SUBJECTS: The need for a federal anti-corruption commission; vaccines; Scott Morrison’s failure to show leadership; PNG refugee resettlement;
JANE NORMAN, HOST: Alright, Richard Marles, well, let’s start with this proposed Commonwealth Integrity Commission. The Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has said the Commonwealth has the luxury of looking to the models of all the other states and territories. Is there a particular state’s watchdog that you think is the one they should emulate at a federal level?
RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, I think what matters is that we get a proposal from the government. I mean, we’ve got 1,000 days since the government said they were going to do something in this space. And we still don’t have a proposal. So yeah, I mean, we’d obviously like to have a conversation about what’s the best fit for the Commonwealth. But the starting point is actually to get something out of the government. And right now, we’ve had absolutely nothing. And all the while this, this government has been really stumbling from one scandal to the other. I mean, the fundamental point here is we need a federal ICAC.
NORMAN: You’re right in that we are just working with a pretty vague draft from the government. We understand some changes are being made but given that Mark Dreyfus has talked about, you know, picking and choosing from the various states and territories, I mean, you’re in Victoria, you have the IBAC there. Is that a model that could be emulated at a federal level comfortably enough?
MARLES: Well, I don’t want to go into the specifics. I think it’s an important conversation to have. But I think it’s an important conversation to have, once we see the proposal from the federal government. The point to make about the Victorian IBAC, which I think could be made about all the Commissions around the country, is the state functions much better for having it. And that’s why fundamentally, we need to move down his path. I mean, Mark Dreyfus is right, we do at a federal level now have the benefit of being able to look at all the examples in the states to make sure that we get it right. But the starting point is the government needs to actually put forward a proposition, and to this point in time, they haven’t. And they haven’t, in a context where they have been stumbling from scandal to scandal, from sports rorts, to carpark rorts, the Leppington triangle, I could go on. All of this points to the fact that we need a federal ICAC.
NORMAN: In your opinion, and I suppose you’re not necessarily, you know, a judge here, but I mean, you’re looking at Leppington triangle, you’re looking at sports rorts. Do these scandals, as you put it, constitute corruption?
MARLES: Well, I certainly think they constitute inappropriate governance. I mean, you should not be dealing with programs which are purported to be in the national interest and therefore affect everybody equally around the country, based on colour coded spreadsheets of the marginality of the various seats in which these projects occur. I mean, there’s nothing that is appropriate about that at all. And so, I do think we need to have in place institutions, which means that this kind of behaviour is examined.
NORMAN: There’s been a lot of criticism from the federal Liberal Party about the New South Wales ICAC model- the I-C-A-C – in light of Gladys Berejiklian’s resignation. She was of course named as the subject of an ICAC investigation. Your colleague, Joel Fitzgibbon, has described it or likened it to a kangaroo court. What do you think about the ICAC?
MARLES: Well, look, I think that Gladys Berejiklian made a very difficult decision last week, obviously difficult for her personally, but she made the right decision in the context of what had occurred with the New South Wales ICAC. That’s really the comment that I would make. I think, again, her behaviour stands in stark contrast to what we see at a federal level, which essentially is a government which is running away from having any kind of this accountability at all.
NORMAN: The Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has today declined to comment on reports in The Age that the Victorian IBAC has been looking into his involvement with the controversial workplace deal struck with the firefighting union. He can’t obviously confirm if he’s spoken to, or if he’s under investigation, but if indeed he is a subject of an IBAC inquiry, if that is confirmed, does he need to resign just as Gladys Berejiklian has?
MARLES: Well, firstly, all we’ve got here is conjecture, and I’m not about to walk down a path of hypotheticals. And so in that sense, this is an entirely different situation, really, to what we’ve seen in New South Wales last week, which was very clear and very plain. I definitely don’t think Daniel Andrews should be standing down as the Premier of Victoria. I think this is a completely different set of circumstances to what played out in New South Wales last week. And you know, I get that state Oppositions are going to try and beat up conjecture, but frankly, that’s all we’ve got at the moment.
NORMAN: But is that a standard now that has been set, that if a political leader, if a Premier is named as a subject of an investigation by a state’s corruption watchdog, do they need to resign?
MARLES: Well, again, I think the circumstances of last week, where ICAC made clear the direction in which they were going, that the investigations which were going to then occur in relation to Gladys Berejiklian, meant that the decision, as difficult as it was for her, was the right decision for her to make. I think – and also bear in mind that the point she made was that if she had no sense of how long those proceedings would go, and so, you know, the option of standing down in a temporary way was not available to her. Again, I make the point, that sort of behaviour from Gladys Berejiklian, which is exactly the right step for her to take in those circumstances really does stand in stark contrast to what we see with Scott Morrison and his government, which essentially is running a million miles away from meaningful action in terms of implementing a federal ICAC.
NORMAN: Yeah, I mean, we still have no confirmation, but the government is suggesting that it will be introducing its bill for this new Commonwealth Integrity Commission in the final few weeks of the sitting year. But before MPs return to Canberra, in your state, you’re being required to get a vaccine. Daniel Andrews has declared federal MPs as essential workers, basically. Is this something that you support, the mandating of vaccines for you and your federal colleagues?
MARLES: Well, certainly I think federal MPs should be getting vaccinated. You know, we’re role models for the community, we need to take a leadership role here. And getting vaccinated is the way that we get to the other side of COVID-19. So if there are any MPs out there that are not getting vaccinated, frankly, I think that is a disgrace. I think that sends exactly the wrong message in relation to this. So I would, I would absolutely expect federal employees to be getting vaccinated. I think, you know, Daniel Andrews has made the decision he’s made in relation to mandatory vaccines. I think it’s really important that state governments are able to make public health orders in the interests of protecting the citizens of their state, and that’s what he’s done. To be honest, I think there should be some federal leadership here from Scott Morrison at a national level around establishing standards in terms of workplace vaccination policy. They really should be getting employers, unions around the table to work this through and have a policy. But in the absence of that leadership, state governments need to be able to make public health orders of this kind. And in that sense, I absolutely support what he’s done.
NORMAN: And in terms of leadership from Scott Morrison, would you like to see him mandating vaccines for his federal team, for the federal Liberal Party?
MARLES: Well, again, if there are any members of the government party room, but frankly, if there are any Members of the Parliament who are not vaccinated, I think that’s a disgrace. MPs need to be leading here. You know – we’re like – we’re not going to get past this, we’re not going to get to a place where we can open up as – as a state, as a country until we are properly vaccinated. And MPs need to show a leadership role here. And Scott Morrison should definitely be providing that leadership.
NORMAN: Okay, there are a few issues overseas that I just want to get your views on, drawing back on your role as the Shadow Defence Minister and Shadow Immigration and Border Protection Minister. The government’s announced today that the PNG refugee resettlement deal will be coming to an end at the end of this year, about eight years after Labor re-established the Manus Island processing centre. Is it a right time to be ending this arrangement? And do you think that it’s achieved the objectives that Labor wanted it to?
MARLES: Well, I think it’s played a very important role over the last eight years in bringing to an end the very tragic journey that we were seeing, particularly between Java and Christmas Island, where so many people lost their lives. And the agreement that we had in place with Papa New Guinea, which was put in place by the Rudd Government, was a critical step down that path. A point that we’ve been making over the last eight years is that this government, the Morrison Government needs to be living up to the responsibilities it has in respect of those who have been in that centre, to afford opportunities of third country resettlement. And, you know, if there remain people in that circumstance still, that obligation still exists for the federal government. I mean, obviously this is a matter that’s being worked through with Papa New Guinea and obviously their view in respect of this is pertinent. But I think the processing centre has played a very significant role.
NORMAN: We know right now there are about 125 refugees and asylum seekers still on Papua New Guinea. What does Australia do with these people, if a third country doesn’t take them? Is it time for Australia just to resettle them here, onshore?
MARLES: The obligation that this government needs to fulfil is to find third country options in respect of those who are in PNG, that’s really clear. I mean, the basis upon which the centre was established under the Rudd Government was precisely to not have people be resettled in Australia so that the journey between Java and Christmas Island could be brought to an end and that has occurred. It’s important that that principle is maintained. But that doesn’t mean that the government doesn’t have an obligation in respect of those people. And finding third country resettlement is a fundamentally critical step that the government needs to fulfil. And to be honest, that we are eight years down the track and there remain that number of people who have not been found a third country resettlement option is really an indictment on the efforts of this government.
NORMAN: Richard Marles thank you for your time today.
MARLES: Thanks, Jane.