Sky News – NewsDay

Interviewer:

Kristina Keneally

E&OE

Kristina Keneally:

I’m joined now by the Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multicultural Affairs, Zed Seselja. Thank you so much Minister for coming on the program.

Senator Seselja:

Thanks Kristina and thanks for having me on.

Kristina Keneally:

And thank you for holding your own microphone, we’re a very do it yourself kind of network and good to see you getting into the spirit.

Senator Seselja:

Very happy to cooperate today Kristina.

Kristina Keneally:

Don’t break into song I know it’s tempting there. Let me ask you this, you’re down there in Tasmania and I understand you’ve been meeting with some of the Syrian Refugees that Australia has taken following the Refugee Crisis. How are they settling in, what are you doing down there?

Senator Seselja:

We’re about to welcome some, we’re going to be having a BBQ in a just a few minutes. The Premier Will Hodgman and I, and Minister Guy Barnett, will be greeting them and welcoming them officially to Australia. This is part of our 12,000 intake, there’s around 7800 that have arrived in Australia at the moment and of those about 200 will be settling here in Hobart. So it’s great, we’ve got Catholic Care who is doing the settlement here in Hobart and obviously it’s a very important part of what we do in reaching out to those who are most desperate and of course in the region, in Syria and Iraq, with all of the displaced peoples, we’re doing our bit.

Kristina Keneally:

Can I ask, how do the refugees get placed? Do they choose a location in Australia or are there placements made by the Australian government?

Senator Seselja:

It depends, Kristina, if they’re sponsored or not. So if they are sponsored they will come in and they will go to the groups or families who are sponsoring them, often that will be where there are established communities. There is an established Syrian community here in Hobart but obviously the bigger ones are going to be in places like Sydney or Melbourne. Where they are not sponsored the Australian Government does make those judgements as where families go. Now that is obviously the initial placement, we try and settle them in different parts of the country where there are settlement services, where there are the kind of supports that people need coming into the country. Of course people are then free to move around the country if they like but that initial placement is chosen by the Australian Government.

Kristina Keneally:

And you mention about 7800 have arrived already, how much longer do you think it will be before we hit the full complement of the 12000 we’ve committed to take?

Senator Seselja:

Well I think we’re making pretty good progress now, it was obviously a little slow at first because that was around the security and health checks were done. 9600 visas have been granted so obviously there’s already another 1800 who have had visas granted but haven’t yet arrived so I would expect them to be arriving very soon. I would expect within the next few months the remainder will be done, obviously that’s a matter for the Department of Immigration in the checking and the screening. My job once they do arrive is to make sure that they are properly settled into the country, that they get a warm welcome and the kind of services and support they need to integrate well into Australian Society.

Kristina Keneally:

One more on this issue: since we’ve had about 7000 arrive what kind of sense do you have about how they’re settling in, finding work, enrolling in school, embracing the Australian community?

Senator Seselja:

Well I’ve had the opportunity to meet with a number in other parts of the country and what I’ve heard from them is certainly people who are very keen to do that. It’s difficult to find work straight away but that’s a big focus for the Australian Government, to provide employment opportunities. Certainly I’m hearing of a pretty well educated cohort coming from parts of Syria and Iraq, I’ve run into doctors and engineers, teachers and nurses, we’re talking about people who have a lot of skills in many cases so a big part of our agenda will be to try and make sure we work with them on English language and skills recognition, done in a fair way to make sure they’ve got good opportunities to work and to contribute.

Kristina Keneally:

On a related story we saw comments today from the Minister for Education, Simon Birmingham, reflecting on the fact that these NAPLAN results seem to suggest that children of migrant parents are outperforming Australian born children and he put that down to migrant families putting a lot of emphasis on education. Parents engaging with their children, what do you make of these results?

Senator Seselja:

Parental engagement is absolutely critical, we know it certain does influence the results of students and we saw it in my own upbringing and whilst I wouldn’t claim to have been an outstanding student, certainly there was a big emphasis in my family on education as a migrant family. I think that has been a common thing because migrant families come to Australia seeking opportunity and they know that a good education and good results at school are a big indicator as to how people go later in life, so I’m not surprised at all that migrant families put a very large emphasis on education and I think all families should because it’s such an important thing if you can do well. Whether you go to university or not is not the absolute key but getting a good grounding in K-12 gives great opportunities whether you go on to university or whether you go on and do other things.

Kristina Keneally:

It’s quite an interesting outcome and one that I’m sure will be looked at close by the education ministers when they meet later this week. Let me ask you about the reports todays that immigrant secretary Michael Pezullo has travelled to the United States to try and bed down this deal to move some of the refugees, probably mostly off Nauru, to the united states. Do we have any insight and how successful he was in persuading the incoming Trump administration to persist with this agreement?

Senator Seselja:

Well Kristina I don’t have any particular inside knowledge, as I said that’s a matter for the Immigration Minister and the Department. I know Mike Pezzullo to be a very talented public servant so I’m sure he would’ve been making a very very persuasive case. I’ve got no further insights to give you on that.

Kristina Keneally:

Fair enough but should we read anything into the idea that a public servant has gone over there and engaged at that level rather than a political engagement? Is there anything we can gleam from that? Maybe are we saving the political engagement if the deal looks like it might fall over?

Senator Seselja:

No I wouldn’t read that into it at all. I think that’s pretty standard that we do see political engagement as well as engagement from officials. I know that in the areas that I have responsibility for, things like settlement, things like housing for instance where we’re working a lot with states and territories, officials have a lot of dialogue because politicians certainly do this on their own. They do this with the help of some great hard working public servants and Mike Pezzullo is one of them so I wouldn’t read any more into it than that.

Kristina Keneally:

Minister that’s all we’ve got time for and you’ve a BBQ to get to! So we’ll let you enjoy that, thank you so much for coming on News Day.

Senator Seselja:

Thanks very much Kristina.