle of harvest when any new taxes take effect.
Bill Shorten says it is cynical of the Government to delay the matter until after the election but Labor has not committed to scrapping the tax either.
The Greens want it dumped altogether.
Politicians and the farm sector agree that backpackers should pay some level of tax, but there is widespread concern that the proposed rate is too high.
The agriculture and tourism sectors say backpackers would bypass Australia and choose countries like New Zealand or Canada if the tax was implemented.
Backpackers make up 25 per cent of Australia's agriculture workforce.
In the Northern Territory, they make up 85 per cent.

Penalty rates

This election campaign is being fought under the shadow of a looming decision from the Fair Work Commission (FWC) which is deciding whether to cut Sunday penalty rates to the same level as Saturday rates.
If cut, around two million people who work in the retail and hospitality industries would be affected.
The Coalition has vowed to adhere to any ruling by the FWC that cuts Sunday penalty rates.
Labor does not want penalty rates cut but has ruled out passing legislation which would guarantee Sunday penalty rates if they win the election.
But if elected, Mr Shorten said a Labor government will make another submission to the commission arguing against the cuts.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Greens want Labor to protect the Sunday penalties.
The FWC will hand down their decision after the July 2 election.

Preference deals

Australia has a preferential voting system, which means if you vote for a candidate who does not get elected your vote can go to the next preferred party.
Under new Senate voting laws passed in March, voters can number 1 to 6 on ballot papers above the line in order of their preference, or number individual candidates below the line.
The legislation's aim is to stop the complex preference-swapping deals that led to a number of senators being elected with only a fraction of the popular vote.
That is because instead of just voting for a preferred party above the line, often without knowing where their preferences have been directed, voters will now have to specify their choices.
The Liberal Party has not ruled out preferencing the Greens ahead of Labor in marginal Victorian seats.
If the July 2 election delivers another hung parliament, the Greens say they would prefer a Labor-Greens deal.
But both the Coalition and Labor have ruled out forming a governing Coalition with the Greens, raising the prospect of a second election if the first delivers a hung parliament.


Refoulement means the expulsion of persons who have the right to be recognised as refugees.
The United Nations Convention relating to the status of refugees outlines countries should not return a refugee to the place from which they fled because of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.
This is regarded as the principle of non-refoulement.

Asylum seekers

The terms refugee and asylum seeker are often confused and wrongly used in place of the other.
An asylum seeker is someone who is seeking international protection, but has not yet had their claim for refugee status determined.
A refugee is someone who has been found to be requiring protection.
The UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees defines it as "... owing to well‐founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it."


The Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook is an update of the budget position around six months after the last budget was delivered.  


The purpose of the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Outlook is to provide an update on the budget position in the lead up to the election, taking into account as many of the government decisions made before the election writs were issued.
It also outlines other factors which may be contributing to the economic situation the country finds itself in during the election period.

Medicare rebate freeze

In this year's budget, the Coalition announced it would continue the indexation freeze for all Medicare Benefit Schedule (MBS) fees until 2020.
While not a direct cut to GPs' income, over time GPs would earn relatively less while their costs would increase.
The freeze on rebates was initially put in place for four years in 2014 after the unpopular $7.00 GP co-payment was dropped.
The Opposition has criticised the rebate freeze, calling it a GP tax by stealth.
In the second week of the campaign, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten announced Labor's plans to restore indexation of the MBS from January 1, 2017.
Labor said it would cost $2.4 billion by 2019-20 and $12.2 billion over a decade.

Concessional loans

Concessional loans are provided on terms substantially more generous than market loans.
Below-interest rates or grace periods are often features of concessional loans.
During week three of the election campaign, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce announced a $555-million package in concessional loans for dairy farmers affected by recent milk price cuts.
In 2014, the Coalition announced a drought concessional loan scheme which provides up to $150 million to drought-affected farm businesses.
Many farmers seeking drought loans have slammed the scheme for delayed access to funds and poor management.

Topics: federal-government, refugees, federal-parliament, federal-elections, australia, goulburn-2580, indonesia

First posted May 26, 2016 08:42:48