E&OE TRANSCRIPT | SUBJECTS: Women in politics; Parliament should be a safe place to work; speculation about a Cabinet reshuffle.
KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: Well, where have you been? It’s the question so many have been asking, and one the Prime Minister couldn’t really answer last night, in an interview with Nine’s A Current Affair. Scott Morrison was grilled about the issues plaguing parliament.
TRACY GRIMSHAW: She was abandoned wasn’t she?
SCOTT MORRISON: Well, I think these events, people will have their interpretation of them. I think it would be not true to say that those who were there and knew were not trying to give every support they could. Now I agree with you that clearly that didn’t pass the test and failed Brittany.
STEFANOVIC: Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton and Deputy Leader for the Opposition, Richard Marles, join us now in the studio. Nice to see you guys.
PETER DUTTON, MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS: Morning, Karl.
RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Morning.
STEFANOVIC: To you first of all, Pete, the PM said last night, Linda Reynolds’ response to Brittany Higgins was disgraceful. People have been sacked for a lot less. Why is the PM so afraid to sack her?
DUTTON: I don’t think the PM is afraid to sack anyone if they’ve done the wrong thing.
STEFANOVIC: She has, though.
DUTTON: I think if you look at all the circumstances, Karl at the moment, and the Police Commissioner has been very clear about this; there’s a police investigation that’s underway. One of the things I’m really worried about is if there is a prosecution initiated, that we get to a trial, and there is a finding that it’s unsafe to arrive at a guilty verdict. Now, that is an issue for a jury and for a judge to direct. And I think we need to be very careful about talking on a topic, which is a hot police investigation at the moment. And I just think we just need to tread very carefully.
STEFANOVIC: That being said, the Prime Minister of this country said that her handling of it was a disgrace. How can she survive?
DUTTON: Well, again, if you look at- I mean, separate it into two issues here; I mean, firstly, Linda’s work as Defence Minister, I think has been exceptional for our country. I think her engagement with our Five Eyes partners, with our counterparts has been a great credit to her, she’s been able to build those relationships, and that’s good for our country. In relation to the Brittany Higgins matter; yes, I mean, Linda, for- and she said it in her own words- I mean, she provided what she thought was a significant amount of support to Brittany. Brittany, two years later decided to make a complaint to the police. And that’s an issue for her-
STEFANOVIC: Here’s the thing; she’s in charge of our military. And she can’t make a phone call about an alleged rape? It doesn’t stack up.
DUTTON: Well, I don’t think that’s a fair depiction of what happened, Karl. In the end, if you’re confronted with a terrible situation like this, the police are called in, that’s exactly what happened. Brittany made a decision at the time not to report to the police. She did so two years later. And it’s hard to know what assistance you can provide at that point of offering for the police to be there to engage. And somebody makes a decision not to, and that’s entirely appropriate for Brittany to make that decision.
STEFANOVIC: Richard, you’re Opposition leader, hypothetically, would you sack two otherwise very good ministers?
MARLES: I’m not about to give the Prime Minister advice, although I think he’s about to do the deed in the next couple of days. You know, I hear what Peter says and that there are the facts around the alleged crime. But this is actually also about what support Brittany Higgins was given or not given in the aftermath of it. That’s a large part of the conversation here. And what Linda Reynolds said about Brittany Higgins is obviously completely unacceptable. There’s also a sense here in which the Prime Minister has hung Linda Reynolds out to dry. I mean, the idea that Linda Reynolds, and her office did not tell the Prime Minister’s office at the time beggars belief. I mean, they knew.
STEFANOVIC: To be fair – to be fair, she’s done a pretty good job of hanging herself out to dry.
MARLES: Sure, but let’s be clear, the Prime Minister’s Office knew two years ago about this, and the Prime Minister pretending that they didn’t, is just wrong.
STEFANOVIC: So Pete, Christian and Linda, do they keep their jobs, or not? Because there’s all this speculation.
DUTTON: I think the Prime Minister’s been very clear that he wants them to remain in Cabinet. I think that’s appropriate. Now, Christian’s got a defamation suit underway against the ABC. And again, we’ve got to allow the rule of law to apply here. So let him go through that process. He has been very clear about his denial of the allegations that have been made against him from an offence that was alleged to have occurred over three decades ago. I think allow the evidence to be presented in that defamation trial, and then that’s an opportunity for him to clear his name.
STEFANOVIC: Have you been asked to be a Defence Minister? Because I thought, everyone thought you were about to be handed the codes to the nukes.
DUTTON: No Karl, I haven’t.
STEFANOVIC: You haven’t been asked at all?
DUTTON: No. And I’m very happy to be the Home Affairs Minister. So, that’s a nice try, though.
STEFANOVIC: Would you step in?
DUTTON: Well, Richard’s the Shadow Defence Minister-
MARLES: I was.
DUTTON: You’ve changed.
MARLES: It’s the shortest odds on Sportsbet right now, though, I can tell you. Next week it’ll be General Dutton we’re talking to. There is no question of that.
DUTTON: Give me a break. Karl, don’t indulge him, please.
STEFANOVIC: I am indulging him, alright. The whole world knows you’re going to have that job by next week.
DUTTON: There is no question there. Let’s move on.
MARLES: Karl, the point is this; when Peter is the Defence Minister this time next week, he will be the sixth in eight years.
MARLES: The sixth in eight years. So they’re running at an average of one every 16 months. Is there any wonder, you know, the submarine program is in such a shambles?
STEFANOVIC: Well, that’s the first thing you do; nuke the subs.
DUTTON: Karl, I’m the Home Affairs Minister. So, I’m happy to stay where I am. And I think the PM has been clear in relation to Linda and to Christian’s positions, and that is he wants them in the Cabinet. And if there’s an announcement to make, he’ll make it next week.
STEFANOVIC: We saw the PM get quite emotional this week, did you believe him?
MARLES: There is a really significant conversation going on in the country now, unlike any I’ve seen before, you know about gender relations in our society, about the status of women in Australia. You know, I think all that’s played out is resonating with women, you know, across the country. And I really feel as though the Prime Minister is not hearing any of it. I mean, he’s literally trying to reset every day. I mean, you know, last night was his latest attempt to reset. The Prime Minister needs to be central to this discussion. He’s the senior figure in the country. But he’s completely missing it. And it’s really important that – that he does actually understand what’s going on here. I mean, women in Australia are crying out for a different understanding about what people are – what they’re experiencing.
STEFANOVIC: Is the Prime Minister in trouble?
DUTTON: No, I don’t think he is. And I think behind the scenes, you’re seeing, you know, frankly, over the last couple of weeks, but beyond that, I mean, a genuine desire to do what we can do to have a conversation to put in place actions to provide support. You know, as a father of, you know, a 19 year old daughter and teenage boys, it horrifies me that the stories that you hear- and they’re not uncommon – of young girls, you know, being approached, a hand up a skirt or on a breast, etcetera- just completely unacceptable behaviour. And for teenage boys, you know, it’s incumbent on parents to first and foremost, to make sure that we are teaching them the right values, the respect that they need to have toward women. And this is the other point, Karl – it’s missed in all of this – because, you know, I mean, Richard’s a good bloke, but there’s a lot of politics that’s been taken advantage of here, in this debate over the last couple of weeks, and they think they can land a blow on the Prime Minister. The thing that’s missing in this debate is the involvement of social media, the viciousness and, and also the unfiltered content that teenage boys and others –
STEFANOVIC: But what would that mean, you sue everyone? It’s a very difficult thing to get a hold of.
DUTTON: I think, what we should demand is the same laws that apply in real life, apply online. So if you’re flicking through TikTok videos, and there is content on there, that is unfiltered, going into the minds of young, impressionable boys and girls, then we need to think about what happens there. If you’re playing Grand Theft Auto, as a 13 year old boy, and lots of teenage boys will do, you can go – in that game, not just, you know, drive cars recklessly, you can go for a lap dance, you can go and shoot police. And so we need to have a broader conversation about the influences on those young boys, both in a family setting and a societal setting and particularly online.
STEFANOVIC: He sounds very Prime Ministerial, doesn’t he?
DUTTON: Karl, you’re being very mischievous this morning.
MARLES: Well, that’s par for the course. But sure. I mean, Peter’s making good points about that-
STEFANOVIC: Yeah, sure, fantastic.
MARLES: But it’s a broader issue than that. I mean, this is not just about what’s going on online. I mean, I think we’re talking about gender relations in this country over a very long period of time- before online existed. And, you know, there’s a lot of women, older women who are looking at what’s going on here, and they’re – this is resonating with them. I mean, people are telling stories they haven’t told in their lives before. And actually, it’s a really important moment for the nation. And it’s why we need a Prime Minister who’s going to tune in to this.
STEFANOVIC: Well, women are much more engaged now and they’re being heard.
DUTTON: Absolutely. That’s a great thing.
STEFANOVIC: Great to see you gentleman.