Immigration

SBS is sending Jacqui Lambie to a war zone

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The former senator speaks to SBS News as she is announced as a participant in Go Back To Where You Came From Live.

Just days before heading into a war zone in what is being called "SBS's most ambitious television event to date", former senator Jacqui Lambie has strongly dismissed the notion that Australia could do more to help refugees.

"Do we need to bring their problems here?" Ms Lambie told SBS News.

"Are we bringing in the right people for our grandchildren and their grandchildren? … Are they compatible with our society? Will they blend in?"

On Sunday, Ms Lambie will travel to one of the world's most dangerous countries as part of SBS's Go Back To Where You Came From Live. The TV show will see Australians with a range of views on immigration get a first-hand experience of the global refugee crisis.

Jacqui Lambie will be paired with Sydney immigration lawyer Marina.
Jacqui Lambie will be paired with Sydney immigration lawyer Marina.
SBS

Ms Lambie, 47, will be paired with 28-year-old Sydney immigration lawyer Marina, who came to Australia as a refugee of the Bosnia War. Along with six other previously announced participants, they will find out where exactly they are heading, live on the show.

As part of the experience, the pair spent time with a Muslim-Christian family in Sydney last weekend who had been on a refugee journey. Ms Lambie said it was "difficult to listen to what they went through. I won't deny that".

'Our backyard first'

According to UNHCR, 68.5 million people were displaced as of the end of 2017, but Ms Lambie said Australia's infrastructure and public services were far too stretched to further assist those in need.

A total of 24,162 humanitarian arrivals settled in Australia in 2016-17.

"If we take more in, what's that going to do to our security? … Will we have enough food and water supply in ten years' time? Will we have enough power supply if we continue to bring them in at the rate we're bringing them in?" Ms Lambie said.

The former senator met a family who had been on a refugee journey.
The former senator met a family who had been on a refugee journey.
SBS

She said Australia needed to improve strains on Centrelink and the public health care system "before you start bringing in masses of people".

"I said from day one when I was in parliament, I always put the people in our backyard first and foremost. Unfortunately, if that's going to anger others, then that's just tough."

She said while some refugees are "very grateful" to be in Australia, others "just don't integrate and are not trying to pull their weight, and they're isolating themselves which is making things very, very difficult".

In a promotional video for the show, Ms Lambie says: "You have the Chinese in one place, the bloody Muslims in one place, the Indians are taking over the suburbs. That's not integration."

Banning the burqa

Ms Lambie served as a senator for Tasmania from 2014 to 2017, first with the Palmer United Party then as an independent, before forming her own party. She campaigned on foreign affairs, veterans' affairs and youth unemployment issues but was forced to resign last year due to holding British dual citizenship.

Ms Lambie told SBS News she "absolutely" stands by some of her more controversial comments while she was in parliament.

She pushed for a burqa ban, telling parliament in 2017 that full face coverings make Australians fearful.

Discussing the ban this week, the former senator said: "I want to see everyone's face, it's a national security issue".

In 2017, Ms Lambie indicated support for US President Donald Trump's travel ban, which barred entry from several Muslim-majority countries.

"I don't have a problem with a country picking who can come in and out," she said this week.

But Ms Lambie dismissed the idea that she was Islamophobic, saying "I don't care what religion you are" and was only concerned about people "not assimilating into [our] culture".

In 2015, following the Paris attacks, she suggested some refugees in Australia should be forced to wear electronic monitoring bracelets.

"[And] maybe the first person that should have an electronic device put on them is the bloody Grand Mufti," she told the ABC.

'I'll go with an open mind'

The other participants taking part in Go Back To Where You Came From Live include comedian Meshel Laurie, who will be paired with ex-AFL player Spida Everitt; writer and performer Gretel Killeen who will travel with a prison youth worker; as well as a student and a young conservative.

Australian audiences will be able to follow events live from conflict hotspots and frontlines across multiple continents on TV and online.

Ms Lambie said she had not seen previous seasons of the show, but thought "it would give me a whole new experience, [it's] something I'd never do again".

"I thought, bugger it, I'm taking it, I'm jumping at it," she said.

Jacqui Lambie talked with a family about their refugee experience.
Jacqui Lambie talked with a family about their refugee experience.
SBS

Before politics, Ms Lambie served in the Australian Army for more than a decade. She said her past experience meant she was "actually quite comfortable" with travelling to a war zone.

Asked if the experience could change her opinions about refugees, Ms Lambie said: "I'll get a much wider view on the issue, and for me, that's only going to be a good thing. I'll go in with an open mind and see how it plays out."

"The experience may give me a different outlook on things, but I'm pretty solid in my own values."

Go Back To Where You Came From Live airs over three nights from 2–4 October, 8.30pm, on SBS and SBS On Demand.

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