E&OE TRANSCRIPT | SUBJECTS: The need for an independent anti-corruption commission; March 4 Justice; the end of JobKeeper.
MARCUS PAUL, HOST: Right now I want to have a chat with Richard Marles, the Deputy Leader of the Federal Labor Party. Richard, good morning to you.
RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning and Happy St. Patrick’s Day.
PAUL: Same to you.
MARLES: How are you celebrating it today?
PAUL: Well, we’re playing a little bit of Irish music, which is fun. I think we also may have a Guinness or two but that won’t be till after midday.
MARLES: And there’s not a touch of Irish about the coffee?
PAUL: Ah, no, not yet. Although I’ve got a green energy drink. If that’s anything. It’s green, Richard.
MARLES: Very good.
PAUL: Alright mate. So it seems there is a new scandal every week in Scott Morrison’s Liberal Party. Is it any wonder that they’re dragging the chain when it comes to setting up an anti-corruption commission? We want one with teeth, Richard. We want one that will hold politicians to account, not some watered down legislation that doesn’t allow, you know, politicians from the Prime Minister down to just not appear before any hearings? I mean, what’s going on here?
MARLES: Look, I think that’s right, Marcus. And so much in terms of how the Government goes about its business, makes it clear that, you know, they are less about what people want, and about the needs and the interests of Australian people are very much about their own interests. And so what you’ve seen is a whole lot of programs like sports rorts, the community safety programs, which are all being run out, not on the basis of the national interest, but on the basis of the marginality of electorates and, and where money is spent in relation to that. And I think it’s, you know, all of that stuff does need to have a really good hard look at it. When you see land around the Leppington Triangle, in relation to Badgerys Creek, being sold at vastly inflated rates compared to what the market valuation is, that all says there needs to be a proper eye on all of this. And in terms of getting proper governance, making sure that you can draw a line through all the behaviour of government that gives people a sense of confidence, that their public officials are acting in their interest- that’s when you need an integrity commission. We don’t have one. There’s one in New South Wales. There’s one in Victoria. There’s one in Queensland. There’s not one at a federal level, and there needs to be one.
PAUL: Well, as we know, the Independent Commission Against Corruption, even though it’s beholden to Gladys Berejiklian’s government for funding, I mean, we saw the remarkable situation where a sitting Premier appeared before ICAC in New South Wales less than six months ago. And why haven’t we got a federal watch body in in place here, we should have?
MARLES: And exactly, it means that it changes behaviour. If you know that there is a watchdog out there like that, then a whole lot of the behaviours that we’ve seen on the part of the federal government, I actually think would be cleaned up because people would know that all the decisions that they’re engaging in, how they’re making those decisions, what interest is at play when they make them; that all of these will be taken into account by an independent body. And so you know- and these things have teeth. And, you know, for a lot of people they’re uncomfortable. But it gives a sense to the public that they can have confidence in the integrity of their decision makers- and that’s really, really important. And, you know, there is this sense of that, finally, a matter of justice being done. Justice must be seen to be done. An integrity commission at a national level, would allow that to be seen in respect of the decision making of federal government. And as I say, it exists – it exists in New South Wales, it exists in the other states, it should be existing at a federal level. And we’ve been calling for it for some time now. The government say they want to do it, but they’ve been sitting on a proposal now for much more than a year. It really does beggar belief that they have not even been able to put out a proposed draft here. This is – this is a matter that we need to be looking at and looking at pretty urgently.
PAUL: Alright, now yesterday in Question Time, the Prime Minister again, tried to change the narrative away from his attacks, well your Leader’s attacks, Anthony Albanese. Albo made this wonderful speech, of course, on the day of the Women’s March, saying that the Prime Minister had, you know more of a concrete ear than a tin ear when it comes to how he’s dealt with the issues that have been mentioned by, you know, hundreds of thousands of women around Australia in the past few days, if not the past few weeks and months. But yesterday, the Prime Minister accused your Opposition, the Labor Party of running their own narrative and that is trying to twist his words. Now, it was pretty clear to me the other day that the Prime Minister of this country told women who were peacefully marching around Australia, they were lucky not to be shot.
MARLES: Well, you know, we’ve seen a remarkable period play out over the last few weeks. And the last thing we’ve sought to do is make this a partisan issue, because it’s not. You know, women feeling safe in the workplace is everyone’s business. And I think there is, to be frank, a cultural problem which exists in the workplaces of politics, in the workplace here at Parliament House. And not for a moment do I say that it’s just on one side of politics, I think it’s everywhere, and it’s all of our business to deal with that. The Prime Minister occupies a particular place. He’s the most senior figure in the country. And it’s really important that people, that women in this instance, feel that he is listening, and that he is in fact listening. Now, you know, when he made those comments sure, it is great that we live in a democracy, and it is great that we have freedom of speech and the points that he made a fair enough. It’s just that it’s not the issue of the moment. This is not right now, a question of the state of Australia’s democracy, that’s all fine.
PAUL: Yes, of course.
MARLES: What this is, is a question about gender relations in this society, it’s about women being able to feel safe at work, and in a sense to divert the conversation from that to; but isn’t it good that we live in a democracy? It says everything about the fact that this is not the issue the Prime Minister wants to talk about, he needs to focus on that. And to me, that was the tin ear in what he was saying. I mean, the point that he was trying to make and the celebration he was asking us to engage in, that’s all fine and might be fine for another day. And it’s not wrong. It’s just that it’s not the issue of the moment, women want to feel that they are heard in this critical moment. And what the Prime Minister seems to be pretty stubborn about is his reluctance to actually just stand there and listen to what’s going on, and to act accordingly. And so we don’t seek to make this a partisan issue, but he is the man in the top job. So, he needs to be, and there’s a particular onus on him- and there is on all of us, of course- but there’s a particular onus on him as the Prime Minister, to be the one who is listening at this moment.
PAUL: Well, he should be leading by example. Just before I let you go, Richard; the issue of JobKeeper, I mean, some of the statistics we’ve heard in, particularly here in Sydney, in New South Wales, it’s very concerning. Upwards of 300,000 jobs are at risk. And many people will, of course, be looking to their hip pocket once JobKeeper finishes in- where are we now – around 14-15 days? I mean, it’s a worry. It’s a real worry.
MARLES: It is a worry, Marcus. And we’re talking about, you know, hundreds of thousands people who are receiving the benefit of JobKeeper and they are because the businesses that they’re working in, are just not able to return to normal at the end of this month. I mean, if you look at the most obvious example, which is that our international border rightly needs to be closed at the moment, there are a whole lot of businesses, particularly in tourism, which rely on the border being open. So they’ve got no hope of getting back to business as usual, in two weeks’ time. And if you’re in one of those businesses, the end of JobKeeper is going to be an enormous problem. And you can come up with the, you know, the half price airfares to marginal seats, and it is what it is, but it’s not going to be a solution to the so many businesses’ problems. And if JobKeeper does come to an end in the way that the government is saying it’s going to do in the next ,in the next two weeks then, you know, there are tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of jobs, which will be in question.
PAUL: Alright. Great to have you on the program. Thank you, Richard. We’ll talk again soon, I’m sure.
MARLES: Thanks, Marcus.