Malcolm Turnbull Grilled Over Refugees, ABC In Parliament

04/02/2016 5:39 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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Labor and the Greens went after Malcolm Turnbull on separate fronts in parliament on Thursday, attacking the Prime Minister over the government's immigration detention policy as well as the controversy over the ABC's coverage of the national broadband network.

In the most fiery question time of 2016's first sitting week, Greens MP Adam Bandt took Turnbull to task after Wednesday's High Court decision that offshore processing for unauthorised boat arrivals was legal.

"Prime Minister, this is your first big moral test," Bandt said, speaking over jibes from the government side of the chamber.

"Do you really believe that child abuse is somehow necessary to stop people dying at sea? Will you promise today that no children, including the 37 babies born here and the kids currently in Australian schools, will be deported to Nauru?"

Turnbull responded by highlighting the drying up of boat arrivals during the Liberal administration, sending a jab toward Bandt in the process.

"The member for Melbourne's party from time to time tries to create the impression that it has a monopoly on empathy, a monopoly on morality. It does not," he said.

"If the Government were to follow the policies advocated by the Greens party in this regard, the consequence would not simply be tens of thousands of unauthorised arrivals coming to Australia, it would be thousands of deaths at sea. The policies that the Honourable Member's party was so supportive of under the previous Labor Government resulted in precisely that, a complete collapse of security at the border, deaths at sea, hundreds, well over a thousand deaths at sea."

bandt

Adam Bandt, during parliament in 2015

Bandt attempted to interject and direct Turnbull back to his original question, as to whether children will be transferred to Nauru, but was shouted down by the Speaker of the House as Turnbull continued his spiel.

"Since coming back into office, the Coalition Government has stopped the boats, it has reduced the number of children in detention to fewer than 100. Our goal is to reduce that to zero but the key element in doing so is ensuring that people do not get on people smugglers' boats and put their lives at risk," Turnbull finished.

Later, the issue of former ABC journalist Nick Ross' allegations that he had been directed to write stories critical of Labor's broadband internet plan ahead of the 2013 election because management "didn't want to upset" Malcolm Turnbull.

Labor MP Jason Clare's question to Turnbull, about whether he or his office had contacted the ABC over its coverage of NBN stories, kickstarted several minutes of complaints about parliamentary procedure and led to around 10 minutes of debate on the topic.

Manager of Government Business in the House, Christopher Pyne, tried to argue that the question should not be addressed to the prime minister, with Manager of Opposition Business, Tony Burke, arguing for the question to be allowed.

After Clare rephrased the question to the satisfaction of the speaker, Turnbull admitted he had spoken to ABC management about their NBN coverage, but denied any wrongdoing.

"I have, on several occasions, complained very publicly and openly about the ABC's coverage about the NBN issue, in particular and most notably in the lead-up to the last election where I felt the ABC's coverage of the issue was very poor and lacked balance and I said so publicly and I've said nothing privately that I haven't said publicly," Turnbull answered.

"[The ABC] should have done a better job in putting more information about the competing alternatives [to Labor's NBN plan] before the public."

"The Honourable Member's question is have I complained, did I complain about this to the ABC? The answer is yes."

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