E&OE TRANSCRIPT | SUBJECTS: Morrison Government Cabinet Reshuffle; Andrew Laming; Labor National Conference; Labor’s National Reconstruction Fund.
MADELEINE MORRIS, HOST: Scott Morrison has moved to defuse the debate over gender equality by unveiling a refreshed cabinet line-up with women promoted to new or enhanced portfolios. Well today Labor will outline its own response at the start of its two-day National Conference, which in a first, is being held virtually. The Deputy Opposition Leader Richard Marles joins us now from Sydney. Thanks for joining us, Richard Marles, we’ll get to your big announcement on infrastructure in just a minute. But first of all, can I just take you to that Cabinet reshuffle. So there are some significant changes there; more portfolios focused on women, more women in Cabinet. Does the PM get a tick from you for that?
RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, the portfolios, which are focused on women is a good thing. And we’ve seen Melissa Price come into Cabinet and so another woman joined the Cabinet is obviously a good thing. We’re eight years down the track of this government before they’ve acted in relation to those portfolio areas, so we shouldn’t forget that. But I think overall, when you look at the reshuffle, I mean, this does not end the conversation in relation to either Linda Reynolds or Christian Porter, both are now still senior members of the Government’s Cabinet, that doesn’t resolve the issues that we’ve had in relation to them. There remains a shadow that hangs over Christian Porter in the absence of an independent inquiry and that’s going to be the case in the portfolio that he’s got right now. I think the other thing you see is that when it comes to Industry and Employment, I mean, these seem to be the areas where people are being demoted to, where people are essentially being dumped and yet Industry and Employment seems to be completely central to the recovery of our nation. I mean, this is the engine room of the economy, it’s not a place to solve problems.
MORRIS: I mean, they are still Cabinet positions, and we are, in terms of economy, we are seeing a new women’s economic security portfolio coming in. Are those the sorts of policy portfolios that you would consider introducing yourself, Labor, so women’s economic security, and also women’s safety?
MARLES: Well, those are critical issues that need to be a focus of government in all the work that it does and it certainly would be a focus of the way in which we went about government. Exactly how we align or make up our portfolios will be a matter for Anthony Albanese after the next election, so I’m not going to pre-empt that. But these are obviously critical issues which need to be dealt with and we’ve been very vocal on them. But I come back to the point that this was all triggered by Linda Reynolds and Christian Porter being taken from their existing portfolios. They remain members of the Cabinet and so this doesn’t end the conversation in respect of them. Andrew Laming remains a voting member of the Coalition party room. This government has not dealt with the issues that it needs to deal with in terms of this reshuffle and it still has lots of questions to answer in respect of all of that.
MORRIS: So just on Andrew Laming there, in an interview with the ABC, yesterday, he said that the online behaviour where he’d been stalking people effectively online has been quote ‘reinvented into harassment.’ Now you’ve made very clear that you think that he should not be in Parliament. Will Labor be granting him a pair?
MARLES: Well, again, pairs are a difficult question in the context right now of COVID and the restrictions in the House chamber and so it’s hard for me to answer that question in the context of a whole lot of pairs being given right now. But the real point is –
MORRIS: I mean if you think he shouldn’t be there, wouldn’t that be one way of really showing that you really mean it.
MARLES: Well, the difficulty is that, you know, a whole lot of pairs are being granted in the context of what is the physical limitation of the Chamber and what that ultimately means is not about whether we grant a pair, it’s about what the government does in respect of its own Member. And Andrew Laming should not be in the government party room. And yet, you know, Scott Morrison has not made the critical move that he needs to make there. The behaviour that Andrew Laming has showed should have one inexorable consequence and that is he should not be a voting member of the government party room, but he remains that and Scott Morrison does not have the ticker to stand up to that kind of behaviour. And so you’ve got the situation of Andrew Laming staying in the party room, Christian Porter is staying in the Cabinet, Linda Reynolds is staying in the Cabinet. This is not a set of decisions on the part of Scott Morrison which brings an end to this conversation. He’s not resolved it at all.
MORRIS: Just moving on to the Labor Conference, so you’re going to be announcing today, a big $15 billion fund for infrastructure. What exactly is that and how is that going to work?
MARLES: Well, it’s a National Reconstruction Fund, so it’s not so much infrastructure as it is about those companies which are engaged in generating long term secure jobs and are engaged in rebuilding our industry. I mean, what we’ve seen in the last eight years is the biggest deindustrialisation in our country’s history under the Abbott Morrison Turnbull Government. We’ve seen all sorts of complex manufacturing, the car industry being the most prominent example, stop doing their business in this country over the last eight years, I think what COVID has exposed is just how bare our sovereign industrial capability is, how bare our industrial base is. And so the National Reconstruction Fund is a means by which, there is now a financing mechanism, or there would be a financing mechanism were this to come into being, which would allow companies that are seeking to innovate, seeking to be in manufacturing and high tech manufacturing, importantly, seeking to generate the long term secure jobs that we’ve lost in this country, it would enable those companies to gain the finance that they need in order to get their businesses going.
MARLES: That’s what the National Reconstruction Fund would be focused upon.
MORRIS: So, you say it’s going to be through a combination of loans, equity, co-investment guarantees, including with the superannuation funds; would that be all superannuation funds, so retail, public sector and industry funds?
MARLES: Well, there would be, there’s a significant amount of money in this fund, we’re saying the fund should be 15 billion dollars in size, but we would be seeking to work with other entities in the private sector and including the superannuation funds. So, it’d be a question as to whether they would get involved in it, but we will be encouraging them to do that.
MORRIS: But all the funds, not just the industry funds, that’s what I’m asking.
MARLES: Well, the industry funds are the ones which provide an enormous source of capital in this country, which is an opportunity that we need to be doing everything we can to focus on the rebuilding of our nation and that’s a conversation we want to have with those funds. But this fund itself, it’s a significant amount of money, this is a financing mechanism, this is about investing that money, but it would be $15 billion dollars directed to enabling the rebuilding of our industry, in circumstances where what we’ve seen over the last eight years is the biggest deindustrialisation in our nation’s history. And we have got to do something about course correcting, about fixing that, if we’re going to have Australia be the kind of prosperous country in the future that we’ve been in the past.
MORRIS: Richard Marles, Deputy Labor Leader, thanks for speaking to us today.
MARLES: Thanks Madeleine.