SUBJECTS: Parliament in chaos under Scott Morrison; Labor’s plan to tackle domestic violence; Scott Morrison politicising our national security.
MARCUS PAUL, HOST: Sticking with politics, Richard Marles is the Deputy Labor Leader. Morning, Richard.
RICARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning Marcus. How are you?
PAUL: Alright. You might want to send Jacqui Lambie, I don’t know, a bouquet of flowers. She’s doing some dirty work, I think, for Labor at the moment. She called it out yesterday, saying that Scott Morrison and his government have done nothing in relation to a federal ICAC and a number of other issues.
MARLES: Yeah, well, I must say, Marcus, I’d heard about that speech but I hadn’t actually heard it, until I listened to it just then, as I was on hold. And she certainly, she said it as she saw it, there’s no doubt about that. Well, I mean, it’s one example of where the government have said one thing and ultimately done another, or in this case done nothing. I mean, they’ve been promising to have a federal ICAC in place for years now. And here we are, months out from an election, and we still don’t have the proposition from the government about what their model is for a federal ICAC. I mean, Jacqui’s right that the government is all over the place, Scott Morrison is all over the place. I mean, we’ve seen that in the lead up to Glasgow in relation to climate change. We’ve seen it in respect of the positions that he’s taken around the whole question of public safety orders, measures around the vaccine. And as you described it, the crossing of the floor yesterday, or in the last couple of days of a number of government senators. I mean, the government is in disarray. And right now, what we need is a coherent, clear voice from our national government guiding us through what is a really difficult national crisis with the pandemic. And we’ve got precisely the opposite.
PAUL: Tell me about this announcement today. It’s a domestic violence policy, women fleeing domestic violence will be offered more help to rebuild their lives in safety under a $153 million Labor plan to hire hundreds of additional caseworkers.
MARLES: This is a- I would describe this as a down payment in this area, Marcus. It’s an important measure that we’ll be announcing today. But I think all of us have seen over the last few years just repeated appalling stories of domestic violence around the country, which kind of beggar belief on the one hand, but the fact that they keep repeating, you know, makes you feel that there is something wrong that we really need to deal with. And, you know, to be fair, across the parliament, people have made these observations and everyone wants to see this brought to an end. And so, the announcement today will be for additional caseworkers, as you’ve just said, to provide for people, for women who are leaving circumstances of domestic violence to help them get back on their feet, to deal with these crises so that there are choices for women, or at least we try to give choices for women in these circumstances, so that they’re not in a position of having to stay around in abusive and dangerous relationships.
PAUL: Labor will also appoint a Family Domestic and Sexual Violence Commissioner to advocate for survivors and work with states and territories to ensure resources are properly deployed. The Commissioner would also provide accountability and transparency with an annual report measuring progress, eliminating domestic violence against the national plan.
MARLES: Well, I think, again Marcus, it’s often said in in science, that if you want to solve a problem, the first thing you have to do is measure it. And I think in terms of having that transparency, an annual report, it is really about trying to make sure that we clearly understand what is happening here. And whether things are getting better or worse, so that we can – we can move forward. But also it is about advocating, as you described in that, for the rights of those who are victims in this circumstance. Rosie Batty has been an incredible advocate in this space. And her situation wasn’t, you know, obviously the first appalling circumstance to come to light, but it certainly was one. And when I look back at that, and it’s a number of years now, you do wonder whether we are genuinely making progress, and it’s not a- I mean, it is important to call this out and is important to talk about it, and to be fair, that is the first step but it is only the first step. We actually do need to have action here and to do something meaningful to try and bring this to an end. So, the additional resources through the caseworkers but then the annual reporting, the Commissioner, we hope begins the process of actually meaningfully, in a substantive way through government trying to do something which actually changes the reality of this.
PAUL: Alright, I just want to move on to one other issue before I let you go Richard. Amping up war is a dangerous tactic by irresponsible politicians desperate to stay in power at any cost. This is according to your colleague Penny Wong, who said it’s wildly out of step with the rest of the world, including our US ally, to maintain the status quo that’s kept our region safe and prosperous for decades. I’ll just play a little bit of audio for everybody listening to us this morning of what Penny said yesterday.
PENNY WONG: They play political games on something so grave, as whether they commit Australia to war against a superpower. It has been widely reported that the Morrison Government want to make national security the focus of the coming election. Amping up the prospect of war against a superpower is the most dangerous election tactic in Australian history. It is a tactic employed by irresponsible politicians who are desperate to hang on to power at any cost. Mr. Morrison does not have the character to be the custodian of Australian interests in the world. Australia’s leaders should take the world as it is, and seek to shape it for the better.
PAUL: Alright, that’s some of what Penny Wong had to say yesterday, Richard. Should we be poking the bear? I don’t like, and I always try and call it out when I can, this, you know, the beating drums of war rhetoric we hear from Peter Dutton and others. You know, Jim Molan’s another good example. Again, I thank him for his service, but I really wish he’d close his mouth sometimes, because I would find- I think you’d find the vast majority of Australians certainly don’t like it. We don’t like the prospect of a government, you know, talking up a potential conflict with a much greater power like China.
MARLES: Well, the starting point here, I feel Marcus, is to understand that national security, as much as we can make it, needs to be above the political fray. I mean, it shouldn’t – if we can do it, it should not be the subject of electoral politics. And there are going to be really important debates to be had within national security, and there are going to be differences. And it’s important that they are thrashed through. But to see this area being used for political purposes, and that’s the point that Penny Wong has made- and she’s right to make it- is indeed a really, really dangerous game. Now, we’d be the first to acknowledge that Australia faces probably the most complex set of strategic circumstances that we’ve had since the end of the Second World War. There’s no doubt that there are a whole lot of challenges that are out there. And to be frank, China represents some of them. But the kind of rhetoric that we have seen and trying to make this, or as Penny has described it, ‘amping it up’ so that it becomes an election issue, I think is really dangerous, and really irresponsible. The fact of the matter is that when you look at national security with this government, what they have to show for themselves is that they’ve wasted tens of billions of dollars on a submarine program that they ended up abandoning. And now they’ve actually opened up a capability gap in terms of the most important platform that we have in our nation, which is a capable long range submarine. So that the successor to the existing class of submarines, which is the Collins Class, which was meant to come into use within a few years, like when this government started, it was anticipated that the next generation of submarines would happen in the mid-twenties. We’re not going to get it now until the 2040s. I mean, that is an unforgiveable capability gap. So, if you want to look at what the actual facts on the ground are, or the record of this government is in respect of national security, it is plainly hopeless. So on the things that matter, they’re not doing it, but the rhetoric they’re engaging in is really dangerous, and Penny Wong was completely right to call it out.
PAUL: Richard, thank you for your time this morning. Appreciate it.
MARLES: Pleasure, Marcus.