Correcting Senator Keneally in the Senate Legal & Constitutional Affairs Committee

Correcting Senator Keneally in the Senate Legal & Constitutional Affairs Committee

CHAIR: Senator Keneally, you've had well over 15 minutes.

Senator KENEALLY: That's fine, Chair. I think we can see what's happening.

CHAIR: We can come back to you with that. I intend to go to Senator McKim in a moment. Just by way of clarification, since we are quoting matters that are on the record in relation to support for an English requirement for partner visas, are any of the witnesses at the table familiar with the comment, 'It is reasonable to look for English language proficiency,' from 2017 from then opposition leader Bill Shorten? Is anyone familiar with that?

Senator KENEALLY: We've demonstrated that they have proficiency. Your own survey already demonstrated that.

CHAIR: Does anybody at the table have familiarity with these comments in 2006 from shadow immigration minister Tony Burke: … the need for people living in Australia to try to learn English was spot on.

We need stricter English speaking requirements for people wanting to work in Australia.

Are people at the table familiar with those matters?

Mr Pezzullo : I can't say that I'm specifically familiar with those quotes, but I've heard Mr Burke in his various positions express sentiments along those lines. As to whether he expressed at all the precise quote you've got, I'd want to obviously look at the detail of it.

CHAIR: I just demonstrate that Senator Keneally is the only person who thinks that requiring people to demonstrate their ability to speak English is some form of insidious racism.

Senator KENEALLY: Now you're characterising my language.

CHAIR: I'll hand the call to Senator McKim now. Senator McKim, you've asked for 15 minutes.

Senator KENEALLY: Point of order, Chair. You've just reflected upon me, and I ask you to withdraw that. You have essentially called me a racist.

CHAIR: No, I haven't. I said you're the only person who thinks that requiring an English proficiency test constitutes racism.

Senator KENEALLY: That's not what I said.

CHAIR: In fact, all I have said is that you accuse others of racism.

Senator KENEALLY: Chair, I said nothing of the sort.

CHAIR: By all means, check the record.

Senator KENEALLY: I said nothing of the sort, and you know it.

CHAIR: I think you've made your position clear.

Senator PRATT: Point of order, Chair.

CHAIR: Yes, Senator Pratt.

Senator PRATT: I do think that you're at risk of abusing your position as the chair by making such allegations about Senator Keneally while in the chair.


CHAIR: I just said that she wasn't a racist. I said she was accusing others of racism.

Senator KENEALLY: Did I say that? Where did I say that, Chair?

CHAIR: You just spent the entire afternoon trying to paint the coalition policy as one which is racist.

Senator KENEALLY: I think we've touched a nerve.

Senator PRATT: That should be raised as a point of order by someone else, not by you as chair.

CHAIR: I didn't raise it as a point of order. I asked questions simply stating matters that are on the record from Labor ministers or Labor shadow ministers and indicating that their position is contrary to that which has been expressed by Senator Keneally.

Senator KENEALLY: About partner visas?

Senator Cash: Certainly, Chair, if you want further endorsements, I can provide a number from different organisations as well actually welcoming the policy.

CHAIR: I think this has gone as far as it needs to. Senator McKim, you have the call.